As a mom of six children I find myself at times randomly waking in the middle of the night to address someone's needs. Last night was no different, except this time I found myself going through the google app on my phone and an article published on CNN.com on Serena William's birth pops out. So, I decide to read it.
Well, lets just say I found myself troubled by the fact the article only mentions in passing that black women are dying in childbirth in America everyday.
In an article published in Vogue Magazine on January 10, 2018 states:
"while recovering in the hospital, Serena suddenly felt short of breath. Because of her history of blood clots, and because she was off her daily anticoagulant regimen due to the recent surgery, she immediately assumed she was having another pulmonary embolism. (Serena lives in fear of blood clots.) She walked out of the hospital room so her mother wouldn’t worry and told the nearest nurse, between gasps, that she needed a CT scan with contrast and IV heparin (a blood thinner) right away. The nurse thought her pain medicine might be making her confused. But Serena insisted, and soon enough a doctor was performing an ultrasound of her legs. “I was like, a Doppler? I told you, I need a CT scan and a heparin drip,” she remembers telling the team. The ultrasound revealed nothing, so they sent her for the CT, and sure enough, several small blood clots had settled in her lungs. Minutes later she was on the drip. “I was like, listen to Dr. Williams!”
Now, this is a mother advocating for her life knowing her medical needs and one could assume that it was taken lightly by the tone of the article and she felt the need to stress to the medical providers what life saving treatment she needed for herself. But how many pregnant people birthing have faced doctors and their voices are not heard or dismissed?
This recent article does not highlight that same sense of urgency in which she spoke previously. In fact, it praises the doctors and medical technology within the U.S. as saving her life. Yes, maybe it did but what about the countless women of color who are birthing whom are silenced even when this treatment is available. The article then goes into mentioning stats from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) mentioning that African- American women are 3-4 times more likely to die of childbirth related complications in the U.S. in passing, and quickly brings the story overseas to Malawi and asks the reader to donate to UNICEF and other overseas NGO's making the article read more like a fundraising ad then a call to attention to the reader that black women are dying right here in America.
What about home? What about the black women who are dying right here at alarming rates? Why not support the organizations right here in the U.S. who are working on the frontlines everyday to address maternal mortality and who have been doing it for years?
By dismissing or overlooking the situation of African American women the article inadvertently places the blame on the pregnant person here as the problem because we have highly trained doctors and medical facilities. It dismisses the fact that racism within medical institutions, structural oppression, and implicit bias exists and that these stories don't need to be addressed here because black women throughout the diaspora need our help more. No, the fact is yes the infant and maternal mortality rate in Africa is high but those same things are happening here and getting worse everyday.
It dismisses women like Shalon Irving a epistemologist studying the impacts that structural inequalities have on the body at the Center for Disease Control.
Wanda Irving holds her granddaughter, Soleil, in front of a portrait of Soleil's mother, Shalon, at her home in Sandy Springs, Ga. Wanda is raising Soleil since Shalon died of complications due to hypertension a few weeks after giving birth. by Becky Harlan/NPR
Erica Garner pictured above by Ben Norton.
Erica Garner a mother of an 8-year-old daughter and a 4-month-old son. Who was thrust into an activist role against police brutality following the death of her father Eric Garner while in police custody and who died four months postpartum and the countless other mothers here in the United States who's stories are never told.
In New York alone African-American women are 12 times more likely to die of childbirth related complications than our white counterparts. What we are facing is the complete lack of respect for the black body. We are witnessing the erasing of the black woman experience in America and the fact that racism, structural oppression, and the continued attack on black and brown bodies is killing us.
This article is in no way an attack on the writer but more of a call to attention that as my family would say " Take care of home first".
In case you were wondering is there a way to support? The answer is...
Organizations like and Ancient Song Doula Services in New York offers full spectrum doula services, educational programming, doula training, and advocacy programs in birth justice to individuals in the community and aboard. Mamatoto Village in Washington, DC offers perinatal community health workers, educational Commonsense Childbirth Winter Garden, FL offers midwifery services, well woman care, and training to the community. If you are looking at how to be more involved in advocacy then resources, food insecurity programs, and training and SisterSong is a advocacy & policy group focused on reproductive health, Black Mamas Matter Alliance provides a toolkit that can be integrated in your current work to address the maternal mortality, and National Birth Equity Collaborative provides research and data for advancing advocacy and family centered care.