Black Mama Maternal Mortality is Real

Slide22Black women are dying during childbirth or shortly after at alarming rates. Studies show that most of their deaths are preventable. As we spend today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, honoring the legacy of the movement this amazing man was the face of, let’s think about what it means to have so many black mothers dying at such an alarming rate in 2018. Let’s read Serena Williams story about how she had to take control of the medical care she was receiving to ensure her survival. Let’s remember Erica Garner who died just four months after welcoming her second child into the world. Let’s think of the not so well known black mothers who regardless of their socio-economic standing, have fallen victim to racial biases that have threatened to or have taken their lives. Let’s honor them and educate ourselves for our own survival.

Here is a collection of articles and stories related to black maternal mortality from gynecology’s racist roots to what we are facing today:

  1. The Racist Roots of Gynecology and What Black Women Birthed was published in Wear Your Voice Magazine and gives a biographical background of the racist practices that gynecology is rooted in.  
  2. The Disturbing Reason why some African American Patients May be Undertreated for Pain was featured in The Washington Post and summarizes a study of medical students conducted by the University of Virginia that reveals some disturbing information about how they perceive Black patients.
  3. After Erica Garner’s Death, We Need To Talk About How Maternal Mortality Affects Black Women was posted in Bustle and details how Erica Garner’s death could be attributed to her giving birth four months prior.
  4. For Serena Williams, Childbirth Was a Harrowing Ordeal. She’s Not Alone. is a New York Times article detailing Serena Williams’ life threatening postpartum experience.
  5. As Erica Garner is Mourned, Why Are Black Mothers in NYC Dying at 12 Times Rate of White Mothers? This is a Democracy Now interview with Shannon Jones of the anti-police brutality group Why Accountability that connects the Black Lives Matter movement to black maternal mortality issues in New York and other places in the United States.
  6. I wanted to also include this story that was featured on my local news station, KTVU, about a family that became homeless after the mother of the family faced complications during childbirth.
  7. Meet the Activists Fighting to Keep Pregnant Black Women from Dying is a story featured on Fusion TV in conjunction to a documentary they produced on the topic of black maternal mortality in the US.

My Planned Parenthood Story

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Quite honestly, I’ve been almost stifled by the recent actions of the presidential administration. Acting out and protesting in some moments and sitting baffled in other moments. I’ve been thinking about Planned Parenthood a lot. How the moves to defund it feels and is a direct attack on women. I’ve been pissed thinking how men who are not even directly served by Planned Parenthood, privileged men who have partners who probably have but would never admit to having used Planned Parenthood’s services, get to vote on its fate. It’s like me deciding that men’s underwear don’t need the little opening in the front anymore and making it a law or maybe it would be better to compare it to men’s right to prostate exams or to breathe. I don’t know. I read that a South Carolinian politician presented a bill to ban the selling of Viagra to prove a point about women’s rights to medical care. It totally went over people’s heads to the point that it may even become law. What kind of world are we living in right now?

I’ve been thinking about all the many low income women and youth whom, without Planned Parenthood will face a lot of health risks and then I remembered, I frequented Planned Parenthood for years. Planned Parenthood isn’t just for the teen that needs birth control or the woman who needs a Pap smear, Planned Parenthood is for the part time educator who is on a poor insurance plan that charges insane prices for birth control pills.

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Yay! I’m a soon to be uninsured college graduate!

When I graduated from college and got booted off of my father’s medical plan, I worked part time as an educator at various school sites to patch together a living wage to start paying back my loans, to pay my rent, buy food, you know, support myself. My money was tight so once I discovered I could get birth control for free I was happy to receive my green card from Planned Parenthood. To avoid being seen by my students, I frequented Planned Parenthood offices in the suburbs (I was super self conscious then, I probably wouldn’t care as much today). I would go, fill out my questionnaire, discuss my relationship status with a health professional and get my pills. The discussion part was simple for me but now I can’t help but think about all of the women who had more complex information to share. What about the women who are victims of domestic violence? Women who are being coerced into sex? Who will help them without Planned Parenthood? Who will point them towards support services? I now have access to decent medical insurance but when I first got pregnant, as a first year teacher who hadn’t worked for the district long enough to receive medical insurance, it was Planned Parenthood that I depended on to confirm my pregnancy and tell me what I needed to do. Thinking about it now, Planned Parenthood helped my partner and me do just that, plan our parenthood.

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The Women’s March happened. Executive orders have been signed behind closed doors, with only cameras and all male accomplices in attendance. There is a lot to fight right now and as a black heterosexual cis-woman living in an urban environment I feel we need to fight them all, which includes protecting Planned Parenthood. Shit is crazy and calling representatives, fundraising, marching and other forms of protest are exhausting but so is *slavery. Do what you can when you can, take breaks to recharge, stay informed and love your love ones. This is the time to act. It seems that our government is being run by men that in the words of Tupac Shakur, “hate the ladies that make the babies” and they need to be stopped.

#WomenCrushWednesday~Paulette Leaphart: A Mama With a Mission

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This #WomenCrushWednesday is a little different. I haven’t met this woman and she hasn’t answered the three questions I generally pose, but she is crushing it nevertheless and so I have to give her a shoutout! You may have heard of Paulette Leaphart by now. She was featured in Beyonce’s “Lemonade” video album, has been on multiple news broadcasts and also has her own documentary, “Scar Story”. For those of you who aren’t as familiar with her story, she is a mother and breast cancer survivor who is walking 1,000 miles to Washington D.C. to demand a cure for cancer and an improved healthcare system.

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I have a deep admiration for this mama because she represents the epitome of strength, resilience and activism. Before even being diagnosed with breast cancer she was a determined mama who not only raised and cared for her own children but raised multiple foster youth as well. Now, having survived breast cancer and finding herself homeless as a result of paying for her cancer treatment, she is walking topless to Washington D.C. to push for systemic change. I don’t have the resources and ability to meet her this Saturday, June 25th but if you do, I encourage you stand with this woman. She already survived breast cancer, she is walking, fighting and sharing the most vulnerable part of herself to the world so that all of us can have a better chance of being cancer free.

With that said, thank you mama Leaphart. I am inspired and in awe of you! You are a MyPostBabyBody shero! I could go on and on but I’ll close by simply saying, “You slay!”.

Here is her story in her own words: