I originally hadn’t planned to return to social media until next week, but I felt a tug to log in today. I had no idea it was Black Maternal Health Week until I logged in to my birth account.
Did you know that current data shows that regardless of socioeconomic status or location, in the United States black women are more than 3x more likely to die during childbirth than white women?
Via the CDC the recorded statistics for 2011-2014 show that 12.4 white women deaths/100,000 live births, 40.0 black women deaths /100,000 live births. Is this a complete picture of maternal healthcare in our country? Absolutely not. But these numbers are STAGGERING and gaps in data need to be addressed and potential implicit biases in our healthcare systems need to be eradicated. Source.
Maternal healthcare in our country is abysmal. Based on data from 2005 we are #138 out of 184 countries listed for maternal deaths meaning there are 46 other countries that have a lower maternal deathrate than us, including Libya, South Korea, Kazakhistan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Source.
I could talk for one hundred years about why this is, but I’ll get you to the end point of this post instead: action.
What do we do?
Months ago I saw a post that told white women that we needed to use our “white privilege” to help all the black moms that were dying giving birth and during the postpartum period in America. I was oddly put off by this post, like how am I supposed to do that? I have no idea. I’m just trying to do something. I’ve been full term with a breech baby, wondering if I’d be cut open. I’ve been stalled at 4cm with ruptured waters, wondering if I’d be cut open. But I wasn’t, I had two seamless, boring deliveries with all the labor support I needed and more. I was so lucky. All women are not this lucky.
Part of my birth work is to educate. Women’s choice extends so much farther than the discussion of abortion— we deserve the right to birth where we choose! At home, at a birth center, in a hospital. Our bodies, our babies, OUR CHOICE.
We are not at the mercy of the doctor on call. At minimum, we are the customer paying for a service and we have a right to a service that we want and that is worthy of welcoming a new life into this world. At maximum, we are vessels that are literally nourishing and giving life to the next generation of humans and should be regarded as such. We not just a number, an insurance policy, a patient to discharge.
We deserve to birth with dignity, honor, support and JOY. Black, white, and brown mamas. We deserve this. We cannot settle for what is convenient for insurance companies, OBs and legal teams. We cannot set this precedence for our daughters. We cannot continue on this path. We have to do something.
So what do we do? I keep asking this. Again, I’m at a loss as to the big picture how we fix this but here’s two little things I’m doing and what you can do too. For now.
Take real photos of real births. Women need to see it happen to believe they can do it. To believe they can birth, to believe they can advocate for themselves, to believe that they can do it. Imagery is important to normalizing birth. So, if you are one of my clients, consider allowing me to share your birth photos on social media and my blog and marketing materials. You can decide to what level you are comfortable with, but by allowing me to share your images you are empowering another mom to give birth. That’s huge. If you’re not one of my birth clients, advocate for your right for your partner or labor support to video or take photos with your iPhone or camera! You deserve the photos and videos of your first moments with your newest family member. You deserve to see how strong you are, and your children will cherish seeing the first moments you saw each other and how hard you worked to bring them here–– vaginally or cesarean. Liability is huge factor in the OR, of course, but it is your baby’s birth! Fight for your right to document those moments yourself or by a professional. If your care provider refuses, ask again. If they continue to refuse, switch providers. You can choose your provider up until the moment of birth.
Partner with Every Mother Counts. In 2019 10% of all my baby related photography packages are donated straight to Every Mother Counts with a donation made in Baby’s name. Their mission is simple and clear: We work to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for everyone, everywhere. They are doing the work and I’m proud to be a (very unofficial) partner. You can donate too, or purchase from one of their brand partners like Solly, Minted and MORE! Check them out here.
Is it enough? Probably not, but it’s all I can do in my current capacity. Someday I’ll do more, but for now this is what I’ve got.
To my black mamas: no matter where you are on your journey. I am sorry that this is the reality for you. I will use my voice, my platform, my camera, my life, my kids’ lives to change this reality for your daughters so that no matter where they choose to bring your grandchildren into the world they will feel safe, secure, empowered and strong. You matter.
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