Birthing a human, pt. 2: Race & Class

There’s a quiet crisis in American childbirth currently: Black women die in childbirth in disproportionately large numbers. In Texas, Black women make up around 11% of births but over 28% of maternal deaths. Numbers are similar around the nation, and activists and media have recently been drawing attention to these numbers. While the rate of maternal death is still overall extremely low in the United States, rates have been increasing since the 1970s. (read more here & here).

The tone of this blog post seems to be in stark contrast to the tone of my last blog post about birth. I argued in the last blog post that women need to cultivate positive, affirming narratives/images of pregnancy and birth in their lives—that anxiety and fear don’t need to be the primary emotions of childbirth and pregnancy. I stand by that message.

But that perspective is clearly one positioned in race and class privilege. In my last blog post, I wrote “I felt in control” and “my doctor…respected me.” I grew up surrounded by physicians. My mother is a doctor. Many of our closest family friends are doctors. I have aunts that are nurses and physicians. Now, as an adult, my husband is a doctor. I grew up with familiarity of the medical system and a deeply held belief that it was there to help me and to heal me. I know these to be truths. For me.

But the medical field has a history of both malicious maltreatment and neglect towards more marginalized communities, so it is unsurprising that there is such a large racial disparity in childbirth mortality for Black women. There are millions of Black women who have had positive and affirming childbirth experiences both inside and outside of the medical institutions of the US. Of course, many Black women make their own positive and affirming pregnancy and childbirth experiences, and there are medical providers that support them.

But I want to take time to reflect on moments in my hospital stay when my class or race changed how I was treated (of course, it’s hard to just pick discrete moments–many times race and class privilege changes the underlying tone of interactions. Plus, the fact that my privilege got me into one of the fanciest hospitals in the region…):

  1. When I mentioned to my labor nurse that my husband was an MD/PhD student, she got so nervous that she had to bring the more experienced nurse on shift to do my I.V.
  2. When I was about to get my epidural at 1 a.m., the night nurse told us that my husband would have to stand in front of me so he couldn’t see the procedure, but the anesthesiologist let my husband watch.
  3. My OB offered me a mirror to watch the pushing stage and advocated for me so a nurse went to go get one.
  4. I’m sure there are dozens more…

My privileged experiences is directly related to someone’s discriminatory/damaging experience. Maternal mortality is obviously the extreme and incredibly rare end of the spectrum. But subtle discrimination can have smaller but nonetheless insidious impacts of women of color.

I want there to be a call to action in this blog post—a tangible thing I could do to promote racial justice in childbirth & pregnancy in some small way. I’m not sure what that is honestly though…Any suggestions, as always, are welcome!


Self-reflection & Joy

I didn’t post last week because I didn’t have my shit together (read about my thoughts on self-care as a parent here). Plus, I made it to the three-months of blogging mark, so I decided to give myself a week off! I’ve been thinking about this blog in my time off. When I started it (as with any project), I was so excited—I had a long list of blog topics, and I would draft my post on Monday and edit it all week. The last month or so, though, I have been feeling uninspired about topics (though I still have that long list) and hurriedly writing the post on Thursday afternoon to meet my Friday morning deadline. Nothing’s changed except the novelty of a blog has worn off and the school year has kicked up again (the joys of the academic calendar). But I don’t want this blog to feel like a chore, so I decided that I am going to expand the scope of this blog.

Critical self-reflections on parenting with power are the heart of the blog and will continue to be, but sometimes I may throw in a post that is just about the joys (or frustrations) of parenting. I don’t sit around and stew in White guilt all day, and I worry this blog makes it seem like I do when I only post critical self-reflections. While parenting with privilege needs to centralize self-reflection & justice-oriented action, parenting in general has so much joy in it. I want this blog to represent all of that. (And to be clear, sometimes there is joy in self-reflection and justice-oriented action. But I am talking about a different type of joy).

So, in the spirit of joy:

A learned to blow raspberries on my stomach on Monday night. I laughed so hard that he would come back every few minutes and do it again to make me laugh!

My husband and I took A trick-or-treating for the first time this year. I tried to dress A up as an adorable fluffy llama, but he screamed every time we put the costume on him. Instead we got a Dracula cape and covered both him and my husband in fake blood…seems appropriate for a 15-month old’s costume, right? 

My husband had to go out of town last weekend, so A and I made a spontaneous trip to the zoo by ourselves. We’ve been so many times before that I thought it would just a way to spend an hour or two (it’s a free zoo, so you don’t feel guilt for going for only an hour!), but we somehow found all of these exhibits we’d never seen before and it was so much fun! A specifically asked to see the ‘maymun’ (Turkish for monkeys), so we spent lots of time in the Primate House. He also would not leave the Children’s Zoo goat area …. 

A is obsessed with blowing kisses! Anytime I ask him to say thank you or I love you, he blows a kiss. Plus all of the other times that he just wants to give people kisses. We facetime my family a lot, and he leans down and gives the screen a kiss over and over when we are talking to his aunts or Nana & PopPop.

Til next week—Happy wiping,