Infant Mortality Awareness Campaign

Healthcare in the US, Midwifery, Reflections on racism and oppression in midwifery

by Jessica Roach on Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 7:14pm
In what is the final day of September and the end of the Infant Mortality Awareness Campaign, I am compelled to write down these thoughts and send them around. I am often vocal about what I believe to be my truths, with some quiet time in between. Speak when it is necessary, reserve your energy for when it is time.

I am the mother of a pre-term, low birth weight baby and the Godmother of one as well. I have held a baby gone too soon born at 32 weeks and had a nephew that didn’t see his first year. If we all look at our families, we see that most of us (1 in 3) have a baby that is of a “statistic” in our lives. It has become so much a part of our norm. That is a statement, not a question, because I do not have any. What I have, is the need to have the real discussion, rather than the politically correct normative blah blah that discusses us and our babies as being “Minority Health Disparities” for the sake of framing language to solicit more funding to “examine” and “prevent” the problem. Do not mistake me here, there is a great deal of good work being done to raise awareness and work towards a solution. I am simply saying, we are still dancing around the core of the issues most of the time.

Let me be clear, because we do not have time for anything else, it is Women of Color, particularly African- American and Native American, that are most affected. I do not believe this is by chance, nor do I believe it should ever be allowed to be discussed by a healthcare practitioner as a matter of fact in the first appointments of pregnancy. It starts to formulate our stories for us, which creates a physiological stress response from the beginning of fetal development. So imagine how our babies feel inside of us. It should never be a “therefore” in risk factors.

Time and time again, it is shown that even when the playing field is leveled and issues such as economics or access to care are removed as variables, our babies are still affected at a disproportionate rate. So what is left? Why is this happening? I have my thoughts and we have the research that backs those thoughts up….and it is the uncomfortable conversation that most are unwilling to have.

I have said it before and I will say it again, this is not about the need for education, but rather the lack acknowledgement of the complete dismantling of our values and customs in order to control mass populations. It is the realities that our “race” is automatically a check box on a form that puts us as a risk factor. Think about that for a minute, being called a risk factor. How does that equate to appropriate support and care from the beginning of pregnancy?

I do not claim to have the answers, no one of us does. It is part of the problem. It takes a village, a core group of support, to raise a child, how could it not be the same in growing one. We do not stand as a singular entity, rather as one of the many cells that create the whole of the being. We are interconnected on multiple levels, the human body is reflective of life as a whole. The social constructs we use to define, are also used to oppress, and if mamas have to start their journeys with their child fighting oppression, their energy is being refocused in a manner that does not allow for healthy birth and birth outcomes. If you want to have a conversation and start to answer the question “why?”, start talking about the atmosphere of colonialism and systemic institutional racism, discuss the lack of trust we have in a healthcare system that treats us as a statistic rather than a human being. Get to the core of the conversation, let us sit at the table, rather than giving advice from outside of it. Mostly, take responsibility to learn for yourself, because it is a distraction from our very survival to spend the time and energy educating.

Tomorrow, is October 1st….and our babies will still be born at lower birth weights and too soon….and many will not see their first year birthday. EVERY day is an awareness day, until our story has changed. The work will not stop for any of us after today. It will not stop until the context of the conversation changes and we are able to tell our stories and dictate our realities vs allow anyone else to define.

So when you wake up tomorrow, remember that being aware is a 24/7. Stay woke, because there is no time to sleep on this, or to wait until next September to have the conversation. Keep having them, until someone is sick and tired enough of hearing it that they will work to change it. Be the solution, rather than part of the problem. Hug a mother, hold a baby, never take either of those two for granted…and keep doing the WORK

For Jaden, Malcolm, and Hendrix (R.I.P)