African American and Pregnant

Black Maternal Health Infertility Labor & Delivery Miscarriage Stillbirth

Because every woman has her own journey.

I’m pretty sure it was the hottest day of the year.

I woke up at 7:00am, had my usual half-caf chai, and started scrolling through the pages of Essence Magazine with the iconic Naomi Campbell on the cover. Due to give birth in just under 15 weeks, I was taking it easy. I regularly practiced prenatal yoga, was sure to eat tons of fresh produce, and kept myself busy with new ideas for the baby nursery. I was an operations manager at a luxury spa in the area, but our facility was closed due to the COVID19 pandemic. I was now working part-time from home, which was beyond ideal during my pregnancy.

            Seemingly out of nowhere, I felt sharp cramping in my abdomen. As this was my first pregnancy; I called my doctor immediately. She notified me that I should get some rest and give her a call back if discomfort continues into tomorrow. About two hours later, the pain returned—almost stronger than the first time. Sweating profusely, I rushed to the hospital and was directed to the on-call physician, who asked a few short questions and sent me home. Braxton Hicks is what I was told this feeling was-- nothing more. My husband and I drove home.

            Two days later, I went into active labor. At 25 weeks gestation, my son was born. One pound and six ounces. After a few days in neonatal intensive care, his heart issues took a toll, and Darius didn’t make it. Darius: my sweet baby, my angel, my everything—didn’t make it.

How could this happen to me?

Why were my concerns so quickly dismissed?

Would it have been different if I was not an African American woman?

            While still in a gruesome period of mourning, I can’t help but feel upset, disappointed, and betrayed. After hearing my news, a former colleague sent her condolences with a note reading “I’m sure you’ll conceive another healthy baby boy soon.”; not considering the three years I’ve struggled with fertility. What is more bothersome: my story is vastly common. The CDC reported that black women experience death because of childbirth complications at a rate of three times that of white women. Black women also disproportionally experience high rates of miscarriage, infant loss, pregnancy complications, and postpartum challenges.

            Wealthy Black Americans are also disproportionally affected by the black maternal health crisis. A black college-educated woman is more than twice as likely to experience mental or physical pregnancy-related complications than a white woman without a college degree.

Fortunately, within the past few years, there has been increased attention devoted to the Black Maternal Health Crisis, as policymakers are beginning to implement evidence-based programs to help our cause. I, for one lead a community initiative dedicated to saving the lives of black mamas throughout our nation. These tragedies are deeply rooted in racial and reproductive oppression and adjustments are of utmost importance. My story is our story. These misfortunes are preventable; and collectively, we can make a difference.

Destiny, Baltimore, Maryland

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