In the United States Black babies die almost three times more than white babies, from the time a woman is pregnant until the baby reaches one years old. When I am out-and -about in the community, many are surprised to hear this statistic for the first time. Even OB-Gyn’s and Midwives seem confused and overwhelmed by the disparity. However, I am not surprised or confused. This disparity makes perfect sense when we put pregnancy and childbirth in the Black Community in perspective.
Did you know that Per the CDC:
Black women are 2.5 times more likely to begin prenatal care in the 3rd trimester, or not receive prenatal care at all.
Black babies are four times as likely to die as infants due to complications related to low birth weight, as compared to white babies.
As a midwife in a community clinic that only accepts patients who are insured by Medi-Cal and/or other State/Federal insurance programs, I see many pregnant women daily. The majority of those women are Black or Latina from underserved communities, and living at, or below what we consider the poverty level. You know, the women and girls that we pass by daily in Black and Latino Communities.
If it is their first time at the clinic, and they believe that they are pregnant, we start with a pregnancy test. If the pregnancy test is positive, and they plan on continuing with their pregnancy, they are scheduled for routine prenatal care at the clinic. What we discover from this point forward in most cases is saddening, sickening, and just plain unacceptable!
Many of the young women who enter prenatal care are pregnant by young men that they are not presently in relationships with. In fact, many never really were in committed relationships. Oft times, it is someone that they know from the community, or met while out. This person may have been cute, or attractive, may have had a nice car, or seemingly had what they considered a lot of money, and, on…and on… with the superficial reasons. What happens after that? Uncommitted sexual relations, and then an unwanted pregnancy…babies created by two people who aren’t in love with each other, and may not even really know one another. In this situation, when we ask the women how they feel about the pregnancy, most say something like, “it’s okay, I can handle it on my own”, or “I’ll be fine, my mother did it on her own…” These women tend to struggle with finances, nutrition, housing, emotional stress, substance abuse, and other psycho-social challenges.
Others who come into prenatal care, who say they are in relationships, struggle in the relationships… They may be experiencing domestic violence. The partner may not be faithful. The partner is not supportive when it comes to attending prenatal visits, or he may not be happy about the pregnancy. Many times the partner is unemployed, or a member of a gang. Basically, these women are like the single women, in bad situations.
Of course women who enter pregnancy with all the issues that we have discussed and even some physical challenges are more likely to have poor outcomes. How could she not be at risk? She has no peace of mind, no comfort. Who can she turn to? Her social challenges eventually manifest into physical challenges such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and maternal obesity; just to name a few. Her immune system becomes even more compromised, because she is not eating well. She has no appetite, because she is consumed by all of her challenges. It is definitely not an optimum situation, and in my ten years of experience I am confident that these are the reasons that more Black Women have poor outcomes.
Over 70% of Black Babies are Born Outside of Wedlock!
Why is this okay? What happened within our communities that caused us to support being a “Baby Mama”? I mean those of us who have had babies out of wedlock clearly recognize that it is a tremendous struggle to make ends meet. Why are we not delivering this message to our daughters and sons? Why aren’t we encouraging and supporting marriage?
Being Married is What’s UP! Other communities have recognized that strong marriages build strong families, and strong families build strong communities. Pregnant women who are happily married have happier pregnancies. These women are not left to make a new baby alone. They have a spouse caring for them so that they can concentrate on giving birth to a god. That is a tremendous task in and of itself. These women don’t have to be overly concerned about finances, or housing, or nutrition. They have a partner working hand-and-hand with them. They can concentrate on fulfilling their role in the relationship – the feminine role.
Returning to Our Queendom. We cannot continue to let our daughters believe that they can make and raise a baby on their own. We are allowing them to CHEAT themselves out of true happiness; the happiness that God intends for them. They are turning their backs on natural law, which always leads to disaster.
Historically, Black women did what they had to do to keep families together. That day is gone. Today, we have to stand up and take our rightful places in the community. Furthermore, our rightful place is NOT being a “Baby Mama”! It is being Wife, Mother, and even Domestic Goddess; the first teacher, the first nurse. The role of wife and mother is so important, but we have allowed society to define and belittle that role. Mothers are powerful.
What is the answer to the disproportionately high infant mortality rates in the Black Community? Healthy and Strong Black Marriages!