I’m going to be transparent with you – putting together this year’s Mother’s Day post was a challenge for me. I am all about celebrating moms, and especially when this past year was so incredibly challenging for mothers across the U.S., a day of ‘Thank You’ feels great. But, when I look at my own circumstances and compare them to mothers living just up the street from me, I have a hard time feeling self-congratulatory…
By now, you may have heard the statistic that black mothers are three to four times more likely than white women to die of complications from pregnancy, labor, and childbirth. Here’s another startling statistic for you – in D.C., from 2016 to 2019, nearly 75 percent of mothers who died of such complications were African American. This is appalling, to say the least. Access to proper maternal health care isn’t singularly a race issue, though. We are fortunate here in the D.C. area to have half a dozen nationally regarded hospitals to pick from for our deliveries. According to the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services, rural white women in Georgia have a 50 percent higher risk of maternal mortality than urban white women. As rural hospitals close, not to mention primary care offices and specialists such as gynecologists becoming sparser in rural communities, access to proper prenatal care and sound delivery services is a serious challenge.
Mother’s Day always makes me reflect upon my own childbirth experience, and while I have complaints (really, how is it that standard post-delivery care for women consists of a single check-up six weeks post-delivery?), my experience was, in the end, healthy, seamless, and without trauma. This is because I gave birth in a well-regarded, well-funded hospital with access to fabulous doctors who took me seriously. While I was worried about the experience of childbirth for all the obvious reasons, I certainly didn’t have to weigh the idea that in my region, 75 percent of the mothers who die during this time would look like me. Because they don’t look like me.
So, this year for Mother’s Day, I encourage you to donate and advocate for organizations that aim to provide equitable access to maternal care for Americans of all backgrounds. Another thing I challenge you to do is to send this article to your husbands and fathers to remind them of what women go through in this country every single day. I find most women, when I tell them these statistics, nod their head knowingly because every single mother, regardless of race or background, has her own birth story that tangentially relates to the sub-bar experience of maternity in the United States. Mothers are not surprised, but men are. Let’s change that this year.
And, of course, Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers reading this. You deserve so much more than a single day of love and thanks for the work you do, but I hope you take it.
Resources to help:
Community of Hope DC: COH Family Health and Birth Center provides resources to low-income women and families in the D.C. area, including medical services, birth coaching and nursing, housing and materials for new families needing shelter, and educational programming. I’m donating to the Amazon wishlist, and I made a cash donation to honor my own mom.
Black Mamas Matter: BMM is a black-women-led advocacy organization that works to implement policy change and provide educational programming to medical practitioners and patients. I love that BMM is run by black women with strong public health policy backgrounds, and I’ll be making a donation in honor of my sister-in-law, who also works in public health and happens to be the mother of two smart, amazing girls.
Nurse-Family Partnership: When my mother-in-law was in college, she volunteered with a rural nurses’ network that brought her to disparate communities in West Virginia, literally via horseback, to provide at-home medical assistance to families in need. She was not a nurse, but she was smart and had a big heart, and she provided a much-needed extra pair of hands to the trained nurses in the field. The work of Nurse-Family Partnership reminds me of the work Polly did – they send trained nurses to families in need to provide in-hand counseling to new families through the child’s second birthday. I donate to them in her memory.
Alexandria & Company is an Old Town-based workshop and design studio specializing in creating and restoring fine jewelry and silver hollowware. They are the in-the-know jewelers of Alexandria and have been serving clients out of their small workshop for decades. Tucked in their historic building on South Royal Street, the team at Alx&Co. brings a personalized, modern approach to their craft – this is not your average stodgy jeweler or antique shop. Visit them during their walk-in hours or online to view their collection of handmade fine jewelry or to drop off a repair project; or, if you’re feeling creative, make an appointment to talk about that custom design project you’ve been imagining.
121-B South Royal Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Design Studio Walk-In Hours (all jewelry services): Wednesday – Saturday 12-6pm
Silver Workshop Walk-In Hours (all silver repair and restoration services): Wednesday or Friday 12-6pm, or by appointment
Appointments encouraged for custom design.