- My journey, well, I tell it because it's the one way I have to continually honor my son and his six months of life with us.
I found that at about 28 weeks, my blood pressure began to accelerate.
And the morning of his delivery, I remember being awakened by a team of clinicians, professionals who were coming in.
Nobody talked to me about taking me to surgery.
You're stressed, you're afraid.
And so you just decide to trust the process, even when maybe the process shouldn't be trusted.
(upbeat music) I'm thankful for every single day of those six months that we had his little finger grabbing ours, heard his cries, had all of those things that so many women don't have.
(upbeat music) What is happening in the pregnancy experiences of black women, as opposed to the pregnancy experiences of white women?
It's just easier for people to talk about economics.
And so they wanna say, this is not about race.
It's not about black women, it's about poor women.
- But when you start looking at the fact that it's happening across socioeconomic status, across academic status, then you have to ask harder questions that are more difficult to address.
- I was struck by the fact that my experience as a highly educated black woman with numerous degrees was not unusual.
Research was demonstrating that black women with a college degree were still more likely to experience an infant death than white women who had not finished high school.
(upbeat music) A lot of the issues that affect the African-American person go back to things like systemic racism and toxic stress.
- Prejudicial traumas impact the health of black women and their children in a manner very similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.
- That toxic stress causes physiologic issues, increases blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes.
- [Narrator] It's chronic stress, it's reliving prejudicial treatment, traumatic events, systemic inequities, and it results in chronic and ongoing poor health outcomes.
- [Narrator] Trauma at a cellular level does impact how my body will function, and the successful or unsuccessful outcome when it comes to having a child.
- How do we unlearn things that people we trust teach us?
And if you see in a book that being African-American is a risk factor, then how can we not justify that?
So many practitioners and so many scholars are just taking things as they see them.
But we push against that because race is not the risk factor, racism is the risk factor.
Because race is not a biological construct, it is a social construct.
(upbeat music) - So a black woman might know she has an advanced degree but when she goes in the hospital, she's just another African-American woman.
And a lot of times when I walk into places, they don't look at me like I'm a doctor.
They're more likely to look at me like I'm the janitor.
- We have the knowledge, we know what needs to be done.
We know that bias and implicit bias and misinformation in the way we train providers is getting in the way.
Not seeing the humanity of women during pregnancy, as well as before or after is a pattern.
It's a reflection of the unsolved enigma that is America.
Did I wanna be in this club?
This here's your membership card, your baby's gonna die in six months club, did not, did not.
And so I'm honoring Howard, Mark Howard the second who was really our joy, and who really made me the mother that I am.
I tell you, I don't think I could have loved and appreciated my three sons more deeply than I do if I had not lost the most precious gift of my first son.