Tag Archives: Black Birth Blog Carnival

Health Programming and Its Impact on Black Infant Mortality

Welcome to the Third Edition of the Black Birth Carnival. Hosted by Darcel of The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe and Nicole of Musings From The Mind of Sista Midwife.   The Topic: Infant Mortality Awareness: Saving OUR Babies. Many birth workers are talking about the alarming infant mortality rates in this country, but none are talking about infant mortality in the Black Community. That’s where this Blog Carnival comes in. We will talk about statistics, try to figure out why, and most importantly what we can do to help lower our infant mortality rates.   This post will be updated with live links by Noon, linking back to the other participants posts.

Below is a Guest Blog Post submitted by Amy Hereford especially for this blog carnival. After reading you can read my article for this carnival HERE.

Blacks babies under age one tend to die at more than two times the rate of white babies. Regardless of the increased educational, socioeconomic, and political power of US blacks, this rate difference has held steady for more than 40 years (http://www.minoritynurse.com/health-care-access/spotlight-infant-mortality-crisis).  Infant mortality data is representative of a country’s overall health and well-being. It is a way to quickly gauge how well a country treats its citizens by reviewing the death rates of its most vulnerable—which are babies under one year of age. Since black babies consistently die at double the rates of white babies, the entities responsible for healthcare in the US are charged with absorbing the message, forging new solutions and building action. However, many federal, state and local authorities are out of answers, stuck on old-world solutions, or simply don’t care.

The general understanding in public health is that health behaviors—what we know and do—have the most immediate impact on our overall health. We saw this with polio: if an individual gets a specific shot, that individual will not get polio. In fact, most of our ideas about public health stem from medical interventions doled out to the masses which end up improving community health. As the world becomes increasingly familiar with healthcare advances and new, life-saving technologies, we get more and more used to fast health improvements: identify a problem; sit down with leaders to come up with a solution; disseminate that solution; chart the impact; see improved health and move on to the next problem. It has not worked this way for those trying to improve rates of black infant deaths.

A lot of the responsibility for what we can do as a country to improve these numbers has fallen on the shoulders of pregnant women, and the nurses and doctors who treat them. Research done in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s linking infant deaths to maternal behaviors—like smoking, drinking, baby sleep positions—set up a relationship between health programmers and doctors; the health programmers collect information nationally and disseminate life-saving findings to doctors who, in turn, provide these interventions to their patients.While this form of information dissemination has helped to decrease the overall US rate of infant mortality, it has done very little for the rate difference between black and white infant deaths.

This is a hard pill for most health programmers to swallow. Health programmers are the policy and programming wonks that sit at the decision-making tables within federal, national, state and community authorities that make decisions about the services, initiatives and resources within our nation’s cities and counties. How could so much information be disseminated, so many services made more accessible, and still have such disparity between black and white infant death? One researcher, Michael Lu (http://www.arc.org/racewire/030210z_kashef.html), back in the early 2000s, found an answer that not many health entities were expecting. He found that racism, and the stress from racism, contribute to this disparity. Dr. Lu found that regardless of a black woman’s educational level, positive health behaviors, or socioeconomic status her baby still had double the chance of dying before age one compared to white women. Dr. Lu attributed his findings to racism and the mother’s stress associated with racism.

I was working within maternal and child health with a national physician organization as a health programmer. I remember the various cascades of surprise as Dr. Lu’s research on racism and the deathly effects it has on black infants began to be disseminated at conferences, in newsletters and between colleagues. No one knew what to say. In most  professional settings, unless you wanted trouble, racism and prejudice were hardly mentioned (out loud). So, for health programmers to address racism… Well, how were we supposed to do that, especially if the racism Dr. Lu found as life-threatening wasn’t even coming from the doctors or nurses serving the pregnant patients? It was coming from everywhere; where the women worked, where they lived, where they shopped; wherever they encountered racism whether perceived or real.

The research on racism and its effects on birth outcomes has been out for almost 10 years and more and more research has been—and is being—developed that adds to or confirms Dr. Lu’s original research. But, still, there is very little focus from health programmers on how to aim their efforts on racism and reduce its impact on pregnant black women. There are many reasons for this.

First, the people sitting around the decision-making table may be racist themselves and struggling with motivation to move the project in life-saving directions.  As a black woman and in my career as a health programmer, I had one supervisor who—regardless of how nice I tried to be—always questioned me on whether I was angry about this or that, and once even called me “hostile.” This is one man that I would say “is not ready” to provide input into what can save the lives of black infants. However, he was a leader at the office and trusted by his authorities and funders even though my personal experiences with him and my own survival sense pegged him as racist.

Secondly, many health programmers may suffer from inertia, meaning that they are so focused in one direction (say, for instance, smoking cessation) that they no longer know how to think on other solutions for pregnant women. I recently ran across this phenomenon at a local nonprofit that serves pregnant women. There was a befuddled leader who was convinced that the best way to reach young black women was through the church, Afrocentric storytelling, and traditional African garb. This kind of health programming was innovative in the ‘80s and ‘90s and probably not really effective then either. Current research did not interest this leader. She knew what she wanted to do, regardless of what the research was saying about black infant mortality.

Lastly, the general racism that shows up on jobs tends to run counter to establishing the best health programs. For instance, I’ve worked for about eight different agencies over a 15-year span of time; at more than half of them I was placed on the black health committee regardless of whether I was interested in doing that work or not (I was). Others sitting around the table didn’t care about what we were discussing, doing, or planning. At each one of these organizations, leadership did not place these committees as a high priority even though many were being funded to innovate around healthcare solutions for black Americans.

Health programming innovation is not happening at the planning tables, communities, or on the national scene. On top of that, racism is a very powerful force. Many organizations and people struggle with their own issues surrounding this hot-button topic. Decreasing the difference between black and white infant mortality rates is going to take willingness and an ability for health programmers to brave new frontiers in health interventions. Perhaps this frontier, racism and its effects on health, is the scariest for American health programmers to discuss, due to the history of America and our tendency to not talk about it. But just like what is hinted at in the research of Dr. Lu and all of the other researchers finding similar evidence, health interventions directly addressing racism at work, school, and within our own souls is bound to do the most good and have truly lasting impacts on the health of black babies and black communities; which is bound to have totally positive impacts on America as a nation.

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Please take the time to visit the other participants posts. They are very thought-provoking and each woman has written about amazing solutions for lowering the Infant Mortality rate in the Black Community.

Amy: Health Programming and It’s Impact on Black Infant Mortality. Guest Post on Musings From The Mind of Sista Midwife.

Darcel: Black Infant Mortality and Your Responsibility. The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe

Nicole: Stop The Talking… Implement SOLUTIONS! Sista Midwife Productions

Darline Turner-Lee: Standing For Little Brown Babies By Supporting Their Mothers. Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond

#BlackBirth Carnival Call For Submissions: Infant Mortality Awareness – Saving OUR Babies


Hello and Welcome to the Third Edition of the Black Birth Blog Carnival: Infant Mortality Awareness – Saving OUR Babies. Hosted by Darcel of The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe and Nicole of Musings From The Mind of Sista Midwife.The Black Birth Carnival has been amazing in so many ways. Whether you participate by blogging, or sharing on various social networks, we thank you for joining us in talking about and celebrating Black Birth.

Have you missed the previous Black Birth Carnivals? If so you can read the first installment - Birthing While Black and the second installment, Not Without Our Fathers now.

While we normally hold the carnival on the 2nd Tuesday ofthe month, we will run this carnival on the 3rd Tuesday of the month, September18th in order to give respect to those affected by September 11th.

It’s no secret that the Black Community has the highest rate of infant mortality. Black babies are more than two times more likely to die than White babies before their first birthday. A very sobering statistic. There are MANY causes for this disparity, including low birth weight, prematurity, SUIDS(sudden unexplained infant death syndrome), maternal complications, lack of prenatal care, and even racism.

If you search the internet you will find article after article on our high infant mortality rates.While the numbers are good to know and helps us learn, there don’t appear to be many articles on ways to reduce Black Infant Mortality from the perspective of Black women and men. That’s where this blog carnival comes in!

We are inviting you to share with us your thoughts on infant mortality in the Black Community. When did you first become aware of infant mortality rates in the black community? Did you even know it was a concern? Do you know the rates for your specific state or country? What do you think will help to lower our infant mortality rates? Does your birth community do anything special for the month of Septermber for Infant Mortality Awareness Month? How can we raise awareness and make our voices heard on this very important subject? What can we do as a community to save OUR babies? We want to hear from you!
No voice is too small to be heard! If you are a black mother, or father we want to hear from you. Don’t have a blog and want to write? We can host you on one of our blogs.

You do not have to answer all of the questions above in your post, we are just throwing out possible writing prompts.

 What is a Blog Carnival?

A blog carnival is a collection of blog posts from a variety of bloggers on a particular subject, published on the same day. This blog carnival will be published/go live on Tuesday Septermber 18thh. In addition to posting his/her article, each blogger provides links to all of the other posts submitted. Because of this, blog carnivals are a great way to learn about other fabulous bloggers. They give you an opportunity to connect with others and have the potential to increase traffic to your blog. If you do not have a personal blog and want to participate, please email us ASAP at BlackBirthCarnival at gmail dot com so that we can find a host blog for your article submission.

Guidelines and Instructions for Submissions

We are looking for posts that are well written, informative, thought provoking and relevant to the theme of the carnival. We prefer that you submit a new, unpublished post for the carnival however, if you feel you have the“perfectpost” that has been previously published we will accept it.

Please email your post to us at BlackBirthCarnival at gmail dot com no later than Tuesday, september 11th Be sure to put September Carnival in the subject line of the email and don’t forget to give us the title of your post. We cannot accept your submission without a title.

You will receive an HTML code with instructions via email no later than Saturday, September 15th. You will need to place this code in your blog post so that you will link up with all of the other blogs participating in the carnival. For the success of the carnival, it’s important that you add this code. Please do not publish your post until after midnight on the 18th. We are excited about this new Blog Carnival and we look forward to receiving your submissions.

In Birth and Love Darcel & Nicole
Follow us on Twitter @MahoganyWayMama & @Sistamidwife
Twitter hashtag #BlackBirth

#BlackBirth: Not Without Our Fathers…

Welcome to the Second Edition of the Black Birth Carnival. Hosted by Darcel of The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe and Nicole of Musings From The Mind of Sista Midwife.

The Topic: Not Without Our Fathers. So often we talk birth in women circles. We celebrate birth within the feminine community and forget that without the fathers our birth experiences would be non existent. June 17th marks the day many will celebrate fathers in this country. With that in mind we came up with our topic for this installment of the Black Birth Blog Carnival.

This post you will be updated with live links by Noon, linking back to the other participants posts.

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Twitter Hashtag #BlackBirth

Around the country in less than one week, millions will honor the men in their lives on Father’s Day.  Father’s Day in my world for the most part comes and goes like every other Sunday.  My lack of enthusiasm is probably due, at least in part, to the fact that my father is… ummm…. well….. let’s just say he would never win the “Father of the Year Award.”  LOL

Regardless of my personal connection, or lack thereof, to father’s day, I understand the importance of fathers when it comes to birth. Over the years I have been blessed to witness many births.  The absence or the presence of the father is not unique to any one race, creed, or religion.  Many women give birth alone or with female support only and there are a multitude of reasons a man may be absent from the birth of his child.  Whenever the father is not present I like to know why.  Not just for the sake of knowing but rather because I have witnessed the father/birth connection and understand that who the father is and his presence or absence can have a profound affect on the birth process. 

While the presence or absence of a father during birth can directly impact the birth experience, little research has been published about fathers and birth.  As I prepared to write this post, except for discussions about slavery, I couldn’t find anything specifically about Black Men and their perceived role during birth.  (As an aside…  I did come across this interview.  And while the book is not specifically about #BlackBirth, it does seem to be a good read.  If you have any feedback on this book I would love to hear it)

Black Men often get a bad rap when it comes to involvement with pregnancy, birth, families, etc. They are often wrongly depicted as the proverbial absentee father, available only to plant the seed.  The reality is Black Birth is filled with stories of black fathers being present, strong, powerful and supportive.  Not only are black men present for birth, I know black men who have personally held their hands out to  catch their newborn as their women gave birth. Yes Black men are present… catching, loving, sharing, and experiencing birth as intently and as passionately and as importantly as the women they are supporting. 

As I do outreach, and speak with Black Men about birth I find that they are VERY interested.   They show genuine concern when they learn about the disproportionately high rates of infant and maternal mortality in the black community. They are by nature protectors and healers and they want to help and support their wives, girl friends, sisters, mothers and daughters.  They want to know how they can get involved; how they can help.  Unfortunately because birth is often considered “women’s work” they are often shut out of the conversation.  In order to change our perinatal outcomes however, we MUST include the fathers of our children. The men in our communities must not only be present at the table as we discuss #BlackBirth, they must be actively engaged as a part of the solution.

Many don’t realize, that men, just like women, LOVE to share their birth stories with anyone who will listen.  Have you ever listened to a man tell HIS birth story. You should try it sometimes. They are full of life, animated and often hilarious filled with a multitude of emotions.  The sparkle in their eye is unmistakable and you know that they too are transformed during birth.  I challenge you today, tomorrow, or maybe as a part of your father’s day celebration to speak with a father about HIS birth story.

I don’t have any children and as I approach the ripe young age of 40 I think more and more about what my pregnancies and births will be like.  When I visualize my future birth experiences, I can see my home birth, where I am surrounded by more than one sister friend, midwives and doulas… a few of them, all around supporting me.  I also I envision my male partner, the father of my baby….  Ever present, strong, loving and supportive. I visualize him rubbing my back, stroking my face, giving me kisses, speaking kindly and reminding me at all times that he is right there with me.  Who this man will be, I am not yet sure but I pray when I do have my next birth experience, I will proudly say my birth was wonderful and it was not without the father. 

Do you have a story to share about #BlackBirth and fathers? Share your story and link it up to our carnival. I would to hear it! Let’s continue to celebrate Black Birth!

Please take the time to read and comment on the other participants posts.

Shahmet at Adia Publishing: A Father Before Birth

Reggie at WhatrUWorkinon?: They’re All Miracles

Nicole at Musings From The Mind of Sista Midwife: #BlackBirth Not Without Our Fathers

Darcel at The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe: Are Men at Birth Important?

Alexis at The Ivy Expansion: A Fathers Love

Mavhu at F.W. Hargrove: I Birth At Home

Twitter Hashtag #BlackBirth

#BlackBirth Blog Carnival Call for Submissions… Not Without Our Fathers

#BlackBirth… It is indeed a beautiful thing. And here with the Black Birth Blog Carnival we want to continue to celebrate it. The Black Birth Blog Carnival is hosted by Darcel of Mahoganyway Birth Café and Nicole Deggins blogging as Sista Midwife. We were so excited about the love, support, and feedback we received from the first installment of the Black Birth Blog Carnival that we can’t wait to read the submissions this time around. The topic for this carnival: #BlackBirth… Not without Our Fathers.

So often we talk birth in women circles. We celebrate birth within the feminine community and forget that without the fathers our birth experiences would be non existent. June 17th marks the day many will celebrate fathers in this country. With that in mind we came up with our topic for this installment of the Black Birth Blog Carnival.

Fathers are essential to the #BlackBirth story. Without them, the fathers of our children, there would be no birth. Some fathers are there at the beginning of our experience and absent from our birth stories. Some are ever present with strong hands, a loving heart, and a gentleness that we may have never known before that moment.  No matter the role he played, we want to hear about how the father of your baby impacted your birth. How did his involvement or lack thereof affect your birth choices and your childbirth experience? How about YOUR father… did he impact your birth?

Now here is a twist… Calling all men to the Carnival of Black Birth… Are you a man that would like to celebrate what #BlackBirth means to you? Do you have a birth story to share? We would LOVE to get your unique perspective.

Lastly, and certainly not least, perhaps you don’t have a personal experience you would like to share at all. Do you know of a father that has been a part of and/or impacted black birth in other ways? No matter the story… we wanna read it. We want to celebrate Black Birth and celebrate the fathers that make them possible. Submit your stories today for our next carnival #BlackBirth… Not Without Our Fathers.

What is a Blog Carnival
A blog carnival is a collection of blog posts from a variety of bloggers on a particular subject, published on the same day. This blog carnival will be published/go live Tuesday June 12thh.  In addition to posting his/her article, each blogger provides links to all of the other posts submitted. Because of this, blog carnivals are a great way to learn about other fabulous bloggers. They give you an opportunity to connect with others and have the potential to increase traffic to your blog. If you do not have a personal blog and want to participate, please email us ASAP at BlackBirthCarnival at gmail dot com so that we can find a host blog for your article submission.

Guidelines and Instructions for Submissions
We are looking for posts that are well written, informative, thought provoking and relevant to the theme of the carnival. We prefer that you submit a new, unpublished post for the carnival however, if you feel you have the “perfect post” that has been previously published we will accept it. ;-)

Please email your post to us at BlackBirthCarnival at gmail dot com no later than Tuesday, June 5th Be sure to put June Carnival in the subject line of the email and don’t forget to give us the title of your post. We cannot accept your submission without a title.

You will receive an HTML code with instructions via email no later than June 3rd. You will need to place this code in your blog post so that you will link up with all of the other blogs participating in the carnival. For the success of the carnival, it’s important that you add this code. Please do not publish your post until after midnight on the 12th. We are excited about this new Blog Carnival and we look forward to receiving your submissions.

In Birth and Love
Darcel & Nicole
Follow us on Twitter & Let’s Celebrate #BlackBirth
@MahoganyWayMama  & @Sistamidwife

Our History Does Not Have to Be Our Future

Welcome to the First Edition of the Black Birth Carnival. Hosted by Darcel of The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe and Nicole of Musings From The Mind of Sista Midwife. Our first topic is Birthing While Black: A Historical Perspective. At the end of this post you will find a list of links to the other participants. Some of these posts may contain Emotional Triggers and will be labeled at the beginning of the post.

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Let me start off by being completely honest.  I struggled a bit more than normal getting started with this blog post.  Each time I thought about the topic: A Historical perspective on Birthing While Black…  all I could think about was my foremothers and the pain and suffering they experienced as they gave birth. I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to write about it. I didn’t really know if I wanted to read about it.  At the same time I knew I helped come up with the topic, and as a result, I had to do all three:  write, read, and think about it.

From the slave ships, to the auction blocks to the cotton fields… from the Jim Crow south to the “Negros Only” side of the inner city hospitals that were a far cry from separate but equal… I had think about it…. the hard and painful reality of what it was like historically for black women to give birth in this country.  It was physically and emotionally painful.  It was dirty and lonely.  It lacked compassion.  It was unsupported and often forced. It was in a word… Ugly.

Historically, birthing while black was also accompanied by fear.  There is a saying that a pregnant/birthing woman always has one foot in the grave.  This was not hard to believe, as our history includes the reality that death during or shortly after childbirth was an unfortunate common reality. Aside from maternal mortality, many more women experienced neonatal and infant mortality.  There was always the acknowledgement that a woman and/or her baby may not live to see beyond the labor bed.  Once past the initial dangers of the post partum period the fear was not eliminated for the black mother.  She knew that at any moment her baby could be taken away from her.  During slavery she had fear that her baby would be taken and sold to another plantation.  After slavery the fear became “Will my baby be taken from me by angry mobs and/or men in white sheets?”

There is no way I can think of and write about the history of Black Birth in this country without making mention of the many midwives who supported Black Women when no one else would. There are the women we know by name:  Margaret Charles Smith, Onnie Lee Logan, Mamie Odessa Hale, and Lucrecia Perryman to name a few.  Then there are the many who remain nameless: Those who brought their skill and knowledge of birth along with them when they were forced aboard ships and transported across the Atlantic.  Under the circumstances, these women and many more like them did the best they could to provide compassionate environments for birth.  While they made things better for the black women they served, not all women had access to midwives and even with access, the amount of poverty, racism, discrimination and subpar living conditions made Birthing While Black difficult to say the least.

Unfortunately, our modern day history, while better, is a far cry from ideal.  Over the past 18 years I have witnessed black birth in an obstetrical system that is not compassionate, understanding or culturally sensitive to black women.  Racism continues to plague treatment at hospitals nationwide and in many places Black Birth continues to be physically and emotionally painful, dirty and lonely, lacking compassion, unsupported and forced. In a word… Ugly.

There are many black women who have fought back. Many who have taken control of their experience and had wonderful birth experiences. Unfortunately I see many more who still receive subpar treatment.  While our maternal and infant mortality rates are certainly not as high as they once were, Black Birth still bears the disparity burden.

Many black women continue to birth in fear. I have seen many concerned if their baby will be taken by the social services system full of inadequacies, discrimination and racial profiling. They fear their children being taken away too soon through gun and gang violence, drugs or the Just Us System.  And now they will birth and fear that their children can be taken away from them by a racist idiot on a “neighbor hood watch campaign.”

We know our history is full of hard and difficult birth.  I can tell you that our modern day history is in need of do-over.  The question I ask is what will our future bring?   We can’t control our history but we DO have the option to change our future.  What legacy do you want to leave?  What do you want the historical perspective of Birthing While Black to be for your children?

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Please take time to read the other submissions for the Black Birth Carnival. These are very touching, thought-provoking posts

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Nicole – Musings From The Mind of Sista Midwife: Our History Does Not Have To Be Our Future

Darcel – The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe: What Happened To Our Strength?

Takiema – Connect Formation Consulting: Black & Still Birthing – A Deeply Personal Post

Teresha – Marlie and Me: My Childbirth Influences and Experiences: From my Foremothers to Erykah Badu

Denene – My Brown Baby: Birthing While Black In The Jim Crow South Stole My Grandmother: Thankfully, Things Change

Olivia – The Student Midwife: Birthing While Black: A Historical Perspective of Black Midwives

Chante – My Natural Motherhood Journey: Homebirth Stories