Labor Day holds a very special place in my heart for a very specific reason: I grew up in a household with parents who were blue collar workers—who toiled hard and struggled mightily on the assembly lines of factories for decades so that they could provide a good life for my brother and me. We were not rich, by any means. And while their work did not save lives—Mommy did quality control at Estee Lauder, and Daddy ran the cake line at Entenmann’s—their contribution did bring some measure of peace to the world. Make-up and cake make people happy. Mostly, on this day, I celebrate their hard work—their labor—for what it did for us: it kept our family fed, housed, educated. Sustained.
This year, though, I add to my Labor Day a different kind of reflection—that of the birth labor of American women in general, black women in particular. I do so because today, women across the country are joining together today for the first National Rally for Change, a gathering to bring attention to the need for more informed birth choices, evidence-based practice and humanity in American maternity care. Rallies are being held today between 10 a.m. and noon at or near hospitals in 110 cities in 45 states by advocates with a singular mission: to call attention to the fact that the U.S. maternal mortality rate has doubled in the past 25 years and, despite that the U.S. spends the most money across the globe in maternity care, our country lags behind a whopping 49 industrialized nations in maternal survival rates.
And those are overall numbers. In some areas of the United States, maternal death rates for African American mothers is four times higher than that of white women, making maternal-mortality risk for black women comparable to rates in Kazakhstan and Syria, according to World Health Organization data. Add to this the fact that African American babies are disproportionately underweight and suffer high infant mortality, and you’ve got some serious problems facing black mothers and their babies.
Basically, it’s time for some serious discussion on ways women can do what we’ve been doing since the beginning of time—creating, giving and sustaining human life—without anyone dying. Though I just found out about the Labor Day National Rally for Change this very morning, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for the goings on at ImprovingBirth.org for updates on how we can raise our collective voices for black moms and moms-to-be.
- Tackling Black Infant Mortality Rates—Without Stereotyping Black Mothers
- Paying Homage To The OB-GYN Who Escorted Me Into Motherhood
- Nipples and Ninny: An African American Mom’s Breastfeeding Journey
- Erykah “Badoula” And the Business of Birthing: Can Midwifery Help Stem Black Infant Mortality Rates?