Mother of Preemie Twins, Breastfeeding Advocate
My mom passed away when I was a baby from maternal mortality. For months, she complained of headaches and severe nausea, but [her doctors] ignored her. When she was six months pregnant, she had a stroke.
My twins were born at 23 weeks and 6 days of gestation so about four months early. One weighed 1 lb 2 oz the other weighed 1 lb 3oz. Neonatologists gave them a 30% chance of survival after birth, believing that even if they did survive they would face long-term health complications like, deafness, blindness, extreme cognitive disabilities, or even be brain dead. We were not ready to say goodbye to unborn children, so we decided that we should give them a fighting chance.
I went into premature labor on Saturday and stayed pregnant until one week later when I reached 23 weeks, the legal age of viability. During this week I was placed on bed rest with a catheter and placed in the Trendelenburg position. It was a harrowing week. I truly have no words to describe my emotional state.
In addition to this most of my healthcare providers were rude, dehumanizing, dismissive, and had horrible bedside manner.
I was supported by my faith community who stepped in to provide care for my other two children during this time. I was supported by friends and family who visited me daily, and I was most supported by my partner who found words and ways to comfort me, to inspire me and to give me strength.
My children arrived into this world true fighters both being born showing signs of life and vigor. They are eight hours apart. They have had eight blood transfusions, four surgeries, three different breathing machines, fought multiple infections and spent a total of 103 days inside the neonatal intensive unit. They are true miracles and we are eternally grateful.
This is why doing this work is important to me. Because it’s literally my mother, and then me, myself, having premature twins. It really hits home on so many different generational levels.
So, I want people who identify as Black to have their voices really to not just heard but listened to. I want to find solutions and then provide interventions for them with strong follow-up.
I am an essential worker working at the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) Program. I help moms get access to healthy fruits and vegetables, nutrition education, and breastfeeding [support]. Working at WIC opened my eyes to the amount of misinformation that is in our community. There is so much misinformation about preterm birth, breastfeeding, history as Black women, and how we birth and feed our children.
I face challenges in my work in the communities I serve. We get some pushback from the community as far as being anti-formula, not what we are. We are for informed decision-making. It’s my job to present facts, and then we let our participants make an informed decision. Whatever decision they make, I support. And it’s gratifying work.
I love watching all of our little WIC babies grow up. When I call to check up, I find myself saying, “What? They’re walking?” or “You just had them.” It cures my baby fever. I don’t need to have any more kids. I can call a client real quick like, “Girl, how is that baby doing?” I’m rewarded through their progress, especially when you know that that particular participant had struggled with different obstacles or had the deck stacked up against them.
I think We are facing an astronomical rate of Black maternal mortality, and that is something that I will fight until my last breath to change. Every Black woman deserves a chance to be with her child and not be at risk for death during what’s supposed to be the most fruitful time of her life.
When I hear birth justice, I think of advocacy, self-advocacy. I think of safety. I think of gentleness, being treated with care, true care, and concern. That’s birth justice—treating birthing people with gentleness and helping them to advocate for themselves in spaces that don’t provide that.