Every Pregnancy Is a Risk When You’re Black in America
How I’m grappling with my odds of surviving childbirth
In many ways, I’m just like every other pregnant woman in the United States. I’m about halfway through my second pregnancy, and I’ve already navigated the questions of what the birth of my second child, a girl, will mean for me personally and professionally. Like many expectant couples, my husband and I are coming up with baby names (I try not to gag when he makes a repulsive suggestion) and we’re stocking up on diapers now so the expenses don’t hit us all at once. I am excitedly waiting to see my daughter’s face for the first time.
But as a Black woman and a military wife in rural America, my pregnancy is also not like every other pregnant woman’s.
I’ve been socialized by the world around me to believe Blackness is an identity associated with unique consequences, especially relating to my health. To be Black is to be seen as a walking risk factor. Diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer — many conditions are correlated to my genetics. Those risks come with assumptions that dictate the medical system’s willingness to see me as an individual. Naturally, those risks multiply with pregnancy, as do the assumptions. More often than not, medical appointments leave me frustrated and longing for answers.
I’ve been socialized by the world around me to believe Blackness is an identity associated with unique consequences, especially relating to my health.
There are many moments when I feel guilty for bringing another Black child into the world. It hurts me that there is nothing I can do to prepare her for life as a double minority. I must help her develop a positive self-image in a world that only sees value in her parts. It’s an obstacle I haven’t entirely overcome myself.
I’ve already experienced how the assumptions of the medical system put Black mothers’ lives at risk. When I’m alone, I find myself wondering if childbirth will kill me. It came pretty darn close the first time.
My first pregnancy started fine. I was young, but I was well read, educated, and…