Let's Go #BeyondMothersDay, Let’s Stand Up For Each Other

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May 11. March for Moms. March for You. March for Each Other.

During this second pregnancy, I get the luxury of an ultrasound each week beginning at 36 weeks to check on the well-being of the baby due to my “advanced maternal age.” The sting of being advanced in age aside…I’ll take it. At my 36-week appointment today, the ultrasound revealed that my baby boy is already seven pounds. I counted his ten fingers and ten toes, heard his heartbeat, saw his engorged testicles (holy moly- what am I going do to with a boy) and peppered the technician with questions. I am a bit anxious about what I consider “normal” things- giving birth to a 9 pounder and how my daughter will feel when we bring her baby brother home.

You know what I am not worried about? I am not worried that I will die during my pregnancy, childbirth or postpartum because I don’t have access to healthcare providers in Upper NW DC. I am not worried that my healthcare providers will discriminate against me, ignore me or fail to provide me with information about family planning.

My freedom from these worries is, sadly, also a luxury. Mamas across the United States face these barriers and it has led the U.S. to have the highest maternal mortality rate out of every industrialized country. Maternal death for American Indian / Alaskan Native and non-Hispanic Black women is 3 to 4 times more likely to happen as compared to White women- regardless of income, education or geographic location. In our backyard, the maternal death rates are DOUBLE the national rates and nearly 75% of District mothers who died of complications from pregnancy, labor and childbirth between 2014 and 2016 were African-American. And at least 50% of maternal deaths are considered preventable.

Maternal mortality is not a “American Indian/Alaskan Native and non-Hispanic Black woman” issue. It’s not their responsibility to fix it. This is a mama issue. This is a humanity issue. When one of us is not receiving the care we deserve, none of us are. So…what is this White mama in Upper NW DC to do? Educate myself, check privilege, be grateful, be outraged- sure. And I am also going to STAND UP for all the mamas at the March for Moms on May 10 & 11. I hope you will join me. Below are details for this event and ways you can get involved. I welcome any other suggestions in the comments.

  • Educate & Advocate- Familiarize yourself with the issues and resources on the March for Moms website. This includes information related to your jurisdiction, then use it to educate your friends, family members and local and federal policymakers. I have lived in DC for over fifteen years and never lobbied for anything on the Hill before, but I will be attending the March for Moms Advocacy Day taking place on Friday, May 10. We will be asking for support on 2 bills:  The MOMS Act S. 116- Gilibrand and the MOMMA's Act H.R. 1897- Kelly as well as continued funding of maternal mental health grants, maternal mortality review committees and continued identification of maternity shortage areas. Registration for the Advocacy Day is closed but that shouldn’t stop you from making your voice heard.

  • March - Attend the March for Moms Rally on Saturday, May 11 @ 1pm.  Bring your family- listen to stories from survivors and experts. Come together.

  • Donate- Support the mission and work of March for Moms by donating your blood or your dollars.

    • In collaboration with Heroes for Moms, March for Moms will be hosting a blood drive on the National Mall at 7th St and Jefferson from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm. There is a national shortage of Type O blood so make your appointment today!

    • All the proceeds from the sale of the iconic March for Moms orange tees goes to the organization.  Or you can donate through their GoFundMe page.

In addition to building awareness for improved maternal mortality outcomes, the agenda for these events includes advocating for legislation and programs to improve recognition, support and treatment of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, which an estimated 15-21% of pregnant women experience. This one hits a bit closer to home as I experienced anxiety earlier in my pregnancy, which is common for pregnancy after loss. We will also be fighting for paid family leave. The United States is the only high-income country, and one of only eight countries in the world, that does not mandate paid leave for mothers of newborns. We should not be forced to stunt our careers, income potential or our wellbeing because we are mothers.  By good fortune, when I was planning my maternity leave with my daughter, my manager was based in London. He was genuinely appalled at the two weeks parental leave plus six weeks disability provided by the Fortune 10 company we gave our blood, sweat and tears. In his words, your “bits aren’t even back together after eight weeks- I don’t want you pissing all over the office.” Inappropriate? Absolutely. But also too true…and many mamas don’t even get eight weeks paid leave.

Through movements like Together Rising, women have unified in heartbreak to act for mamas at the border being ripped from their children. The solidarity and impact didn’t solve the problem but it is progress and provides hope. Let’s do the same for the mamas in our backyard who are dying, suffering in silence or sacrificing their careers or in order to heal and be a mother. It doesn’t have to be this way and YOU can help.

Happy Mother’s Day, sisters.