November 19, 2014

1610991_10153395395846026_2327253539468547740_n.pngNovember 15 was World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.

I am surprised to find a remembrance day set aside for such an event so close to a date when I experienced the tragedy  of a car accident.

Late on November 19, 2014 my husband and I were driving to our new home in North Lawndale when we came upon a single car accident. While we had experienced car accidents before, this one was different. This was the first time we were there to witness someone trapped in a burning vehicle and saw them pass away.

I wrote the words below two years ago. It was my attempt to process what had happened. I was too raw to publish it back then, but today it isn’t as hard. But I must admit, the memory lingers every time we pass by the scene.

I cried today. With four strangers.

We were driving home when we came upon a car on fire. A man was trapped inside. We joined three men and two women who were trying to figure out what to do.

I cried today. And now I’m numb.

I tried to talk to him, letting him know we were there. I told him that he was going to be okay. That we were there to help. I knew that we needed the fire department and their powerful tools. Yet, I wished for someone to have super strength equivalent to the jaws of life.

I cried today. I saw someone die.

A cop came. He told us to get back. “I CAN’T” I yelled. “It’s a human-being stuck.” Another officer brought a fire extinguisher. While they tried to douse the flames, we pulled back. We huddled together. Not because of the 18 degree temperature. The warmth of the fire kept us comfortable. It was because we knew something horrible was happening and we were helpless.

I cried today. And held strangers in my arms.

I think it was at that point, when we saw that the flames kept growing. It was at that point, I think, that he passed. I didn’t see the life leave him, yet I knew there was a moment when I couldn’t easily make out a person in the car. It was then that I knew.

An infant’s car seat was in the back. No child was in it, but it was there. He was a father.

We cried today. And held each other.

We said “God bless.” We said little things to each other like “we did all we could.” “The fire department took too long.” “He knew someone was there.” “We tried.”

The police officers didn’t seem fazed. I guess they are use to death. Perhaps, someday, I will be too.

I sobbed today. And I think I may tomorrow.

 

A reached out to a dear friend who took a moment to listen. She told me that I would probably grapple with the memories for days and weeks, even months. And she was right. Even to this day we think about the accident each time we drive by that exit.

Please wear your seatbelts. Don’t drive impaired. Don’t text and drive. Just don’t. Be alert, because in an instant, life could be gone.

My heart cries out in memory of those lost, and those whose lives have been broken.

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My birth story.

As I sit here waiting for baby boy to arrive (watching my due date pass me by) I am constantly struck and reminded of the amount of privilege I have living in the United States and as an affluent white person.

I can choose which facility I want to give birth at. The fact that I even have a choice of hospitals is amazing when so many women around the world, including in the U.S., have to travel many miles to access a facility. Here in Chicago, I have the choice to choose home birth, or my choice of numerous birthing centers and hospitals and even birthing centers connected to hospitals. Choices…Oh so many (overwhelming) choices.

I have access to quality care. Not only do I have options of where to receive my care, but my health insurance allows me to read reviews and rankings of which facility has the best maternal and neonatal units. I have the ability to prioritize my care as I wish. Perhaps I want a midwife, or an OB-GYN. Or perhaps I want my family practitioner to serve as my care provider. Bottom line I have choices. And whichever care provider I select has the ability to care for me the best way they know how: dictating just how often I should come in and just how I should be treated.

Do you know how many antenatal visits the World Health Organization recommends for pregnant women to prevent still-births and complications? Four. FOUR. When I was only 22 weeks pregnant I had already had four visits. That made me one of 64% of women worldwide that has four or more visits with a health provider. Meaning more than one-third of the pregnant women in the world aren’t getting proper access to care that can help them safely deliver.

Pregnancy is a scary thing. 

Expecting a child, I am overwhelmed by choices and opinions. Strangers providing medical advice. Strangers telling me what I must or must not do. Strangers asking scary questions like “Are you worried about (insert scary birth incident here).” And yet, amidst all the opinions and choices, I am trying to remind myself to be grateful I have so many choices because so many women don’t any.

I spent many hours studying maternal and child health. Most recently, I worked on a project examining the role of a community in maternal and child health in Uganda. Uganda has a neonatal mortality rate of 18.7 deaths per 1000 live births and a maternal mortality rate of 343 per 100,000 live births. Sadly, many of these deaths occur because women do not have simple access to a skilled birth attendant.

It is hard to read things like that. And it is hard to remember my degree of privilege as I grumble over a doctor not being as attentive as I want [while I just got to hear my baby’s heartbeat using the latest technology]. I forget how lucky I am to have so many choices and opportunities. Sometimes it just takes a little perspective to recognize privilege.

But after the recognition, a harder step looms…actually doing something about the privilege.

 Dismantling structures of privilege and oppression isn’t about diminishing my own privilege, but about raising the bar so that everyone has access to the same things. I want to dismantle privilege by making sure everyone has the same opportunities and a community that loves and cares for them.

As I journey through pregnancy, I find myself seeing mothers in a different light. The closer I drift towards the motherhood club, I am finding my heart longing to help others who have or are experiencing what I am experiencing.

One suggestion is to partner with awesome organizations that are serving those in vulnerable situations. And you don’t have to look far. Consider groups in your backyard like the Lawndale Teen Moms. Can you bring them dinner once a month or serve as a mentor?

Do you know of a single parent or busy parents who could use a break? Can you babysit their kiddo for a few hours this week or make a double batch of dinner and take it over to their home?

Or if you are financially able, consider supporting organizations who are engaging on a global level. I personally love the work the Fistula Foundation does by providing life-transforming surgery to repair a childbirth injury that all too many mothers faces in the developing world.

If this doesn’t tug on your uterus, what does? You must be uterus-less. Or a member of this photo. (KIDDING! I know men who are passionate and supportive about this. Like Lois C. K. who showed his support of the Fistula Foundation while appearing on SNL and Jeopardy.)

My birth story isn’t yet finished. I sit here at 40 weeks and four days uncomfortably waiting. But as I wait, I don’t want to lose sight of others knowing that while my story is nearing its end, my role in lifting up others and supporting their birth stories should always be apart of me. Join me in staying alert and engaged.