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.