Posted on April 14, 2023
By Rose-Anne Uwague, Parent Ambassador, ACNJ Parent Leadership Council
Parent of three children ages 6, 8, and a newborn. Lives in Jersey City in Legislative District 31.
Advocating for better breastfeeding policies and accessible quality child care.
I used to think very black or white. It’s either this or that.
Now, I am exploring the gray and becoming more comfortable with it.
Have you heard of the tension of the opposites? Simply put, it is the idea that two seemingly opposite things can be true at the same time. Motherhood is a great example. And so is Black maternal health. To me, it is both/and.
As we celebrate Black Maternal Health Week, I reflect on my motherhood journey and conclude that motherhood is a paradox. For background, my husband and I are parents to three boys ages 8, 6, and a newborn born March 2023. Our two older sons were born in New York City using the same hospital and obstetrician. I didn’t know a lot about the disparities in healthcare and I never experienced any ill-treatment or poor service. We are now New Jerseyans and in 2020, I became a maternal health advocate.
Motherhood is both rewarding and utterly challenging at the same time.
It can bring joy and pain…
It is beautiful and messy…
You get the idea.
In the same light, Black Maternal Health Week is both a joyous acknowledgment and a disheartening call for action. Why the emphasis on Black? I believe that the health of ALL mothers matter.
Well, according to the World Health Organization, the majority of birth-related deaths were preventable and while progress has been made, significant disparities still exist in our communities. The emphasis is a desperate outcry because the CDC reports that Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women.
The State of New Jersey has a slightly different statistic and I was floored to learn that New Jersey ranks 47th in the nation for maternal deaths (flip that statistic - in a country with 50 states, NJ is the third deadliest state to deliver a baby) and has one of the widest racial disparities for both maternal and infant mortality. A Black mother in New Jersey is over seven times more likely than a white mother to die from maternity-related complications, and a Black baby is over three times more likely than a white baby to die before his or her first birthday.
Whether it is three more times or seven more times, knowledge is power, and at the same time, ignorance is bliss. I was very intentional about what I consumed via media, articles, and information. I knew that I had to protect my heart and my mind so I would not have a victim mentality or gross distrust for professionals who genuinely wanted to help me. When I interviewed doulas to support me in my birthing journey, I asked them to hold me accountable to one thing - having a balanced approach to medical opinions. In other words, not allowing my knowledge of misuse, abuse, systemic issues, and poor maternal outcomes to cloud my judgment or tarnish my ability to trust the medical staff.
My care team included a strong relationship with God, a supportive husband, our two sons, family, and friends, a chiropractor, an obstetrician, a nurse, and an amazing doula. I am thrilled to report that I had an amazing birthing experience.
I recall thanking the care team and coming to tears of joy feeling so blessed and grateful to have had such a positive experience. Immediately after, the tears of joy became hot, passionate, and angry tears as that gratitude was also fueled by the fact that I did not become a statistic or have a traumatic experience.
My gratitude should not be in spite of my Blackness. The treatment I received should be accessible to every woman. So as we celebrate mothers and babies globally and uplift Black maternal health, I call on the maternal health community—health administrators, policymakers, clinicians, advocates — to shift the narrative from victim to victor, and from Black woman to human.
Reignite Black birthing joy.
Birthing is a beautiful experience and it should be FOR ALL.
Black maternal health can be both informative and inspiring. Then we lose the tension and engage in positivity.
I’m Rose-Anne Uwague, an Executive Function Productivity Coach, maternal health advocate, wife to King Izoduwa, and a mom of three boys.