Black Maternal Health Disparities: My Story

It seems everyday a new story is posted about black women dealing with bias and medical professionals with their health. Many of these women have died due to negligence and ignorance.

Chanan my Rainbow baby 🌈

Photo Credit: Ebb & Flow Photography

I, too, have felt what it feels like to be ignored when seeking medical help. So much so that I decided to something different, I took control of my health.

I stepped out of my comfort zone and decided to go with a midwife for my third and fourth birth. It’s no secret that there’s a huge disparity amongst African American or black women in the medical field. Black women are dying in unbelievable numbers during maternity, in labor, and postpartum care. It’s atrocious the disregard we get in healthcare. Apparently, black women are said to have a higher pain tolerance than other races of women. But do we really or are we made to... hmmm. Anyway, healthcare professionals seemingly have taken this to heart and it’s left many of my beautiful black sisters, including myself, ignored and/or left for dead. Although this is true for me, I truly believe that I could have been one of those women on an obituary due to slack medical attention. I have close friends who, too, have experienced disregard, bias, and prejudice while in the hands of medical staff with life threatening conditions. It breaks my heart to see article after article of my black sisters dying like this. This disregard is why I fired my OBGYN and went with my midwife of whom I adore to the fullest.


So Sis, What Happened?

**TRIGGER WARNING**

I’ve been blessed with four beautiful children. I had my first child when I was at the young age of 18yrs old. My pregnancy with her is a blur to be honest. What I do recall is being super sick and super skinny. I couldn’t keep anything down with her. I ended up induced at 37wks due to her growth and my size- something I’ve now learned is called Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR). After her birth, every 5 or so years I had another child until my last two who are 16mons apart.

Following my second sons birth, I had a miscarriage. In fact, I had 8 miscarriages, but let me back track and go in order. My first miscarriage was in the fall of 2015. I remember it like it was yesterday. That same fall I went on to have 2 more. Each time, I went to the doctors concerned because my husband and I wanted to grow our family and we were trying to complete it in a certain time frame. Ha! Gods timing is the true timeframe. We learned very quickly that some of us just can’t time this type of thing. The doctors had no answers for me and didn’t even attempt to figure it out but they did push for some birth control *sigh*. Fast-forward to 2017, I was on my 10th pregnancy which would turnout to be my 8th miscarriage. Yep, you counted right... 2015-2017 I reached my 8th miscarriage with no doctor intervention. I was mentally deteriorating- depressed and anxious, to the max. It was my 8th miscarriage before I found out that after your 3rd miscarriage doctors are suppose to run tests to figure out whats going on with you. My doctors didn’t do that though. They just kept documenting and looking at me crazy every time I came back with the notification of another loss as if I was doing something terribly wrong by trying to procreate with my husband.

Miscarriage number 8 broke me. You see my other miscarriages were between 5-10 weeks, with the 10 week one being a molar pregnancy. Angel baby number 8 made it to 12 weeks. Prior to his dissolve (I don’t know if it truly was a he but in my heart that’s what I believe), I was going to the doctor and visiting the hospital for severe nausea and dehydration also known as Hyperemis Gravidum. I’d go to the hospital and they’d give me a little fluid and send me home. I went to the hospital about 6 times from weeks 6 to 10.5wks. I couldn’t keep food, vitamins, or water down. Around week 9, I was in pain. My husband would come home and find me on the floor in the bathroom due to throwing up so bad and weakness. I lost weight rapidly. My starting weight was 173lbs and I managed to get as low as 130lbs. I began to be in pain. I explained my feelings to the ER staff and docs but I was sent home always. I begged them to please admit me because something wasn’t right and I wasn’t getting any better. After that release, I got to the point where I wasn’t going to go back just to continually get hospital bills and I’m steadily leaving in the same state that I arrived. My husband got tired of coming home to me on the floor and begged me to go to the hospital. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t walk. I was hunched over crying. I wasn’t sleeping at night due to the pain and crying constantly praying for some type of relief.

Reluctantly, I allowed my husband to bring me into the ER. I was in full blown tears and breathing heavily due to the pain in my upper back and simultaneously, the fear of being turned back around yet again. I’m not sure what dying feels like, but if I had to guess, I was knocking on deaths door this day. The ER staff looked concerned. The nurse asked, “How long had I felt like this?” and I begrudgingly replied, “About a week and a half”. She looked concerned and asked “Why I hadn’t come in sooner?“ to which I replied, I had. The medical staff moved quickly and efficiently to get me on an IV line and tests ran. They told me I’d be getting admitted while I waited on my results. When the results came back, my bloodwork revealed I had elevated light counts. This is a sign of pancreatitis. Baby was fine and kicking on the ultrasound. I stayed 8 days in the hospitals and was told not to eat anything for the first 5 days. I spent those days vomiting bile and worrying about my baby. After a couple of days, I asked if they could check on my baby and they told me their main concern was me and the pancreatitis. I ended up with a PICC Line (an IV that feeds you fats and carbs) to assist in my nutrition. On day 5, I was put on a liquid diet. By now, they thought, I possibly passed Gallstones and that’s what caused the pancreatitis. I asked a couple times if they would check on my baby because though I was only 11wks, I didn’t feel him move much anymore. They wouldn’t for some reason. Day 7, they allowed me to eat and if kept down, I‘d get to eat solids and go home. Well, I did manage to eat and I was set with a release date for the next day. I asked once again about checking on my baby and they didn’t bother, they said the pancreatitis was more important. So I was sent home and given a 2 day follow up.

At my follow up, I eagerly awaited my ultrasound to see how my baby was doing. Little I did know, he wasn’t doing anything. He was gone. I watched that screen and didn’t see a flicker on his heart. She grabbed another health professional and he didn’t see anything either. The same HE that denied me the ultrasound in the hospital for reassurance. Many people will tell you that at 12wks much couldn’t have been done anyway and since I’m not a medical professional I can’t say either. All I know is that my heart was crushed. Our heart was crushed. Honestly, I can’t believe it still ‘til this day - 3 years later. It was this moment that depression began to sink in and slowly but surely eat me alive. I had to report to the hospital the next day to have a D&C and then I was sent on my way.


As weeks and months went by, I sunk more and more into depression. I remember not eating for like weeks straight. I drank water and that’s it. I got so skinny I cried at how skinny I had gotten. Somewhere in the midst of that turmoil, I took matters into my own hands.


To be continued

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