Engaging With Black Pregnancy Outside of High Childbirth Mortality Rates
The only time I saw Black parents represented were to mention mortality rates during childbirth. It left me infuriated and frustrated.
By Sadiyah Bashir
Like any other pregnant Millenial/Gen Z-er excited about bringing new life into the world, I took to the internet to find cute baby clothes, nursery ideas, and maybe a quick tip on how to deal with morning sickness. In most spaces, I was confronted by endless Pinterest posts of white women in their nurseries or at their baby showers, baby clothing websites with only white babies as their models, and articles upon articles written by white women on how to get the proper “snap back” after pregnancy or tips for deciding on baby names. Even the hashtags mentioning “mama” or “mom” were flooded with images of mostly white women. The only time I saw Black parents represented were to mention mortality rates during childbirth. It left me infuriated and frustrated.
Pregnancy is exhausting enough. It’s a wild ride, a rollercoaster of never knowing what to expect from morning sickness to your feet swelling up to what feels like three times their normal size. As a pregnant Black woman, I was also always troubled with the high childbirth mortality rates everywhere I looked. Between my family members often reminding me about how Black people are three times more likely to die while giving birth than white people and news stories of Black families who have experienced this, I was constantly bombarded with this statistic. While Instagram pages labeled as “radical” post mostly white women happily giving birth, in contrast, when Black women are posted, the captions typically contain something about the high mortality rates, further cementing these statistics as a key portion of our pregnancy stories. This can be extremely counterproductive, as it may cause some people to feel as though there is no hope for them and add stress to their pregnancies.
During chattel slavery, and for many years after, Black women were represented as the “mammy” stereotype, the maid or nanny who never get to nurture their own children, but take care of wealthy white kids. The glow and beauty of motherhood and pregnancy has been a missing piece in the image of Black womanhood for generations. White women aren’t the only ones giving birth. However, they are the only ones seen as having happy pregnancies, healthy births, and fun family dynamics.
Recently, Pampers showcased a Black father and daughter on the packaging of their diapers, this tender loving display has many people rushing to their local grocery stores just to buy the box. Even people who didn’t have kids admitted to purchasing the box because of the photo. This isn’t the first time Black people have been displayed on Pampers products in the company’s 50 year history, and even the Honest Company’s diaper brand has a smiling bouncy Black baby on their boxes, but these simple gestures are not nearly enough to counterbalance the active fear being placed in Black people’s minds. It isn’t enough to erase the long legacy of Black people being underrepresented as loving parents.
While famous Black women like Beyoncé and Serena Williams have done a lot to open the conversation of labor, delivery and Black parenting as a beautiful holistic journey, their stories aren’t without distress, from Beyoncé experiencing toxemia after having her twins to Serena saving her own life. We need to be actively engaged in hashtags, Pinterest posts, mommy blogs, etc. to promote images of Black pregnancy and parenthood in ways that create a balance in pregnancy narratives. This can hopefully provide Black parents with some tranquility during their journey, even as the childbirth mortality rates continue to appear everywhere.
Here are a few examples of brilliant Black parent Instagram blogs that celebrate Black pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting:
This Black mommy blog posts adorable photos, mom advice and even Black centered events for parents and kids!
Created by a Black traveling mother, the Takeoff Toddler showcases Black parents who travel all over the world with their kids.
A Black family-owned diaper company
An LLC that showcases Black doulas, promotes events for Black moms and showcases birth.
A mommy blogger with two beautiful kids who can also give you some tips on healthy foods for the family.
Sadiyah Bashir is a poet, freelance writer and mom. Her writings has been showcased for/on various medias such as Al-Jazeera, Apple, and UNICEF. You can find more of her work at sadiyah.co or follow her on social media @idabwellin
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