Tag: mother

Birthing While Black: Food for Thought on Mother’s Day

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Photo Credit: CreateHer Stock

As Mother’s Day approaches, the conversation should not only be about Hallmark cards and what gift to buy the mothers in your life. While it is extremely important to show honor to our mothers daily (not just on Mother’s Day), we as a society should be focused on supporting mothers too. We are in a country with an extremely high rate of mortality for Black mothers — 3 to 4 times that of white mothers. Serena Williams has been public about her near death experience after giving birth; the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle,  chose to have a doula present when delivering her baby.  If high profile Black women are having concerns in the delivery room — let’s think about how much more dire this can be if a mother is giving birth behind bars.

The conversation has been elevated to include mothers who are in custody. Movements like #FreeBlackMamas and The Dignity Act illustrate the problems that face mothers behind bars. The Dignity Act was included as part of federal criminal justice reform bill, which just recently passed. It requires that women are not shackled while they give birth, receive menstrual care items, and searched by same-sex guards when at all possible. Sadly, states have been slower to pass these types of reforms.

A version of the Dignity Act passed in the Florida Legislature this month. However, this bill would not have helped Tammy Jackson — who was left to give birth alone in her jail cell for six hours in Broward County. Despite her repeated pleas to the guards, she was not provided medical attention.  This is part of the greater problem where certain mothers are not valued. The fact that someone is incarcerated or in custody does not diminish their humanity. People who are in custody are the responsibility of the Department of Corrections; as such, it is the guard’s responsibility to ensure that those in their care receive the help that they need.

Additionally, medical professionals need to have regular implicit bias training.  The assumption that Black women are stronger, therefore perceived to be less in need of medical attention, is a deadly fallacy that costs mothers their lives. This is something that is a relatively easy fix to the high mortality rates.

As for the guards who left Tammy Jackson to give birth alone in her cell without medical attention, it is my hope that her pain becomes a teaching moment in the road to criminal justice reform. No one should be judged by a mistake they may have made. 83% of people who go into custody come out – the trauma that was caused by this experience lasts, leaving repercussions on not only the person who was incarcerated, but begins a ripple effect from the immediate family to society as a whole.

As I do every Mother’s Day, I must wish my own mother a happy Mother’s Day in heaven. As I learn more about the medical traumas that mothers, especially Black mothers face, I marvel at her strength and appreciate her even more.

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Of Love & Loss: A Tribute to My Mom

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It was April 21, 2012. My mother had been battling cancer for three years. I was running errands, and got a call from the hospice nurse. With her sweet Creole accent, she tells me ” Ms. Melba, your mom decided to leave us this morning”

And with those words, life as I knew it ceased to exist.

Sounds dramatic. But it’s so true. Yes, the sun continued to rise and set, life continued, another Bond movie was released, no one else missed a beat.

But I did. My father did. Our close relatives and friends did as well.

There is something uniquely intense when it’s your mom. Soul groups, hip hop artists like Tupac, and country singers have all sung about their love for their mothers. She’s the only person that literally pushed you into this world. And if you were as blessed as I was to have a close relationship with your mom, it’s a hole that never quite gets filled.

Life has a weird way of working. Eight months before, my husband lost his mother. I remember emailing my mom a lot during that time, trying to figure out how to help him. Loss and death is truly something you have NO concept of until it happens to you. She gave me a lot of great advice, sharing with me the pain and sometimes resentment she felt towards others for still having their mothers while she had lost hers, along with the simultaneous guilt she felt for having those emotions.

In a way…she was teaching me how to grieve for her.

It’s been two years now. I remember the kindness that people I wasn’t that close to showed me. I remember being disappointed in those who were close to me for not being as supportive. One thing is for sure: people deal with loss differently, and you need to forgive those who have no clue how to deal with you.

Losing your mom makes you part of this weird kind of club. When you’ve been through it, you get it. When you find out that someone has that loss, you immediately act, and try to comfort them, even if they are practically a stranger.

I still hear her voice, telling me her Mama Pearson-isms. Such as “There’s more behind you than in front of you“, “Can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear“, and the most relevant one to my life at present, “When it’s for you, it is for you, and nothing will stop it from happening.” I love her classic when it comes to advancement in the workforce, “If you can’t jump up, don’t jump around“.

Throwback of me and my mom at my college graduation in 1994
Throwback of me and my mom at my college graduation in 1994

This past Easter Sunday, I kept hearing her voice say “Happy Easter!”, with that sweet upbeat tempo. My mom loved every holiday; somehow I’m a grinch, but appreciated how cute she was. Last month, on the morning of the two year anniversary of her passing, I had a dream. She was running late for work, and said she was going to leave. I asked her to stay a little longer. She said to me “I will stay for as long as I can”.

And I believe it was true. She did stay for as long as she could.

When she was undergoing the awful treatment for cancer, she reached a point where she realized that nothing was going to work. The tumors were not shrinking. Her nurse later revealed to me that they had an understanding– continue the treatment so that she could attend my wedding, and once she came back, she would let nature take its course. To me, that is a true testament of my mother’s love for me.

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At my wedding in 2012

In some ways, I’ve become my mom. She was classy, responsible, very blunt and had an amazing sense of self that only comes from overcoming adversity. For sure I’m responsible…and have become very blunt!

I’ve also realized that losing your mom makes you that much stronger, because once you’ve been through that pain…there’s not a whole lot (other than the loss of a spouse/partner) that can ever hurt you that deeply again.

RIP Mama Pearson. Love you and miss you. And please continue to speak to me, as well as through me.

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Christmas 2010