Sunday Morning ~ Risks of Staying Quiet
Mu mphasa yongoima mubisala zoluma zambiri. ~ In a mat that just stands there many biting insects hide.
~ Chewa proverb
May 31, 2020
This is the weekend of my annual national midwifery meeting. It’s a conference I always look forward to as a booster shot of midwifery energy. It gets me through the year. The midwives inspire me and sometimes make me feel like I do nothing at all. There are some great women out there working hard in ways that have me staring in awe. We shouldn’t compare ourselves, I know, but it’s a fine line between inspiration and deflation.
We were supposed to be in Austin Texas this year. The meeting moves around the country, every four years swinging back to D.C. so we can storm the hill and lobby congress. That was last year. Two months ago they canceled the meeting in Austin and decided to make it virtual. I was curious how this was going to work for 2,000 midwives. I could see the educational sessions on line, but the business meetings and regional meetings? Not sure how that would work. I figured they’d just forget about the exhibit hall and sponsors, but no, they included everything including the final party. Amazing. In just eight weeks.
Friday evening started with a three hour strategic planning session for the national organization. That was impressive, complete with breakout rooms. I was in marketing, an area of interest for me since after thirty-five years of being a nurse-midwife some still think all I do is home birth. It takes some time to explain that while some of us do home births, I have solely attend births in a hospital and obstetrics is only a part of what I do. I practice women’s health care. All of it. Why are we unable to get this message out? It’s the same struggle we’ve been talking about since I joined the organization in 1987. I think we need a Netflix series. There seems to be one of those for everything now.
Anyway, yesterday was the big kickoff with our opening session, induction of fellows, and keynote speaker. That was all done live and pulled off rather well. I was impressed as I sat in my comfortable greenhouse with a cup of tea and my knitting. I thought about sitting in the over air-conditioned rooms with terrible lighting––trademarks of huge convention halls, and considered this a reasonable alternative. This year’s keynote speaker was a man named Charles Johnson whose wife, Kira, bled to death in a LA hospital several hours after having her second child. Charles described sitting with her in the recovery room, recognizing something wrong but unable to get anyone to take action until hours later when she was finally taken to surgery. She died on the table. She’d been a healthy woman in the prime of life. She was a marathon runner. She was black. His presentation was powerful and he has started a non-profit aimed at working toward preventing this happening to other families.
It’s not only black women who are dying needlessly in childbirth in our country, but they do so at three times the rate of white women. Native American women die at four times the rate of white women. I’ve been screaming about this for years (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2v5A3BxU4Uc&sns=fb) but it goes on and on. George Floyd’s murder has brought the persistent racism in our country back to the glaring light. It reveals yet again how lethal racism is to our communities and country. If we could only view it as the whole suffers when racism is allowed to persist, might things change?
No one was videotaping Charles Johnson plead for someone to do something when he could see blood filling his wife’s catheter bag. He has the medical records as proof, but it’s not as immediate an image for public outrage. It took him ten hours to get someone to help her, whereas George Floyd was killed in only eight minutes. Black men are killed more brutally, while black women are murdered more subtly, more by neglect, more by systematically eradicating services for them in healthcare.
All women, not only minority or poor, have procedures they do not need for profit and convenience of the medical system. But black and Native American women are dying from these disproportionally. Unnecessary c-sections kill women but they go on and on and on. I get so sick of making the same argument over and over. I left my job over this. I could not work in a system anymore that abuses women only to be told I’m “too angry” when I yell about it. I will ask again, what is it about women dying unnecessarily that should not make YOU ANGRY???
And here we are, blaming the victims again. What is it about police killing innocent black men that should not make YOU ANGRY?
If you want to protest but can’t do so in person, consider contributing to either Charles Johnson’s organization 4Kira4moms http://4kira4moms.com/home/#press or The Equal Justice Initiative https://eji.org
Both these organizations keep me from giving up.
Love to all,