Black Maternal Health Week is April 11-17 each year. Advocacy for Black maternal health should be a regular part of our advocacy work and not just during this designated time. The purpose of Black Maternal Health Week is to bring awareness to the systemic disparities stacked against Black women, center the voices and experience of the women giving birth, encourage people to advocate for Black mamas and babies, and to support organizations that advocate for Black maternal health. 

As long as racial disparities continue, those who are giving birth and their children are at risk. Black birthing women experience higher death rates and devastating recovery periods. We need to shine a light on what we are up against. I am convinced that I would have benefitted from such support during my last two pregnancies, which is why I have chosen to tell my story. 

My mother is a healthcare worker. Since I was a child, she has worked tirelessly in the nursery at her local hospital. Naturally, her career put her in proximity to many OB/GYNs. She developed a relationship with Dr. Ferebee, a Black woman OB/GYN who trusted enough to be her own doctor.

My mother’s choice of OB/GYN is important because she chose Dr. Ferebee—another Black woman—out of all the physicians she knew. Healthcare workers are patients too, and my mother understood the value of entrusting her care to a Black physician who understood the racial disparities that impact Black people’s health and healthcare.

Studies show that sharing a racial or cultural background with one’s doctor helps promote communication and trust. There are also studies indicating that white doctors rate their Black patients’ pain lower than their white patients. 

My mom passed on the longstanding relationship of trust and care that she had established with Dr. Ferebee when she recommended that I visit her during my first pregnancy. I absolutely adored Dr. Ferebee. She was supportive, caring, professional, and highly aware of the racial disparities that impacted her patients. I completely trusted her with my health. She felt like a member of our family. Our relationship was a gift.

Me with Dr. Ferebee

I experienced my first three pregnancies under Dr. Ferebee’s care. During my fourth pregnancy, my family relocated to Northern Virginia, and I was forced to find a new OB/GYN. During my fourth and fifth pregnancies, the care that I experienced was nowhere near the quality of care that I received with Dr. Ferebee. 

During my fourth and fifth pregnancies, I experienced a level of medical racism that was hurtful, frustrating, and physically painful. The biases and racism of so-called medical “professionals” placed my children and me in jeopardy. I will share the rest of my story in the subsequent installments of this series. I pray that it will educate those unaware of the plight of the Black birthing community and validate those who have had similar experiences.

Read the second part of this series.