If You Want to Talk About Maternal Mortality, Let’s.

Let's Talk About Maternal Mortality

I talked about death a lot at BlogHer ’16.

I mean, I guess I did the last time I attended, in 2014, when I won a Voices of the Year for a piece on suicide. So, I guess it shouldn’t surprise me. Mental health remains a passion of mine—an issue I’ll continue to live with—so, the continued discussion makes sense.

My coworker Jasmine Banks and I accepted an award on behalf of Postpartum Progress last Friday night. As a team, we won a Voices of the Year in the category of Impact for our #meditateonthis campaign which broke down the stigma surrounding maternal mental illness.

I sat at my computer for well over 14 hours that day as the campaign didn’t switch into gear until my normal workday nearly came to a close. I tweeted and retweeted and shared statistics on Twitter for hours. Our reach, our engagement helped break down stigma, helped save lives that day. We did it as a team because moms need to know that when meditation doesn’t work, when prayer, exercise, fruits, supplements, oils, and everything else just doesn’t work, they’re not failures. They’re not alone. They’re not bad mothers.

They’re human.

Jasmine and I each said our peace, accepting the award, and then we threw it to Skype for Katherine, our boss, CEO, and founder, to say hers as well.

If you watch the video, there’s a moment. It happens in the lower right hand corner—the little video box of me and Jasmine—when Katherine is speaking.

There’s a moment in which Jasmine and I look at each other. We make eye contact. And we both look away. I look down even. Because I’m trying not to burst into ugly tears. I didn’t bring waterproof mascara and it seemed like a bad choice. But I wanted to. I wanted to cry.

Katherine said, “I think it’s really important to say whenever a mother dies, it’s serious. Whether it’s postpartum hemorrhage, whether it’s suicide, whether it’s Korryn Gaines in Baltimore, it matters. We need to pay attention, and we need to stand up and speak up for moms.”

Earlier in the day, the discussion of maternal mental health was shot down by a respected doctor. Dismissed.

But listen, if we’re talking about maternal mortality and we’re not talking about maternal mental health, there’s a problem. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the United States in the first year postpartum for moms. It’s the leading cause of death for moms worldwide. WHO finally recognized the problem for what it is and is starting the research process.

So for the answer to breaking stigma and reducing the statistic that 1 in 7 women will endure a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder be that “we should just visit new moms,” felt like a slap in the face.

Additionally, if we aren’t ready to discuss the racial disparities that lead mothers both to postpartum depression and hemmorhage and untimely, unjustified death in a real and concise way, we’re not ready to address anything about maternal mortality. It deserves more than two minutes at the end of a session. End of discussion.

For the leader of our national non-profit to address those three things in her speech gave me hope. It was a big moment. It made my heart fill with pride. It let me know we’re on the right path right now, doing the things we need to do.

After I asked my question, three moms immediately turned and told me, “Thank you.” Throughout the day, mothers came up to me to have real discussions about maternal health as a whole—physical and mental. I was thanked more times than I could count. For speaking up that day. For things I’ve written in the past. For working my butt off in order to help moms. For continuing to use my voice to make positive changes.

There’s more work to be done. Moms are still suffering in silence, still not being screened, not being informed of risk factors, still dying in all sorts of unnecessary ways. I’m glad to be present, to be a part of the whole solution. I’m thankful that BlogHer honored the work we’ve done, but trust me, we’re by no means done. Keep an eye on us.

We’re in this discussion, this fight for moms’ lives.

Taco Salad

I'm Not Pregnant

For the record, I am not pregnant.

I will never be pregnant again.

But I like taco salad. And despite having an ablation which fried the hell out of my uterine lining, I’m a special snowflake and I still get my monthly cycle. This month, partially thanks to the extra swelling of cross-country travel, I bloated even more than usual with my cycle. It is what it is. I no longer bleed for upwards of 17 days per month, so I’ll take a little monthly bloating over being bed-ridden and vomitting repeatedly.

But no, I cannot get pregnant. Neither with my husband, by myself, or in any variation thereof. This stuff doesn’t work anymore.

Before it didn’t work anymore, my OBGYN and other doctors told me it would “be in my best interest” to “stop having the babies.” In short, if I wanted to continue living and parenting the children I already brought into this world, I couldn’t conceive, carry, and push more babies out of my vagina.

The end.

It happened at a LuLaRoe party two months ago and again at the library this week.

“When are you due?”
“Is it a boy or a girl?

Eight years ago. Almost nine.
It’s a taco salad.

It’s a weighted question that springs tears to my eyes.

Not about my body shape. I’m fit. I run marathons. I have some leftover tummy pooch after three live births and one miscarriage. I gain and lose weight based on a number of things, ranging from anxiety and depression to holidays to training seasons to life. And buffalo chicken dip. And wine. I kind of like my shape. I feel okay in my own skin.

I love my children. All three. I’d have three more. If I could. I cannot.

And so I hold my friends’ babies. I walk into rooms, sweep them away from their mothers, and snuggle the heck out of them. I tell them they are loved. I tell them they have amazing mommies. I smell the tops of their heads; I breathe their innocence and their peace and I take just a little bit with me when I hand them back to their mommies, go home, and sleep the sleep of a mom whose children sleep all night and make their own dang breakfasts.

But sometimes. Sometimes. I look at a baby or I read another pregnancy announcement or I think about everything I missed with my daughter or I make my sons try on pants and they’ve grown a whole bunch since the spring and my breath catches. I blink. I breathe. I wonder why. I feel a bit cheated. I question. I cry.

So please, people, unless there is a baby’s head or even foot protruding from a woman’s vagina, do not ask her if she’s expecting. It’s probably written in all of the etiquette books ever, but it’s also just common freaking sense. I understand we’re all human and that we all make mistakes, which is why I’ve never responded unkindly to such a question, but know that it throws me—and others—off our games for a day. Or two. Or going on three now.

It is what it is. I will forever feel thankful for the children who bless my life. I will forever feel thankful for those in my life who support me through the thick of it all. But honestly, people. Think before you speak.