Mamas on Bedrest: Thanks for the Memories…And the Legacy

May 28th, 2012

Today is Memorial Day. The national focus is on the dearly departed men and women who served our country valiantly protecting our lives, our liberties and our pursuits of happiness.

Whenever I think of those who served our country, my mind immediately jumps to my grandfathers. I actually had 3, but I only really knew one. My father’s father, William George Turner,  served in World War I and unfortunately died in February of 1941 just 2 short months after my father’s birth. My mother’s biological father, John Oliver Lane, served and was killed in the line of battle in World War II. My Grandmother remarried and her husband, Alfred Haywood is the man that I remember most as my grandfather. I was lucky to have him until 1984 when he died when I was 18 years old. Each of these men bravely served their countries and I am forever grateful for their contributions.

There is a strong legacy of service in my family, and one legacy of which I am most proud is the legacy of women who were early birth professionals and activists. My Great Grandmother, Queen Elizabeth Perry Turner was a “root woman” and midwife. She birthed most of the children in Inez, NC between the late 1930’s thru the 1940’s and was also very skilled in the use of plants for healing. She and my great grandfather also owned a general store, a huge deal for a black couple in  those days. Lore has it that my great grandmother was “no nonsense business woman”. Grandpa Tom was quite generous and would allow people to pay on credit. Grandma Elizabeth always asked up front, “And how do you intend to pay?” I am quite sure that lead to their collective success.

My paternal grandmother, Hollie Alston Turner was also a natural birth proponent. But rather than work as a midwife, she had 15 babies! All but the last few were born at home with midwives. Since my paternal grandfather died two weeks after my father was born, “Ma” had her hands full caring for the 10 children that she had at home at the time. But Ma still did what she could to enhance births and the lives of babies in her community. Long before it was fashionable, my grandmother donated breast milk. Now mind you, there is a long legacy within the black community of “wet nursing” where African American women nurse the children of their slave owners and share croppers. However, my grandmother was not a wet nurse but a milk donor, much in the spirit of Milk Banking today.

My cousins tease me and say that “birthing” is in my blood. Perhaps they are right. There is something about the birth world that is captivating. For me, knowing the numbers of women who struggle during childbearing, the women for whom childbearing is anything but a natural process, the women for whom access to good, quality prenatal and post parutm care is nearly impossible, I can’t help but to dive in and do what I can to make a difference.

I am so proud of my history, my legacy of service. I am proud of the men in my family who served this country even though they were denied many of the rights that they fought to protect. And I am so proud of the women in my family who loved babies and did all that they could to come into this world safely and to gave them good starts.

To all you Mamas on Bedrest, what is your family legacy? On this Memorial Day, Have a wonderful day and don’t forget to take time to acknowledge your “heroes” and “sheroes”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *