Mamas on Bedrest: Make Your Voice Count-VOTE!

October 29th, 2012

I went to vote today, early,  and was surprised that I had to wait in line for about 20 minutes before casting my ballot. They say that this year’s presidential election is going to be one of the tightest in history. The margin of victory is likely to be the smallest every. Every vote counts, so Mamas on Bedrest, make your voice count-VOTE!

Now I know that some of you will be put off by the fact that I am making a “political statement” on what is “supposed to be a health care information website”. Well, as they say, the personal is in fact political. What occurs in this election will have far reaching implications for all Mamas on Bedrest. This election is about more than who will be president and who will run congress. As it relates to Mamas on Bedrest, the following issues are up for grabs:

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA): The United States is the only “industrialized” nation that offers no paid time off for workers to care for their own illnesses, a family member who is ill or to have/bring home/bond with a child (through birth or adoption). The FMLA only provides workers with 12 weeks of unpaid leave with guaranteed job security, i.e. no job loss. After those 12 weeks, employers are free to fire employees and at no time are employers obliged to offer any sort of paid leave. While some employers will offer some paid time off, it varies from employer to employer and dramatically from state to state. What is typically uniform is that workers in the lowest paying jobs-often those who need their jobs the most-are at the greatest risk of losing income, financial security and their jobs. If you would like to see FMLA changed, see the work of the National Partnership for Women and Families, MomsRising and WorkingMother Magazine. Also, VOTE and let your elected officials know that this is an issue that is important to you!

Mandatory Obstetrical Care: Now I can hear some of you saying, Whaaaaat????  Yup, many of our mamas became pregnant only to find out that obstetric care is not part of their health insurance policy and care had to be purchased (prior to pregnancy of course!) as a separate rider on their health insurance policy.  So imagine the strain that this places on the family finances when mama has a complication requiring her to be on bed rest?  Yes, I think you get the picture. The Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) covers obstetrical care. If you think that this is a good thing, VOTE accordingly.

Education: The Department of Education has been targeted for budget cuts as well as complete closure. While our public schools are having their problems, without them, many children will be without any sort of education. Regardless of whether your children (or prospective children) will go to public, private or homeschool, education is an important element for our nations citizens. Voice your VOTE accordingly.

Healthcare Research: The National Institutes of Health grants millions of dollars annually to researchers studying a wide variety of health issues and diseases. Wouldn’t it be great if they allocated some additional funds for research on high risk pregnancy prevention? The federal government in part determines what gets studies by where they allocate funds. If you want more research and treatments for the conditions leading to bed rest, VOTE, make your voice known and let your elected officials know what is important to you.

Medicaid: Thousands of women are uninsured and receive their health care by the government subsidized program Medicaid. While the care is definitely not at the level of private obstetrical care, it is prenatal care none the less; prenatal care that many women would otherwise not have access to and be at increased risk of pregnancy complications, preterm labor, preterm birth and a premature infant with potentially life long health complications. While I agree that the Medicaid program leaves much to be desired, it is providing some benefit. Additionally, it’s a lot easier to fix a broken system than to try to get a whole new system entirely. If you don’t believe me, ask the women of Mamas of Color Rising here in Austin. They worked with several concerned groups and presented a rules change to the Texas Medicaid. The rules change is still being deliberated, but if it passes, Texas women receiving Medicaid will be able to receive prenatal care from and be attended by certified professional midwives, and those midwives will be reimbursed by medicaid. Mamas of Color Rising has also help start a free prenatal health clinic.  To learn more about Mamas of Color Rising, listen to this podcast interview with co-founder Paula Rojas.

These are just some of the issues that come to mind when I think of Mamas on Bedrest. I am sure that there are others, and do correct me on any thing that I have left out or you feel misrepresented. However, don’t miss the point of all of this-VOTE!

I want to end this post with something to think about. In the late teens and early 1920’s, thousands of women took a stand and demanded the right to vote. Some of them were beaten, many were arrested and many even died so that we now have the right to vote.

In the 1960’s, African Americans were the next sub segment of the US population to demand the right to vote. (without absurd, extraneous requirements and qualifications). They marched, they were attacked by dogs, they were drenched by fire hoses and many died in the cause of the Civil Rights act.  When I think of all that so many Americans have gone through so that I have the right to vote, it seems beyond disrespectful to me that I wouldn’t show up at a local voting center and cast my ballot.

But I’m on Bedrest! No worries. Here’s a few ways that you can vote.

Stop by and vote early on the way home from your next OB visit (If it’s on or before November 6th). Since it’s probably your only outing of late, see if you can extend it a bit and stop by an early voting center. The grocery store at which I voted this morning even had chairs for those unable to stand and a voting booth that had a chair and sat low enough for those in wheel chairs.

Absentee Ballot. Here in Texas, you have until tomorrow to request and absentee ballot. The cut off is likely different in different states, so contact your state’s voting board and see if you can still obtain a ballot. In some areas, someone can pick up the ballot for you. Most places will mail you a ballot. Absentee ballots typically have to be in to the election officials by the close of the polls on voting day, so if you intend to vote absentee, get your ballot ASAP and get it in to your state election officials. (Note: someone can also hand deliver your ballot for you! Check with your local officals.)

Ladies, I’m not telling you who to vote for, but I am sharing with you some issues important to Mamas on Bedrest. The bottom line is that you need to vote. This is not the year to sit things out because you are on bed rest. You can and should still vote. In an election where the margin of victory is estimated to be mere points, every vote will certainly count. So “stand up” and be counted. VOTE!

Image Courtesy of Brian Petty Designs.

Mamas on Bedrest: Introducing Vibrant Woman Pregnancy Clinic/Mama Sana Clinica Prenatal

October 24th, 2012

I have said it before and I will continue to say it until we have gender, reproductive and birth justice/equality-We can no longer afford to be pro-choice or pro-life, we have to be “Pro-Action!” That is why I am pleased to introduce to you the Vibrant Woman Pregnancy Clinic/Mama Sana Clinica Prenatal. The clinic opened its doors October 15th, 2012.

Here in Austin, TX, it can be perilous to be pregnant and poor. If you are among the “lucky” and a TX Medicaid recipient, you will have access to a limited number of prenatal visits, but any of the newer treatments, technologies, or even personable service is well out of your reach. If you’re poor and uninsured, you’re just out of luck and at the whim of whomever you may encounter when you show up at the emergency room. (Your primary provider!)

We all know that prenatal care consists of more than weight and blood pressure measurements, peeing in a cup to check for protein and measuring the distance from your pubic bone to your navel. Prenatal care should consist of nutrition education, exercise education, labor preparation, breastfeeding preparation and social support-i.e. are you safe at home, have your quit smoking, how are you managing with a young one at home?-and a general concern for the pregnant woman and her needs. Many health care providers would balk at this list of “requirements”. First and foremost, they are in the business of getting you a healthy baby. The party line, “There’s no time for the touchy feely”. Yet, this is comprehensive prenatal care. Taking the time to educate a prospective mama in these areas, to answer her questions and to make sure that she is safe (physically and emotionally) and not just her baby or the pregnancy is a huge part of what prenatal care should entail. And if you are an uninsured, poor, pregnant woman you are most likely getting none of this vital information or support.

So Mamas of Color Rising, a  collective of working class and poor mothers of color based in and around Austin, Texas has taken action. In the 3 short years they have been established, Mamas of Color Rising has trained 25 birth companions to support low income mamas and mamas of color through pregnancy, labor and delivery. Several of the members are becoming trained as midwives. They have helped lobby for access to and Medicaid reimbursement of Licensed Professional Midwives via Texas Medicaid (and are poised to claim victory on that rules change) and have now helped to establish, open and operate a free prenatal clinic serving low income women, uninsured women and women of color.

According to Paula Rojas, program coordinator,  “The abundance of pregnancy and birth support services available in Austin are not accessible to all mothers and babies.”

According to Rojas, more than 25.9 percent of Latina women in Austin receive no prenatal care compared with 7.8 percent of white women. Travis County’s infant mortality rate was recorded as 5.8 per 1,000 live births for white women and 20.5 – or more than 150 percent higher – for black women.

“The United States ranks 50th in the world when it comes to safety in birth, and Travis County rates are worse than the national averages, particularly for African American and Latina women,” Rojas said.

“The goal of project is to connect with low-income Black and Latina mothers in Austin, to foster personal and collective empowerment while providing free prenatal care and education,” said Kellee Coleman, outreach coordinator for the clinic.

Vibrant Woman/Mama Sana women’s clinic will address economic, social and language barriers, and provide free group prenantal care appointments with individual physical exams by doctors from Blackstock Family Health Center and community midwives.

That’s “Pro-Action!” It’s seeing a need and finding a way to meet that need. And when it comes to women’s health and wellness. Mamas of Color Rising is a “Pro-Action!” collective that is practicing what they preach and bringing quality prenatal health care to low income and poor women of color in Greater Austin, Texas.

Mamas on Bedrest: Standing for Little Brown Babies by Supporting Their Mamas

September 18th, 2012

Welcome to the Third Edition of the Black Birth Carnival. Hosted by Darcel of The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe and Nicole of Musings From The Mind of Sista Midwife.

The Topic: Infant Mortality Awareness: Saving OUR Babies.
Many birth workers are talking about the alarming infant mortality rates in this country, but none are talking about infant mortality in the Black Community. That’s where this Blog Carnival comes in. We will talk about statistics, try to figure out why, and most importantly what we can do to help lower our infant mortality rates. This post will be updated with live links linking back to the other participants posts

I have a real thing for little brown babies. Having had two of my own, I can honestly say that they are the most precious (and most beautiful) beings in the world to me. Having also lost two pregnancies, sadly I also know the pain of losing precious souls.

It’s hard to believe that the United States has one of the higher infant mortality rates in the world, with African American babies dying at nearly 2-3 times the rate of White and Latino infants.  According to the Office of Minority Health, a unit within the US Department of Health and Human Services,

African Americans have 2.3 times the infant mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites. They are three times as likely to die as infants due to complications related to low birth weight as compared to non-Hispanic white infants.

  • African Americans had twice the sudden infant death syndrome mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites, in 2008.
  • African American mothers were 2.3 times more likely than non-Hispanic white mothers to begin prenatal care in the 3rd trimester, or not receive prenatal care at all.
  • The infant mortality rate for African American mothers with over 13 years of education was almost three times that of Non-Hispanic White mothers in 2005.

The OMH website goes on to list all the data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding infant mortality in the United States. At all indices, African American infants fare far worse than their White or Latino counterparts.

The statistics are alarming, yet I encourage you to read through them. I believe that change in the African American community-whether it’s regarding infant mortality, maternal mortality, health care delivery disparities, crime, homicide or anything else-is going to have to be an inside job. It is all well and good for university researchers to study what is going on in African American communities. It is fine if news outlets want to report on activities going on in African American communities. But little to none of these analyses makes one hill of beans difference if they are doing nothing to change the situation on the ground, and by my observations they aren’t doing much. Raising awareness is good but action is imperative.

I recently wrote a blog post called, Mamas on Bedrest: I’m Pro-Action! It engendered a lot of controversy because people felt that I was politicizing birth, bringing in the Pro-Life/Pro-Choice debate. I’ll admit that I chose the term “Pro-Action” as an attention grabber, but the meaning I’ve placed behind it is entirely different.

“Pro-Action” is a term that I believe we all have to embrace. So often in our culture, we vent “righteous indignation” over one thing or another, yet we fail to act on our beliefs. I believe failure to act is in large part responsible for the demise of our communities and our culture. Being “Pro-Action” means putting movement behind the lip service and working to effect change.

After reading the statistics on infant mortality in African American infants, you might sit back with a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. It is a daunting problem and one that as individuals cannot possibly tackle effectively. But as individuals in collective, we can make an enormous impact. So how does one become “Pro-Action”? What does that look like when working to curb infant mortality?

  • It’s working within your immediate neighborhood, community or congregation to assist mothers who are pregnant. Perhaps you give them a ride to their prenatal visits or watch their children so that they make it to visits unencumbered (we all know that even pregnant, you can move faster without the little ones along!).
  • If mamas are on bed rest (my particular soft spot), it’s going by their homes and making sure that they have healthy meals and groceries, making sure that they are comfortable, talking to them, reassuring them, helping around their homes and with their children and family responsibilities.
  • It’s talking openly and honestly to teenagers about sex and contraception. Let’s face it, the “sex outside of marriage is a sin” speech ain’t workin’ and hasn’t worked for decades. I think it’s time for a new approach (just my opinion here).
  • It’s educating teen-aged girls about why teen pregnancy is not a good idea. Again, address not only the moral arguments, but also address the concrete data in the medical literature that clearly shows that teenagers have higher rates of maternal and infant mortality. Contrary to popular beliefs, pregnancy is not a benign condition. Many things can and do go wrong and they tend to go wrong in the extremes-amongst young girls under 20 and women over 40.
  • It’s grassroots organization like Mamas of Color Rising here in Austin, TX. This group of low income African American and Latina mamas has come together to train birth attendants of color to be with mamas of color as they labor and deliver. They are supporting and training midwives of color who will attend births of low income mamas of color. They have lobbied for and are on the crest of seeing rules changes in the Medicaid laws of Texas such that Midwives will be able to care for and attend to pregnant women on Medicaid and be reimbursed for their services. And in just mere weeks, this dynamic group of mamas will see the grand opening of a free prenatal clinic for low income women of color who will be able to receive prenatal care in the midwifery model. Yes, these mamas are definitely “Pro-Action”!

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. Pick an area that pricks your heart and then Take Action! Get out and get involved. If each one of us becomes involved in each of our respective communities, soon, our efforts and our reach will coalesce and we’ll find that we are one large collective effecting change on a grand scale.

This Blog Carnival is once such example of change in action. Let’s keep the ball rolling and all be “Pro-Action” for our mamas, our babies and our communities.

Other Posts in this Carnival

Health Programming and It’s Impact on Black Infant MortalityBy Amy Hereford

Black Infant Mortality and Your Responsibility. By Darcel of The Mahogany Way Birth Cafe

Stop The Talking…Implement Solutions! By SistaMidwife Productions