I started my career as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and went on to complete my Certified Nurse Aide (CNA), ultimately becoming a Registered Nurse. Having worked in many specialties from pediatrics, orthopedics, mental health, and beyond, I really loved making a difference for patients at the hospitals/clinics I worked in. This work has shaped my mission to always work in roles where I am advocating for patients.
What really stood out to me through the years was the amazing impact that a support person can make for patients receiving care. Someone who can process the information shared and be an emotional support can make a huge difference.
But even with all my experience working as a nurse, when it was my turn to be the patient, I felt this impact me in a new and very personal way.
In June of 2022, I was in labor and ready to meet my baby boy. The nurse informed me that my baby had turned to a mentum traverse position. This meant his face was facing up and not leading with the top of his head like most births. This positioning results in a higher risk for birth injuries and my doctor confirmed that I would need a c-section.
A rush of activity consumed the room around me and I was so overwhelmed. I had to sign papers for best and worst-case scenarios as nurses buzzed around my room. Despite having been on the other side so many times, I felt completely inexperienced.
In a moment that I expected to be so special and sacred, I felt helpless. It was like being in the passenger seat at one of the most personal experiences I would ever live.
And yet, I am fortunate to say the delivery resulted in a healthy and safe arrival of my son and a smooth recovery for myself. I saw firsthand the importance of having an advocate because in those moments, feeling heard can be a challenge. All of this also showed me how every patient experience can be so different and without the proper support and education, can lead to vast disparities in patient care.
This experience gave me a new perspective and made me more attuned to the alarming statistics surrounding maternal mortality rates, which have been steadily increasing in recent years and vary greatly along racial and ethnic lines.
The more concerning part of this data is how black and Hispanic maternal rates are so much higher than the overall average. It’s heartbreaking and frustrating to see and when I read things like how removing the black and brown experiences from the data as a way to minimize the truth, I realize just how much work there is ahead of us in continuing to talk about our experiences and advocate for increased support.
A great documentary that explores this epidemic in the black and brown community is Hulu’s AfterShock. This is especially personal as the stories told in this film in some ways mirror my own experience. But I’m able to look back, check in with my own privilege and see how my journey differs. It also goes to show that proper care to ensure babies are born safely and parents are safe as well should not be a privilege, but should be standard practice across all of healthcare.
Every growing family deserves the best care and black families, in particular, should be protected at all costs. I see plans for addressing this in higher impacted communities and the common thread remains: there is power in numbers and advocating for vulnerable communities is key.