I fully understand that because I am a woman, there are some things that I will have to work harder for, get paid less for. I am aware of inequalities, even more so as a woman of color. I have tried my best not to let that limit me or be an excuse for my progression. Although very much present in my professional and personal life I never thought that with this inequality, when it came to giving birth, my life could depend on it.
In preparing to give birth I came across research that stated that women of color were more likely to die during delivery. More recently and to be exact it was found by the CDC that African-American women die of pregnancy-related causes at a rate about three times higher than those of white women.
As an Afro-Latina the data was not as clear-cut for me. I quickly grew afraid that because of the color of my skin, if something went wrong I would be dismissed and potentially put at risk.
Understanding this threat early on forced me to approached my medical care during pregnancy differently than I ever had before. I was more in tune with my surroundings, more skeptical than ever and did a great deal of research. I empowered myself to ask questions about anything I did not understand and was very open about my concerns.
Sometimes being this way can backfire. My personal experience with the first two OBGYNs I met with made it very clear to me that they were not interested in my well being. They would not entertain my enthusiasm for understanding, they were very prescriptive and not attentive to my questions, had me wait long periods of time for five minute appointments and overall were dismissive. Their time was clearly more valuable than mine and I did not feel safe or comfortable.
Although challenging to switch doctors so late in pregnancy, at 28 weeks I decided that I did not deserve lackluster care. For one, my life could depend on it and secondly I was paying for it, it wasn’t a free service that was being provided out of the kindness of someone’s heart. At such an important time in my life I didn’t want to feel less important, I wanted my questions answered and concerns attended to.
My new doctor was attentive, dedicated real time to my health and welcomed questions and concerns. It is because of this (on top of the self-care I practiced during pregnancy) that I believe I had a positive birth experience.
My advice to women is to be fearless, ask friends for references and their real experiences, ask questions when you don’t understand, challenge the process and if you’re not happy and have the option, leave. Although some things are out of our control we owe it to ourselves to demand more and set ourselves up for the best care possible. And hopefully pave a smoother path for women to come.