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My Girlfriend Died While Giving Birth To Our Son

Before she went in, I couldn't hug her, couldn't kiss her. And then she died with no one around.

As Told To


As Told To is a recurring segment on xoNecole where real women are given a platform to tell their stories in first-person narrative as told to a writer.

This is Bruce McIntyre's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.

April 17th of this year, after a frustrating attempt to call our doctor, Amber tweeted:

Twitter

Four days later, she was dead.

Amber was admitted into Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, NY on April 21st to give birth to our beautiful son, Elias.

But she never got to meet him, she never got to leave. We looked forward to being a family, to living our lives with our baby boy. And we were robbed of that opportunity. Amber fell victim to the 37.1 mortality statistic black women face in America, in an underlying racial bias of dismissive, unattended disparity that's discussed somewhat, but not enough. There's no doubt in my mind, if Amber was white, she would still be alive today.

Am I OK? No. Will I be? I'm not sure.

I miss her, and I struggle. I get angry, I get sad. I loved that woman. And I lost her at the hands of others; at the hands of negligence. The good news is that the mortality rates for black women are going down, but what does that mean for those who've already experienced the pain?

I was born May 12, 1991 in Auburn, NY. Growing up was not easy for me at all, especially being the first-born. All of the pressure was on me after my father left. I became the man of the house at the age of seven and had to help take care of my younger siblings. We were poor and my mom had to work all day, so I was home taking care of my siblings. We had no car, so we had to walk everywhere or try to get rides from friends. The winters were harsh. There were times my mom was at work and I would have to carry one brother while holding another's hand traveling through six inches of snow to get to my grandmother's house just because she cooked. We were made fun of because of our clothes and haircuts.

I always wanted more for my family. Seeing my mother slave away to a job that didn't appreciate her did something to my soul.

I got locked up and sent to a juvenile center for a few months at 15. The judge knew I had a hard life (jumped by gang members at 10, kicked out of the house, sleeping at friend's houses, hustling for food, etc.) but he also knew I wasn't a bad kid. He told me if he saw me in his court again, he was going to give me 15 years.

And that's all I needed, I never looked back. Instead, I found other avenues to live the right way.

--

I met Amber through mutual friends in like 2006.

Courtesy of Bruce

When we would see each other, it was more of a "hi" and "bye" thing. I was moving between the Bronx and North Carolina every two-ish years, so we started catching up through Facebook, and would check in with each other occasionally. I tried to be more than friends with her and shoot my shot, but she turned me down. She was focused on herself, her goals, and career at the time. We kept in touch and got to know each other better over time. In 2018, I was heading up to New York from North Carolina for my birthday weekend when Amber invited me to her graduation. I didn't make it because I was still on the road, but the next day we met up and I took her out to celebrate.

We were glued together ever since.

One summer night, we were in Brooklyn on one of our regular date nights, and we stopped into a bookstore. She was looking at a hip-hop baby book and telling me how she couldn't leave without this book. She said, "You know, it's about time for us to have a baby," and she gave me this look. By October 2019, she was pregnant, and due at the end of May.

And everything was great at the beginning. I loved seeing her pregnant. There were no complications.

Elias was on schedule. She was so beautiful.

Once we made it to March, her second trimester, things began to change. It was time to begin having more frequent check-ups, but because of the pandemic, everything was virtual. Virtual visits, virtual appointments. Zoom, telehealth, you name it. She wasn't seen in-person the whole month. She would call and say, "Hey, I need my blood work back, I haven't heard anything..."

It became a daily routine. And no one reached back out to us. We couldn't get an in-person appointment, hospitals were a mess. It just seemed as if we were giving birth during the end of the world.

When we finally received her blood work, we learned that her platelet levels were extremely low. She had developed HELLP syndrome and was rushed to the hospital for an emergency C-section.

Before she went in, I couldn't hug her, couldn't kiss her. And then...she died. With no one around.

Sigh.

It all happened so fast, so suddenly. Just like that, she was gone.

But we had so many plans.

We were going to get married through the court system, and save for our wedding.

I was even supposed to propose the day of our baby shower, but COVID shut down our event space and the owner ran off with our money. Nothing was going how we hoped. And I never got the chance to propose.

If I'm being honest—a hundred percent honest—I haven't really been able to cope with it. Some days I don't think it's possible. Knowing your twin flame, the one that you were destined to spend the rest of your life with, and that you were supposed to do life with, is suddenly gone, is hard. And knowing how preventable her death was, will always haunt me.

I knew I had to somehow pick myself up and tell our story. I knew there were millions of other black women that needed both of us speak up.

--

Soon after, I started the SaveARose Foundation in her honor, which has turned out to be one of the most therapeutic aspects of this journey. I've learned the importance of carrying a load. Nothing stops you. I'm constantly doing interviews or having to leave town to advocate. I've been in meetings with Senators, legislators, congressmen/women, city council members, etc. I've told my story to everyone from Essence, to The New York Times, to Good Morning America, to Rickey Smiley.

My goal became bringing change and reshaping the way we view healthcare by any means. Primarily, healthcare for black women.

And I get so much love and support from everyone. Family, friends, the birthing community. My communities and the members of SaveARose, and sometimes even strangers from all over the world. The craziest thing about advocate work, is no one doing it ever expected for them to be the one on the frontline. One day, this heavy baton is suddenly shoved in your face, and you have to pick it up.

As far as our son, Elias...I love that kid. He is Amber's absolute twin, it's so fascinating. He has many characteristics from us both, but he lights up just like Amber did, especially when he smiles. He is just so happy, he's always smiling and laughing. He's been finding his voice so he's been trying to talk and communicate with me. He will make his own little word up and start laughing, and I assume he's trying to tell me some fire jokes so I laugh with him. He doesn't like to be babied, though, and he has this mean side-eye that Amber had.

Me, I have good and bad days. I try to take time to myself by escaping the city to breathe fresh air or I spend my time with Elias. I don't practice self-care as much as I'd like, I've always put others before myself. To see someone else happy because I was able to help them, brings me joy. Steering people away from anxiety and depression feels like I'm saving a life.

And as for Amber...

I honor her every day.

I honor her through co-parenting.

I honor her by waking up every morning and fighting for her.

I honor her by advocating for other families so that this doesn't happen to more mothers, fathers, and children.

I honor Amber through SaveARose.

I honor Amber by taking care of her community.

I honor Amber by working towards bringing a birthing center to the Bronx.

I honor Amber by making her eternal through Art.

I honor Amber by making sure she marks her place on this planet and throughout history.

Forever.

Bruce has dedicated his life to advocating for the significance of black women's voices in healthcare. He is working to bring a freestanding midwifery-led birthing center that provides wellness and education to the Bronx. Follow both him [bizmacthe3rd] and SaveARose Foundation [savearose.foundation] on Instagram for all of the latest news and updates.

Please send any donations, encouragement, or items for Elias to:

SaveARose Foundation

2549 Jerome Avenue

P.O. Box 32

Bronx, NY 10468

Feature image courtesy of Bruce McIntyre

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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