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The Mental Traumas Of Being Black & Pregnant In Today's America

I am currently pregnant with my second child. A joyous time, yes. But honestly, I'm terrified.

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 Amanda Hampton's story, as told to Charmin Michelle.

I am currently pregnant with my second child. A joyous time, yes. But honestly, I'm terrified. Almost traumatized.

Bringing forth life is supposed to be a time when I am at peak happiness. And don't get me wrong, I have moments where I am. There are times when I am absolutely over the moon. But I also have moments where societal stress triggers get the best of me. Being pregnant is stressful within itself—you've adopted a new normal of constant hospital visits, body changes, and hormone imbalances. But doing so during a pandemic, a time of extreme civil unrest and economic uncertainty, is almost cruel.

I wasn't quite sure how to express my angst.

So, here I am...

Currently, hospitals have a restrictive entry policy in place as doctors and nurses stand on the frontline of a deadly disease, and cities such as New York City digging mass graves and placing lost bodies in a box carts, (basically tossing them with no regard for family), are taking on a new meaning of uncertainty. So much is going on outside of the walls of my highly-guarded home and now I'm more concerned with lack of hospital space, or bringing my child into a contaminated America. On a personal level, my OBGYN retired and I had a hard time finding a good fit for my family and have limited options for doctors at my preferred delivery hospital. And my out of sync hormones and emotions that spike through the roof aren't helping.

Pregnancy is supposed to mean baby showers, and gender reveals, and choosing fricking nursery room decor. But it admittedly hasn't always been that way for me. There have been far too many moments of fear, and worry, and too many questions that I cannot answer.

Have any of my pregnant ladies felt this way? How do I find the joy in being pregnant without guilt or anxiety?

These days I've completely taken on the role of an empath, carrying the emotional weight of every news story—another black man killed for no reason; another black woman neglected by doctors and dies during childbirth. I feel so much guilt trying to find joy for my growing blessing when people are dying. I feel helpless because I donate, sign petitions, send emails. I have the hard conversations, and raise awareness. But is that enough? Or, is it just buying us time until the next hashtag gains traction? How can I find joy in my pregnancy, when I feel so guilty for bringing a child into this type of world? My people are dying.

Should I take on the burden of feeling selfish enough to even get pregnant during this time?

I think of how every lost soul was once nurtured and protected in the womb of his or her mother until they took their first breath in this world, wholly oblivious to what life had in store. I grieve for those families— especially the young kids that lost their father or mother in the process.

George was once a child too.

Tamir actually was a child.

Sha-Asia was supposed to be here to be a mother to her child.

My pastor once told me, as long as children are being born, God is still blessing us. My daily fight in this climate, is to try and enjoy this pregnancy and not worry about the things I cannot control. All is strenuous, but all is not lost.

I was ultimately boiled down to determining how I could relieve myself of all stress to secure a full-term, healthy pregnancy.

I find myself trying to weaponize my mental health with a few coping mechanisms to stay sane. It's not as safe for us to go out into the Wild Wild West, so I intentionally thought of what we can do right at home.

Try to find new hobbies to pick up, ones that we've never done before. Feeding our inner creativity and taking up coloring and painting or redecorating a room, is an easy, low physical means of staying busy.

Find other pregnant women to vent with. Because I guarantee they are going through the same emotions.

Discuss your feelings with your partner. Do not suffer in silence, and allow open communication lines with your partner during your pregnancy. Let them know if you struggled mentally that day, or how they could help you unpack your thoughts. Be open, be assured.

Embrace the caution! Listennnnnn! Girls, we are saving so much money on maternity clothes, we get to stay in the house and look a mess if we want to, and we don't have to deal with so many people rubbing our belly, asking a million questions, or handing us their germs. And most of all, we don't have to explain why we chose to do something "that way" because we are in the confines of our own home. And nothing is more satisfying than that!

Breathing exercises and meditation. Turn the news off, put the phone down and allow your mind to not be infiltrated with the constant chaos of information fed to us. Ladies, 60-80% of doctor visits are due to stress, which is only amplified during pregnancy. Take moments to breathe and meditate to level out. Download the Calm App, throw on a YouTube video, or simply lighting a candle goes a long way.

But most importantly take care of self and speak UP. There's now a new means of virtual check-ups and doctor visits versus what society is generally accustomed to. But if you don't feel well, speak up. If you feel as if your doctor isn't listening, switch doctors. For every 100,000 women giving birth, 25 black women die, in comparison to the only 6 white women.

Not to say that this is a competition, but too many of us are unnecessarily dying at the hands of tone-deaf physicians. Let them know your symptoms loudly, and if they don't take you seriously, move to someone who will.

In the end ladies, this is our new life, our new normal. Finding out what works for us is all a part of the game, as long as we are actually doing so. We may not know what the future holds, or the perfect way to balance current events and pregnancy, but this journey is ours, and we have to do what's best for our mental health, our physical, and the well-being of our babies.

So, take back our happiness. You are bearing a human who you will teach to be the best person that they can be. And as hard as it may be, we must declare with every fiber within us, that we cannot allow anything steal that away from us.

Featured image by Shutterstock

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
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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