Please Share Your Story. Seriously, We All Need to Hear It.

We have likely all heard the saying ‘the squeaky wheel gets the grease.’ Similarly, sharing childbirth experiences – both positive and negative – has the potential to break the silence surrounding black maternal health inequities. We can hope that medical professionals, researchers, and policy makers do their part to share data about this issue. But Black women can also take part in this discourse.  By openly discussing our experiences, black mothers have the power to bring attention to the unique challenges we face. Who better can speak to the lived realities of these disparities?

First, we can empower each other. Sharing your story empowers other black women by providing them with knowledge, support, and an understanding that they are not alone. They may learn from your experience, gain insights into navigating the healthcare system, and make informed decisions about their own care. Sharing a positive experience may help someone to gravitate toward a particular hospital or to take a new approach to interacting with healthcare providers. Hearing about negative perinatal experiences can help validate the feelings of women who have experienced bias or  mistreatment. These devastating stories could even have the potential to save a life.

Sharing your story will also help hold policy makers and the healthcare system accountable. When you speak about what happened to you – whether to your best friend in private or in a video that goes viral – you are contributing to a body of evidence that pushes this issue into the spotlight. By forcing others to confront this reality, we are able to pressure policy makers to implement necessary changes. This practice will also encourage healthcare providers to examine their biases, and hopefully reframe their daily medical practice. 

There is also a certain therapeutic benefit to sharing negative or traumatic experiences. The act of speaking your thoughts into existence has been shown to (cite) alleviate feelings of shame, guilt, anxiety, and depression. The first time I told anyone about my birth story, I could barely get through it without crying, blaming myself, or feeling guilty. But I kept sharing. And every time, it got easier. I even shared my story on Irth’s Birthright podcast! Even though the thought of reliving that experience was absolutely terrifying, I was overcome by the need to make sure that what happened to me didn’t happen to another woman in the future. And this act of sharing is really an act of protest, an act of mutual aid. In saving others, there is room to also save yourself.

So long as these disparities exist, I urge you to keep sharing your story. The potential to create positive change for future generations is urgent and, as black women, we are in a unique position to continue this momentum. So please share your story. Seriously, we all need to hear it. 

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