Un-American Maternal Mortality Rates

Thanks to Serena Williams speaking out about her birthing experience, the appalling mortality rates for African-American women in this country are getting some attention from main stream media. Being a world class athlete couldn’t insulate Serena from the racism that accompanies the birthing experience in America. There are many people who have been researching the reasons of the difference in mom and infant mortality rates between black women and white women in this country for decades, however as is often the case with statistics that reflect poorly on our society, it takes a star or an athlete’s attention to shine the light where the general public can see it.

In case you missed it, the numbers are truly appalling. African-American moms and newborns are four times more likely to die in childbirth than their white counterparts and there are many, many reasons for this.  One, as was the case with Serena Williams, is that healthcare providers and doctors are less likely to believe black women when they complain of pain. Another reason that until recently, was thought to play a large factor was poverty, however recent studies show that even middle class black women in this country who have access to care are more likely to die in childbirth than white middle-class women.

A newer idea being floated, is racism. You may wonder how racism can affect health and birth outcomes, but if you can believe that black American’s experience racism regularly in the public spaces they need to traverse, you can believe that their stress hormone (cortisol) levels would be unnaturally high for longer periods of time than white people. And we all know how damaging prolonged, high stress can be on anyone’s body. You can make a natural assumption that those hormones would damage a fetus and a pregnant mom.  If this were completely untrue, than the ‘JJ Model’ pioneered by midwife Jenny Joseph, from Orlando Florida, shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does.

I was introduced to this model in a Ted talk by Miriam Zoila Perez, a doula, writer, speaker and activist. What I loved most about her talk was that she spent less time talking about the various reasons that we have these racial disparities in childbirth, and more time talking about an effective solution that she had found in Ms. Joseph’s clinical model. (You can watch the Ted talk here: https://www.ted.com/talks/miriam_zoila_perez_how_racism_harms_pregnant_women_and_what_can_help?language=en ).

From the website Commonsense Childbirth: “The JJ Way® Model is effective in reducing disparities and improving outcomes because it operates from the premise that every woman wants a healthy baby and that every woman deserves one. Additionally, patients and their family supporters (if any) are encouraged to operate the same way and are therefore invited in as an integral part of each prenatal visit. From the very first appointment the goal of a full-term healthy baby is emphasized and all subsequent measures stress that theme until safe arrival at that point.”

What struck me the most was that the basis of the model is compassion, love and equality. That’s it, nothing complicated, just treating people the way you’d want to be treated. And if you’re not a black woman who has been pregnant in this country, you may not know just how lacking those qualities are in healthcare. We joke about bedside manner, but I ask you, do you like being condescended too, belittled, made to feel inferior and stupid? What, that’s not ok with you? Because it’s supposed to be ok to black women every day in this country. I’ve been to prenatal appointments where I’ve admitted to not following all of the doctors recommendations and been made to feel as if I was a bad person, someone who didn’t care enough about her baby to do ‘the right thing’. There was no compassion, no alternative ideas floated. It was just, stop making excuses and do what you’re told, because if something bad happens to your baby, it will be your fault for not doing what you were told. My explanations were pegged as excuses that needed no further exploration.

And if you’re not a black woman who has to experience these things why should you care? It would be nice to think that people care about their fellow Americans, but since this obviously isn’t the case, do you care about healthcare costs in this country? Having an entire segment of the population sick isn’t good for any society, economically or otherwise. For those of us who just care how people are treated, we can share the “The JJ Way” with friends and family that are in the healthcare industry, helping to spread the method nation-wide. We will be a healthier society when all our members are valued taken care of the same way.

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Ghosts of Parenting Past

Although I’m not an empty-nester yet (thankfully!) I do have sons who are newly minted adults. I’m entering a stage where all of the decisions they make for themselves, whether good or bad, feel like a reflection of my past parenting decisions.

Nothing is harder for me as a parent than seeing a young twenty-something I raised make poor decisions for any length of time. It feels as if every dumb ass thing they do is like an accusatory ghost, wagging her finger in my face and shouting about all the things I did wrong when they were young. The Man and I have been doing a lot of self reflection lately. What could we have done better? Where did we screw up (the most, ha, cuz we screwed up a lot). We’ve internalized blame for another adults bad decisions because we raised them with the hopes of sparing them as much of the pain of those decisions as we could. It has been painful but necessary. Not because we can do anything about our past actions, but because we can try to identify our mistakes and avoid making them with this last kid. This has basically been the story of his life. The older boys think it’s favoritism, but trust me, it’s lessons learned.

I’m pretty much done beating myself up. I made mistakes, yes but I did the best I could at the time and I made it a point to tell them and show them how much I loved them as often as possible. For now, I can continue to say I love you and I can step back and wait for them to figure some of this adulting out for themselves. I made some pretty dumb decisions myself as a twenty something, and I’m not half bad. I just thought maybe I’d done a better job of showing them that they could struggle less than I had if they just listened to what I said and watched me be upwardly mobile during their childhood. 

I’m not saying these indecisive times in their lives are harbingers of a life of endless struggle. It’s just that I know that potential isn’t being met and it’s causing me distress and causing them some strife and unhappiness. I’m looking eagerly forward to when this stage of the game is over.

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How Can You Rescue A Fish?

A fish. We rescued a fish. I know it sounds crazy but it’s really a short story. I had been apartment hunting for weeks and it was seeming like an impossible task to find an apartment that I could afford, that wasn’t a one bedroom, that would take pitbulls. If I’m going to be honest, I was getting pretty desperate. I finally found one in a neighborhood that was on the verge of gentrification that met the requirements, so I went to see it. It was ‘meh’, but I was almost at a deadline so I took it.

I remembered thinking how dirty it was. The refrigerator was filthy, the bathroom walls had what looked like grease drippings, and there were a few items left behind by the former tenants, including a small square fish ‘tank’ with about an inch and a half of dirty, putrid water. I say tank because it probably held eight ounces of water it was so tiny, the kind of cheap plastic container that single beta fighting fish were sold in out of Asian-owned discount stores.

I asked that the apartment be cleaned as I handed over the first months rent and two months security. The slumlord… uh I mean land lord assured me it would be clean. Moving day came and we went about struggling up the narrow staircases to the top floor with the belongings we had managed to keep. Khev picked up the fish tank and I said, “ew they were supposed to throw that out. Flush it and toss that little tank.”

“But mom, it’s alive!”

“It can’t be,” I said, “it was here just like that three weeks ago.”  We went back and forth for a while, him insisting it was alive, me asking that he flush it and get back to work. Finally I gave in (as is the case way too much with this youngest child, I’ll admit) and I said, “fine. Put some fresh water in it, whatever.”  He raced to the bathroom and slowly filled the square with cool, clear tap water.  And the damn fish moved. It literally leaped around in joy as if we had saved it from imminent demise. I couldn’t believe the damn thing was still alive. Khev named him Timmy. Timmy The Rescue Fish.

We went out the next day and bought him his own little one gallon paradise, replete with interesting background, pretty pebbles and an oxygen producing plant for him to hide and rest in. He gets as excited about food as dogs and cats and will swim towards you and follow your finger back and forth in front of the tank. Whenever a curious cat peers in or down into his tank he sinks to the bottom and hangs out just out of reach. And there you have it, along with rescue dogs and cats, we have a pet rescue fish.

Timmy The Rescue Fish
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September 6, 2018

A Thursday, the day I decided I could write again. Some people write during the maelstrom, some people need to let it all out, but for me to write I need a calm, safe space. Sometimes it takes a while to find that space and it’s taken me a few months.

In the span of 14 months I’ve lost my home of 19 years where all my children grew up, moved twice (losing more than half of my belongings in the process), bought my first home and lost my best friend and constant companion, Petey. It’s been a literal cacophony for me with no space in my head for writing. I opened this up to write and can’t even get past my site’s name, UrbanMommys. The older my kids get, the less parenting advice I can seem to muster, and when I do it seems kind of outdated. I’ll spend the next few months trying to figure out what direction I want to take this site in, what use it is and whether or not I should just switch to a personal blog.  One of my ideas would be to chronicle my experiences in a series of blog posts that, while maybe not helping anyone per say, might at least make you laugh (or cringe). 


If you’re still a reader then I want to say thanks, sorry I’ve been away so long.

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Encouraging the Sulky Pre-teen

To be fair, he will only be a pre-teen for another month. In a few short weeks he will officially be a full on, smelly, sullen, aggravating real live teenager.

But I’ve developed a habit (no, it didn’t take 21 days. Why do people think that shit? Link to some actual science here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/habit-formation ).over the past few months and today I realized that desire to infuse a positive, habit by using mentally easy, casual words had become someone else’s morning necessity. Continue reading Encouraging the Sulky Pre-teen

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Filed To Almost Teens

Pre-teens are the most annoying humans on the planet. See how I just jumped right in there, no segue, no anecdotes? I used to use the word ‘fuck’ a lot, but since this new AF (meaning AS FUCK) has been invented by millenials or whomever, I use that all the time. I love it. So, pre-teens are annoying AS FUCK. Sorry, AF. And the reason why is: you know they know better. That’s it, that’s the whole explanation. Small children are being taught and can’t be expected to know or remember things that are new to them and well, everything is new to them because they’ve only been on the planet a few years, right? But what about twelve year olds? Continue reading Filed To Almost Teens

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Vision Board – by Tamara S. Lee

The ways of the world are so different from when we were younger. The level of consciousness sometimes gets lost or unused because we have so much going on. As a mother, I am constantly trying to keep the kids balanced when it comes to life. I want them to grow up being well balanced, productive adults. What I do with them now, will stick with them and resurface when they are coming into their own, and sharing this world with others. My plan has always been to plant seeds of empathy, consciousness, humanity and good grammar (good grammar goes a long way) into their little minds.

Continue reading Vision Board – by Tamara S. Lee

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Creamy Vegetable Soup

Honestly, I’m not that big a fan of traditional vegetable soup. But it’s a snow day here in NYC, I wanted to make my own soup, and I’m a fake vegetarian now, so there you go. (Caveat: I eat meat on the weekends. I’m not ready to completely give it up yet). If you read my blog, you know I like to make things that are relatively healthy, but really fast and easy. I don’t do the normal recipe site thing – I don’t know what your prep time is going to be, maybe you chop veggies like a pro or maybe it takes you forever to cut a zucchini into chunks. Not my business. But I came up with this recipe and unlike some of the stuff I come up with on the fly, felt it was so good I had to share it with you! Continue reading Creamy Vegetable Soup

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