Black Mothers Keep Dying After Giving Birth. Shalon Irving's Story Explains Why

My first job out of high school was as an administrative assistant for Black Infant Health of California in Littlerock, CA. I didn’t know this would be a trajectory that I’d continue to work with or even think about. And I think about it often. What I learned there, at the age of 19, is that Black women have the highest infant and mother mortality rate of any ethnic group across class. This is structural inequity based on race and gender. Shalon Irving’s story haunts me because she could be me. As I think about my own fertility, unfortunately I am often thinking about whether or not I would survive pregnancy or birth. This doesn’t have to be the case.

 I was reminded that today is the ten year anniversary of day one for my ORDEAL WITH MEDICINE, the events that led up to the research behind PATIENT. So in memory of that process and for the sake of reminding myself that this project is close to my body while also a disembodied experience, I will post the RAW DATA for the personal experience component of this project. They are journal entries written during and after the fact. Mostly so I could keep my own memories mine.  www.patientpoems.com

I was reminded that today is the ten year anniversary of day one for my ORDEAL WITH MEDICINE, the events that led up to the research behind PATIENT. So in memory of that process and for the sake of reminding myself that this project is close to my body while also a disembodied experience, I will post the RAW DATA for the personal experience component of this project. They are journal entries written during and after the fact. Mostly so I could keep my own memories mine. www.patientpoems.com

bumrushthepantry:

When I see a post about dark girl appreciation or black girl appreciation or what it means to be black and beautiful, it’s largely thin girls or girls with hour glass shapes. Whether it be paintings, drawings, photoshoots, porn, etc. it’s usually a girl with a big butt and a small waist. I know women on tumblr have brought light to it before but I just want it on my blog.


No one (at least not me) really delves into how it feels to be a girl who doesn’t have the ideal black body. How you begin to believe you’re not good enough for black men because your waist isn’t tiny and your hips don’t spread wide. For me personally, I’m one of the only women in my family with bigger breast and smaller hips; I’ve spent my whole life being told things like:

“You’re built like a man”
“You gone have to find somebody who really like you”
“Where did you get that body from? Surely not our family.”
“Maybe if you lose weight/that stomach you’ll look better.”
“I can’t believe how bad built you are”
“Ugh you dark and fat”
“Why can’t you stop eating??”
“It’s your fault you’re so big. I don’t know what’s wrong with you.”
“No you don’t need that, you’re big enough already.”
“Just don’t eat”
“You’re big as a house”
“You ain’t ever had a butt, maybe you should look into surgery”
“Have you ever heard of a balanced diet” (a doctor on our initial visit, proceeds to draw a plate and what needs to be on it… Even though I explained that i knew what balanced meant).
“Thank god you’re pretty with makeup, makes you look smaller” and the reverse “you can’t fool men with makeup”
“Maybe if you lost weight you could love yourself”
“Fat guys like fat girls right??” (Ignores that I have a very real fear of only being attractive to fat men because I’ve been conditioned to believe that fat isn’t beautiful and now rarely ever find fat men sexually attractive… A fact that I am severely ashamed of).

These are a small number of things said to me personally from childhood til yesterday. So when I venture into a public platform and all I see is women who look like my mother always dreamed I would look…it’s like a small stab each time through a deep wound. It’s a work in progress to get over the shame and sadness, but I’ve never spoken about it before. I try with my friends but I’m accosted with:


“You’re not fat; you’re pretty”
“You carry your weight well”
“I mean women with hips are still considered fat (PHAT) too”
“You look nothing like her” (as I point out a woman with a similar body shape as me)
“But you’ve lost weight” (have weighed the same since I was 17 years old without gaining or losing a pound).


To be fat and plain in this world is to live in constant silence and invisibility, fear and anxiety, loneliness and shame.


what pains me the most is that black women and girls live with this everyday. I’m not alone and I’d rather I was. No one deserves to feel as empty as I do.