Black Exhaustion & Success

So today I saw this video by Steve Harvey, and it spoke directly to the idea of Black exhaustion. At what cost do we buy into this theory that we are only worthy of success if we work ourselves to the point of exhaustion. It’s a known fact that healthy people need to rest their minds and bodies to combat stress and disease… yet, he states, “You cannot sleep eight hours!” Why not, and under what authority do you make that claim?

But hey this is the guy who tells women how to Act Like a Lady… go figure.

Let’s talk about this idea that to be successful and Black is to be perpetually exhausted … only if we play by rules for a game we were never intended to be allowed to play.

black-exhaustion-and-success.m4a

It Ain’t All Roses: Birthin Babies while Black

I’m officially Beyoncé…

Well ok not really but you gotta admit that pic is hilarious! But what I’m gonna talk about is no laughing matter, it’s serious and we have got to start casting more light on it…

” I was swollen from toxemia and had been on bed rest for over a month. My health and my babies’ health were in danger, so I had an emergency C-section.” -Beyoncé in September 2018 Vogue

Maybe I am officially Beyoncé… because I gained 100… yes, I said that correctly, ok maybe 96, pounds during pregnancy. I was so swollen my feet looked like loaves of bread and I didn’t have cankles, I had thankles, just one big ass thigh! I was a chicken dinner! I too had toxemia, so bad that my liver failed and I went into hepatic shock and a coma. I was hospitalized for over a month, and didn’t officially hold my son, well that I can recall anyway, until he was more than a month old. This was over ten years before Serena and Beyoncé made their pregnancy scares public, and over ten years before these stories about Black Women and childbirth were talked about at large. I thought my case was unique… turns out, like many of the concerns of Black Women, it just wasn’t a big deal to the medical community yet.

But we can change that…

Pregnancy was great for me until I reached my 7th month. Up until then I was rocking my loose fit size 10 jeans, pulling them a bit under my growing belly. I had no stretch marks, and had gained only about 18 pounds. Life was good. I was high risk because of a pre-existing liver disease, but for months I showed no signs of toxemia or preeclampsia, high blood pressure brought on by pregnancy. And literally, overnight, that changed.

From roses to rancid…

From sugar to shit…

According to the CDC, while generally only 3.4 women suffer from toxemia during pregnancy, and 700 die from its complications yearly, Black Women are three times as likely to suffer from these childbirth related issues. Conversely, Asian and Hispanic women seem to have an ever lesser chance of developing toxemia than White women. (1) Yet, no one seems to know why. It’s been one big mystery why pregnant Black Women looked like the boy in the bubble, compared to those cute baby bumps. Perhaps it is linked to the lack of research on the subject!

In a 2004, the Journal of the American Heart Association published a study that showed that women with preeclampsia had decreased levels of folic acid and high levels of homocysteine, which is linked to heart disease, but these levels were lowest and highest in Black Women. (2) The study suggested that since high levels of homocysteine were related to low folic acid, B6, and B12, that these supplements could potentially lower the risk of preeclampsia amongst all women, particularly African-Americans. Who knew?

Another study by ProPublica, in 2016, entitled Lost Mothers spoke with Black Women intergenerationally about pregnancy complications to try to prevent maternal complications and death. Out of the many complications a woman can face, it was found Black Women suffer disproportionately from postpartum hemorrhage, fibroids, preeclampsia, uterine rupture, coronary artery dissection, and maternal heart failure. (3) All of these illnesses boast a much higher mortality rate than other complications. When searching for other studies on these pregnancy related illnesses in Black Women, there were few to find.

It is essential that Black Women share our stories, and that if no one else will, Black Physicians and medical researchers focus on these maternal health concerns in our community. Central Brooklyn Hospital, featured in the Pro Publica study has a new initiative to reduce maternal complications in women of color. Hopefully other hospitals and medical professionals will follow suit. It is imperative to the health of mothers and children that research into how to prevent and treat these issues are brought to light.

Just on a human level, it is important that babies grow up with their mothers, and research into their mother’s potential mortality from childbirth is necessary and worth every dime it costs. The powers that be can’t claim to be pro-life and not simultaneously be pro- maternal health, pro-mother, or pro-Black mother. The continuance of the systematic ignorance of people of color in medicine must be taken to task. If we can study the effects of viagra, surely we can study the complications of childbirth.

It shouldn’t take Beyoncé or Serena or any public figure to talk about something that affects 7% of Black mothers to make it important to the public at large. If we only consider things when a celebrity brings them to light, we are neglecting 99% of the population. Furthermore, we are failing these women by failing to consider their medical concerns … and failing Black children by neglecting their mothers.

So, let’s all be Beyoncé…

Note: Fellas be Jay-Z, but not while drinking Lemonade with Becky, and never be Eric Benet!

……

References

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4171100/#__ffn_sectitle

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4764298/

3. https://www.propublica.org/series/lost-mothers/p2

The Children are Our Future

There are many programs available to help adults navigate their health and change their eating and living habits to promote wellness. The Black Health Academy, the brainchild of founder, Lisa A. Smith, is one of the most comprehensive of these programs, offering masterclasses in exercise, plant based eating, mental health, and community education to assist African-Americans to eradicate chronic health concerns and live healthy lives. For the many of us who use coaches, trainers, nutritionists, and sites like The Black Health Academy. (1)

Dr. Latisha N. Carter-Blanks, MD, MPH is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics The University of Michigan Medical School and a Pediatric Clinician at Michigan Medicine Northville Health Center. Dr, Carter-Blanks is a Black Woman who was educated in Detroit Public Schools and received her medical degree at Wayne State University, so she is well versed in the urban experience and the importance of promoting health to children in our community. I spoke with Dr. Carter-Blanks about promoting health and wellness, and her medical opinion was right on par with the research.

What made you want to be a doctor?

LNCB: I always knew I wanted to be a doctor since I was around age 3 years old.

What called you to pediatrics?

LNCB: I had an awesome pediatrician growing up, Dr. William C. Heath. I think he played a role in me wanting to become a pediatrician.. I almost did Med/Peds which is the practice of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, but I fast realized that I didn’t like non-compliant adults. I am also a big advocate of preventive care/medicine and that is 99% of what we do in pediatrics.

When you see a child patient, what is your ultimate goal for them?

LNCB: My goal is to grow up healthy children who will in turn become healthy adults.

Is there a formula for promoting healthy children that parents can follow or seek to improve in their child’s life?

LNCB: To have a healthy child, you must first nurture them. I think being active in your child’s life and showing them through actions that you care about them makes a world of difference in terms of healthy development. Without this a child cannot grow physically or emotionally. Secondly a healthy child is one that is active. We have to encourage our children to become more active. Whether it’s having a dance party in your living room or playing on a sports team, active bodies help sustain active minds. Finally healthy children must be safe. Children can’t be healthy if they don’t feel safe. If you can’t go out and play because they are shooting on your block you can’t get active. If you don’t feel safe your mental and physical health will suffer.

If you had to define a healthy child, what characteristics would that child have?

LNCB: A healthy child is one who is physically and mentally sound. One that has someone to nurture them, a safe environment to grow in and a healthy amount of activity.

So there you have it, the tools to ensuring our future doctors, lawyers, wellness professionals, and writers live a happy and healthy life! Nurturing your children by being an active parent who shows them the power of making positive decisions and the joys of life through your actions, protecting them from harm, and encouraging physical activity to keep their minds and bodies strong and healthy are the keys of health to opening a fruitful life! Additionally, being adults who promote health, much like founder Lisa A. Smith and Dr. Carter-Blanks, we provide our children with models of Black professionals who are dedicated to the improvement of our community health! The Black Health Academy “loves the kids”, and Dr. Carter-Blacks is “for the children”!!!!

“Teach them well, and let them lead the way”
(excerpt from the Greatest Love of All written by Michael Masser and Linda Creed)

1. BMC Public Health, 2015, https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/1471-2458-13-1100

 

First Publushed at The Black Health Academy site.