Here, in the United States of America.
According to the CDC, thats 42.4 deaths per 100,000 live births for black non-hispanic women. That mortality rate is followed closely by the death of Native Americans who are at 30.4 deaths per 100,000 live births. (Ironic that those two demographics were the ones who were affected by genocidal actions and enslavement in the U.S.)
The deaths per 100,000 live births for white women: 13.
Why is this happening?!
The suspicions are many…
Maybe it’s because we, black women, project so much strength that the birth workers are incapable of taking our pains seriously?
Maybe it’s because we are lacking efficient healthcare?
Maybe it’s because of overt systemic racism affecting the hospitals we deliver at?
Maybe it’s caused by stress developed over the years of dealing with actual racism?
Maybe we are genetically pre-disposed to having pregnancy and birth related complications?
Whatever the actual reason, there needs to be something done to stop that statistic from rising.
Our children’s lives, and our own, depend on it.
So, what can we do?
I’m a HUGE believer that representation matters. The more of us who choose to share our birth stories means that more of us can benefit from the experience of others.
Everywhere we look, we see white and white-presenting women giving birth in all kinds of places and LIVING.
Where are we at? Are we not birthing? NO! Are we not sharing our birth experiences? NOT LIKELY.
We, our society as a whole, are each responsible for our part of the bigger problem.
I personally know of similar pages – like birthphotographers.com – who showcase births and who would like to show a more diverse group of birthers on their pages…but you know what?
The content is LACKING.
As photographers, it’s our duty to step out of our comfort zone and diversify, not only our portfolios but, our lives so that every family type is being represented and appreciated.
I hear often from birth photographers about wanting to have a diverse portfolio but don’t know how, or they say things like “I don’t know why I’m not getting more diverse clients.”
Well, it’s probably because when melanated people come across your work it all appears very… ummm…. pale.
No shade at all, but you need to do better.
Here’s a little tip from my Birth Diversified course about model calls:
How can you specify (without hurting feelings or offending people) that you are looking to diversify your portfolio? Here’s a great example:
“Here at [your business name] we strive for diversity and inclusivity. Upon reviewing my own portfolio, I’ve noticed a vast disparity in what I believe in my heart and what is shown on my site and feeds. I want to make a conscious effort to change that and I’m doing a model call to diversify my portfolio so that it may reflect my belief that #representationmatters and that every one – no matter their race, orientation, or beliefs – deserves to not only see their birth story told, but also see and be inspired by people they can relate to through my photos. I’m currently looking for WOC who are due [insert date range here] to allow me to photograph their birth at my portfolio building price. If you or someone you know is expecting and is delivering in the [your location] area, please email me at [your email address] for more details.”
To me, as a black woman, I would find this model call to be very respectful and enlightening. It shows me that the photographer acknowledges that their portfolio lacks diversity and is wanting to make the changes that is necessary to change that and has the right intentions. Also note that my suggestion did not contain words that may seem like you are tokenizing POC, like “dark-skinned, curly hair, asian, etc.” I highly recommend NOT using descriptive words like that when doing your model call. “
Likewise, as black women, how can we want to see more people who look like we do birthing, but refuse to do what’s necessary to contribute to the representation of black women birthing?
You know how we can help shift what is seen in the birth world? By having our births visually documented!
So, if you’re planning to give birth, regardless of where you choose, I highly recommend hiring a professional birth photographer. I know that birth photographers are expensive, but I also know that just about every birth photographer I know offers a payment plan of some sort. It is always worth asking.
“But our people don’t hire birth photographers…”
Ummm…that’s part of the problem. Outside of the fact that each birth is unique, special and showcases our amazing capabilities as mothers and we should want all the proof we can have of those moments frozen in time, by documenting our births through photography, we can then inspire others.
Yes, I do know that some of us do actually hire a birth photographer, but prefer to keep our images private. I get that. We are entitled to our privacy!
Birth is sacred and deeply personal.
But, also consider that by sharing our stories and photos, we have the ability to change a life – or even save one.
Photos move people. If you see [insert your favorite idol here] doing something that moves you, you’d probably feel inclined to at least consider trying it because they did. When we see more and more photos of black women birthing – and even birthing naturally outside of traditional hospital settings,
then – with each photo – we may feel more inclined to research the options available to us and may ultimately make a choice that would save our life.
So, I wrote all of that to say: Just think about hiring a birth photographer for your next birth. (Note: The sooner you book, the less of a financial burden it would seem like).
It’s so worth it, because #blackbirthmatters, too.
CHECK OUT HER (IAPBP PROFILE) TO CONTACT HER FOR YOUR BIRTH.