Year in which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in a speech, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane”: 1966
A friend of mine has been studying midwifery and part of her course requirement is to understand inequality and inequity in healthcare, particularly for women of color. African American women have C-sections at an alarming rate compared to white women and there are reasons for this that have nothing to do with Posh Spice and her “too posh to push” obsession. My midwife friend suggests that doctors interfere with the normal rhythm and cycle of women to accommodate more time on the golf course – I’d say it is something more corporate-Machiavelan than that – the hospital makes more money on a C-section.
Women’s health issues have long been neglected due to inherent sexism in medical research, but the inequities in healthcare for people of color have been woefully neglected. We are only now beginning to understand the effects of institutionalized racism on the African American community who suffer disproportionately from diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Now a NYT article suggests that overuse of antibiotics and C-sections lead to obesity in babies and that stress becomes hardwired into a mother’s offspring as well.
Investigators are beginning to piece together a story about how gut bacteria shapes each life, beginning at birth, when infants are anointed with populations from their mothers’ microbiomes. Babies who are born by cesarean and never make that trip through the birth canal apparently never receive some key bugs from their mothers — possibly including those that help to maintain a healthy body weight. Children born by C-section are more likely to be obese in later life. (NYT)
Take a low-income African American pregnant woman stressed out from enduring racist micro aggressions daily, born to a woman who endured as much if not more stress from racism throughout her lifetime (go back several generations), couple that with possible multiple C-sections, which then leads to obesity in her babies, and you have the very institution that is supposed to be healing a woman, wrecking havoc on her and her progeny.
I think about my son’s DNA and his health because the number one killer is stress and as I look around me I see too many Black men surviving instead of thriving because of stress from the legacy and continuation of racism. I think about my son’s young birthmother – he was her third child before she was barely twenty years old – and her stress having been raised in the foster care system, being Black, as well as having a family legacy of low-income and addiction. My son was not born by C-section, but that is the only thing not encoded in his DNA.
How can we as transracial (or any) parents unravel the umbilical chord that ties our children to racism? to segregated health care? to stress-related diseases? How do we advocate for better medical research while providing and helping to form a foundation for our children to thrive, not just stay alive in a society that has yet to escape the legacy of slavery and its steadfast racist tentacles? My son has access to healthcare but will his providers care for him to the extent that they take into consideration his entire journey; what about his birthmother and her other children (she is expecting her fourth child), and also what about his birthfather – where is their birth right to equal access to healthcare? My son does not exist in a vacuum.