NJ’s first lady: Childbirth is deadlier for Black mothers and we’re working to change this | Opinion

Published: Apr. 17, 2022

By Tammy Murphy

Progress has been made in New Jersey to decrease maternal mortality among Black women, but First Lady Tammy Murphy says she is grateful and proud that the governor’s proposed FY 2023 budget includes $37.2 million in funding for several recommendations outlined in our Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan
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Over the past four years, my Nurture NJ work has allowed me to meet countless New Jersey mothers, many of whom have bravely spoken out about their experiences during pregnancy, labor and delivery. Their stories underscore just how frightening and dangerous childbirth can be, especially for mothers of color.

I have written and spoken many times before about our disturbing statistics: a Black mother in New Jersey is over seven times more likely than a white mother to die of pregnancy-related complications. A Black baby is over three times more likely than a white baby to die before his or her first birthday.

Behind those statistics are the mothers and families I have met. As we recognize Black Maternal Health Week, it is our mission to amplify their stories.

An incredibly strong New Jersey mother and ally to Nurture NJ, Ajanee McConell, has spoken powerfully about her story. Ajanee’s abdominal pain was dismissed repeatedly until she went into early labor, delivered her baby boy and watched him struggle for survival until his tragic passing three days later.

These are Ajanee’s words: “I knew the pain I felt was nowhere near to being normal. I share my story so that other Black moms know their voices deserve to be heard. Don’t ever let someone silence you.”

Alisha Harper, another New Jersey mom, also shared her pregnancy and birth story with us. Alisha signed up for Medicaid when she became pregnant with her twin girls because her employer did not offer health insurance. Because her choice of providers was so limited and the clinic where she was seen was so overwhelmed with patients, she often spent more than seven hours waiting for a doctor.

These are Alisha’s words: “Just the sheer exhaustion and frustration definitely marred a time in my life that is supposed to be one of the most beautiful. Don’t see us as people who are receiving state care, see us as individuals.”

Many of these mothers are moved to become activists or advocates to ensure others don’t experience similar pain, like Vu An Foster, founder of Life After 2 Losses. Despite seeking care when she knew something was wrong, Vu An lost two daughters. Vu An did everything possible to advocate for herself and her babies, but even after arriving at the hospital, her concerns were dismissed and she was sent on her way. She did not make it past the parking lot before her labor began.

Even with her third pregnancy, which resulted in a healthy baby boy, Vu An developed complications, which were again dismissed. She nearly died.

These are Vu An’s words: “If I had not continued to advocate for myself, my son wouldn’t have a mother. They just were not listening. Had they listened, a lot of this could have been prevented. If someone else can hear my story, maybe what happened to me doesn’t have to happen to them.”

These are the real people driving the urgent work of Nurture NJ. As we continue to make progress on this crisis, I am grateful and proud that the governor’s proposed FY 2023 budget includes $37.2 million in funding for several recommendations outlined in our Nurture NJ Maternal and Infant Health Strategic Plan.

What will this mean? For mothers across New Jersey, it will mean investing in our maternity care workforce by raising Medicaid rates for physicians, midwives and community doulas, which will increase the number of providers that accept Medicaid. It will mean expanding educational and training opportunities for midwives, home visitors, lactation workers and more — providers who are known to provide patient-centered care. It will mean supporting the development of our groundbreaking universal home visitation program. And, it will mean creating a database to track the experiences of pregnant moms to inform policymakers, providers, and others on the quality of care being provided.

We cannot allow this crisis to continue. It is 2022 and we should not be losing any mothers or any babies due to preventable causes.

This Black Maternal Health Week, let’s continue to raise the voices of these mothers. Together, we will make New Jersey the safest and most equitable state in the nation to deliver and raise a baby.

Tammy Murphy is New Jersey’s first lady.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-04-18 02:49:37 -0700