How I Fell in Love: A Story of a Mom and Baby
On February 29th, 2016, I was on the corner of Dearborn and Randolph in downtown Chicago, walking from one meeting to another when fluid began to gush down my legs uncontrollably – my water broke. I immediately hailed a cab, told the driver I was in labor, and he frantically rushed to the hospital. After the call of a lifetime, my husband and mother came to the hospital, excited and scared. A few hours later, I was on the operating table having an emergency caesarian section, looking into my husband’s eyes, feeling the most vulnerable I’ve ever felt in my life. What seemed like a few minutes later, we heard our little baby’s sweet, soft cry and then tears flowed down both of our cheeks. This is the best moment of my life, and the first moment of the most wonderful adventure I’ve had. Now, I get to hold her close to me and feel her heartbeat, dance with her in the living room, read to her on a rocking chair, hear her pronounce words for the first time and watch her love to learn and experience – the profound joy of being a mother.
Now that I’m a mother, it’s even more painful to know there are other mothers who do not get a chance to experience the joy of dancing in the living room with their toddler or hearing them try to utter words because their baby died before their first birthday. This is what public health professionals call infant mortality. The US has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the “developed” world, where over 20,000 babies die before the age of one each year. While there has been some decrease over the last 50 years, there is stagnation in certain areas and practitioners and researchers have been left wondering what is the solution? This picture is even more stark for women of color. With the inundation of racial tensions, structural inequities, and the stress that these create in female bodies, black babies die over two times more than white babies.
My organization, Become, is part of a collaborative called Courage to Love, dedicated to healthy babies, born in loving families, surrounded by close knit communities. We know that strong relationships (or love) play a significant role in healing the wounds of stress, strengthening our bodies, and helping create a welcoming and nurturing environment in which a baby can grow strong. We have started this “labor of love” in the Auburn Gresham community, a south side community in Chicago, which has one of the highest rates of infant mortality. We are building with the strengths that are inherent in the community and learning about the social connections of young mothers. With that, we will convene groups of youth, mothers, fathers, grandparents and anyone else who has a stake in healthy babies and lead a process of building their capacity to develop and test solutions in their communities around how to build loving networks around mothers and young families. Given that Become’s specialty is program evaluation and action research, we will help community members innovate, learn what works, reiterate, improve, and reach their goals. With the community, we will build a model that other communities can learn from and implement.
We want to create a different reality, one where all babies are born not only healthy and strong but also into families and communities that have the resources and freedom to live well and love deeply. They’re no longer blocked by structural barriers but unleashed to see and experience the love around them and build the reality they want for their families, their children. In this reality, all mothers, regardless of color, are able to hold their babies to their chest, feel their heartbeats, dance with them in their living rooms, and watch in wonder as their personality and spirit bloom.
Do you have the courage to love? If so, please donate to this project on Giving Day, November 28th.