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The Part of the Black Maternal Health Crisis No One Talks About: Loss
by Tonya Russell
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October 10, 2020

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The Part of the Black Maternal Health Crisis No One Talks About: Loss

Karega and Felicia (Photo courtesy of Kevin Allen)
Karega & Felicia Gangloff-Bailey sitting with a photo of their “Angel Baby” Kamaiu. The couple is featured on the Black Love docuseries October 10, 2020. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Allen)

Having a child is one of the greatest milestones of someone’s life. While they say you can never fully prepare for bringing a child into the world, no amount of readiness can prepare you for the pain of losing your baby. The magnitude of that heartache is enough to break anyone.  

The U.S. has a Black infant mortality crisis, with Black babies being more than twice as likely to die before the age of one than white, Asian, or Hispanic babies. Oftentimes, this happens, despite doing everything as you should. These disparities can no longer go unnoticed.

“When we interviewed Karega & Felicia Gangloff-Bailey for Black Love after the loss of their daughter Kamaiu, we quickly realized that stories of loss, of grief, and of healing – whatever that looks like – need to be shared,” Co-Creator and Director of the Black Love docuseries, Codie Elaine Oliver, continues. “Knowing there is a Black maternal health crisis in America and that our families are losing mothers and babies 2-3 times more than white families, I noticed the there is a lot of talk about the crisis and silence about the lasting impact on our families. Who is reaching out to them?”

The prevalence of these disparities is finally being given the attention needed to address this problem head on, with research and policies that seek to find a solution. For decades the March of Dimes has made it their mission to end preventable maternal and infant deaths, as well as close the gap in health equity. According to the March of Dimes website, “We imagine a nation where every mom and every baby is healthy, regardless of wealth, race or geography. In light of recent national events, it is important to pause and reflect on our core mission- to tackle America’s maternal and infant health crisis, which is particularly devastating for underserved families of color.” 

Baby Kamaiu and the hands of her parents, Karega & Felicia Gangloff-Bailey (Photo courtesy of Adrian Octavius Walker)

The National Birth Equity Collaborative mission is similar, and the nonprofit seeks to create equity by offering racial equity training and a research scholars program. The director, Joia Crear-Perry, MD, explains, ”The assurance of the conditions of optimal births for all people with a willingness to address racial and social inequities in a sustained effort.” 

While work has to be done to protect the lives of Black babies and mothers, it is vital to take care of the growing number who are grieving. We must hold space for bereaved families. In partnership with the March of Dimes and NBEC, BlackLove.com has compiled resources for families who have experienced neonatal and maternal death in the form of support groups, grief counseling, and more. 

Sisters in Loss – A digital media platform and podcast dedicated to replacing silence with storytelling around pregnancy and infant loss and infertility of black women.  

Shades of Blue Project – An online support group that aims to break the stigma surrounding seeking treatment when experiencing complications after childbirth.

Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Initiative – A digital platform specifically for Black families grieving infant mortality. They offer healing support groups, a grief information guide, and education and wellness events.

Return to Zero: HOPE – A website providing services and support to parents who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss, even offering healing retreats for mothers, online communities, and resources for the family and friends of parents who have experienced infant loss.

Share Your Story – An online community created by the March of Dimes to share stories of infertility and child loss and create community.

The Compassionate Friends – A website and support group healing grieving parents who have lost a child at any age. 

M.E.N.D. Mommies Enduring Neonatal Death – A non-profit organization that reaches out to families who have suffered the loss of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant death.  

Grieve Out Loud – A holistic care & bereavement program led by women who have also overcome the traumas of neonatal loss. Their mission is to serve families touched by pregnancy loss or the death of an infant through the lengths of community building practices.   

Glow in the Woods – A platform with blog entries and essays from contributing writers who have experienced miscarriage or death of a newborn. 

Grieving Dads Project – A resource website for fathers to relieve their grievances through positive outlets rather than cover up their grief with grit. 

National Alliance for Grieving ChildrenA community building resource for children to connect with one another through networking programs and educational opportunities.

Healing EmbraceA support group that assists with care packages, financial support, companionship and special events to help heal those who’ve suffered from neonatal loss. 

Project Sweet Peas – A network of parents providing care packages of items originally purchased for their children. This page includes a list of resources geared toward helping parents overcome miscarriage & neonatal loss while also providing resources for financial assistance and perinatal diagnosis & care. 

Hand to Hold – A bereavement network that provides in-hospital programs, articles and blogs, podcasts, social networks and trained peer mentors.

2020 Moms – An organization built to provide policy and systems that protect advocacy and promote recommendations of hospitals, insurers and providers. 

Helping After Neonatal Death (HAND) – Peer support groups, Telephone support, Hospital visitation, Quarterly newsletter, Lending library, Website, Social Media, Community education, Publications, Service of Remembrance.

UNITE, Inc – Peer to Peer Grief Support Groups, Literature, Educational Programs, Training Workshops, Group Development Assistance

Remember the Babies – Las Vegas based nonprofit for grieving families that hosts events, shared storytelling and networking opportunities. 

Keys of Hope – Nonprofit offering grief counseling resources, sisterhood, family based fundraising and giving through the curation hope boxes.

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