How One Mom Is Taking on the Black Maternal Health Crisis
Giving birth should be a joyful experience. Yet, for far too many Black parents, it’s a terrifying one. The tragic reality is that Black mothers are dying at three to four times the rate of their white counterpoints. (In New York City, that number jumps to eight times the rate.) What’s more, Black babies are twice as likely to die before their first birthdays. This staggering disparity is seen at all income levels.
But Rachel Nicks is not daunted by the enormity of the Black maternal mortality crisis. Instead, she decided to help tackle it by forming the nonprofit Birth Queen, that works to educate, support, and empower Black women, parents, a birthing professionals.
How Birth Queen Came To Be
Pregnant with her second son and busy raising her first, June 2020 hit Rachel hard.
“I was not a take it to the ’gram kind of girl, but 2020 was intense. I was pregnant with Baldwin when George Floyd happened,” she remembers. “I was having a lot of anxiety. I wanted to be part of the solution and not live in the trauma of race relations as a Black mother to Black sons.” Rachel was worried about bringing a Black son into the world and she was worried about Black parents and parents-to-be. “Black mothers are afraid to die. Can you imagine entering this situation and thinking you will die [in childbirth]? Because that’s what it is,” says Rachel. “Then when you hear the [Black maternal mortality] statistics, you can get paralyzed.”
But that’s not what happened to Rachel. The overwhelming numbers motivated her. The Juilliard-trained actress decided to tap her skills to try and make a difference. After all, Rachel is a certified trainer, specializing in pre- and postnatal fitness, she’s a doula, and she’s a lactation counselor—making her at least a quadruple-threat, by our count! Because so much of Rachel’s passion and her previous work centered on motherhood, directing her talents and energy toward Black maternal health was a no-brainer. Rachel realized she was uniquely qualified to improve Black birthing experiences.
How Birth Queen Is Making a Difference
Rachel fully understands that combating Black maternal mortality is a big job...“but I know the fix,” she says. “Give Black women education and support in terms of doulas, lactation counselors, midwives, and birth workers.” Rachel simply had to connect parents in need to professional who could offer help.
“[Black birthing professionals] knew how important it was to feel educated and empowered on this journey, so I asked them, Can you give this to someone else right now? And so many said Yes,” says Rachel. “People can be part of the solution, and Birth Queen gives them ways to do that.”
Today, Birth Queen not only provides education and support, but training and funding for all types of Black birth workers. Plus, Birth Queen connects Black parents-to-be with those services, to ensure they are safe, supported, empowered, and able to experience a healthy, successful birth.
What’s Next for Birth Queen?
While addressing the Black maternal health crisis is at the heart of Birth Queen’s mission, that’s simply the starting point. “Saving lives so Black women can survive is just the baseline,” says Rachel. “Of course, women shouldn’t fear for their lives while giving birth, but we also have the right to live and relish in femininity, beauty, and abundance, so that’s a large focus, too.”
Visit birthqueen.org to donate directly to Birth Queen, learn about organizations, initiatives, and midwives tackling this issue, or get support for yourself.
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.