You all have heard me talk about wellness before; it comes in many forms, from self-care and being kind to yourself to finding five minutes in the day to relax or play with the kids. Well, today I want to go a little farther into it, but I also want to center this idea around one group of people: Women.
Because no matter what group I’m talking about, women’s lives affect all of ours too. And as Women’s History Month begins, I thought I could go into something we really don’t talk about enough.
A few years back, my Multicultural Health class went into some really interesting topics like stereotypes in Whistling Vivaldi and disproportionate rates of diabetes within Native American communities. Some of these ideas surprised me because I didn’t know connections like the ones they go into existed, that some predispositions are hard to trace back and some stereotypes physically impact us too. But, when it comes to our health, there are a lot of things we cannot control, nor can we see them coming.
With women, however, there is one thing that will always be relevant: pregnancy. Through that class I took, the biggest surprise that I knew nothing about was a large inequality in birth-rates for women of color compared to white women—not that it’s something I was truly concerned about at the time, the numbers still scared me as a college freshman because to a certain extent, it doesn’t only reflect on healthcare around pregnancy. It says a whole lot more.
The way each of us treats our bodies or how we are treated by medical professionals will change the way we live the rest of our lives whether we realize that or not. Eating too many things with sugar or drinking too much coffee can compromise my pancreas and my arteries later on in life. Though it may not seem as connected, even the amount of sleep we get and how much water we drink or the stress we put ourselves under and how social we are can impact the rest of our lives and what wellness looks like. Think about it like me shooting myself in the foot right now and wondering why it hurts later… There’s an impact regardless of when we feel it.
So why are some of the standards we have for general care when it comes to things like stress or even pain relief different depending on what we look like? Unfortunately, that difference comes down to a life or death decision very quickly for some women.
A few weeks ago, I did a book review on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and spoke about its depiction of an unequal system when it came to medical care for black people and specifically, black women. Well, in an article written last month by Monifa Bandele, it turns out in the United States, “the situation for pregnant women is now worse than it was in the 1850s.”
So, what does this mean and why am I telling you?
If we want to go by the numbers, this means that with a 60% preventable rate reported by the CDC, approximately 900 women die each year of pregnancy-related causes in the United States. Black women are four times a part of that 900 than white women are.
If we’re going by the bigger picture here, all of this really just means that we are not treating mothers correctly within healthcare. Plain and simple; it just has a much less plain or simple impact. Some well-known mothers have spoken out about it here in 2018, like Serena Williams and Beyoncé, but this situation is are not getting better.
And if things are not getting better for mothers—especially mothers of color—things are not getting better for the rest of us either. Here’s why:
We all know how the sex talk goes and how babies are made, that’s not the point. What I don’t think we realize beyond this is what those numbers and those stories say about those babies or the women who bring them into the world. I’ve talked about wellness again and again because, the last time I checked, we only have one life and one body to live this life in.
But if the people who are bringing new lives into the world are systematically being let down and left to possibly die, what does that say about our value for life in the first place?
When I tell you all to take care of yourselves or find time to wind down at night, I don’t just say it for fun. I say it because every one of our lives is valuable, even in a system that traditionally only values some.
The thing is, I don’t even bring this up today to ask you to take care of yourselves; if you’re going to do it, you’ll do it for your own life and the care you deserve from yourself. Today, I’m asking you to consider caring about each other. With people getting sick (and I mean simple cold sick too, it’s finals season on the quarter system, wash your hands please) and the world more politically charged than I think we recognize, people are forgetting to look out for one another.
If we forget to look out for each other, we forget that our lives depend on the lives of those around us too.
In the same way that how we eat, sleep, or work on a daily basis affects how well we can do each, our society mirrors this. The way we talk to, about, and interact with one another is just one reflection of how well we all work together as a society. If we have a healthy society that can communicate properly and offer genuine concern for the wellbeing of our neighbors, maybe that can extend to places like healthcare. If we can’t do that, we fail to value the lives of the people in this world around us and ultimately, we’re letting each other die in the process.
Though it may not seem like it, men are not the only ones at the center of the way this world works. There are men, women, female- identified, male-identified, non-binary, and so many more people pushing through to do what they need to do every day in order to keep our world turning. We need to recognize that. We need to understand that without women—without healthy women—we have no healthy life.
I don’t know about you, but I kind of like the idea of healthy and happy babies that look like every one of us, not just some of us. The same goes for the mothers. Such systematic issues can only change if we do.
Today I want you to think about wellness and then consider what that looks like for those around you. Be aware of what you eat, how you speak to others, and how what you do impacts the lives that intersect with yours. Sometimes it can be a small thing, like holding a door open or saying thank you to a bus driver. Sometimes, it can be bigger, like advocating for the woman in pain, sitting in the waiting room, who just isn’t getting the attention she needs. Take care of each other, because when you do that, you’re taking care of yourself too. There’s a balance in there, but today, I’m asking you to look for it.
Maybe then, the country can find a better balance for healthcare standards in the process. After all, it’s Women’s History Month and though I may not focus this month’s posts around that, our world revolves around life and I wanted to acknowledge that today. Why not pay attention to it?
Happy Friday, and I will see you on Tuesday for Poetry Place. Take care.