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Birthwork Tings: Aftershock

"The wellbeing of birth parents* is a bellwether for the wellbeing of society in general and that's why every injustice in our society shows up in reproductive health outcomes*" - Neel Shah, MD

*original quote says wellbeing of mothers and maternal health outcomes. I've amended the quote to reflect gender-inclusive language

Aftershock is a powerful depiction of reality for those birthing while Black in the United States. The documentary chronicles the experiences of the family members of the late Shamony Gibson and Amber Rose Isaac as they heal and grieve. Without trivializing the avoidable tragedies that cost Gibson and Rose Isaac the rest of their lives, they captured: the gravity of the epidemic of Black maternal mortality and how it could be combated both within and outside of the medical industrial complex, alternatives to care available to Black birthing people, and most importantly, the importance and impact of community care for those affected by this epidemic.

The health inequities plaguing our BIPOC communities are part of why I answered the call to birthwork and it is already difficult to know the problem exists the way it does. It is easy for projects like this one to miss the mark and end up as little more than trauma porn despite the best intentions; the filmmakers of Aftershock did not miss that mark. While the ripple effects of birth parents lost devastates families and strips communities of the blessings of life, we were also shown ripples of:

- medical professionals not only demanding better of themselves and their peers, but creating tools and guidelines for it to happen

- a Black mother in one of the most dangerous states to give birth accessing the standard of care she deserves and showing others that options exist

- those left behind finding the support necessary to not just carry on, but move forward.

I won't share all the appalling statistics, but I will point out that trans and gender non-confirming birthing parents, especially Black ones, are even more marginalized than cisgender Black birthing women. So much so that there is no data being collected on their behalf or in their interests. It is only logical to assume their birth outcomes are far worse.

Who should watch this film:

  • ALL medical providers who encounter birthing people from conception through postpartum

- Especially non-Black providers serving Black birthing persons

- Especially providers who were not trained regarding racial equity during their licensure training process

  • Supervisors and students at teaching hospitals that attend to births

  • Emergency response personnel who may encounter pregnant people

  • Legislators and medical professionals in states prohibiting abortion and those lobbying in defense of the ban in the interest of Black lives

  • Anyone who cares about the health and stability of our communities

  • Health insurance providers who have the authority and responsibility to audit hospitals and birth centers

  • Local, state, and federal government representatives who have a responsibility to their constituents and wish to promote their locale as a safe and ideal place to work, live, and raise children

  • Anyone who knows someone who may someday become pregnant

  • Non-Black doulas and midwives genuinely committed to better birth outcomes across the board

If you are pregnant, in the immediate post-partum phase, or breastfeeding/lactating, you want to minimize exposure to things that may trigger you. Here are some ways you can still engage this film:

  • Request that your care providers watch and/or explain how they personally offer care with consideration of the Black maternal mortality epidemic

* Know that you can and should change providers at any time if you find the experience unsatisfactory

  • If you have a doula or midwife they should be ready and able to explain how they protect and support their clients amidst a Black maternal mortality epidemic

*Especially if you are Black, Latino, Indigenous, Asian, and your care providers are not

  • Have someone on your support team (partner, parent, doula, midwife, baby's god/grandparents, sibling, close friend) watch for you and tell you about it MINUS THE STATISTICS and without recounting the traumatic experience in detail

* have them communicate what they learned about what to ask or look for regarding quality care from providers or choosing a birth location

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