Black physicians can help rebuild the broken trust in Black maternal health

Opinion: Linara Davidson Greenidge, mother of two boys, recounts how a Black doctor helped restore her faith in physicians in maternal health.

Black pregnant woman x doctor
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

“What makes her unique?” What about her previous experience giving birth should we consider?” 

The reality is that I am not unique. I am just another Black woman who has been failed by a system that was not created for me, yet would not exist without me. A Black woman whose humanity is difficult for some to see. I am a Black woman who almost gave birth to my firstborn son on a toilet in my hospital room at 29 weeks pregnant to subsequently spend 54 days in the NICU watching my baby fight for his life.

(Photo: Courtesy of Linara Davidson Greenidge)

This is all because of a system that still trains their physicians on ideas that dismiss us of our humanity. There is nothing unique about my story, and yet, my OBGYN, a Black woman, still cared for me in a manner that made me feel special. Her years of practicing medicine have not desensitized her connection to the pain and fear that many of her patients walk into her office with. Instead, she provides a comforting space for us to rest our burdens as we participate in one of the most sacred acts imaginable. 

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I listened, intently, to see if her resident would be able to answer her questions. To see if he could instinctively read my chart and create the context she was requesting. What is unique about a 38-year-old Black woman who suffers from fibroids, that gave birth in November 2019 at 29 weeks to a baby who was born 2 pounds and 14 ounces? I was hopeful that he understood he didn’t have to be a Black woman in order to attempt to get inside my world, he just had to be willing to see me. 

He could not see me. He had no clue how to answer the question. He couldn’t get past my chart though he was well-intentioned. I was merely someone who said yes to allowing him to have a bit more training — one step closer to being able to actually deliver a baby himself.

“The last time she gave birth, her baby was 2 pounds. And she didn’t know that she was giving birth. She was probably really scared then. Now, she is quite aware that she is about to deliver a beautiful baby boy, and she’s never had to deliver a baby this size. We must treat it like it’s her first time giving birth even though it’s her second baby. Are you ready to meet your son, mom?” 

For the first time in my 38 years, a doctor was able to articulate for me what I knew to be true before I gained the courage to say it myself. Her care enabled my husband to take off his armour and be fully present as just a dad welcoming his third child into the world. My doctor was both my physician and advocate who ensured everyone in that delivery room recognized my humanity. 

(Photo: Courtesy of Linara Davidson Greenidge)

All residents need to be trained by Black women physicians. 

For Black Maternal Health Week, I celebrate the Black women in the field rebuilding the trust that has been broken for us Black girls time and time again. Thank you for seeing me, and for training OTHERS to see me. For institutions that do not currently have Black women physicians on staff, I strongly encourage you to find ways to have guest lecturers (that you pay equitably) speak and train your students. Doing so will potentially create a generation of doctors that will contribute to the dismantling of institutional racism within the medical field. 

Now that my two beautiful Black boys are here and alive, I will spend the rest of my life contemplating how best to ensure that you, United States of America, don’t literally and figuratively, murder them. 

Linara Davidson Greenidge,

Linara Davidson Greenidge is a public affairs executive with expertise in fundraising, communications, political strategy and community engagement. She is currently the Chief Operating Officer for Development and External Affairs at East Harlem Tutorial Program, Inc. 

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