For Emmy Eide, having support after the birth of her baby was essential. Fortunately, she had parental leave benefits through her employer, a privilege not all new parents have.
The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world without a federally mandated parental leave program. To help change that, Eide decided to fight for birth justice and help new parents receive access to much-needed support. In particular, she decided to focus on supporting Black parents-to-be — the demographic in need of most help.
In 2020, Eide helped create Equity Before Birth (EBB). “Amid the chaos surrounding birthing as a Black person is the national housing crisis, lack of paid parental leave, a pandemic, systemic racism woven into the fabric of our society, and overall financial insecurity of a majority of the United States,” Eide tells CircleAround.
According to its website, “EBB is fighting racial inequity by providing paid parental leave opportunities and increasing access to care options for qualifying Black parents-to-be. Our donors and partners enable us to provide sponsorship that helps pare
nts experience less stress during and after pregnancy, increase baby bonding time, and promotes all-around better health for the entire family.”
To learn more about EBB and the types of resources and support they provide for Black parents-to-be, CircleAround spoke with Eide and EBB’s executive director, Joy Spencer.
How are Black parents-to-be disproportionately and negatively impacted by the health care system?
Emmy Eide: One of the most shocking things for me is that mortality rates are getting worse. … Any of us birthers are more likely to die in the U.S. today than you were 20 and 30 years ago. We are in a crisis and having difficulty figuring out how to talk about it.
Now, if you take this understanding of the situation and throw systemic racism on top of it, it is a recipe for disaster. White medical professionals are less likely to listen to pain claims from Black patients. White medical professionals are more likely to think a Black patient is drug-seeking. [...] Black babies are three times more likely to die when cared for by a white doctor. There have been countless studies in the last several years quantifying this data. And it all adds up to why Black birthers are dying three to four times more often than their white and Hispanic counterparts and why 60 percent of maternal-related deaths are considered preventable. The worst part is that most of the U.S. doesn’t even know about it.
Joy Spencer: Unless you carry the personal experience, I do not think the general public understands the impact of not being able to access the care of your choice or being ignored in a medical setting. Sometimes, being ignored translates into the cause of death. I urge everyone to trust and listen to Black women, Black birthing people, and all other individuals when a need is expressed.
How is EBB helping to combat these issues?
Eide: We are working to lower rates of stress, job insecurity, and improve overall well-being by supporting people in the way they need it. We provide sponsorships to Black birthers for use however they see fit. We do not dictate what they do with their money, just as their employer would not. Some people need help with bills, and some need to get stable housing in order to keep their new baby.
Spencer: We are connecting families with support, care, and education that is culturally congruent and affirming. Recent statistics show that when Black doctors care for Black babies, the infant mortality rate is cut in half. Having access to care that aligns with your values and culture is extremely important and could be a matter of life or death.
What can we do to help parents in our own communities?
Spencer: Take steps to form genuine and authentic relationships with people of color and people from diverse walks of life. Once we establish relationships, we can work on building trust, and through trust, we can begin to listen and gather more information about what families need to help overcome challenges in our communities.
One of the easiest ways to get involved is to support existing efforts. Lend time, money, and other resources to community leaders, residents, and organizations that are already doing the work…. For Equity Before Birth, we can always use volunteers, donations, and ambassadors who spread the word about our mission.
Eide: This support allows people to heal, bond, and form healthy attachments that will prevent generations of trauma from occurring. It also helps people to return to work when they are healthy and ready. This decreases job turnover and is less expensive for the employer. The positive impact of paid parental leave is unimaginable.
The Bottom Line
Thanks to organizations such as EBB, Black parents-to-be can have access to the resources and support they need. By helping the demographic that needs it most, EBB is leveling the playing field and bringing birth justice to all. As Eide says, “Supporting people when they are most vulnerable is how we grow stronger as a community and a nation.”