Mama, here's why representation matters
BY LIZ THOMAS, KAREN HOLT, DIONNE LASHLEY AND JAYANTI NOOMI
All pictures by Karen Holt Photography
It was important to me to be able to capture these images because I’m all too aware that, sadly, when it comes to matters of maternal health - we are not all treated equally.
Recently a dear friend of mine appeared on a documentary in the UK called ‘The Black Maternity Scandal’ which explores the fact that black women are FOUR times more likely than white women to die during childbirth.
My friend, Naomi, courageously and gracefully spoke about the passing of her sister and it inspired me. We all need to use our voices for all women – for all mothers.
For me, using my voice means telling the stories of all women, through imagery. As someone of mixed heritage myself I’m all too aware what it is to be marginalised and I will strongly advocate that everyone should receive the same optimal care, treatment and advice.
Whilst I also acknowledge that not enough is done overall for mothers, to be marginalised within that is
unacceptable. Photographing these images feels like a statement of solidarity, inclusion and mothers
Liz Thomas, Founder, #ITTASTESLIKELOVE
EVERY step of the way, women of colour face greater risks and challenges in having and nurturing children. When we talk about breastfeeding, it's vital we talk about maternal healthcare and how the system consistently lets black women down.
🛑 Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US]
🛑 Black women are still four times more likely than white women to die in pregnancy or childbirth in the UK, and women from Asian ethnic backgrounds face twice the risk [MBR RACE Report, UK]
🛑 Black women are under treated for pain, with 40 percent of white medical trainees believing such myths as black people have thicker skin or less sensitive nerve endings than white people [AAMC, US]
🛑 Black mothers disproportionately experience a number of barriers to breastfeeding, including lack of peer, family, and social support; insufficient education and support from health care settings; concerns about navigating breastfeeding and employment [CDC, US]
There is so much work to be done to ensure equality and that people's own bias doesn't impact 1) diagnosis and 2) treatment.
We also have to ensure that bias isn't presented as medical fact (one of our recent blogs told of how one mother had been told that black women have tougher nipples so breastfeeding is less painful for them).
We have to highlight inequality to tackle it.
We have to show the experiences of women of colour so that the next generation can see themselves.
I am a firm believer that imagery and discussion drive change.
The more we see something - the more normal it becomes.
The more we talk about issues, the more people realise that we are not all starting from the same place.
Dionne Lashley, teacher and advocate for the positive birth movement
I came out of the shower one morning to see my girls, chests bared, one with a stuffed rabbit toy and the other a teddy bear, held as if they were suckling at the breast.
These days when they play "mummy and mummy", breastfeeding is always a feature. It's cute to be sure.
But beyond being cute, it's a symbol of the legacy of choice, agency and connection that I hope to pass on to them, and modelling breastfeeding is a powerful part of that.
The choice to breastfeed is, for me, a de-colonising act - a reclaiming of my body.
It's a choice I make whilst being fully aware of those before me who were not given that choice, and those today who still struggle to be seen and heard.
When it comes to feeding our children, we all make the choice that works best for us and our babies. Breastfeeding is not always an option.
One thing all moms should be able to do is nourish and feed our children in peace, whenever it is needed.
I haven't always felt comfortable to feed at anytime and anywhere.
This is why I support the beautiful work of “It Tastes Like Love”.
I am empowered by seeing mothers breastfeeding and reading their stories and hope I can do the same for others.