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Black Moms Matter: Deeaundra Hutchins

Black Moms Matter: Deeaundra Hutchins

Megan Weathers

I got to chat with Deeaundra Hutchins – a wife, student, employee, and soon-to-be mamma – to kick off my new Faces of Motherhood series. I want to use this space to show the world that motherhood looks different to everyone, but at the end of day, motherhood is also what brings us together. In the words of author Nefertiti Austin, “Let’s respect and appreciate our differences, because there is nothing more universal than a mother’s love for her child.”

I met Dee through my husband’s friend, Justin. Dee and Justin have been married for two years. They recently moved from Little Rock, AR to Bentonville, AR back in February 2020. She is currently going to school to get her Masters of Arts degree in Teaching at John Brown University with the goal of teaching high school biology. She also works full time at the Walmart Call Center, and has a blog called It’s Gonna Be Great. In May, Dee was surprised with another big life change, she was pregnant!

At 24 weeks pregnant at the time of this interview, my new and very introverted friend, opens up and shares her fears and anxieties with me about pregnancy and motherhood.  When I asked what anxieties she had about becoming a mom, and her response was simply “Lord Jesus, just let me keep her alive”, I knew we were going to have a very vulnerable conversation.

Dee has experienced a lot of anxiety during her pregnancy – primarily around fears of her baby’s health and safety. She told me, “My anxieties and fears stopped me from being excited” – not until about 16 weeks did she really allow herself permission to start feeling joy and excitement.

On the other hand, my experience was a little different. I was excited and had little anxiety at the beginning of my pregnancy. My anxiety and fears came after I found out our little nugget was a baby girl. Once she had a gender, and a name, it made everything that much more real. I was really scared if something bad happened after that point, that I’d be even more devastated. She became more a part of me.

When Dee got pregnant, she was looking for gynecologists in the area. She asked who I saw, and then asked if she had many black patients. I found this really interesting, and it actually caught me off guard. After doing some research, I learned that according to the AHA and the CDC, black women are 3-4 times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes than white women…. This is why Dee was doing her research in finding the RIGHT doctor for her. “You are interviewing doctors. If you get there and don’t like them, don’t feel bad about changing doctors.”, she says.

According to the AHA and the CDC, black women are 3-4 times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes than white women.

I asked Dee why she thought the mortality rate was so much higher for black women than white women, she explained how it comes down to fewer resources for moms in the black community. Not only does it come down to lack of access to health care, but also overall fear and lack of trust in doctors. Dee has a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Education and has worked in community settings for a hospital. She knows racial profiling and bias exist in the medical field. She knows of women who never go to the doctor during their pregnancy. She knows of women who go to the doctor during their pregnancy but are dismissed of their symptoms due to racial bias.

As mentioned earlier, Dee had a list of interview questions for her doctor – like how do you monitor blood loss after delivery, and what are the signs of pre-eclampsia? She’s heard horror stories of black women dying after childbirth due to blood loss. The husbands tell the story, because the mom is no longer there to speak her truth, that the mom was feeling bad and explaining that something wasn’t right, but the doctor dismissed it. Dee has had the resources to stand up and ask these questions, but not all women have that or that feeling of empowerment. Too many women don’t have the resources to feel empowered to stand up for themselves, or the knowledge to even know what questions to ask and what to look out for.

Too many women don’t have the resources to feel empowered to stand up for themselves, or the knowledge to even know what questions to ask and what to look out for.

Dee also tells me that she doesn’t think black women are aware of the huge discrepancies between the care they are getting compared to white women. She actually thinks this disparity results in the overall poor health of the black community. Dee’s dad has been a nurse for 10+ years. He worked in cardiac ICU for most of that time, and he has first-hand experience with racism in the hospital. She explains how her dad would tell her that doctors don’t take the extra time with black patients, and that there is an assumption that black men have a higher level of pain tolerance, so they aren’t given as high of a dose of pain medications than a white man. Dee explains to me that a lot of racial bias and profiling is inherent, it’s learned behavior about the black community that has been passed on from years and years of racist culture. In my mind, this still doesn’t make it acceptable, but it shows we have a lot of room to educate ourselves.

Our society gets so narrow minded when it comes to race. Let’s take a second to think about systemic racism, and how this plays a huge role in the black community. According to a study done in April 2019 by, nearly 14% of black women are uninsured (compared to only 8% of white women). More than likely, these women are uninsured because they don’t have a good job that offers insurance. They don’t have this job because they not only couldn’t afford college, but they couldn’t afford the ACT or the high application submission fee that the college charged. They couldn’t afford these fees because their parents were stuck in the exact same cycle growing up.

I asked Dee, “what can we do from the beginning to break this cycle?”

She tells me, “I think it almost feels helpless because there are so many different things into play that you're like, where do we even start? I think the bottom line is providing more resources in every avenue that we can.”

I read an article by Amani Echols, Intern, ACLU Women's Rights Project, that stated “Black women are also more likely to experience in-hospital formula introduction, which is associated with lowered breastfeeding rates. The relatively low breastfeeding rate for Black people is a product of systemic racism that contributes to the overall poor Black maternal and infant health outcomes.” I asked Dee about this, and she explained how she doesn’t hear much about breastfeeding. Her mom never talked about it, and her and her sister were both formula-fed babies. “I want to breastfeed, I want to try. I have insurance that provides a free breast pump and lactation appointments but not everyone has those resources and that support.”, she tells me.

When I was pregnant, breastfeeding support and stories were everywhere. My mom talked about how she breastfed both my brother and I, my co-workers shared their breastfeeding journeys, and my doctor even shared her experience. I definitely see a cultural difference in this topic, and I think it goes back to that systemic racial cycle. Even if Mom does choose to breastfeed there is a high likelihood that she doesn’t have a breast pump to be able to send milk to daycare, or she doesn’t get fair breaks and a safe and sanitary place to pump at work. Dee and I will have delivered at the same hospital, so it’ll be interesting to see the similarities/differences. I hope it’s equal.

My next question to Dee was, “Do you feel black women are underrepresented in parenting self-help books, blogs, podcasts? I read this book called Motherhood So White, and it really opened my eyes to how, when we think about mothers, we picture a middle-class white woman because that is what we see on every book cover, website, baby registry form, advertisements.”

When we think about mothers, we picture a middle-class white woman because that is what we see on every book cover, website, baby registry form, advertisements.

“I feel like America is like, this is what we want to see, so this is what is always shown”. She has struggled to find blogs and books written by a black woman. Her saving grace has actually been community Facebook groups, and following black women OB’s on Instagram who are trying to share education and resources.

When it comes to racial disparities, Dee tells me, “I feel like you can talk all day, but black people are not going to be the people to make the change.” The {white} people in power have to be willing to make the change – they have to WANT to make the change and make our country diverse. Our country is dominated by white men, old white men actually, who are making all the decisions. This problem of racial injustice doesn’t apply to them, so they can’t even fathom that it is happening.

“I feel like you can talk all day, but black people are not going to be the people to make the change.”

Dee describes her husband as “very white”. I can’t help but laugh out loud. She once posted on social media, “I can’t help that I fell in love with a man, and he is white.” This prompted me to ask her if she ever felt like the black community judges her for falling in love with someone that is white? Her answer was simple, "Yes". She thinks about raising her bi-racial baby girl and how she will have to defend herself to both races.

I asked if Dee’s childhood and upbringing differed greatly from her husbands (since he is a white male). “I think people expect there to be a huge cultural difference, but Justin’s family share a lot of the same qualities that my family does”, she tells me. Just because we are white and black doesn’t mean we are significantly different – doesn’t mean our values are much different. We have so many community similarities but our society and world want us to think differently.

Growing up, racism wasn’t something Dee’s family ever really talked about. It wasn’t ever said, “Because you are black you have to work twice as hard”. It was just expected that Dee and her sister would do well and it would require hard work. Dee’s mom is in the military, so she understands hard work and being the most underrepresented person in the room (being surrounded by primarily white men in charge when she is a black woman).

But there wasn’t a lot of social media when Dee was being raised, so there wasn’t as much open dialogue about racism. Now, Dee tells me that she doesn’t think it’s a choice to avoid the tough conversations because her daughter is going to see and hear it clearly. She says, “How do you keep your child’s innocence while also preparing them?” I found this to be a connection with the Motherhood So White book. The author, Nefertiti Austin, said the same thing about black boys having to grow up so fast. She says, “Black children were perceived to be four-and-a-half times older than white children of the same age. This shortened period of innocence meant less time to spend nurturing warmth and affection, as the focus of parents of Black kids would soon turn to keeping our sons away from gangs, fast women, and drugs. We would speed up the maturation process believing that if he lived to see eighteen, then twenty-one, and the magic number twenty-five, he would have a chance to live, maybe even have a shot at the American dream.” - pg.190

“If I want my kids to come home safe and unharmed, I have to prepare them.”, Dee says.

It’s really sad to me that I have to ask Dee these questions about how she plans on teaching her child how to deal with the racial challenges she’ll face, because if this interview was flipped, she’d never ask me those questions.

I want to end, as I started, on a beautiful quote from Nefertiti Austin in her book Motherhood So White. She says “Let’s respect and appreciate our differences, because there is nothing more universal than a mother’s love for her child.” When asking Dee how this makes her feel, she says, “It gives me hope, we have these similarities that let you know our differences are not so big that we need to hate each other. Motherhood is something that makes you see the world differently, feel the world differently. It’s very powerful. It’s the perfect thing for people to come together on.”

Everyone does Motherhood different, but at the end of the day, everyone wants their child to be loved, to be healthy, to be happy. No race, gender, or religion can separate that.