Becoming a mother is one of the most beautiful moments of a woman’s life. It doesn’t matter if you gave birth, adopted or became a stepmother; whether it’s your first child or your fifth. It’s a time to be celebrated by all.
However, for black women, it seems that isn’t the case. Unlike our counterparts from other races, black women are often shamed for their pregnancies. Is there a rampant epidemic of single-parent homes in the black community? Yes, it is. But are black women solely at fault for that? No. (unless I am mistaken, the immaculate conception was a one time deal, and hasn’t happened in thousands of years).
Before I continue, let me say this (because I know it’s coming). All mothers face certain challenges. All mothers have issues when it comes to support. But that is not what this is about. This is about very specific problems that black mothers face and that frankly are caused by our own community. So if you going to “all moms matter” this post, please go ahead and exit.
For some reason, the burden of fatherless homes, the child support system, government benefits, gang violence, black poverty and so forth, all fall on the shoulders of black women. We are the ones at fault for everything wrong in our community. (Those darn “degree’s” that we obtained through higher education, I guess we should have worked on nation-building instead).
Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.-Nissan Panwar
For black women, especially those who have children prior to marriage; it seems as if certain elements of society want us to be relegated to a baby mama role. Even for married black women who choose to have large families, we are often stereotyped and it assumed that the children are by multiple men and that we must live off of the system.
It seems as if more and more, people have forgotten that black love and marriage does in fact exist.
Being Married Doesn’t Seem To Matter
While millions of fans from around the world congratulated Ciara and Russell Wilson on their pregnancy, there were those who, well let’s just say, felt the need to be unnecessarily negative. With comments such as:
“Ciara’s a hoe.”
“She’s pregnant already?”
If you are anything like me, you probably had to take a moment to process this.
My guess is the people who resorted to these types of comments, most likely were not exposed to nor ever witnessed, a woman going from single mother finding love and getting married; therefore in their eyes, this is something out of the realm of possibility.
Single mother to a married woman. It’s not a unicorn, nor a yeti. This concept actually exists and happens more often than not.
So why are we treated as if we have done something wrong once we find love? I wish I had the answer to this. Our community has a lot of work when it comes to respecting black women as whole, regardless of their marital status.
The Curiosity of Strangers
When speaking about black mothers being shamed, I would be remiss if I did not mention Beyonce. This is a woman, who has had her share of pregnancy ups and downs (being very open about her heartbreak after her miscarriage) while enduring a love/hate relationship with the media (and internet trolls). With the simple (yet simple), pregnancy announcement, accompanied by a series of photos released the next day, the internet went wild with criticism. Article after article talked about how classless and tasteless the photos were. For those who didn’t get it, I would like to say if you are going to write about how black culture, please take the time to understand it. Side note: saying that you were a history major in college doesn’t mean you understand it.
I would like to point out two pieces of criticism in particular. The first, written by Leandra Medine, in which she decided to chastise Beyonce for her announcement, saying that it was painful to women who are struggling to get pregnant or those who have suffered a loss themselves, and perhaps Beyonce should have remained more humble. Humble? The author is criticizing the way a celebrity decides to celebrate her pregnancy while publishing this on a blog, that as one commenter pointed out “promotes wildly expensive clothing that’s certainly out of the reach for most readers.” Medine, who apparently did not research prior to writing this, did not understand that Beyonce herself talked about her first pregnancy loss in 2011 in her documentary “Life Is But A Dream”. I wholeheartedly sympathize with any woman who has suffered pregnancy loss, however, two weeks ago, there was no uproar about Natalie Portman’s Vanity Fair photo spread, in which she decided to channel Demi Moore. Why? That is a question I will save for Medine and the next author.
The second piece, written for the Independent, actually talks about how the author herself copied Moore’s iconic VF photo but goes on to point out the flaws with Beyonce’s flawless photo. Got damn, got damn, got damn. What this author is forgetting is that not every pregnancy is the same. Not everyone gets acne and stretch marks. And when you have millions, you can ensure that you don’t get those things as well. We all know her first pregnancy was riddled with one conspiracy after the other. Whether you choose to believe she had a surrogate or not, the bigger question is, what does it matter to you? No matter how the child is conceived, motherhood is to be celebrated. Not only that, there are millions of women, white, black, Hispanic, and Asian, who are not comfortable admitting their infertility issues. For some it makes them feel incomplete or less than a woman. *If* this were the case for Beyonce, who are we to judge how she went about her first pregnancy.
Beyonce has come to represent the joy and power of black motherhood for somewomen. I just have to point out, if you think that anything Beyonce does, is without layers of symbolism, thought and meaning, then you have no idea what true artistry is. However, this is bigger than just Beyonce. Black women are at a higher risk of experiencing issues during their pregnancies than that of white women. This is due to many factors, but most notably the lack of access to quality maternity and overall healthcare needs.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), black women are dying during pregnancy, childbirth, and the year immediately following childbirth at nearly four times the rate of white women. While poor women are at greater risk of dying than women who have higher incomes, the disparity between black and white women is consistent at all income levels.”
Big Families=Automatic Ridicule
We received multiple negative, vulgar comments such as “you need to learn how to keep your legs closed,” “breeding like animals,” “you’re selfish to keep having all those kids,” “birth control is an option,” “his pull out game is weak,” “keep her pregnant and barefooted,” “Black people always making babies but be the main ones who can’t take care of them,” “she gon be stuck with all the kids when he leaves her,”-Martavia Wynn
These types of incidents are not exclusive to just Ciara nor Beyonce. NFL wife Martavia Wynn was met with similar comments when she announced their pregnancy via Instagram. Comments ranging from her needing to use birth control, and keeping her legs closed (similar to that of what Ciara received), were left under her picture. It seems as if married or single, black mothers are constantly being undermined in one way or another. (You can read Wynn’s thoughts on this in her full interview with My Brown Baby . Also, thank you to her for allowing me to use her photo)
Being a mom of five, I have faced my fair share of criticism as well. I remember all of the nasty looks I received while I was pregnant with Aaryn and all of the passive aggressive comments. It can very hurtful. Especially when it comes from family.
While the average family size in America is not as big as it was fifty years ago, there seems to still be love for big families; but only if you are white. Shows like “Big Love”, “Kate Plus Eight” or “Out Daughtered” are met with open arms, while in real life for black women they are often met with scorn or asked questions such as “do they all have the same father?”
This isn’t to say that doesn’t happen to women who are white, as I know plenty of white women who experience the same invasive questions. However, it makes one wonder, why are people so comfortable being outwardly ignorant. But that is a question for another time.
Being happily married isn’t something that is only designed for the childless or white, Hispanic or Asian women. Believe it or not, black women deserve happiness, marriage, and a healthy, happy, STABLE family life as well.
Love of impromptu dance parties, 80’s cartoons, and horizontal life pauses (aka naps); Natasha Brown is a stay at home mom of 4 kids, and wife to one lucky guy! In her spare time, she is co-editor of Grits & Grace, as well as editor for The Mother Hustler Blog and Creative Director for the Mother Hustler podcast.