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A ‘RAY’ OF HOPE: Support growing for Black mothers who experience stillbirths – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 2021-12-03 10:55:24 –

RUTHIE WALKER, Standing next to her custom-made slow blanket in Stanton Heights, celebrating the life of her stillborn grandson, Raymond Akireager. The Baby Ray Foundation is now established to help black families receive mental health services after the death of a baby in stillbirth. (Photo by Rob Taylor Jr.)

Raymond Ager was used to having football in his hands, but there is no such thing as this particular football.

On this day, September 12, 2020, instead of wearing the Commodores uniform at Perry High School, he was surrounded by his wife Tasha and 60 other long-awaited family, friends, and supporters, and punted the habit. I’m trying. I made a football that explodes with pink or blue material.

Some of the audience at the “Touchdownsor Tutus” gender show party at Monroeville Park on Saturday afternoon in September wanted to see pink fill the air. girl. Others wanted to see only the boy’s blue.

When Raymond Ager kicked the football, it collapsed and a blue substance filled the sky.

Delight has begun. Everyone was crazy about it. Tasha and Rei had their first child, a boy, together.

Less than a month later, Tasha, Ray, and Ray’s mother, Lucy Walker, left Auckland’s UPMC Maggie Women’s Hospital with only clothes on her back. They said “Baby Ray”, Raymond Akill Ager, the final farewell.

“Baby Ray” was stillborn.

TASHA AND RAY AGER, This photo at the Gender Show Party in September 2020. My son Baby Ray was stillborn.

Stillbirth is death Loss of babies before or during childbirth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Miscarriage and stillbirth represent the loss of pregnancy, but according to the CDC, miscarriage is usually defined as the loss of a baby before 20 weeks of gestation, and stillbirth is defined as the loss of a baby after 20 weeks of gestation.

According to a recent CDC study, black mothers are more than twice as likely to experience stillbirth as white and Hispanic mothers. The results of the 2015-2017 CDC study cited health problems or underlying health conditions that occurred during pregnancy as the cause of stillbirth three times more often in black mothers than in white mothers. Was done.

In the UK, the data show the same conclusion. According to the BBC report, black mothers there experienced stillbirths at a rate of 7.23 for every 1,000 births in 2019, while white mothers experienced stillbirths at a rate of 3.22.

In Pennsylvania, the incidence of stillbirth is higher than the national average, with about 800 stillbirths occurring each year in the state. In Allegheny County, black mothers experience stillbirths at a rate of 9.0 per 1,000, more than double the rate at which white mothers experience stillbirths (4.4 per 1,000).

For some mothers, they internalize stillbirth as their fault and suffer deep emotional distress. Some people don’t want to talk about their experience. Walker decided to honor his grandson at an event titled “Ray of Hope” on October 30, just one year after Baby Ray’s funeral took place. Baby Ray’s funeral took place at the White Memorial Chapel in Wilkinsburg. The “Ray of Hope” event was held at the Sto-Rox Public Library.

Walker told New Pittsburgh Courier that he felt forced to create a fund-raising event to draw attention to black mothers in need of mental health services and support from Doula during pregnancy and childbirth-related crises. .. She said too often, for example, during a stillbirth, miscarriage, or during a healthy postnatal period, a black mother is left without professional assistance. Doula is a professional labor assistant that provides physical and mental support to pregnant, childbirth and postnatal women.

Walker is “immeasurable” for Heather Bradley, founder and executive director of the Pittsburgh Bereavement Doula Organization, to help her, her son, and daughter-in-law from the day before giving birth to Baby Ray on October 3, 2020. I praised him for playing the role of “no”. And until that day, the three left Baby Ray permanently in the hospital (October 6, 2020).

“She (Heather) gave me another perspective,” Walker said. “She admitted that he wasn’t going to live, but this is when you hear his heartbeat, you feel his touch, he reacts to your touch, and kicks and moves. He said he was the one who even responded to your voice by doing something like that. “

Prior to Bradley’s involvement, Walker said her family had no expert help on how to mourn after learning about a heartless baby on September 30, 2020.

Brand Gentry, Founder of Oli’s Angels Doula Service. She experienced a stillbirth in 2010. The hand of his son Oliver Preston is also drawn.

The lack of expert help was the reason for making Brandi Gentry a Certified Doula. At the age of 23, Bradock’s natives were set to give birth to their first child, a boy, when she also experienced a stillbirth. On Christmas Day 2010, a doctor shared with her that a heartbeat was not found in the little Oliver Preston, and later that night he was stillborn.

“I couldn’t get support services for myself and my family,” Gentry told Courier. “I was forced to make a very unfamiliar and very difficult decision, whether I wanted to hug my baby, hug my baby, or something else that wasn’t an option (in traditional childbirth).”

Gentry had to even decide whether to have a funeral for Oliver, which she finally decided positively. “But in the black community, that wasn’t the case,” she said. “I kept listening.’Wow, I’ve never heard of it’, or’I didn’t even know it was an option.'”

In 2014, Gentry received Doula certification and named her organization “Oli’s Angels” after her late son, whose nickname was “Oli P”.

Iyana Bridge Leading the birth hut. She is a certified doula.

Currently, she is one of the leading African-American doulas in the region and is affiliated with other doulas such as Iyanna Bridges, another African-American woman with her own organization, The Birthing Hut. .. Gentry has a contract with Allegheny County Jail to provide doula services to pregnant women. Gentry or another contract Doula has provided professional services to about 15 women in prison over the past two years.

“There should be a doula for every woman who wants it, including when women and their families are experiencing pregnancy and infant loss,” Gentry, now 34, told Courier. “I was part of an effort to educate the community about the needs and benefits of Doula services … We are a genetic counselor, obstetrician, OB who is not completely familiar with why Doula services are related to pregnancy and infants. / Loss sitting with GYN, and now it’s not. Everyone is pretty open to incorporating Doula’s support. “

Lucy Walker The Pittsburgh Bereavement Doula, led by Heather Bradley, will be presented with a $ 2,500 check to be donated to the Baby Ray Foundation. The Baby Ray Foundation aims to cover the costs of black families who have had a stillbirth.

Baby Ray Loss At that time, Walker’s family couldn’t handle it.

“I sat in the car and cried,” Walker recalled when he was discharged on October 6, 2020. Her son Rei and her daughter-in-law Tasha wiped their tears in another car. An intimate family of three watched the other family leave the hospital with balloons, plants, and a healthy baby while leaving “with sadness.”

When Ruthie Walker planned the “Ray of Hope” event, she wanted to ensure that black families had access to mental health services in addition to Doula’s support. Thus, Walker and Bradley established the “Baby Ray Foundation” through the Pittsburgh Bereavement Doula Organization to assist in the payment of these services in the event of a stillbirth. Walker presented Bradley’s organization with a $ 2,500 check for the Baby Ray Foundation through a ticket sale for the one-hour “Ray of Hope” event.

“Lost a baby is a traumatic experience,” Walker told Courier. “The life that was in you, you felt moving around, you could feel the life that responded to your touch and your voice is now dead, for example the formation of a foot. It’s trauma. As a black culture, we don’t look for mental health services often. It’s important to tell that when we have trauma, there’s help. “

­(Editor’s Note: Call Pittsburgh Bereavement Doula (412-901-9568) to donate to the Baby Ray Foundation.)

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