At the children’s march for justice and peace today in Harambee, Milwaukee, people were asking, “Who is Amber Rose Isaac?”
As many in our country — and world — are rightfully now standing up against the long history of police brutality and impunity in violence toward Black people, we must also be aware that institutionalized racism is also the reason why Black mothers in the United States are dying at an alarming rate. Excessive psychological stress during pregnancy can lead to preeclampsia or eclampsia, pre-term spontaneous labor, and stillbirth.
Amber Rose Isaac died at a Bronx hospital at the age of 26 on April 21, 2020 after cesarean complications, a surgery into which she was rushed pre-term due to low platelet count and high blood pressure. Due to Covid, neither her husband nor her mother could be with her during the surgery. She gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Elias, — her first and only child — whom she never got to meet face to face, skin to skin, heart to heart. She died alone.
Amber, who was Black and Puerto Rican, had wanted to switch to a homebirth, given the viral environment, but was advised not to by “incompetent doctors” (her words.) I hope everyone giving birth will know that they have body autonomy and do not have to comply with what the medical authorities advise/attempt to force. I hope everyone planning to give birth nurtures their intuition throughout their pregnancy — and before, if possible — and that we as a society shift our thinking into reverence for the mother. I hope more BIPOC have access to homebirth and homebirth education, and also to a loving community who supports them in their birth choices.
As a doula and birthkeeper and future midwife, I make it my mission to serve my community in a way that empowers the mother and the family, and to humble myself in the presence of their authority of their bodies and babies. May you rest knowing that your life mattered, Amber Rose, and that we in the birth world will raise our voice in your remembrance to those who have not yet learned to listen nor honor the mother’s inner knowing, and to create a better birth and life environment for Elias’ generation.
2020, Amaya Engleking