KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Monique Young is the mother of two and she vividly remembers her first delivery.
"I get to the hospital and then the doors are locked because it's two in the morning," Young said. "So I'm just like, 'Oh.' Like me and my husband were like, what do we do here?"
She said she didn’t feel prepared, but for her second delivery, she had a doula by her side.
"It’s hard to make those decisions on your own, so having somebody next to you and kind of giving you that advice on that support is really helpful," Young said.
Daysha Lewis is a mother of four. She told KSHB 41 News about near-death experiences during two of her pregnancies.
"I had a postpartum hemorrhage the first time," Lewis said. "And [I] just got out of bed and fell to the floor, and if it wasn't for one nurse listening to me, I would not be here. The woman literally kept me from hitting the ground when nobody else was listening."
These are just two stories of many in our community, affecting many mothers and their children.
Nurture KC, a local organization advocating on behalf of maternal and infant health, has taken a closer and local look at those issues.
"There has been rightly a focus on infant mortality in the last several years, but you can’t separate mom’s health from that," Tracy Russell, the executive director at Nurture KC said. "They’re absolutely connected and that bears out in this report, and certainly for our Black mothers, their circumstances are considerably worse than white mothers."
That report covers data from 2021 and Nurture KC says it found a striking result.
"The numbers don’t lie and what we saw was in the first trimester, which is critically important, only about 50% of our Black moms had access to prenatal visits during that time," Russell said.
Nurture KC’s 2021 data shows Black and hispanic maternal mortality rates rapidly outpace those for white mothers in Kansas. If you'd like to read that report, you can do so here.
In Missouri, 2018 statewide data shows the similar trends among Black and white mothers. If you'd like to read that report, you can do so here.
Nurture KC enlists a team of community health workers to work one-on-one with families, including Marcela Metcalf, who focuses on Hispanic mothers.
"The major issues are access to healthcare, transportation, lack of the providers knowing where these mothers are coming from and they need to be more sensitive and culturally aware of what’s going on and how to treat these women," Metcalf said.
Dr. Traci Jonson is a OBGYN at University Health and says she sees these problems regularly in clinical practice.
"We’re not meeting the patients where they are," Johnson said. "We tell them that we want them to have five appointments, but then there's absolutely no way they can do this because each appointment is two and a half hours."
Johnson added that providing mothers with the resources they need for a successful delivery and long-term health requires financial and human investment.
"We need double, everyone needs double, every hospital in this city needs 20 cultural health navigators to meet the patient where they are and plug and play," she said.
That's what Metcalf does everyday at Nurture KC’s office.
"I was actually certified to be an interpreter just because of that, because I needed to get that certification to call with my participants, make appointments, follow up, call the hospital and see what’s going on with their health," she said.
Phone calls and supplies can only go so far.
"In both Missouri and Kansas, there is legislation pending that would extend medicaid eligibility for pregnant women to one year postpartum," Russell said. "Currently, that cuts off to just 60 days in both Kansas and Missouri."
It’s one solution of many to make sure future healthy moms, like Monique Young and Daysha Lewis, can start their lives as mothers on the right foot.
"We have to be on top of these types of things and really good support for people in the community because, again, who else is really going to have your back and kind of know what you want?" Young said.
"This can very well be you, your family member and everybody, and equitable health care for all is important," Lewis says.
Two Americas is part of a KSHB and Scripps signature issue to help introduce our community to the America you know and the America you might not know. Our role as the media is to share the news of the day, but we also seek to give a voice to people we don't hear from often.
Of course, there are many parts that make up our community, so we’re not just showing you two and we’re not pitting two sides against each other. Instead, we’re hoping to highlight solutions and showcase different perspectives to help us all better understand our area's culture, our area's past, and why our community feels the way it does today.