StoryCorps: Maternal Health Advocates Work To Support Black Moms Like Them At StoryCorps, Shantay Davies-Balch and Sabrina Beavers talk about the prevalence of premature births among Black mothers. "Why aren't these normal conversations?" Beavers asked.

These Black Moms Gave Birth Early. They Don't Want Their Experiences To Be Normal

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NOEL KING, HOST:

Time for StoryCorps. Today, two women - friends and colleagues - remember the birth of their children.

SHANTAY DAVIES-BALCH: My name is Shantay Renee Davies-Balch. I'm 38.

SABRINA BEAVERS: My name is Sabrina Michelle Beavers. I'm 35. Also in the room is my little newborn daughter. Her name is Destiny Serena Nicole (ph) Johnson, and she's 5 weeks.

KING: Shantay and Sabrina both delivered their babies prematurely. Here's Shantay.

DAVIES-BALCH: I remember when I heard that your water broke, I felt sad.

BEAVERS: People talk about pregnancy glow and being able to deliver full term. I didn't get that experience. I would have appreciated having that extra time with her in utero to build that bond and for her to come out as healthy as possible. I felt kind of cheated out of the last part of my pregnancy.

DAVIES-BALCH: You know, I had two babies that were born preterm, and I remember feeling depressed because I was like, I take my folic acid. I even had a spreadsheet where I tracked my vegetables (laughter).

BEAVERS: I knew a lot of friends and their families who had suffered with babies that were in the NICU for weeks or who didn't make it home.

DAVIES-BALCH: And I remember growing up seeing babies born really tiny. I didn't know there was a name for it. It was even normal to have Black women die either during birth or soon after.

BEAVERS: And it's like, well, why don't we talk about these things? Why aren't these normal conversations? Just like we talk about heart disease, diabetes and how it runs in the family - same thing when it comes to preterm births. I felt very overwhelmed because it wasn't something that I was prepared for. She was born at 4 pounds.

DAVIES-BALCH: And how much does she weigh now?

BEAVERS: She's almost 7 pounds.

DAVIES-BALCH: That's so exciting.

BEAVERS: It is so...

DAVIES-BALCH: I'm really proud of both of you. I know it was really hard.

BEAVERS: The only ask that I have is that - for my daughter's sake and for the sake of any Black woman here now or destined to be - that we figure out how to prevent this from happening. I want this to not be normal.

DAVIES-BALCH: Well, I'm honored and really excited to continue to work with you and really honored to be your friend. And I will see you back at work.

BEAVERS: Probably another six weeks.

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KING: That was Sabrina Beavers and her friend Shantay Davies-Balch. They work as advocates for Black maternal and infant health in Fresno County, Calif. And their StoryCorps interview is archived at the Library of Congress.

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