Priorities? America’s Family Values « MomsRising Blog

Priorities? America’s Family Values

by David Leonard

The day remains one of the most vibrant memories of my life. After months of preparation and a day at the hospital, our first child was born. Floating on cloud 9, and focused on taking care of what needed to be done in anticipation of her coming home, I quickly turned my attention back to work. It was spring break at my university so those in those first few days I wasn’t pulled in different directions. That would end before she even turned 10 days old.

I never thought about taking a break from work. That would be unfair to my students, my colleagues, and to all the deadlines in front of me. That is at least what I was told. But really I had no idea I could take time off to spend. Yes, I knew about Family and Medical Leave Act, but I didn’t know I was eligible. I was the father, not the mother.

While my absence in those initial weeks didn’t cause difficulties in terms of what needed to get done –my mother-in-law was staying with us – it led me to feel isolated. I wasn’t part of every “firsts;” I was stuck at the borderlands of parenthood, wanting to be present for every moment yet I stuck at my workplace.

By the time my daughter was 6 months, my partner was back working, leaving me as the primary caregiver. As a university professor, I had the flexibility to care for her whenever I was not in class. When not taking walks, reading or playing, we spent many days together with her by my side as I wrote my first book or prepared lectures. My feelings of isolation were a thing of the past.

The experience wasn’t idyllic as I found myself increasingly criticized for spending so much time with my daughter and not focusing exclusively on my work responsibilities. Good father, bad professor; good father, bad man? My decision to her into the workplace was met with opposition. In one instance, after telling a colleague that I would not be able to attend a meeting the following day because of childcare responsibilities, I was encouraged to consider switching to halftime since I wasn’t able to do my job properly. Angered and frustrated, I remained focused on both my responsibilities as a parent and a professor. As with her birth, the institution didn’t make either of these jobs any easier. Family values in rhetoric only!

In 2006, our second child was born. I hadn’t planned to take any time off for her arrival. No one had suggested that or even noted its availability. Our plans, however, changed quickly as the unimaginable happened. She died after a short and courageous life. Our life was turned upside down. The plans; the preparation; the future had all been changed leaving me with a constant feeling of unease. What else might happen around every corner?

Because of the courage of my partner, we quickly got pregnant again. This time I was determined to spend as much time at home as possible. I was determined to be there for the first bath, the first coo, and any other first. And because of Family and Medical Leave Act I was able to be there each and every day; I was able to share each and every moment with my partner, being there for and with her.

Continue reading at Priorities? America’s Family Values « MomsRising Blog.


GONE TOO SOON: Infant Mortality – Wellness & Empowerment – EBONY

GONE TOO SOON: Infant Mortality

By David Leonard Writer

The text message I received this morning should have brought a smile to my face. My younger sister let me know that doctors would be inducing her this evening. With her first child set to join the world, I found myself overcome with fear and anxiety. Five years ago, my second child Sophie was born. Some 12 hours later, she would succumb to an infection, dying right in front of her mother and I. In an instant, we had lost our child.

My sister’s message immediately took me back to that day, thinking about the past while scared about the future (I have previously written about this). My thoughts are not a simple manifestation of association or my yearning to be a protector for my younger sister, but genuine fear because that day is still with me.

Every detail of that day still sits with me: getting dropped off at the hospital; how sick my wife looked when I entered the room; the sights and sounds when Sophie entered the world. More vivid and painful are the memories of where I was sitting when she went into cardiac arrest, the clothes I was wearing, the hospital smell, and the sounds of “code blue.” To this day, I still cannot see a helicopter without thinking about the 60+ mile trip I took in the dark, so close to my dying daughter yet unable to help or hold her. Today I think about my parents sitting in the waiting room anticipating the arrival of my nephew just as I sat in the waiting room – waiting for things to turn around, waiting for my wife to arrive, waiting for the pain to stop; waiting . . . waiting, only to see her die in front of us.

My fear and anxiety are not simply an outcome of our own experience but the bubble that burst when our daughter passed away. For every 1,000 live births, 4.5 babies die in the United States. The U.S. accounts for the second largest amount of neonatal deaths (that includes child deaths within the first 27 days of life) in the industrialized world. Compared to other countries around the world, the United States ranks with Croatia, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, and lags behind Cuba, Slovakia, all of Western Europe and Scandinavia. The situation is even worse when as we look at racial inequality, especially as we look at the first year of life. African American children are 2.5 times more likely to die before their first birthday than White ones.

Infant mortality is even more devastating in the developing world. Each year, three million babies die in the first week of life, with an additional one million dying by their 27th day. Four million babies do not live past their 28th day of life, mostly from preventable diseases and malnutrition. A recent study found that babies under the age of 1 month account for 41% of all child death, with over half of those deaths occurring in five countries: Pakistan, Nigeria, China, Congo, and India, where more than 900,000 babies die each year. In Afghanistan, 1 out in every 19 babies born die shortly after they enter the world. Every minute, 7 newborn babies die, even though a vast majority of them could be saved. Where are the YouTube revolutionaries to eradicate this malady?

Babies are not the only ones in danger; in the United States, 400 women die each year while giving birth.There are no words for pain, despair, and sense of injustice I feel when I think of the millions of women across the world who have passed away as they were set to bring forth life. And I know that I am tremendously blessed knowing that my partner, who spent a week in the hospital following the birth of Sophie, survived. This cannot be said for women throughout the world. Amnesty International reports that one woman dies every 90 seconds during pregnancy or while giving birth. A total of 350,000 women die each year. With 80 percent of those deaths occurring in only 21 nations, 15 of which are located in sub-Saharan Africa, the consequences of poverty, colonization, and a lack of global commitment to this issue are clear.

Continue reading @ GONE TOO SOON: Infant Mortality – Wellness & Empowerment – EBONY.