Interview with Candice Brathwaite: Absolutely Mama meets the founder of Make Motherhood Diverse, to talk about parenting in lockdown, the Black Lives Matter Movement and her new book ‘I’m Not Your Baby Mother’.
Firstly a huge congratulations on the publication of ‘I Am Not Your Baby Mother’. It’s such an important read for everyone. What’s the reaction been like so far?
Overwhelmingly positive. Although I try not to read too many reviews as if you search hard enough you’re surely going to find something which isn’t so kind. But I’ve been overwhelmed with love and support from all people, even men.
What has lockdown been like for you and your family? You must be desperate to go and celebrate your book!
It’s been intense to say the least! At the top of the year my consistent written ask (I’m big on manifestation) was that I would be able to spend more time with my children because as of January it seemed as if I wouldn’t see them at all this year. Granted a global pandemic was not my intention but I’ve been able to have a personal silver lining to this. All of a sudden the idea of flexible working and having children screaming in the background of work calls isn’t just professional, it’s expected.
Being at home has made myself and husband really consider what we want our working life to look like moving forward and this lockdown has given us the chance to make some changes in regards to our lives and business which we are sure will be for the better.
Did you join the UK #blacklivesmatter protests?
No, unfortunately I didn’t. My children are six and two and I’m still hyper-aware of the virus being an invisible enemy and whatever I can do to keep the kids safe, that is my top priority. But I want to use this moment to make it clear that there are other ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement. It could be by financial donations if you are able. It could be by writing to your local MP. It could be that you change the way you vote to help support the many and not the few. It could be that in your personal time you seek to educate yourself on the universal hardships that Black people are still having to deal with.
In your book you talk about what’s it like to be a black mother on so many different levels. What has your experience been like in the ‘mumfluencer’ sphere?
I would say more negative than positive. I’ve made a handful of firm friends in this space and they support and uplift me both in public and in private. But I’ve also been bullied and used. It’s hard not to focus on the more negative aspects of the ‘mumfluencer’ space. What has been a shining light for me is definitely the Make Motherhood Diverse community and how encouraged I’ve been by the women and people who use that space. It reminds me that it’s not all bad.
The statistic that black women in the UK are five times more likely to die in childbirth than their white counterparts is beyond horrifying. Can you tell us about your own experience of health inequalities within the NHS before, during and after childbirth?
Well if I went into detail, you would perhaps run out of page space. For more description I urge people to buy the book. But the long and short of it is that after 19 hours of induced labour I had an emergency c-section. Three days later I began to feel terribly unwell and all three midwives told me that I was overthinking it and spending too much time on websites like mumsnet. It would later turn out that I was slipping into septic shock due to an infection at the site of my c-section. From beginning to end I was judged and not listened to. This is not a unique experience for black women giving birth in the UK. And I think it has a lot to do with why we are five times more likely to die in childbirth.
And finally, we’re big fans of ‘Make Motherhood Diverse’, which gives a voice to all versions of motherhood. Learning about what makes us all different seems like the only way forward right now. Do you have any plans for the platform in the wake of #blackouttuesday?
To continue on as we always have. I try to make it clear that MMD is not about me so whilst of course the Black Lives Matter movement is closest to my heart, that space represents as many people as possible. We will continue to allow people to share their stories and build a supportive community. On my end, I’ll keep fighting for a broader and more positive representation of Black British motherhood and parenting, that’s what I’m best at.