Sha-Asia Washington

Sha-Asia Washington and her partner Juwan Lopez were so looking forward to being parents. When the 26-year-old Brooklyn-based paraprofessional educator found out she was pregnant, they were overjoyed.

The joy was captured in the couple's many maternity photos—images that sadly would become the pictures media would use when reporting on her death.

As reported by Rolling Stone, in early July Washington died in childbirth after going to Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn for a routine stress test. She was past her due date and her blood pressure was high. She was given Pitocin to induce labor, and at first everything seemed fine, as Lopez documented in a video he later shared to Instagram. Although hesitant to get an epidural when asked, Washington eventually did get one. Soon, chaos erupted in the hospital room and Washington was given an emergency C-section. She suffered cardiac arrest and died. Her daughter Khloe survived the traumatic birth.

NYC Health + Hospitals/Woodhull is conducting an internal in-depth quality review of the incident, a spokesperson tells Motherly.

They issued the following statement to Motherly via email: "Our heartfelt condolences are with the family, friends and community who bear the pain of this unspeakable loss. The persistently high rates of maternal mortality that disproportionately affects people of color is a grave, national crisis. Here in New York City, we will not stand for this status quo, and remain undeterred in our mission to eliminate structural inequities and guarantee comprehensive and quality care for all New Yorkers."

It is important to understand what happened here, how a mother could go from chatting with her partner from her hospital bed to dying so quickly. We need to understand how the health care system failed Washington because we know that it is failing so many women like her every single day.

Black women in the United States are 3 to 4 times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes. A large body of research has proven Black women are more likely to experience preventable maternal death compared to white women. The CDC estimates 60% of these deaths are preventable.

Lopez is now raising his baby girl as a single parent, something he never thought he would have to do.

"Your mommy would be so proud how active and alert you are princess," he captioned a recent photo in which he's seen pushing Khloe in her stroller.

Lopez is now part of a growing club that no parent wants to belong to. Partners are being forced to raise their children alone because the medical system is failing Black mothers and babies.

Back in April, another 26-year-old New York mother, Amber Rose Issac, died in childbirth just days after tweeting: "Can't wait to write a tell all about my experience during my last two trimesters dealing with incompetent doctors at Montefiore."

Amber Rose Issac

Motherly sent multiple requests for information to the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx after Issac's death in April. We have yet to receive a reply.

The hospital did reply to ABC News, telling the network in a statement, "Ninety-four percent of our deliveries are minority mothers, and Montefiore's maternal mortality rate of 0.01 percent is lower than both New York City and national averages. Any maternal death is a tragedy."

Issac's partner, Bruce McIntyre, says Issac advocated for herself over and over again, but was ignored.

He says Issac asked for help during her prenatal care, concerned about her symptoms, but says her concerns were not addressed and she was neglected. She developed HELLP syndrome, but was not diagnosed until after her death.

"All of this was 100 percent preventable. All of it," McIntyre told The Guardian. "I feel like she would have got more attentive care if she was a white mother, to be completely honest with you."

Now, McIntyre is raising the couple's son, Elias, alone.

Lopez and McIntyre join Charles Johnson IV, who is raising his two young sons without their mother, Kira. She died in April 2016, just one day after her youngest was born during a scheduled C-section. Kira was bleeding internally, something that was discovered too late.

"There is nothing I can do to bring Kira back," Johnson said at the at a Million Moms March on Washington D.C. "But what I can do is to fight as hard as I possibly can to make sure we send mothers home with their babies."

It is time for action. It is time for the entire United States to hear the pain of these fathers, partners and so many other families who are missing Black mothers who died unnecessarily.

After the deaths of Sha-Asia Washington and Amber Rose Issac, New York City doula Jess Pournaras launched a petition asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to require New York's State Hospitals "to Publish Data on Pregnancy Outcomes."

"Transparency in racial disparities of pregnancy and birth outcomes is an essential step in ensuring better outcomes for all pregnant New Yorkers," Pournaras writes.

America's mothers need transparency, but also need lawmakers to hold the system accountable for the disproportionate rates of Black maternal death.

Products that solve your biggest breastfeeding challenges

Including a battle plan for clogged ducts!

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.


Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.


Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.


Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.


boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.


Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.


Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.


Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this


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