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Dear Alicia Keys: You're Pregnant -- Please Sit Down!

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Kimberly Seals Allers: I love me some Alicia Keys.

alicia keys

On any given Saturday, you'll find my children and me closing out our usual Saturday morning dance party with a stirring a cappella rendition of "If I Ain't Got You," wherein we substitute each other's names in the chorus. My kid-friendly traveling CD features Alicia's live-out-your-dreams anthem, "Unbreakable." And when I'm feeling overwhelmed, Alicia's lyrics from "Superwoman" -- "Still when I'm a mess, I still put on a vest, with an S on my chest. Oh yes, I'm a Superwoman" -- really speak to me. Oh, and please don't get me all riled up about "Empire State of Mind."

But I've got a growing problem with (or real concern about) Alicia Keys -- and many black women like her -- when it comes to pregnancy. A few weeks ago, I held my breath as I watched Alicia Keys climb her preggers self on top of a piano at the BET Awards, albeit during an incredible tribute to Prince. But still. And then last weekend, she fell off her 4-inch heels and landed on her backside while performing at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans.


I'm concerned because for over five years now, I've been on a personal mission to help black women have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. When my first book, "The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy," came out, it was the first of its kind -- a hip and funny book that really talked to a new audience of savvy black women about the lifestyle issues and unique stressors that are affecting our birth outcomes.

Studies show that even successful, college-educated black women are still twice as likely to have a low-birth-weight or pre-term baby than their white peers, and they're nearly three times more likely to die during childbirth. Nobody knows the exact root cause of these disparities, or why education and class don't protect black women from poor birth outcomes (as they do white women).

But one of the biggest self-destructive behaviors among black women is what I call the "Strong Black Woman" syndrome -- the exact problem Alicia sings about in her "Superwoman" song. We notoriously carry our communities, our families and our pain, but put an "S" on our chests and project a "strong" image, regardless of how broken we are inside. In our culture, we are raised to view "weakness" as a character flaw. We must be strong. Period.

Having that conditioning is helpful in so many scenarios. But it can be damaging during pregnancy. After my many years of talking to black women about pregnancy and championing the black female's parenting experience at www.MochaManual.com, I am still struck by the number of black women who don't see pregnancy as any deviation from their normal state of being. They expect to be able to continue to work just as hard, to continue to carry others and to not take special care of themselves. We work and work and work because that's what we do. Even while taking on the most phenomenal journey known to womankind, we act like indestructible machines that can just keep going and going -- not as fragile humans charged with shepherding new life into the world. 

Alicia, we love you! But as one hardworking black woman to another, I'm personally begging you to ease up on work and the piano-climbing and allow yourself to be still.

Still.

Respect the journey of pregnancy. We know you are a "Superwoman," but your baby needs you to be super careful, super mindful and super stress free. We've got plenty of your great music to hold us over ... I just want you to focus on the most important production of your life.


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26 comments so far | Post a comment now
Kiwi July 7, 2010, 1:03 PM

Wow…she fell hard. I was in awe that the back up singers continued singing without a hitch. I know you have to remain professional, but this isn’t Michelle falling with Kelly and Beyonce…this is a pregnant woman.

Sheesh, PLEASE sit down, Ms. Keys. Take care of yourself. Nice blog :)

Rhonda J. Smith July 7, 2010, 1:17 PM

Thanks for posting this. We black women need to know when to lay the super and the strong aside for health’s sake. I, too, write of the concern I have for black women wearing that strong black woman label at my blog (http://musingsofastrongblackwoman.wordpress.com). You speak about the danger during pregnancy, but being this way and never counting up the cost endangers us in many ways, including spiritually. This is the angle I take. Thanks, again, for writing this.

Rhonda J. Smith
author of Musings of a (Recovering) Strong Black Woman Weblog

Anonymous July 7, 2010, 5:29 PM

Has nothing to do with being black or white. If you are pregnant, exercise caution and try to take good care of yourself and your baby.

HeeHee July 7, 2010, 5:33 PM

She fell on her dupa!

Tasha July 7, 2010, 7:33 PM

@ Anonymous, you are right pregnant women should exercise caution BUT race does matter. The writer did a wonderful job highlighting that statistically African American babies have greater chances of negative health outcomes at birth. With that said, she informs African American women of these facts and urges these pregnant women to mindful of this and other “common sense” practices in order to foster greater health outcomes for a population that is already at-risk for negative birth scenarios.

Brandi July 7, 2010, 11:00 PM

Why must we make everything about color in this world? There are many of us that have ethnic backgrounds that cover multiple sides of the rainbow and where are our statics? Can’t we all just agree that ALL pregnant women black/white/brown or whatever color your skin happens to be need to take good care of themselves?

Casandra Crebar July 8, 2010, 4:28 AM

I agree with the no color remarks. Even poor white women run many risks during pregnancy. Poor white teen girls who get pregnant run the same kinds of risks that teen girls of color run I believe we have got to stop the color and gender issues in negative ways. There are certain diseases that folks of color get, but again what of those of us who are mixed? Do we or don’t we get those same things as people of mixed blood?? In fact, I would venture to say that we have other things, like immune problems (I know for a fact that several women in my “mixed” family have some sort of immune problems.The docs call it heredity, but they don’t take into account that we are of mixed blood ). And the only real difference I see between me and a man is testosterone. He has more physical abilities than I do. That’s a natural thing. Some things are just facts. Can’t we just accept those things and move on??? Women as a whole need more information as most studies in the past have included mostly men. That too, is changing, but not fast enough. So can’t we just agree to be women as a whole and address the issues as they come up? Not all white women come from well to do families.

Casandra Crebar July 8, 2010, 4:29 AM

I agree with the no color remarks. Even poor white women run many risks during pregnancy. Poor white teen girls who get pregnant run the same kinds of risks that teen girls of color run I believe we have got to stop the color and gender issues in negative ways. There are certain diseases that folks of color get, but again what of those of us who are mixed? Do we or don’t we get those same things as people of mixed blood?? In fact, I would venture to say that we have other things, like immune problems (I know for a fact that several women in my “mixed” family have some sort of immune problems.The docs call it heredity, but they don’t take into account that we are of mixed blood ). And the only real difference I see between me and a man is testosterone. He has more physical abilities than I do. That’s a natural thing. Some things are just facts. Can’t we just accept those things and move on??? Women as a whole need more information as most studies in the past have included mostly men. That too, is changing, but not fast enough. So can’t we just agree to be women as a whole and address the issues as they come up? Not all white women come from well to do families.

Meg July 8, 2010, 5:47 AM

AMEN Anonymous -healthy pregnancy has NOTHING to do w/race and all to do with taking care of yourself.

While agree with the “Strong Woman” idea, Kimberly PLEASE stop turning everything into race!! White, Jewish, Asian, Black woman ALL feel the need to be superwoman - this is hardly unique to black woman. Seriously, this racist posturing of yours needs to stop!! You act like everyone else stops everything they are doing when pregnant except for black woman - which is not the case at all. WE (ALL WOMAN) work and work and it’s ridiculous of you to even state otherwise.

Instead of bringing moms together you are trying to set woman against one another based on race and you should be ashamed of that. We know how misogynistic society can be and it is SO SAD to see how you promote it - you’re kind of the example of how no one is better at hating on another woman than other women

And as for telling her to sit down - so she fell. Yes, it was hard but it could have happened pregnant or not. We live in a country overrun by obesity the last thing we need to do is to tell pregnant ladies to stop doing their normal activities. I worked out hard core during all my pregnancies and have very healthy children and a healthy lifestyle. How can you on one hand talk about “low birth rate” and then tell women NOT to go on with regular activities? That’s just unhealthy to sit and veg!! I think you should have spoken to a dr. before promoting such damaging behavoir.

Anonymous July 8, 2010, 6:57 AM

Please people! If you live in this world you know that race matters. Enlighten yourself by doing your own research. To dismiss that it matters is to walk blindly through life. Race is not the problem. A lack of LOVE is. By the way, Alicia needs to realize that she has to modify her usual way of doing things. The only person she has to prove anything to is her unborn child.

Layla July 8, 2010, 7:57 AM

As black mother I have to agree with Meg - all woman have this need to be “superwoman” - my best friend is white and never has there been a difference in pregnancy/motherhood because of our different races. ALL woman just need to start taking care of themselves during pregnancy - and this includes exercising (which is how I see Alicia’s performance).

Ladies, motherhood is a sisterhood and we’re all apart of it - regardless of race. Let’s support one another and not try and make separate “race issues”

Angela July 9, 2010, 11:08 AM

Whether a woman is black or white, pregnant with a child needs attention and caution. Wearing tall heel shoes are not good for a pregnant woman. Falling is even worse. Alicia Keys might say that she is feeling well and the baby is fine, but sometimes at the moment you feel that way. What can happen is that after the baby, she may feel the pain. Take care of yourself. I am now suffering from a fall I had when I was pregnant 20 years ago.

cathy July 10, 2010, 2:13 AM

Im tired of black people who pretend to be color blind. This blog was written because black women suffer a higher risk of premature births, period. Essence magazine is a publication that is produced to give information for and about black people. Our concerns, Our intrest are often overlooked in the main stream society. Thank you for this article and please continue to produce informative ones such as this!!!!

Monica July 11, 2010, 6:34 PM

Okay, enough is enough ‘yall. Why the heck can’t Kim make an informative article geared toward encouraging black women to take care of themselves and their families. There are many black women who don’t have regular care from a doctor and they need to know what puts them at risk because no one has told them. If you don’t like what she says then don’t read her blog. Clearly you could care less about what issues concern black woman and parenting. And since you don’t then stay the heck off her blog and keep your comments to yourself. This is really getting on my nerves. You took a perfectly good article and turned it into a race issue without seeing her point of view. SHUT THE HELL UP! Yeah everyone know every preggo woman needs to sit down but right now we are talking about how our black sister really, really need to sit down because that have particular risk. Good grief what is wrong with you people? Again, SHUT THE HELL UP!

Monica July 11, 2010, 6:44 PM

@Cathy I totally agree.

To sit here and act color blind is plain stupidity especially when it comes to health. No one can deny that sometime there are health concerns that each race or ethnicity should be more concerned about. As with blacks we all need to be concerned over diabetes and high blood pressure or diseases like sickle cell. And as Kim brought out about black pregnant mothers need to be concerned with having a child of low birth weight or pre-term and the risk of death during child birth. Some issues are a matter of a genetic disposition because of race and/or ethnicity. To walk around a deny that is idiotic. And to protest a woman who sees the need to inform the women of her race is down right bigoted.

Tasha July 14, 2010, 8:31 PM

Well said Monica. It seems like people aren’t able to process the overall message of the article but are instead, focusing on details and their own emotions/issues with race.

@ Casandra Crebar
You ask about people of “mixed blood”. I don’t doubt that research is being done to inform the public about these matters as well. The bad part about it, is that when, and if, these findings are published in a format outside of academia, people might respond in similar ways that they are responding to Kimberly’s article. They will not understand its importance and make resistant comments that virtually deny merit to the authors information.

We must restrain impulse and open our minds to progress.

Nik July 20, 2010, 1:20 AM

This woman was simple enough to get knocked up by a married man. Why would she start excercising any common sense now? The whole situation is sad, and I hope for the sake of that baby she starts making better decisions.

KlearLee July 21, 2010, 12:05 AM

no one cares about safe sex. she didn’t care about her body then and now she is pregnant.. please take care A.Keys.. may God be with you and your baby.

Just goes to show: when you fall, you do have the strength to get up : ) hehe

Kelly July 24, 2010, 8:48 PM

A lot of women have a “strong womnan” complex during pregnancy. I’m a black woman and have seen some of my non-black friends have the same pregnancy issues I have.

As for Alicia Keys, *sigh* don’t get me started. I hope the baby will be healthy but I’m definitely not worried about her. I’m more worried about her “boyfriend’s” now ex-wife who had an infant son when Alicia Keys decided to have a relationship with him.

krissy August 1, 2010, 8:58 PM

black or white…..NO HEELS, no drugs, no smoking, no liquor,no stress & eat right & get plenty of rest, think about your baby!!!!


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