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#BlogHer16: Who we are beyond "mommy bloggers" matters. Acknowledging it could save a life

What do you think of when you think of maternal mortality, if you think of it? (Stick with this for a sec, we get inspirational in a moment.) Maybe a woman in childbirth dying with no clean water, no access to medical facilities? Maybe a woman outside the United States?

Today's panel on maternal mortality (hosted by Merck for Mothers) peeled back the stereotypes and brought us face to face with people who know maternal death best:

  • An OB-GYN,

  • a woman's health advocate,

  • a father who lost his wife one day after she gave birth to their daughter,

  • a blogger who organizes other bloggers to make a difference

That father, Matt Logelin, wrote a New York Times bestselling book about what happened to his wife and family. But as he said so movingly, "I don't want to be up here, crying. I don't want any of you up here in this position, either. Now my daughter has the only the worse parent left."

sidebar: I started to straight up cry when he said that because he's so funny and so warm and so honest and so committed, it's not going out on a limb at all to say that he must be a wonderful parent, and Maddy is lucky to have him.

He described how Liz, his wife, died of a pulmonary embolism the day after Maddy was born. They'd known she was having a tough pregnancy, since she had been on bedrest for most of it.

But they'd mostly been focusing on having a healthy baby.

Matt gently, clearly points out how both he and Liz focused so much on making sure the pregnancy continued as well as possible, so that there ended up being less focus Liz herself, apart from becoming a mom.

I applauded until my hands hurt when he said, "You all are not just mommy bloggers! You have an identity outside that, as women. You do other things besides raise children."

There's nothing like having an ally tell you how he/she sees you to startle you into taking another loving look at yourself.

His point was that if we, as a society, were to value women for more than their reproductive status, if we were to see women as whole people and not just filling one role or another, then we could actually start seeing women speaking up for themselves and their needs more.

That would be a not-insignificant cultural shift. Seeing ourselves not solely as a vessel for others (physically and emotionally), but also as people with ideas, opinions, experiences of our own, women might get clearer on our own gifts, talents, desires. We might get more familiar with ourselves. We might make friends with ourselves, as Pema Chodron says.

We might remember that our lives have value simply because they're our lives.

And we might get better at speaking up for ourselves, our lives.

Our loved ones might be down with that notion, too. They might speak up for us, too.

We might see a decline in maternal death rates.

And I want to be so clear -- I'm not saying that they reduced Liz to a uterus, or even that he said they did. He clearly loved her like a flower loves water and sun. I'm just saying that he noticed this disparity between the healthcare focus on the pregnancy instead of the whole woman, and bravely and honestly called it out for all of us to notice, too.

Kind of brings a new meaning to avoiding niche blogging, if you ask me.

Epilogue: I asked a question about how we can go from asking what we as individuals can do, to asking how we, together, can move policies forward that support maternal health, such as paid family leave. We didn't have time to get to that question, but surprise! I have an idea for what we can do together. (Scroll down to check out that FAMILY Act action.)

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