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The Problem With Alicia Keys: You’re Pregnant. I Love You. But Please Sit Down!


Was I the only one holding my breath as I watched Alicia Keys climb her pregnant self all up and over that piano during the BET Awards? I mean, she was trying to revitalize a weak Prince tribute, but come on'. And then last weekend while performing at the Essence Music Festival, she fell off her 4-inch heels and landed on her backside.

Ok now, Ms. Alicia.

Now don't get me wrong. I love me some Alicia Keys.  On any given Saturday, you’ll find my children and I closing out our usual Saturday morning dance party with a stirring rendition of “If I Ain’t Got You”, where 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 unstoppable, 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 my morning anthem, Empire State of Mind.

But I’ve got a growing problem or real concern about Alicia Keys and many black women like her when it comes to our pregnancies.  

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. I've said it 10,000 times before and I'll say it 10,000 plus and more, studies show that even successful, college educated black women are still twice as likely to have a low birth weight baby, twice as likely to have a pre-term baby and nearly three times more likely to die during childbirth than their white peers.  Nobody knows the exact root cause of these disparities, and why education and class don’t protect us from poor birth outcomes as it does for white women.

But one of the biggest self destructive behaviors among black women is what I call the Strong Black Woman Syndrome. The exact same problem Alicia sings about in her Superwoman song.  We notoriously carry our communities, we carry our families and we carry our pain, but we put an S on our chest 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. In my many years talking to black women about pregnancy, 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. And even while taking on the most phenomenal journey known to womankind, we act like indestructible machines that can just keep going and going, and not as fragile humans charged with shepherding a new life into the world.  

This really has to stop. Our babies need a better start. A stronger and healthier start.

Alicia, we love you! But as one hard working 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 (and every black woman rooting for you) just want you to focus on the most important production of your life.

Comments
5 Responses to “The Problem With Alicia Keys: You’re Pregnant. I Love You. But Please Sit Down!”
  1. Ananda Leeke says:

    TY for the great blog post. AMEN!

  2. Tara says:

    I hear you! When she climbed on the piano, everyone was so impressed like, “Oooh, look at her! She’s fierce!” Um, no. She needs to sit there and play that piano. That’s it. I did hear that she’s done for a little while, won’t perform until after she has the baby. Good time for her to rest and relax a bit. 🙂

  3. D. says:

    Thank you for this article. I agree totally. I just got on a friend of mine who was taking care of everyone and everything, in addition to working, a couple weeks ago. She had her baby 2 months premature this week….. It is hard to let go of the Superwoman mindset we have, but we’ve got to do it.

  4. Kimberly, thanks for writing this. As you know from our conversation for your first book, I had a bad pregnancy outcome for my first pregnancy: HELLP Syndrome at 24 weeks, an emergency c-section, and a daughter born too soon who ultimately didn’t survive. Though I don’t think I was trying to be Superwoman, I definitely recognize that stress and trying to keep up my pre-pregnancy pace on the professional front negatively impacted my health, and the baby’s, too. Although I thankfully had two healthy pregnancies after that first experience, I always encourage pregnant women to take heed and recognize that shepherding that pregnancy to a healthy, full-term end is the one job that only you can do. Everything else can be redistributed/retooled if need-be. God bless all the expectant mommies out there!

  5. De says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for your comments! Alicia is great, but it’s just another example of how the ‘stars’ show the unrealistic side of pregnancy. The super high heels, the barely-there diet, the list goes on and on. And we wonder why ‘regular’ moms may have a complex! I am the proud mother of an 8-month-old daughter who is healthy, happy, and strong. And I too played the piano while pregnant…sitting down!

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