When Yvette Allen-Campbell of Valley Stream worked in special education in New York City years ago, it seemed to her there was a skew in the number of black children needing services.
That observation started her on the path to her new book, “Black, Pregnant and Loving It: The Comprehensive Pregnancy Guide for Today’s Woman of Color” (Page Street, $22.99), which she co-wrote with Westchester obstetrician/gynecologist Dr. Suzanne Greenidge-Hewitt.
Campbell’s journey began with her decision to research whether the disparity she saw in schools was caused by differences in the way black and white children develop.
“Let me start from scratch, where everything is equal,” she thought, and she figured that would be birth. But she was “flabbergasted” by the statistics regarding the number of black children born with low birth weight, which can cause future developmental issues. “If you walk it all the way back like I did, for far too many black children the gap begins at birth. We have disparities; we can’t run away from that,” she says.
Her next step was to research what books were on the market to advise black women on developmental milestones that occur in utero. She found many pregnancy guidebooks — but not many that specifically addressed black women. “They were flooded with happy white women holding their bellies, proud to be pregnant,” she says. “Where are the pictures of the happy black moms holding their babies?”
She felt she had a dual purpose: to educate black women about what is happening inside their pregnant bodies, and to celebrate all shades of babies with glossy, upbeat, coffee-table-book-style photos of pregnant women of color, incorporating their culture and identity.
“I knew I couldn’t write a book on this topic without a doctor,” says Campbell, whose training and background is in education. So she partnered with Greenidge-Hewitt, medical director of Woman to Woman OB/GYN in Yonkers and a an assistant clinical professor at New York Columbia Presbyterian from 1994 to 2015.
Their 215-page book covers pregnancy diet and includes healthier soul food recipes lower in salt and fat; health issues common to pregnant black women such as hypertension, gestational diabetes and low birth weight; and a month-by-month guide to baby’s development in the womb. It covers labor and delivery, and details about black newborns’ skin and hair.
“We wanted to represent those things, good and bad, so that a black woman can pick up the book and say, ‘This one’s for me,’ ” Greenidge-Hewitt says.
The book also offers entertaining sections called “Wisdom From our Ancestors,” which includes folk myths and superstitions such as this one: “If you crave something when you’re pregnant and you eat a lot of it, your baby will have a mark that looks like the thing you craved.”
Kimberly Seals Allers starts her new book about breastfeeding with a description of her own desperate attempt to resolve issues she faced nursing her first child, describing her body as committing “an act of biological treason.”
“My first job as a mother is to feed my baby,” she writes, “and I am failing miserably already.”
But women’s struggles to breastfeed, according to Seals Allers’ book, aren’t solely caused by their bodies. In “The Big Letdown: How Medicine, Big Business, and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding” (St. Martin’s Press, $25.99), Allers examines other factors she argues are stacked against women who are trying to do something that has kept humanity alive since the beginning of time. Her book isn’t a how-to-breastfeed guide; it’s a sociological and historical look at breastfeeding in the United States. Her position as an advocate of breastfeeding is immediately clear — the cover of the hardcover book shows a baby bottle with the nipple tied in a knot.
“This book really is about looking at all these influences that are going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about. The system is not set up for you to do it well,” says Seals Allers, who was able to work through her breastfeeding issues and nursed both her daughter and son. Some factors include lack of paid maternity leave during which women can breastfeed, growth charts based on formula-fed babies and the interest of big business in continuing to sell baby formula, she says in an interview at Barnes & Noble in Bay Shore, where she says she spent many days writing the book on her laptop. Even feminism bears some blame, she says. “In our very important fight for the right to be equal to men, we forgot to fight for the things that make us women, such as birth and lactation,” Seals Allers says.
Seals Allers is a journalist and author who has appeared on “Good Morning America,” “Anderson Cooper 360,” “Fox News” and more. She’s worked at Fortune and Essence. She’s written five books, including the Mocha Manual series geared to women of color. She lived in Bay Shore with her two children, Kayla, now 16, and Michael, now 12, before moving in November to Queens.
Seals Allers will have a book talk and signing at Barnes & Noble in Bay Shore at 6 p.m. Thursday. A portion of the proceeds from books sold at the event will be donated by Barnes & Noble to the Long Island Lactation Consultant Association; attendees can also buy a book to be donated to the Lift Up campaign, which distributes books to women in need in Detroit and Philadelphia, Seals Allers says.
— BETH WHITEHOUSE
WHAT Book signing for “The Big Letdown” by Kimberly Seals Allers
WHEN | WHERE 6 p.m. Thursday at Barnes & Noble, 842 Sunrise Hwy., Bay Shore
INFO Free (book is $25.99); 631-206-0198, barnesandnoble.com