Mothers and maternal health: the impact of COVID-19 and Black trauma

Black mothers absorbed much of the stress of the coronavirus pandemic as they worried about their children’s future and their mental health

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month and Mother’s Day, mothers on theGrio team discussed managing their mental health during a pandemic with COVID-19 cases surging and Black trauma at an all-time high. 

“I was pregnant throughout George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and in our line of work, those are the stories and the topics that we’re focusing on, and I had to be immersed in that,” senior video editor Kiana Quiñonez said. “It was getting to a point where it’s not just about my mental [health], it’s about my unborn child’s [mental health] and how he’s feeling.”

Courtesy of Kiana Quiñonez

As a mother raising children amid remote learning and working, social unrest and the coronavirus, entertainment director Cortney Wills said maintaining her mental health was a priority. “Prioritizing my mental health as a mother in general, pre-pandemic, is definitely something that I was still working on,” Wills said.

Eighty percent of adults said the coronavirus pandemic caused significant stress while 74% said the political unrest around the country was a major source of grief in their lives, according to the American Psychological Association.

“I just woke up one morning hyperventilating, crying, shaking, like, I didn’t know what was wrong with me,” Quiñonez said of the panic attacks she experienced in 2020 at the height of the pandemic and racial uprising.

More than 36% of adults said it has been more stressful to make day-to-day decisions and significant life decisions than before the coronavirus pandemic, according to a 2021 survey by the APA.

The APA also learned that Hispanic and Black adults were more likely than non-Hispanic white adults to say sometimes they are so stressed about the coronavirus pandemic that they struggle to make even basic decisions, like what to wear and what to eat.

Duanecia Clark shared a similar experience of enduring a panic attack after she found out she was pregnant. The nerves that come with the thought of her daughter being raised in a society that will see her “as a Black woman far sooner than [she wants],” while trying to equip her with all the tools she needs to live was not an easy task. 

However, Black women are resilient and continue to find the light in the darkness. Clark decided to “block out” many of the conversations people were having centered around particular outcomes while birthing a child during the pandemic.

“It’s okay to decide that you’re gonna have a joyous pregnancy,” she said. “Leading my pregnancy with happiness just made me such a better woman.”


Kayla Grant is a cross-topic multimedia journalist who is pursuing her Master of Science in Journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. In addition to being featured in theGrio, the Clark Atlanta University alumna’s words are published in Oz Magazine, Prism, Rolling Out and more. Follow her on Twitter: @TheKaylaGrant.

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