Episode 210: Christy Turlington Burns, Every Mother Counts
Christy Turlington Burns’ joins me on the podcast today! I was so honored to sit down with her at the Every Mother Counts office in NYC to hear all about the work being done to support women and provide the opportunity for safe maternal healthcare around the World.
Christy is a marathon runner herself and has connected deeply with the running community through her work with Every Mother Counts. In fact, I first heard about the organization from friends who were training for marathons while raising money for the organization.
“Every Mother Counts envisions a World where all women have the opportunity to enter motherhood and not only survive, but thrive. Christy is the founder of the organization which she began after having her own childbirth related complications. Christy directed and produced the documentary feature film, No Woman, No Cry to highlight the challenges women face throughout pregnancy and childbirth around
the world. Under Christy’s leadership, Every Mother Counts has invested nearly $15
million in programs in Africa, Latin America, South Asia and the United States focused
on making pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother, everywhere.
Before founding Every Mother Counts, Christy received international acclaim as a model
representing the world’s biggest fashion and beauty brands. She was the Founder of
Nuala, a yoga lifestyle brand in partnership with Puma, co-founder of Sundari, a skincare
based on the principals of Ayurveda, and author of the bestselling book, Living Yoga:
Creating a Life Practice.
Christy has been featured on thousands of magazine covers, was one of Time’s 100 Most
Influential People, and Glamour Magazine’s 2013 Woman of the Year. In March 2016,
EMC was recognized as one of Fast Company magazine’s Top 10 Most Innovative Not-
Christy graduated Cum Laude from NYU’s Gallatin School of Independent Studies and
studied Public Health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She
has served on the Harvard Medical School Global Health Council, the Harvard School of
Public Health Board of Dean’s Advisors and the advisory Board of New York
University, Nursing School. Christy lives in New York City with her husband filmaker, Edward Burns and their two children.”
[00:00:00.740] – Lindsey Hein
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[00:00:16.660] – Lindsey Hein
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[00:01:10.570] – Lindsey Hein
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[00:01:41.500] – Lindsey Hein
So make sure you tune in next Friday for the amazing Black Friday deal they’ll have going on again. Check out Insight Tracker dot com. All right. Friends today you’re listening to episode two hundred and ten and I’m so excited to be talking with Christy Turlington Burns the founder of Every Mother Counts. Christie’s work in maternal health began after experiencing a childbirth related complication in two thousand three and that’s an experience that would lead her to later. Direct and produce the documentary feature film No Woman No Cry. I’ve been watching Christie’s work at every mother counts.
[00:02:22.140] – Lindsey Hein
I’ve been following every mother counts for years now. I’ve had several friends fundraise for them as they train for marathons and I am so inspired by the way that Christie has used her passion and platform to hit hard on the issue that is maternal mortality. Now some of you might know Christie from her career as a model she’s been featured on thousands of magazine covers was one of Times 100 most influential people and Glamour magazine’s 2013 Woman of the year. But Christie is also the mother of two. She’s a marathon runner she’s run several marathons and plans to run the New York City Marathon again next year.
[00:03:04.980] – Lindsey Hein
For the fiftieth anniversary. I’ve been so inspired by Christie’s story and. The fact that she’s gone back to school multiple times to pursue this passion. This essentially second career for her. With every mother counts and it’s definitely extra cool to that she happens to also be a marathon runner and there’s a lot of parallels to running and their mission behind every mother counts. So we’ll talk about that in this episode as well. Big thanks to my friend Jenny Jurek for connecting me with Christy. Jenny does a lot of work with every mother counts and is super passionate about their mission.
[00:03:44.260] – Lindsey Hein
So when I interviewed Jenny about a year ago we kind of talked about connecting with Christy and we finally made that happen. I’m so excited and it was so cool to sit in the offices of every mother counts and do this interview in person before we get started talking with Christy I want to let you all know you can listen to my life podcasts that I just did with Deena caster and Sally McRae. You can find that over on my Patreon on page at Patreon.com/LindseyHein. I’ve decided to keep that audio and there’s actually the full video for it as well over on patreon for all patreon supporters.
[00:04:22.960] – Lindsey Hein
My hope is that so many of you can make it to one of these live events. One of these days I just love meeting listeners so much. But if you do want to listen to it all patreon supporters have access to that over there and that’s at patreon.com/Lindsey Hein. And I also just want to let you all know I have started a podcast network. SandyBoy productions and there’s two other podcasts in that network that you should check out. The first is that up and running podcast with Lauren Floris.
[00:04:51.940] – Lindsey Hein
She talks about all of the News and what’s going on in the elite and professional running world and then the illuminate podcast is a podcast. I co-host with my three girlfriends and we talk with people who are illuminating the world around them. So check out the up and running podcast and the illuminate podcast. All right friends let’s enjoy my conversation with Christy Turlington BUrns.
[00:05:18.040] – Lindsey Hein
All right. Sitting in the. Every Mother Counts office with Christy Turlington Burns. Welcome to the podcast Christy. Thank you so much. I am so honored to be sitting here and one of my friends Jenny jerk connected us and she was actually a guest on my show and towards the end of the interview she said you know you should really interview Christie for your podcast. And I said I would love to interview Christie.
[00:05:43.100] – Christy Turlington Burns
I’m so glad it happened and I’m so glad that you’re here for the marathon this weekend. Yeah. OK.
[00:05:47.230] – Lindsey Hein
So how many New York City marathons have you ran. I’ve run New York City twice. And I was going to run this year because it’s the fifth. I turned 50 this year it is supposed to be the fiftieth anniversary but they decided to celebrate it next year because they canceled seven years ago because of Hurricane Sandy which I also trained for and wasn’t able to run. So I’ve been injured actually I have I’ve had a stress fracture and a fractured met a torso on my left foot.
[00:06:15.130] – Christy Turlington Burns
So I deferred my spots and I’ll try it again next year on the 15th and I’ll pretend like I’m 50 again. Yes. You can just 50 twice. Exactly. How long have you been injured. I guess I did a half marathon in Tanzania in February and I thought I had shin splints and I kept running inside training for Big Sur and then I went and got an MRI and discovered that I was a stress fracture. So I was in a boot till June got out of it and was just starting to get back and then I did another short race at the Falmouth race road race up in Cape Cod in August and then hurt myself again.
[00:06:52.450] – Christy Turlington Burns
Oh man. So I’m just taking it easy.
[00:06:55.060] – Christy Turlington Burns
I’ve been doing a lot of yoga and I’m going to just reboot in January and start fresh.
[00:07:01.120] – Lindsey Hein
Yeah. OK. So Christy Turlington Burns for those listening they might know you as a supermodel Christy Turlington Burns I told my sister in law that I was interviewing you and that’s how she knows you. A lot of us in the running world don’t know you because of an organization you started Every Mother Counts. A lot of my friends have fundraised for every mother counts and I know it’s near and dear to so many people’s hearts. I’m a mom of four myself so I just love your mission so much.
[00:07:30.340] – Christy Turlington Burns
Thank you. Yeah.
[00:07:32.140] – Christy Turlington Burns
I mean I my first career is obviously as a model and I feel like if you were born before nineteen eighty seven you definitely know who I am but if not I never decided margin that people would have a connection to.
[00:07:48.060] – Christy Turlington Burns
That part of my my life. But I started every mother counts in 2010 and I started the organization because many years ago my daughter just turned 16. So it’s been 16 years since I became a maternal health advocate. I had a postpartum complication after her birth and that’s what opened my eyes to a global tragedy which is maternal mortality and. And yeah we lose women every day to pregnancy and childbirth related complications. And so after my experience I just felt so connected to so many other women that I will never know or never meet.
[00:08:25.600] – Christy Turlington Burns
But I I felt that my story and my platform I could offer a lot and I could be helpful in raising awareness about something that I think we have a lot of potential to be able to change but people don’t know enough or are connected to what the solutions are. And so that’s kind of what every mother counts started as and is all about.
[00:08:43.030] – Lindsey Hein
How do you transition. Because I know one thing I really admire about you is you went back to school.
[00:08:50.320] – Christy Turlington Burns
I went back to school actually. Well I started modeling when I was a teenager. I was 14 or 15 years old. I came to New York City when I was 16 and then I finished high school. But I would go back and forth and change to a professional children’s school so that I could leave often to work. And then once I was here on my own and living in an apartment and like living my best life I New York City here.
[00:09:15.250] – Christy Turlington Burns
Yeah. I was so excited.
[00:09:16.390] – Christy Turlington Burns
I’m from Northern California I’m from the East Bay area. Actually Jerry and I were born in the same hospital in Walnut Creek California. Yes we found that out once we traveled together to Tanzania but once I was here and I was no longer a student who was a model part time I suddenly started to think about oh wait a minute maybe that’s not so cool or maybe I really want to go get my education but it took me some time to make the time I was working a lot and sort of at the peak of my career in my early 20s when I made the commitment to go back and I went to school actually at 25 to NYU and I went I was really important that I go in for years and that I do it at the right pace and I was able to work a little bit but the people that I worked for were long term contractual kind of relationships and they really supported my choice to go back to school and work around my schedule which was fantastic.
[00:10:08.020] – Christy Turlington Burns
And and then I graduate when I was almost 30 and I was just at that point like hungry to start. Like that’s when I felt like my life was really starting. Because my first career I fell into and it’s fun and great and I enjoyed a lot of success but it wasn’t something that I set out to achieve.
[00:10:24.180] – Christy Turlington Burns
So it didn’t feel like mine so much so after I got out of school is when I started thinking about like who do I want to be and what do I want to do. And I started a couple of businesses. I was a big I am a big yoga enthusiast and practitioner and so I started a clothing line in partnership with Puma and about you know for yoga and lifestyle of yoga and then I started a natural skincare company at that time. It still exists but I sold it. OK.
[00:10:52.800] – Christy Turlington Burns
And then the Puma thing we ended up winding down after I had my second child and I just I don’t know I had a change of focus after I became a mom and I really wanted to do something even more meaningful than you know create products.
[00:11:05.640] – Lindsey Hein
When you say you fell into the modeling what did that look like.
[00:11:13.080] – c
My sister and I my older sister and I were equestrian so I mean we were we would horseback right after school every day and a photographer saw us riding and then asked my mom could he photograph us.
[00:11:26.880] – Christy Turlington Burns
And my sister who’s two years older was really keen. That sounds fantastic. And then I was kind of dorky and like gangly and a mouthful of braces and I was like Okay sure.
[00:11:40.080] – Christy Turlington Burns
And then because I was gangly and dorky with a mouthful of braces and taller than my sister I was the one that once the photographs were shared with an agent.
[00:11:50.580] – Christy Turlington Burns
We lived in Miami at the time when she showed them to the agent. They said oh you have a you could work. And then my sister was like What.
[00:11:58.340] – Lindsey Hein
[00:12:00.900] – Christy Turlington Burns
And so I started modeling but mostly at first after school and like junior high fashion nothing very glamorous but then pretty soon after by the time I was 15 16 I was working for magazines and spending a lot of time in New York and Europe and going and doing the fashion shows and all of those things and so yeah I did fall into it. I wasn’t thinking about I wasn’t even looking at fashion magazines at that point in time. I don’t think I had any style whatsoever. So I kind of just learned on the job and had a great chance to see the world which was always my my the main driver of my interest in the whole industry.
[00:12:38.910] – Christy Turlington Burns
I’m still living in New York after all these years I moved here full time in 1987 after I graduated from high school and married a New Yorker and had two kids here. And so this is home.
[00:12:48.690] – Lindsey Hein
What does your sister do now. She lives here now too. OK. I have two sisters. I’m the middle of three girls and my older sister ended up marrying my husband’s brother Noah. It’s so it’s a funny story.
[00:13:04.560] – Christy Turlington Burns
But they my sister was part of the reason why I met my husband. She had a friend who was a friend of a friend of his and they were trying to introduce us for a while actually and when we finally started dating we spent a lot of time with her. She was separated from her first husband at the time and my husband is super close to his younger brother. And so we were together in groups and doing ski trips and whitewater rafting trips and all of these fun things together and they were always very flirtatious but we never imagined that anything would happen and once we got married they decided to start dating and then a couple of years later they got married and they have two kids also.
[00:13:44.130] – Christy Turlington Burns
So they moved to New York a couple of years ago. Well actually it’s been a while now. Six years ago maybe and are raising their two sons and then one of her older children actually both of our older children live here now too and they live around the corner from us. So we see each other it’s like the best situation they see each other all the time.
[00:14:02.880] – Lindsey Hein
Oh my goodness that’s so cool. Yeah okay. Let’s dive into every mother counts a little bit more. Sure. Can you talk about the evolution of it. And I knew that you had a story with your daughter and you had some post birth complications. So can you kind of share that story.
[00:14:21.900] – Christy Turlington Burns
Sure yes. So when I became pregnant with my daughter Grace I was super excited to be pregnant and I was at a time my life really already had one career and I was sort of in the midst of being a business owner and I’d gotten my education and I was just like I met the person that I was gonna be with. And so I came into pregnancy feeling like so ready. And I also had great resources I had some friends here who had gone through childbirth here and kind of helped me navigate what my options were and I always wanted for myself natural childbirth and I think some people have that idea in mind.
[00:15:00.000] – Christy Turlington Burns
But then you know it’s not really in our control at the end of the day. But I really had this vision of myself delivering with a midwife and delivering in a birthing center and I was able to have that experience here. And really it was perfect. Everything about it I felt in supported. I was just like I love that I had the option that I had and the delivery even itself was really straightforward and was what I wanted and what I expected. And then postpartum I didn’t just progressed into the fourth stage of labor.
[00:15:33.150] – Christy Turlington Burns
So I had a retained placenta. It’s called and there’s no there’s no test or way that you could know that you have that until you deliver but essentially the placenta is grown into the uterine wall and so it needs to be extracted. And because I had an unmedicated birth that had to be extracted without pain medication. So is it. Oh gosh she’s as like a baby. Nothing. Oh having your placenta torn from your uterus. Very painful. And because your uterus is vascular I bled a lot so I hemorrhaged a couple of liters of blood not enough to have a transfusion.
[00:16:08.130] – Christy Turlington Burns
I also was able to stay in my birthing center room and all of the interventions in the management of the complication were done there which was great. So my husband was there with our daughter in his arms and you know it’s painful and it was scary but I felt very looked after when I went home. You know I kept asking myself like how this happened and how I felt so prepared Why did I not know this was a possibility and I came across really staggering statistics and at the time in 2003 the estimate globally for women and girls who die from pregnancy and childbirth related complications was more than half a million.
[00:16:44.550] – Christy Turlington Burns
Wow. And that those numbers really had not changed in decades. And just to discover that information just really shocked me to have gone through pregnancy not knowing that that’s still happened in the 21st century. I just blew my mind and once I learned I couldn’t sort of unlearn that information I started talking more with other women with my friends with my sisters about my experience and my complication and then I started to learn that a lot of other women that I knew had different complications either with their child in the pregnancy or themselves.
[00:17:15.210] – Christy Turlington Burns
And it just shows how little we talk about these very human experiences that so many of us go through but we don’t share them with each other which I think could also better prepare us for these these transitions in our lives. So I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do but I felt I felt very changed from the experience and I felt because birth can be so transformative and I felt that I had a story to tell and that I wanted more people to know about how transformative the birth experience could be and to be better prepared coming into it kind of that sort of playing it forward or paying it forward but bombing it forward a little bit.
[00:17:53.220] – Christy Turlington Burns
So I started just to get more and more educated in a couple of years later I was pregnant with my second child and at that time I had an opportunity to travel internationally with a humanitarian organization called care and because I was pregnant and because I had a small child at home the country we decided to go to was El Salvador which is my mom’s birth country and a country that I have been to many times. And so we went there and my mom came along and we visited a lot of different programs around the country and the last day I was there we visited a clean water project and that project like it drew a lot of women to it because women of course do most of the work in the world.
[00:18:37.620] – Christy Turlington Burns
So women were coming either pregnant or with babies on their backs to access clean water and in so doing they were getting very very basic prenatal care or postpartum care because it was this opportunity to engage and educate. And that’s where I had this aha moment. You know we were in this very rural community and I thought oh my gosh had I had the birth experience of my first and I lived here I would have died. I almost certainly would have died because we were so far away from the city hospital and we were on paid.
[00:19:09.570] – Christy Turlington Burns
We were not on paved roads and we were in places where there was not clean water and 10 roomed houses and it was very rural. So I came back from that trip had my son a few months later without complications and scared No actually a lot of people asking that and I really wasn’t.
[00:19:26.430] – Christy Turlington Burns
I think the only scary thing the second time and you will understand this is a mom of four is that when you’ve done it it’s almost like it’s almost like to know something is scarier right you like OK I know there’s only one way through this. And he was a bigger baby And he I delivered him much quicker. So. So in that sense it was it was intense.
[00:19:47.040] – Christy Turlington Burns
But otherwise you know really straight forward and I had the same team exactly in the same place and it always good and when I came out and he was healthy and I was healthy I just made a commitment that I’m gonna do whatever I can. And so I went back to care and I said How can I be helpful like how can I help that community we visited in El Salvador. They said well we’d love to have you help us but we are just too big to be able to have just one person matched with one community.
[00:20:14.430] – Christy Turlington Burns
So we’ll just help educate you and then you can sort of see what you’re interested in.
[00:20:20.180] – Christy Turlington Burns
And so I went you know once I weaned my second child I flew to Peru to see some work that they did there and where they were able to reduce maternal mortality in half in this rural community up in the highlands.
[00:20:32.600] – Christy Turlington Burns
That’s where I was really really excited by I saw this incredible program and in such a simple way just by really treating women with dignity and respect you know letting them speak in the language their catch Wow language letting them have a midwife by their side rather than to have them you know have this medicalized sort of western side of birth kind of approach letting them have their families in the room like things that are so basic and that’s what I wanted.
[00:21:02.220] – Christy Turlington Burns
Yeah yeah. So I came back and I decided I wanted to go back to school again again and I wanted to make a documentary film so that I could start to show some of these challenges and incredible solutions around the world so that people could make that connection.
[00:21:17.700] – Christy Turlington Burns
You know all over the world this like sisterhood sort of connection and I went back to school to work on a Master’s in Public Health at Columbia University. So that was in two thousand eight. My kids were pretty small they were 3 and 5 to 5.
[00:21:34.310] – Lindsey Hein
And did you have a nanny during this time what does that look like.
[00:21:36.950] – Christy Turlington Burns
I did. I early on I had some help but I didn’t have like a full time person because I even with my businesses I they were small. And since I was the founder of those businesses I could take them anywhere.
[00:21:50.180] – Christy Turlington Burns
And I did I took I could be flexible and I could take them anywhere and I could nurse in any meeting like I could do with any of it which was I mean I know that’s a luxury it shouldn’t be but it is. I remember I nursed for a long time and part of that was the convenience of being able to take long trips and to travel with my kids and it was great for me and it was great for them and my husband also has a flexible career. He’s a filmmaker and a writer and so you know when I went back to school it was a decision for our family.
[00:22:18.650] – Christy Turlington Burns
And then I started traveling a lot because of the film that I was making. But he really believed I mean he was right there with us and we had the complication that happened to him too and so he knew it was important and he was fully supportive of that. But even then it was like let’s try what it’s like to do a trip and then let’s see how everybody does and if everybody did well I could plan the next trip you know. So we really worked together to try to make it work and again he just fully supported it and I’m so grateful that I have a partner that understood the importance of what I was trying to do.
[00:22:49.530] – Christy Turlington Burns
And then when the film came out in 2010 it seemed like Okay this is just the beginning of what this is gonna be. It’s not the end. And so every mother counts was sort of initiated as a campaign to kind of accompany the film.
[00:23:04.520] – Christy Turlington Burns
There was starting to be some like political will and real conversations around maternal health because of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. And the film ended up being coming this very useful piece of storytelling to go with these statistics that the world was starting to talk about in development circles and in political circles and that felt like so meaningful to me because that’s why I made it. And I traveled around the world with that film to the countries where I filmed in we filmed in Tanzania Bangladesh Guatemala and the United States and I kept film like touring the world going and having these conversations getting people to be engaged in two to ask like the same question that I asked myself.
[00:23:46.760] – Christy Turlington Burns
Oh my gosh. Now that I know what what can I do. And so every mother counts was really initiated to be that for people too for people to learn more and then to find ways to engage. And you know that’s changed a little bit over the last almost 10 years since we started. But running became one of those ways. Like you know we got 10 spots for the New York City Marathon in 2011 and running a marathon and had been on a bucket list at some point.
[00:24:15.080] – Christy Turlington Burns
And then once I had kids I was like I don’t know how ever do that. And then because it came to every mother counts it was like Oh this is the perfect opportunity. And that was my first marathon and I didn’t have a first half or any other race of any distance it would go all in. Yeah yeah. And I’m trying to find other distances. Yeah.
[00:24:37.510] – Lindsey Hein
Hey everybody I’m going to take a quick break and think a couple sponsors who are helping make this podcast possible. The first is aftershocks. Aftershocks are my headphones of choice. I love these headphones so much. They use a bone conduction technology. You wear them on the outside of your ears. So you can still hear what’s going on around you you can feel safe and you still have a really great sound quality for your music or your podcast. They’re really easy to slip on an awful lot of times I’ll just have them around my neck and then pop them back on whenever I’m ready to turn them back on.
[00:25:13.120] – Lindsey Hein
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[00:25:42.670] – Lindsey Hein
Comfort and safety is everything with these guys. Again that’s another dot aftershocks dot com and use the code and another to get fifty dollars toward an endurance bundle and then the other thing I want to let you guys know. The New York boat owners has a virtual Turkey Trot five k. Coming up the road runners do virtual races all throughout the year and they’re super fun because you sign up for them free of charge and you can sync it up to Strava and see what people all over the globe are doing for this race.
[00:26:14.950] – Lindsey Hein
So the date for the race you have to run it anywhere between November 23rd and December 1st and then you just sink that right up to your Strava and you don’t even have to be at a local race to do it. You can still do the virtual race while competing in your local fire pit as well too. So make sure you get signed up. It’s free to sign up and you can go to NY aka org slash races slash in white are virtual Turkey Trot five K the link to that will be in the show notes of this podcast.
[00:26:47.110] – Lindsey Hein
And yes I will be participating in this virtual Turkey Trot myself. All right friends let’s continue my conversation with Christy Turlington Burns.
[00:26:58.920] – Lindsey Hein
Now you know I when you’re describing like your birth situation I think that we forget what a privilege it is that we get to just go to the hospital and do these things. Did I read somewhere or maybe I heard you say in the interview that 98 percent of maternal deaths are preventable.
[00:27:17.830] – Christy Turlington Burns
It’s actually 90 but for a long time we thought it was 98. So globally 90 percent which is a lot. And then in the United States 60 percent 60 percent we lose two women per day in the US. Why is that happening in the United States of America. Good question. It’s complicated. I mean are country is enormous and it’s almost like 50 countries really. You talk about the way they’re run the way that their systems are.
[00:27:46.140] – Christy Turlington Burns
We also have you know we have this problem in that we have the rise in chronic health conditions obesity diabetes lots of other hypertensive disorders. You know heart diseases like the leading killer of women in this country. But even like cardiac related deaths are the leading cause of maternal deaths to like happening while you’re in jail.
[00:28:09.060] – Christy Turlington Burns
You know preeclampsia which again if you’re getting care throughout your pregnancy and you are alerted to the fact that you may have that you can treat it all along but there are so many women that fall through the cracks that are uninsured. I mean only one in five women of reproductive age is insured in this country.
[00:28:27.330] – Lindsey Hein
And you have to pay for those visits and you have to pay for these visits. And so women are there’s a lot of women that aren’t welcomed into the system because either they’re disenfranchised or they just don’t have the means they don’t have the support at home they don’t have a job that gives them leave they don’t they have other children and no child care. There’s so many barriers for women to access care. And women as I’m sure you’ve also experienced tend to put themselves last. Right. Take my child first.
[00:28:57.660] – Christy Turlington Burns
My spouse second or first depending and my kids my family first. And then like whatever my needs are. And it’s so interesting because oftentimes when you’re pregnant is maybe the first time you have a really serious need to interface with your medical system or to be in a hospital. I’ve never been hospitalized in my life until I was pregnant. And so you know you already starting kind of behind the ball. Right. You you want to make sure that you’re in your optimum health before you become pregnant. But we don’t start talking about pregnancy until OP.
[00:29:30.900] – Christy Turlington Burns
I mean like 50 percent of pregnancies are not planned. That’s even when people who have the resources and tools to plan. We just don’t. That’s just the way it works. And so to to to find yourself in this place without having you know a plan in place right a plan for how you’re going to navigate your work because most people in this country like most people work most people in a family both being both adults are working people. And so thinking out like who’s getting leave Will anybody have leave. How are we going to raise our kid.
[00:30:04.680] – Christy Turlington Burns
Do we need help can we afford help. Those are major questions that a lot of American women can’t answer. The other piece that is a problem and is becoming more of a conversation right now is racism.
[00:30:18.000] – Lindsey Hein
See that was my next question. Oh good. Yeah I’m glad you’re bringing that up. It’s so hard to talk about.
[00:30:23.550] – Christy Turlington Burns
I think any. Does it matter how progressive or evolved I was nobody really. Right.
[00:30:28.510] – Christy Turlington Burns
So it is it’s the thing that you can’t not. It’s sort of the elephant in the room and the data has talked about this for some time. But I’d say in the last couple of years more and more attention because there have been more stories that have been amplified where you know Serena Williams for example she has a she had her own chronic health condition. So when she had her child and had a C-section she could recognize in her body that something was happening and she knew what she needed and she asked for that and she’s like you know one of the strongest people I know exactly.
[00:31:03.270] – Christy Turlington Burns
And she was not listened to immediately. Luckily she had a voice and could demand what she needed and she knew what it was and they listened. But that story really helped us to elevate this issue which is that women of color are three to four times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth related complications. And that means even women of color who are highly educated are are of a higher socioeconomic status.
[00:31:30.000] – Christy Turlington Burns
It doesn’t matter why the evidence is saying that it’s implicit bias in our institutions and it is crazy.
[00:31:42.080] – Christy Turlington Burns
And so the real solution to that is first of all acknowledging it and saying there is data there are stories and testimonials that say this is true and this is real. Now it’s on the health systems to say well we don’t accept this and to incorporate it implicit bias training into medical education and training to have that training be ongoing not just like you know we’re going to get one. Yeah. Exactly. Check the box. Now you’ve done it. And so that’s starting to be a deeper conversation now that it’s been said out loud and people are are looking at the data.
[00:32:16.350] – Christy Turlington Burns
You know state by state when you look at the states that are ranked the most poorly in the country they happen to be also places that have a large population of people that are of color a lot more women that are low income women. And so it just feels it’s it feels like you really like we need to be having this conversation we need to be looking at it. And if you improve the system for those women everyone will benefit. Because any woman as I mean I was a perfectly healthy person and I had a complication you know it can happen to anyone and yet most births go perfectly fine.
[00:32:51.470] – Christy Turlington Burns
So it has to be it’s a really about a system and getting a system to a place where it’s functioning and it’s smooth and that people have access and options throughout their journey. But if they’re not if they’re not properly introduced to the health care system then usually they get there too late and that in this instances is a life or death scenario. Allyson Felix was recently in the news about that. Yes just like a big press conference I saw that it’s I mean I don’t wish any of these things on anyone but the visibility and the voice and reaching so many more people.
[00:33:26.850] – Christy Turlington Burns
I mean I was at a media like an editorial board we did for a media company in the neighborhood recently today and we did this recently at CNN. And you know people were asking us why do we not see it more in the media and I was like and somebody turned it around said Yeah why are we not seeing it more in the media.
[00:33:43.860] – Christy Turlington Burns
And it’s a question we have to ask ourselves I think sometimes when there’s a sense that oh we’ve been giving we’ve been having babies since the beginning of time it’s the most natural thing. Why are we not talking about it. And then when we do talk about it it’s the worst scenario is it’s them or the ones that are celebrity oriented and then it’s like oh now we care because Serena Williams. And that’s the thing that we have to as a culture kind of get over and start just paying attention to it.
[00:34:07.650] – Christy Turlington Burns
Every woman every family. Yeah I had a scheduled C-section with my first birth mom and then I was able to be back. Good for you. That’s not easy. I mean it’s not easy to find people who will do it either. I mean it was like I remember the second baby. It was like in one of the resident doctors and I was had to make the choice you know winning because I wanted to make the choice. Are you gonna do a C-section. Are you going to try to be back.
[00:34:35.370] – Christy Turlington Burns
I just looked him in the eyes and I was like if I was your wife what would you tell me to do. And he said I I’d have to be back. Good for you and Lucky you because what if you said something else like that was just a very I might have been that might have tipped me over if you looked me in the eye and said C-section I might have been like OK.
[00:34:53.550] – Christy Turlington Burns
My gut instinct yeah do what you did that is what we do we any of us any people that go into the into the health care system and you go OK this person is a doctor this person is white a white coat and they know more than I do. And the thing is oftentimes especially because you don’t get to spend time with providers in the way that Apple used to. It’s always the residents Chuck and me and yeah. So if you don’t have that history and they don’t know you and you don’t know them really the best expert on you is you.
[00:35:22.620] – Christy Turlington Burns
That’s true you know. Yeah. And I I’ve thought about every mother counts and you know you’re going to these remote areas and like what if that was my experience just like your experience had you had your baby somewhere else because I had the schedule C-section cause my son was breech and that’s like very that can be very dangerous. You know so what if I wasn’t in the United States with access to good health care with health insurance. Yep. That c section would’ve been real expensive without my health insurance right.
[00:35:51.810] – Lindsey Hein
And that expensive it is another big problem in our system.
[00:35:55.740] – Christy Turlington Burns
But the other part is like in rural Tanzania for example you don’t have doctors that can do a C-section. So what happens is something called obstructed labor and that’s where you know a woman can’t deliver the child that she’s carrying.
[00:36:12.300] – Christy Turlington Burns
And there is no other option for a C-section. So usually that child does not make it. And then the mother if she doesn’t have it also removed surgically or in a medical setting she might not survive either. And so you know there is this recommendation around C-section. The World Health Organization suggests or recommends that the number should not be more than 15 percent of births to be C-section births and then not under 5 percent. In so many parts of the world it’s like way under 5 percent. Yeah. And then in the United States and in let’s say Brazil where elective surgery is quite common.
[00:36:48.510] – Christy Turlington Burns
It’s like thirty five plus Wow. So that’s really not safe. And there’s been a lot more efforts in the last couple of years to try to like not like to try to say no because another big complication or cause of death is placenta Akita and that’s that’s something that happens because you build up scar tissue when you usually have a first C-section you’re gonna have a subsequent one unless you have a an evolved doctor who says Yeah I’ll try this but I just life in its hands. I know but they goodness because most people if they have like two and three and four pregnancies and they have to do subsequent that’s a lot of c sections and they’re finding this a credo which is are on the rise that that’s directly connected to C section.
[00:37:27.420] – Christy Turlington Burns
So you know you have to you have to look at all of the odds and there’s always a scenario of odds and doctors job surgeons jobs are to like mitigate risk and to you know make those calls and to try to you know avoid.
[00:37:38.910] – Christy Turlington Burns
And yet now that the evidence is there you want to try your best to avoid those elective procedures. I mean again it’s a game of risk but I’m sure it’s a much harder thing to make those decisions in those calls. And also with our system and liability and all that you know doctors you can’t you can’t mess up right. Oh you can’t mess up but human errors is human and so it happens. But you want to try and part of the whole thing is like just to do everything that they possibly can before you know everything they possibly can.
[00:38:14.870] – Lindsey Hein
Which means a lot of intervention. Yeah I know I am. Every time I went in for my v backs I it’s like you try to push it out of your head like you know what could happen. And you’re like Shirley you know it’s two thousand nineteen. I won’t die in childbirth but it’s always just a little bit there. Even with the sophisticated system and every thing we feel it you feel how like fragile or how close you are. Like you know giving birth is is close to giving to dying.
[00:38:46.580] – Christy Turlington Burns
Yeah I mean it’s like this life force thing that’s so you know I think that’s why so many people have fear around it or why it’s the kind of thing that people don’t talk about enough is it just has that because it’s such an important moment.
[00:39:00.960] – Christy Turlington Burns
So to try to get people to feel as empowered as they can be going in as healthy as they can be and then to have the support of their provider and their family or whomever gives that support around them to be able to say you know you’ve got this you can do it and to advocate for for that choice and those wishes.
[00:39:19.240] – Lindsey Hein
What preventable maternal health problems is Every Mother Counts advocating for both in the US and in the rural places. So we are really focused on improving access to quality respectful and equitable maternity care which means it means that women have those options and choices.
[00:39:47.340] – Christy Turlington Burns
So in some respects it’s talking about advocacy. There’s some legislation that is working on bills that really identify what are the different areas and gaps in this in the health care system.
[00:39:59.790] – Christy Turlington Burns
They might be the fact that women don’t have care in the postpartum period which is why they like I think a third of maternal deaths happen during pregnancy. A third happened in delivery and a third happened postpartum. So where are the where are the opportunities to improve on what the experience is like throughout that process. So on the one level we really advocate for education and training of the providers so that you can recognize signs throughout that you’re getting more of a sense of what is going on in Mom’s life which means like do LA’s community based tool is people that are in the communities where women may live an hour so that you can really build up that trust and feel like you’re coming in and informed and have the power to to self advocate and then the delivery care piece a training training hospital employees and staff about how to be respectful how to listen to women.
[00:40:54.780] – Christy Turlington Burns
And we do that in some ways through showing our films showing our films to residents to docs in Grand Rounds having other kinds of providers like duals and midwives and nurses and family doctors all in the same room together so that they’re learning together and they recognize that they need to be a team when things happen. I mean that’s how I think my experience was so important because I got to see how they weren’t siloed and they weren’t in these like territorial like adversarial positions they really work together to make sure that I had what I needed in that I was going to be OK oftentimes in a hospital setting like when things go wrong it’s still not that common.
[00:41:34.380] – Christy Turlington Burns
So when things go wrong people panic and they’re not really trained to be dealing with these like emergency scenarios and some people will freeze and some people will know what to do.
[00:41:44.460] – Christy Turlington Burns
Oftentimes people will talk about how with aviation. My dad was a pilot so this one works really clearly in my mind every time before he flew he had this like huge book and he would review practices things he did every day for 30 years but every day always reviewed and doctors don’t necessarily do that they don’t have the time built into the system but they’ve just not that’s not the way that that practice has been trained. So you’re not thinking about all of these scenarios that are kind of rare that unless you’ve seen one before you would know kind of how to go forward.
[00:42:15.180] – Christy Turlington Burns
And so that’s starting to happen a little bit more there’s more implementation across different hospitals and through the different professional organizations to have standardized protocols in place and checklists and drills and there’s even these safety bundles which are there for a postpartum hemorrhage or clamps just to be on sites that people know how to use and when to use them and just can act more quickly when these happen and then you know the advocacy to our policymakers about what kinds of laws can improve and change outcomes for everyone. So two things passed last year which we’re really excited about that we helped support from the very beginning almost 10 years ago.
[00:42:58.320] – Christy Turlington Burns
One of those was looking at just consistent data collection maternal mortality reviews I think 33 states out of 50 actually have maternal and maternal mortality review boards and that is the process in which when something happens lots of members of the hospital staff and the Department of Health they come together and they really break down like where was the system failure. How can we prevent this from happening again. But if we’re not doing that consistently in every state and we’re not collecting the data that we learn from that consistently consistently. Then we don’t really know how bad it is.
[00:43:30.260] – Christy Turlington Burns
We know things are bad and they’ve been getting worse for the last two decades here. But it could be a lot worse than we know and getting worse in the last two decades. What you just steadily since the late 80s were the only that I already said that’s how I did. We’re the only industrialized country with a rising maternal mortality rate. And I think part of what we were talking about before was the chronic health homicide right. You know sometimes it’s wealthier countries that have issues of around obesity and diabetes it’s almost like these excessive kinds of you know fast food our health like there’s a lot of things we’re just not doing we don’t have very active people.
[00:44:06.500] – Christy Turlington Burns
I mean we have a lot of very active people. We have a lot of hyper active people. We’ve been talking a lot about like obesity on the rise in this country for a long time and time and then yeah the hypertensive stuff. It’s not just in women of color but you are seeing a lot of.
[00:44:22.460] – Christy Turlington Burns
You’re seeing a lot of it there and so that’s again goes back to the impulse or the racism this idea of being a woman of color in this country and having like those micro aggressions all through your life and at that what does that do to our system what does that do to your heart. What does that do to your organs. So again there’s scientific data that supporting this but again more and more data collection and more consistent reporting would help us to really understand what that is and then to figure out solutions accordingly.
[00:44:52.550] – Lindsey Hein
Yeah. Where do you see this going in five years ten years. How big is every mother counts.
[00:45:00.800] – Christy Turlington Burns
I mean we’re small in some ways. I mean we are 11 people. So we’re a small group but we really partner a lot with other organizations. So we think of that as an extension of what we do. We have lots of strategic partners that are large and small.
[00:45:16.340] – Christy Turlington Burns
We have about 50 running ambassadors across the country some even outside of the country that are people who have run for us but either are advocates or have have some health education like childbirth education experience or they’re nurses or their doctors or their midwives and they care a lot or they’re just moms and they. This touches them and they are super amped up to do more and help spread the word. So that’s 50. So that’s another extension of us. So that’s a big piece. It is. It is.
[00:45:45.920] – Christy Turlington Burns
And I think I mean part of is not growing that faster is just not having the capacity here to make sure because you know once you get people engaged you really want to we we really value this sort of high touch approach like we want people to feel like they’re active participants and their partners and they’re contributing and they’re getting back something and you know like it’s just important for us to have that kind of partnership and so in order to be able to provide that we need to make sure that we can stop it here too.
[00:46:13.400] – Christy Turlington Burns
And we’re getting better at it. We we are we are learning and growing but next year our 10 year anniversary and we’re doing a lot of just looking back at all the lessons learned. I mean we’ve given about 50 million dollars in grants since 2012 when we became the foundation. Well we have we’ve had so many grantee partners but currently we have six countries where we have grantee partners. We have two in the United States one in Florida one New Mexico both of them are midwives who provide care to women of color primarily but low income women women who are disenfranchised to some extent and and then Guatemala where we’re training midwives and they’re called come they’re on us in Guatemala.
[00:47:01.040] – Christy Turlington Burns
So we’re going next week actually for a graduation of the second class of university accredited midwives in Guatemala. So there are women who have been trained in a clinical setting but they’re also come from traditional Indigenous backgrounds and they’ve been trained for three years and then they’ll go back out to those really remote areas to provide care for women in their communities will feel like the pregnancy care giver and they’ll be the linkages to higher levels of care if an emergency should happen and then word we’re doing some human rights based work in India with a migrant t population of workers that are all women.
[00:47:40.100] – Christy Turlington Burns
India has incredible laws in their constitution but not every person knows what they’re entitled to. So part of the work we’ve been funding in Assam India has been just educating this population that they do have the right to health care that they do have the right to this access to clinics and and making sure that they are empowered to ask the right questions such just like human rights training about what they are eligible for and what they need. And then in Bangladesh we’ve been supporting a partner in this area called Cox’s Bazar which if you’ve followed it all the Rohingya population the refugee crisis that’s come in from Myanmar from Myanmar into Bangladesh.
[00:48:16.490] – Christy Turlington Burns
They’ve built an extension hospital just to be able to serve that million person relation that just came flooding in over the last couple of years. And what happens when people are are left are wandering from their own country or displaced oftentimes women are pregnant during that time or have or have small children that they’re carrying from one place to the next. And you know that’s just a it’s a terrible time to imagine like you have four kids. Imagine having to migrate from one country to another let alone you know a community to the next and so identified as communities I know from the very beginning of working on the first film No woman no cry.
[00:48:58.020] – Christy Turlington Burns
And also just my education at Columbia just really getting to know a lot of the players in the space the maternal and child health community globally is a pretty strong one people are having working at this for decades and so gotten to know all of those major players through the process of going back to school and working on the film and then becoming an advocate and people being so excited to have somebody who’s talking about it that I’ve just gotten to meet so many people. And so when we were first starting to you know give grants we just reached out to people that we’d mad and we like you know because you could almost close your eyes and point anywhere on a map and start but we started with places where we got invitations people said you know can you come and can you see.
[00:49:40.530] – Christy Turlington Burns
And then we’d learned about the program and we find like is this is it something that feels like the right the right fit for us. We’ve found over time that the smaller grassroots organization feel the best because they don’t have the same layers they can report back. It’s so clear to know when we can make an impact because you really see it you see it immediately. So they’re usually small but they also demonstrate what could happen and what could be scaled if they had more resources behind them. And so part of our our goal is to really show like what is possible.
[00:50:12.790] – Christy Turlington Burns
And and that’s really where our grant making and then we have an emergency fund grant to which has been able to help out like Hurricane Harvey in Texas a few years ago Puerto Rico the Virgin Islands the migrant situation the crisis at the border we gave an emergency fund Grant a couple months ago there just to be able to help provide showers for lactating women and moms who’ve been carrying their kids and haven’t bathed. You know like Simple simple simple things. So we try to like go to the communities where there’s a lot of need and then assess through our community partners who are very tapped into what’s happening and what the needs are of the people they’re trying to serve and then try to provide those solutions when we can.
[00:50:58.110] – Lindsey Hein
Can you talk a little bit about how running plays into every mother counts and how there’s a connection there.
[00:51:04.950] – Christy Turlington Burns
Sure. So after that first year that I ran in twenty eleven I when I started training every like every time I went past like five miles I’d run a little bit for exercise when I go past five miles the first one was like oh my gosh I can do this. And then on my training rounds I just read thinking about it a lot like I’m doing this for this reason and I started finding all these parallels not only because in so many parts of the world including parts of the United States. Distance is a big barrier for women to access care and sometimes miles alone are not the barrier in distance because distance could be it could be a mile.
[00:51:40.830] – Christy Turlington Burns
But if it’s a mile up a you know a muddy crazy path that’s really difficult or you know for some people just to get across the side of town is really hard. So anyway that just became really clear that distance was a was a major factor why we were riding and why we were raising awareness and then also once you. Once I went through it and I got to the finish line it’s very much like pregnancy right leg.
[00:52:05.180] – Christy Turlington Burns
You know you’re in this long journey that you commit to and even through that you go through these highs and lows right where it feels amazing and you like I could go on forever and then you have these moments like in labor where you’re like I don’t know if I could do this for five minutes and then you get to the end and you like push through and it’s incredible and you’re euphoric and you have all of this adrenaline. And so I feel like there were so many parallels and before I had my first before I ran my first race before I had my first child my Dula asked me Have you run a marathon tissues trying to assess my tolerance for pain.
[00:52:40.620] – Christy Turlington Burns
And I hadn’t. But when I ran a marathon I know what she’s talking about and now I’ve run eight marathons and I run like 15 or 16 half marathons and I get it and I now like to see the value in continuing that.
[00:52:54.330] – Christy Turlington Burns
It’s such a great way for people to join us and be a part of what we’re trying to build.
[00:52:58.140] – Lindsey Hein
Okay we’ll wrap up with one question. What’s your one message you want to send to the world. Christy Turlington Burns not just to care.
[00:53:06.780] – Lindsey Hein
I think people do care. They want to care and they it’s it’s hard to find something I mean I hope listening to this you care about this and the maternal health will be something that you’re passionate about.
[00:53:17.670] – Christy Turlington Burns
But honestly it’s just a matter of what what pulls at your heartstrings what what what makes you most concerned or keeps you up at night and go out there and be a part of figuring it out. Because in all of these problems can be solved if we all work together and and make it a commitment and a priority.
[00:53:33.960] – Lindsey Hein
Thank you so much. Thank you.
[00:53:37.880] – Lindsey Hein
All right everybody thanks so much for tuning in today. Thank you Christi for coming on the show and sharing your story. You all can find Christi on Instagram. She is see Turlington. You can find every mother counts on Instagram there. Every mom counts. I will link to that in the show notes as well as well as their Web site. If you haven’t heard of this awesome organization make sure you check it out. You can find me on Instagram. I’m Lindsay Hinds six to six. You can find me on Twitter at Lindsay hide and you can find me on Facebook.
[00:54:10.550] – Lindsey Hein
I’ll have another podcast with Lindsey Hein where we have a group as well. Don’t forget if you want to hear the live show I did with Deena Kastor and Sally Mcrae that is available for all patreon supporters when you go to Patreon.com/LindseyHein. You can get the full audio straight to your podcast feed as well as you can watch the full video over there. As well. That’s Patreon.com/LindseyHein. Thank you so much everybody for tuning in today I appreciate you being here. I hope that you’re heading into a wonderful week with Thanksgiving being right around the corner.
[00:54:46.940] – Lindsey Hein
Have a great Friday. Have a wonderful rest of your weekend. And as always. I will see you next Friday.