Vu-An Foster, a Master of Public Health student, recently received a scholarship from The Perfect Push Foundation to support her studies. The Perfect Push Foundation spreads awareness of, and addresses, the maternal and child health crisis affecting women and communities of color in the United States and around the world. This scholarship enables Foster to continue her studies and continue to provide support to expectant parents.
Before celebrating the birth of a healthy baby boy in July 2021, Foster experienced two painful pregnancy losses. In 2017, she suffered a second-trimester loss, a baby girl she affectionately named Jelly Bean and was subsequently diagnosed with an incompetent cervix. Sadly, in 2018, she again endured a second-trimester loss, a daughter named Valentina Marie, despite having a vaginal cerclage procedure. She founded Life After 2 Losses in Newark, New Jersey, where she shares her story after the preventable losses of her two daughters and is the organization’s executive director. The mission of Life After 2 Losses is to support, inform, and empower other women and moms to prevent them from similar losses by providing advocacy through education. Also, Foster serves on multiple committees surrounding perinatal health and infant mortality, including the New Jersey Maternal Care Quality Collaborative (NJMCQC) with the NJ Department of Health, appointed by recommendation of the NJ Commissioner of Health and Governor Phil Murphy.
After receiving an abdominal cerclage before getting pregnant a third time, Foster ultimately gave birth to a healthy baby in July 2021. Shortly after, she tweeted: “‘African-American women are 7 times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related complication.’ But we did it and I am grateful that I didn’t become part of the statistic. I’m heading home after being readmitted twice for severe preeclampsia complications. #advocateforchange,” alongside a triumphant, celebratory photo of her in a hospital bed with her newborn baby.
Foster’s work led her to become the New Jersey ambassador with Count the Kicks, a tool that helps expectant parents count kicks as a simple way to monitor their baby’s well-being. Through timed sessions and counting kicks, parents can compare the activity with that of previous sessions to identify a pattern, and subsequently contact their providers if any significant changes are noted. Her work with this group provided an introduction to the United States Senator Corey Booker, and he offered a video of congratulations to the new mom, stating, “I am just overjoyed and I cannot tell you how much I believe that hope in the entire world is renewed when a child is surrounded by this much love comes into our midsts. There is so much hope and possibility for this beautiful, beautiful child.” Also, on National Rainbow Baby Day, August 22, 2021, a day where families get a chance to celebrate the joy of a new baby while reflecting and sharing about the baby (or babies) they lost, Count the Kicks published an extensive interview with Foster.
Foster recently published an article entitled, “Reimagining Perinatal Mental Health: An Expansive Vision For Structural Change,” published in Health Affairs 40, no. 10 (2021). The article discusses how diagnoses of depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses capture just one aspect of the psychosocial elements of the perinatal period. Perinatal loss; trauma; unstable, unsafe, or inhumane work environments; structural racism and gendered oppression in health care and society; and the lack of a social safety net threaten the overall well-being of birthing people, their families, and communities. The article employs personal and professional expertise to disrupt underlying assumptions about psychological aspects of the perinatal experience and reimagines a new way forward to facilitate well-being in the perinatal period.
Foster’s personal story ties in with her academic research, and she is an exemplary student focused on making a change in advocating for and educating women regarding perinatal care.