In honor of Father’s Day

This Father’s Day We’re Celebrating Charles Johnson, Maternal Health Advocate
By: Avital Norman Nathman

After losing his wife in a birth-related tragedy, Charles Johnson has made it his mission to stop preventable maternal mortality in its tracks

At Every Mother Counts, we celebrate partners and fathers for their support they provide the women and families in their lives. With Father’s Day around the corner, we want to take the opportunity to highlight one of the many fathers in our community that we admire.

Charles Johnson is many things: A business-owner, a widower, a maternal health advocate, and son to the esteemed Judge Glenda Hatchett. But above all, he’s a father, working each day to set an example for his two young sons. In April of 2016, Charles’ lost his wife Kira after she was allowed to bleed internally for over 10 hours following a routine scheduled C-Section. Now, as a single dad, Charles works hard to ensure that no other family in the US has to experience what his did.

Charles, 37, is the ultimate multi-tasker. In addition to running his own business and parenting Charles V (3) and Langston (2), he is the force behind 4 Kira 4 Moms, an organization devoted to lowering the maternal mortality rate in this country. While it could have been easier to slip back into his previous life, or fall apart completely after Kira’s death — which left him the sole parent to a newborn and toddler — Charles drew from the strength he shared with his wife to share her story in hopes of preventing their tragedy from happening to anyone else.

“The thing about love is that is has the ability to turn pain into power, and that’s what I try to do,” says Charles. “I channel all the stuff I’ve been going through and pour it into my advocacy and pour it into my my boys. Those are two things I can see real tangible results in, and it warms my heart.”

Since Kira’s untimely death, Charles has been speaking and advocating non stop for improved maternal healthcare. He travels to various states to share his story and push for better policies, both at the government level and in hospitals. He recently spoke at the March for Moms Rally to Improve Birth, where his passion and determination to fix the faults in our current birth industry shined through. Each time he speaks, he’s amazed at how many people identify with Kira’s story in some way. He realizes the impact it has, and he’s using it to help create change.

And people are listening — from fellow advocates, to other patients and even birth providers! After sharing his story at a recent talk in Texas, an obgyn in attendance vowed to do everything they could to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Then, a nurse with over 30 years experience, got up and promised Charles, “We’re going to do better,” and then insisted that all the providers sitting there promise the same thing.

In addition to speaking across the country, Charles is pushing hard for policy change. His website has ways for folks to contact their representatives to urge them to support HR. 1318 and S. 1112, two bills currently in Congress that can have a massive impact on maternal health and mortality. He’s also become a source of support and inspiration for other fathers. “I just want to encourage men to be supportive,” Charles tell us. “The more men that share their stories or encourage their partners to share their stories will have a big impact.”

For a man to lose his wife and become a single dad all in one day, including to a newborn baby, is a challenge most people can’t even comprehend. But for Charles, it’s about making sure that Kira did not die in vain. And his wish this Father’s Day? “I really want there to be a time that the thought of a woman dying from childbirth in the US is a thing of the past,” he tells us. “That’s what I hope.”

This Father’s Day we celebrate Charles Johnson, and all the hard work he’s done to make sure every delivery ends with a happy, healthy mother and child.

Topics: Maternal Health