In 2019, Waterbury, Connecticut, faced a staggering reality: it held the highest infant mortality rate in the entire state. This alarming statistic sheds light on a deep-rooted issue within the community — the state of Black maternal health. To combat this, Connecticut native and filmmaker, Candice Peterkin began a journey to unravel the layers of this crucial story. Partnering with Waterbury Bridge to Success (BTS), she directed, produced, and edited a three-part documentary titled “When The Water Breaks.”

Waterbury Bridge to Success

Waterbury Bridge to Success is a light for Black mothers in the heart of Waterbury’s community. Founded on the principle of equitable opportunities for all, this organization tirelessly works to dismantle unfair systems.

“Our mission is to create a brighter future for all of us, from cradle to career,” Deputy Director Akia S. Callum shared with 21Ninety.

The organization’s #Day43 initiative, born from the community’s dire need, is proof of BTS’s commitment to change. It aims to combat Black maternal mortality and foster an equitable environment for all birthing individuals.

“Our organization…has a direct relationship with #Day43 with stories, memories, and experiences,” she explained, reflecting on the genesis of the initiative. “#Day43 was planted in the Winter of 2021…By transforming systems, #Day43 will raise awareness of Black women’s maternal health in the city of Waterbury.”

Through education, legislation, policy advocacy, and community-centered collaboration, the initiative continues to fight the black maternal health crisis.

“When The Water Breaks” Docuseries

The collaboration between Peterkin and BTS for “When The Water Breaks” creates a narrative around Black maternal health. It is an opportunity to amplify the voices of mothers, health officials, and advocates alike. The docuseries personifies the challenges faced by Black mothers in Waterbury. Peterkin aimed to make the series as personal as she could.

“I just hope that people see that this could have been them, this could be them,” she explained. “Because that’s how you get people to truly understand the issue.”

As Peterkin embarked on the year-long filming process, she uncovered shocking truths about the systemic nature of the maternal health crisis.

“This is a systematic problem…built on racism,” she said, reflecting on her journey. “It’s hard for black women to feel safe in these spaces because there are doctors who don’t have the culturally competent training that they need to understand.”

Through intimate conversations with Black women in Waterbury, “When The Water Breaks” aims not only to shed light on the challenges but also to inspire change and pave the way for a brighter, healthier future for mothers in Waterbury and beyond.

Advocating for a Brighter Future

The voices of Candice Peterkin and Akia S. Callum resonate with a call to action. They underscore the urgent need for systemic change in healthcare and society at large. Callum outlines tangible steps for improvement, including transparency in healthcare costs, expanded access to services, and legislative reforms to support doulas.

“Structural racism in the healthcare system perpetuates racial and ethnic disparities in health, particularly in birthers and their babies,” she emphasized. “Black women are 3-4 times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than their white counterparts.”

Through relentless advocacy and unwavering determination, BTS and the creators of “When The Water Breaks” strive to keep the conversation alive until meaningful change is realized.

“This one documentary can’t fix this problem,” Peterkin leveled. “But it can bring recognition to it.”