“Know your options. Know anything that you have going on, like asthma, or blood pressure, and get yourself a doula, absolutely. If you ever encounter someone that you don’t think is creating a culturally safe space for you, leave. If Black women decided to stop seeing particular providers, either they will slowly stop working and close down, or be forced to change.” – Jeanine Valrie-Logan, midwife
“Birth is one of the most powerful situations you can be in during life. [I] had an empowered birth experience where I brought my kids into the world with joy, confidence and power; every parent deserves to feel that during birth. So seek out your tribe to help you tap into that wisdom you already have inside of you.” – Anya Tanyavutti, executive director of Chicago Volunteer Doulas
“We have this intergenerational trauma around breastfeeding and birth. When you think about slavery and systemic racism and enslavement, Black women often had their babies taken from them when they were born; they were often used for wet nurses. We need to directly support, encourage and cheer on mothers: You got this and you are going to be a great mom. It’s one way to help people heal and break the cycle.” – Brenda Blasingame, executive director of HealthConnect One
“Trust your feelings. You know your body more than anyone. A lot of partners pick up on the mother looking listless, pale, slurring her words; they know something is wrong. Lean on your partner and get your partner some training. Something else that my birth doula says is that every woman has the right to mourn the birth that she wanted but didn’t get.” – Heather Dobbs, “Mama, Black and Blue” blogger and reproductive justice advocate
“Get your team ready. You need grandma, aunties, your neighbors and your husband, all of them. We now know the importance of Black women to have advocates throughout the entire pregnancy and birth process. If Serena Williams had a buddy there in the hospital to ask for better care, she wouldn’t have had to do it all herself in a near-death situation. Your family, blood or chosen, can be that support team to make sure you are OK.” – Jennie Joseph, The Birth Place’s founder, executive director and licensed midwife
“That whole ‘at least you have a healthy baby’ [comment] isn’t sitting right with everybody today because many moms know that the birth experience does affect you and your baby. A lot of damage can be caused in birth. The baby may be medically healthy but we all know depression in moms affects their babies and children, and that the trauma a woman has experienced is a cycle unless we interrupt it. ” – Lakeita Edwards, certified nurse midwife
“Do everything to ensure that mom is happy. If she is happy, she can go forth with a healthy pregnancy.”
– Reneau Diallo, certified nurse midwife
“There needs to be more emphasis on the fourth trimester. Where we begin to lose women in the gap between baby blues and postpartum depression, that is where we need to shed more light.”
– Maria Flanagan, doula apprentice
This story was produced by City Bureau, a civic journalism lab based in Woodlawn. Learn more and get involved at www.citybureau.org.
Read all stories in our special Maternal Health Issue here.