How to do your part in making tangible changes in Black Maternal/Infant health

Image credit    TONL

Image credit TONL

Over the last couple of years we have seen a lot of media covering the Black Maternal/Infant Mortality and Morbidity crisis in the United States. I have a dozen of the most popular listed here. And to be honest, I’m burnt out on discussing this topic. I even made the decision to stop doing interviews about it. I’ve been waiting for the conversation to pivot to tangible solutions. While this website was created for Doulas, being a student midwife has given me a different perspective on solutions. We need to create spaces where the Doula is not acting as a body guard for the client. We need safe spaces for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) to birth outside the Hospital industrial complex. A safe space for people to receive well person care without implicit bias and abuse. And that looks like more than having a Black or Latinx OBGYN. Or a racists white midwife (there’s an abundance of them). So how do we do that? We put our energy and finances into FUBU organizations, birth centers and midwifery schools. We help fund licensed Black midwives to teach Black students. They’re people who are doing Birth Justice work and we need to support them so that this framework will be our norm. Below is a list of organizations to donate time and/or money too. If you are a white midwife who is also a NARM preceptor and can take on a BIPOC student please email me.

This is a working list, please email me if something is missing. The list is for organizations focusing on policy work and/or training BIPOC midwives, not a doula directory. 

  1. Black Mama’s Matter Alliance Atlanta, Georgia

    1. Black Mamas Matter Alliance is a Black women-led cross-sectoral alliance. We center Black mamas to advocate, drive research, build power, and shift culture for Black maternal health, rights, and justice.

  2. Sista Midwife New Orleans, Louisiana

    1. A national directory of Black Midwives and Doulas/Birth Workers

  3. The Afiya Center Dallas, Texas

    1. The Afiya Center (TAC) was established in response to the increasing disparities between HIV incidences worldwide and the extraordinary prevalence of HIV among Black women and girls in Texas. TAC is unique in that it is the only Reproductive Justice (RJ) organization in North Texas founded and directed by Black women. Our mission is to serve Black women and girls by transforming their relationship with their sexual and reproductive health through addressing the consequences of reproduction oppression

  4. Ancient Song Doula Services Brooklyn, New York

    1. Ancient Song Doula Services is a international Doula certifying organization founded in the Fall of 2008 in Brooklyn, New York with the goal to offer quality Doula Services to Women of Color and Low Income Families who otherwise would not be able to afford Doula Care and training a workforce of full spectrum Doulas to address health inequities within the communities they want to serve .

  5. Usazi Village Kansas City, Missouri

    1. A non-profit organization dedicated to improving health inequities in our community, with models of care that can be community supported and sustained and replicated throughout the country. Usazi village has been established to decrease the maternal and infant health disparities found in the urban core, particularly African-American women.

  6. Southern Birth Justice Network Miami, Florida

    1. In spite of an increasingly violent medical environment, midwifery care creates space to have safe, gentle, and empowered birth experiences. Midwifery care is holistic, healing, and humanistic. It has rich herstory, legacy, and roots in communities of color. Our vision for Southern Birth Justice Network is to make this care accessible and central to all, especially Black, Brown, immigrant, indigenous, queer, transgender, low-income and other marginalized communities.

  7. Roots of Labor Birth Collective Oakland, California

    1. Roots of Labor Birth Collective (RLBC), is committed to support, empower and care for birthing members of our community. RLBC consists of birth and postpartum doulas of color. We strive to reflect the communities we serve, while uplifting and caring for ourselves. Our mission is to provide a training platform to encourage the sustainability for entrepreneurship in the doula profession.

  8. Village Birth International Syracuse, New York and Northern Uganda

    1. foster humane birth practices and increase access to maternal and infant health through collaborative and equitable international partnerships and trainings.

  9. Jamaa Birth Village Ferguson, Missouri

    1. St. Louis's first Equal Access Midwifery Clinic with expanded and comprehensive care, providing expectant women and families with prenatal and postpartum care at any phase of pregnancy . JMV mission is to provide affordable access to midwives, doula's and childbirth education for at-risk women in the St. Louis region in an effort to lower premature births and infant mortality through a network of health professionals and peers

  10. Mamatoto Village Inc. Washington D.C.

    1. Mamatoto Village is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, devoted to creating career pathways for Women of Color; and empowering women with the necessary tools to make the most informed decisions and choices in their maternity care, their parenting, and their lives. The mission is twofold: to provide accessible support services to women and their families during pregnancy through the first six months of the child's life, and to facilitate the increase of qualified women of color serving in the Maternal Health and Human Services profession. By promoting and centering reproductive justice we aim to foster healthy individuals, healthy families, and healthy communities.

  11. Birthing Hands Midwifery and Birthing Services Washington D.C.

    1. Birthing Hands offers a full range of home birth midwifery and birth services to pregnant persons and their families in the DC, Maryland and NOVA area. (Midwife Claudia also hosts trainings for Black student Midwives)

  12. Boderlands Birth Education and Advocacy Project El Paso, Texas

    1. is a local, non-governmental network of midwives and birth workers in the tri-state area (Texas, New Mexico, and Chihuahua). Borderlands Birth works to reduce barriers to reproductive healthcare access while promoting reproductive justice on all sides of these state and national borders. Borderlands Birth focuses on education, community collaboration, and health promotion in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez; and is currently working with Promotoras in Palomas, Mexico to help improve outcomes for pregnant and parenting families.

  13. Crimson Fig Midwifery Los Angelos, Californa

    1. Racha Tahani Lawler is a California licensed midwife, skilled in the midwifery traditions of her Southern U.S. and South African ancestors. She is the direct descendent of midwives, dating back four documented generations. Racha obtained her formal education in hospitals as a nursing student and at the historically accredited midwifery school Maternidad La Luz. She ultimately chose traditional midwifery without nursing school, and obtained her license to practice midwifery in 2004 after the home waterbirth of her first born son. All three of her children were born at home in water, post due date and they have attended well over 180 births either carried on her back or sitting at her side. ( Racha also hosts trainings for BIPOC student midives)

  14. ROOTT (Restoring Our Own through Transformation Columbus, Ohio

    1. ROOTT is a Black women-led reproductive justice organization dedicated to collectively restoring our well-being through self-determination, collaboration, and resources to meet the needs of women and families within communities.

  15. National Black Midwives Alliance (NBMA)

    1. NBMA's goal is to have a representative voice at the national level that clearly outlines and supports the various needs and interests of Black midwives.

  16. The National Association to Advance Black Birth (NAABB)

    1. To bring forth a world in which Black women and persons achieve their full birthing potential, and thrive during the childbearing year.

Black Student Midwife: Chasity Millen

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Who are you and why midwifery?

My name is Chasity Millen and I am a 2nd year student midwife. I felt called to be a midwife to be a gatekeeper and honor the return of our Ancestors. I started as a birthworker in 2011 amd felt called to give support to WOC as a reprieve from the injustices we face everyday. I wanted to assist them in making informed and empowered choices when it came to birth and their health.

What structural and institutional barriers have you encountered that has made your student CPM journey difficult?

It has been difficult to function fully as a student midwife oncall, attend school, and also afford to handle it all. The fees associated with the school I attend are steep and traveling onsite is something I dread because I do not know where the funds will come from. Also the lack of diversity in the curriculum is just now being addressed.

How long have you been a student midwife?

2 years

Has it been difficult finding a preceptor? If so, why?

It was at first. I worked with a midwife in Michigan that did not know how to handle the reaction of her clients that were uncomfortable having a WOC at their birth. I struggled to find my voice while I worked with her. I moved a year ago and found the perfect placement with a WOC midwife in Atlanta.

How do you feel about the recent NARM changes?

They are discouraging. I wish they would continue to honor true apprenticeships and honor the traditional midwife. 

What can people who are reading this do to support you?

I do have my own business of natural products that I make to help maintain my household while I attend school and births. I do not get paid for births and I can not work a job with set hours while being on call so all sales are appreciated (www.loveandlightheal.com) IG: @seethedivineinu

Black Student Midwife: Sumayyah Franklin

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Who are you and why midwifery?
My Name is Sumayyah Franklin and I am a midwife. I did not choose to be a midwife, it chose me. From a young age life has prepared me to serve in this capacity. I come from a lineage of healers and I firmly believe that this is something one is called to do, not taught or chooses. 

What structural and institutional barriers have you encountered that has made your student CPM journey difficult?

It took me a while to enroll in to an institutionalized school. I intentionally unschooled and home schooled in a traditional apprenticeship for the first couple of years. The school i eventually chose to attend did not take financial aid nor payment plans. Therefore i needed to have the full payment in one lump sum which was a challenge for me. I eventually received a private loan from a midwifery organization that then a random white midwife paid off for me. Besides that my path has been smooth and easy. 

How long have you been a student midwife?

When are we ever not a student of midwifery? However, i am entering my 6th year. 


Has it been difficult finding a preceptor? If so, why?

It took me about 6 months to manifest my preceptor. After asking all the midwives i knew and being told they did not have capacity at that moment. I decided to reach out to midwives i did not have a personal relationship with. Before dong so i wrote out all the things i would love in a preceptor. I then met my current preceptor and dear friend 1 month later. It was truly love at first sight!


How do you feel about the recent NARM changes?
I feel like it is dangerous and oppressive to not include us at the table where these decisions are being made. Coincidentally, our well being will not be considered at best and be detrimental at worst. 

What can people who are reading this do to support you?

People can support my fellow student midwives not only get into school but also keep them afloat as they study. 

Anything else you would like to add?

 

Black Student Midwife: Barbara Verneus

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I am the founder of Tiny & Brave Holistic Services (instagram: @tinyandbrave); Doula; a blogger; maternal life coach, while being a single mother of one in Austin, TX. I have been a trained Birth Companion (doula) since 2004. In 2006, I went overseas through the African Birth Collective to Senegal, West Africa assisting midwives in labor and delivery. In 2008, I obtained a Graduate certificate from Boston University in Maternal and Infant Care in Public Health. Then I received my Master’s in Counseling with a concentration in Marriage and Family in 2016. I have written for or featured on Mater Mea @matermea; Mothering Naturally, Black Women Birthing Justice @birthingjustice; MadameNoire@madamenoire and#NoPrivateParts @bstereo@everydaybirth Magazine and@birdsongbrooklyn blog. I am a strong advocate in being an instrument of healing to women, mothers and mothers-to-be who have experienced trauma; while inspiring more Black and Brown women to enter the birth work field. I also advocate/activist on the issue of the infant and maternal disparities happening within Black communities. Why midwifery? Because I want to be part of protecting the Black family and midwifery along with counseling is definitely a way in doing so.

How long have you been a student midwife?

I officially began being a student midwife in Feb of 2017. I am choosing to do the PEP Process towards becoming a certified professional midwife due to financial barriers that forces me to pay a lot of my journey on my own.

How do you feel about the recent NARM changes?

It is extremely discouraging because once I think there is an opportunity I can do to achieve my goals, a barrier is presented. I really don't think those who are making the laws and regulations are thinking outside of their own cultural norm which is white cultural norms.

How do you feel about the recent NARM changes?

It is extremely discouraging because once I think there is an opportunity I can do to achieve my goals, a barrier is presented. I really don't think those who are making the laws and regulations are thinking outside of their own cultural norm which is majority white cultural norms.

What can people who are reading this do to support you?

If you would like to support me you can do so by purchasing a shirt towards my education. https://www.bonfire.com/dashboard/details/dope-moms-need-dope-moms-1/. Please follow me on instagram @tinyandbrave and you can also repost/share about my shirts and the link provided https://www.bonfire.com/dashboard/details/dope-moms-need-dope-moms-1/. If you would like to help out in a greater way than purchasing a shirt; but in the form of purchasing some of my midwifery books/materials, helping to pay for tuition, room and board, etc., you can contact me directly at tinyandbravedoula@gmail.com for more info. 

Anything else you would like to add?

And behalf, of my sisters who are pursuing this divine calling; those who wondering how they can help us - I charge you if you can (those with the financial ability), to commit to at least one student midwife to whom you can donate to every month towards their journey; if you truly believe having more Black and Brown midwives is extremely important and is a matter of life and death. And those that can't be a preceptor, at least be a mentor to  students who may need guidance in the bureaucracy of becoming a midwife. There's so many ways one can help AND ALL IT TAKES IS BEING WILLING AND DOING. 

Black Student Midwife: Kai Shatteen-Jones

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Who are you and why midwifery?
My name is Kai Shatteen-Jones. I am Black, I am Queer and I am a Mother.  I am blessed to be the mother of two teenagers and I was young when I had them. I knew nothing about being pregnant, childbirth, the postpartum period or even being a parent. My lack of education and support during that trans-formative time has driven me to ensure that other parents don’t suffer from the unknown  the way I did. My personal experiences and those of people dear to me, have shaped how I move through this lifetime. As a doula, I am passionate about  serving others as they become parents, but I have learned that serving as a doula isn’t enough. I have a deep calling and desire to spend more time with my clients during our prenatal and postpartum visits, but have come to realize that the things we were discussing were out of scope for a doula.
As I have been working in the community as a doula, I have seen first hand the struggle Black, Brown, Queer and limited income birthing people have with their providers and the hospital system. They don’t feel seen, heard, valued and cared for. As a homebirth midwife, I intend to be an active listener on their journey towards parenthood.  I want to support birthing people to have autonomy over their bodies. It is important to me that birthing people have a provider that can relate to their lived experiences and I believe as a Queer Black Midwife, I will be able to do that.


What structural and institutional barriers have you encountered that has made your student CPM journey difficult?
The institutions are run by and built by white people. The needs of BIPOC are overlooked when creating them. This in itself is difficult because I desire to learn my Ancestral ways, but how can I if the people creating the curriculum are white? Even the required reading lists don’t have any BIPOC authors on it. Another challenge I have is the financial aspect of school. It’s expensive and the school I am in doesn’t accept financial aid. There is only one scholarship for CPM students that I was able to find and for other types of schooling, there are many. Lastly, I am a visual and kinesthetic learner and while apprenticing I will be able to learn in those ways, but I won’t for the didactic portion of schooling. If there were more schools in the country that offered in person classes, that would be beneficial to me. Or even if the schools that aren’t near me offered a relocation stipend, the type of school I attend would match my learning style better. 

How long have you been a student midwife?
I have been a student midwife since April 2018.

Has it been difficult finding a preceptor? If so, why?
It has been very difficult! I desire to learn from a Black Midwife. In the Bay Area, there aren’t any Black Midwife’s that are practicing out of the hospital births, near me that I can study under or they are newly licensed and unable to be a preceptor. There are midwives of color in the Bay Area, but they aren’t taking students at, they have more than one student, or they are newly licensed. I have reached out to a few white midwives that I heard were allies to Black and Brown student midwives and have been able to build relationships with one of them. I am working with her for an observe birth over the next six months, but her practice is slow at this time and I won’t be able fulfill my apprenticeship with her. I am hoping that when I am ready to apprentice full time, there will be Black or POC midwives that are looking for students that I can learn under, but there is no guarantee. This makes me really nervous because there is a timeline for which I should be working with a preceptor and I can only hope and pray that I will make the necessary deadlines. 


How do you feel about the recent NARM changes?
It’s part of the ongoing assault against Black people and other people of color. It’s a reminder of the continued systematic oppression that we have suffered and the fact that white people believe they know what is right. To take away routes of midwifery for certain countries, but not others is a disgrace. I don’t know the full history of NARM, but why are they the people that designate who can become a midwife and who can’t? How do they decide the changes and who gets consulted when changes are made? It’s scary to leave our futures in the hands of white people who makes decisions for us. 

What can people who are reading this do to support you?
I am currently fundraising for school and it would be great if folks could donate or share my fundraiser! I’m thankful that my school allows me to have a specialized payment plan, but without support from my community, it may be impossible. Here’s the link: https://www.gofundme.com/help-kai-become-a-midwife

Anything else you would like to add?
I appreciate the support that I receive from my BIPOC folks, but now is the time for white allies to step up and financially support BIPOC Student Midwives. If the allies truly believe that Black Lives Matter, they should start showing in it ways that make an actual impact on the Black Birth Disparities.
 

Black Student Midwives Speak Series

DoulaChronicles was created so that a platform to share education related to birth with the main audience being Black and Brown folks existed. I created what I needed to see when I entered this birth worker journey. Disclaimer, i'm not a writer so bare with me. But I’ve been wanting to voice some issues I’ve been witnessing since transitioning from a Doula to a Student Midwife. Every week (sometimes daily) I am reading a new article online about how unsafe it is for black women to birth in this country. I am tired, so tired of people writing about us dying in childbirth without to a solution. Places with healthier outcomes utilize Midwives so why aren’t we? Why are there less than 2% of black Midwives when prior to birthing in Hospitals enslaved Africans delivered both white and Black babies? Why can’t our community access us anymore? In my eyes, these statistics are intentional.

I interviewed several Black student Midwives about the complexities and barriers that are in place today that keep us from serving our communities like national midwifery organizations and schools that further perpetuate the white supremacy and anti-black policies that eradicated our Granny Midwives. We’re in schools without Black and Brown Midwives preceptors. Our curriculums don’t include practices and traditions on how we can serve our community. Our counterpart/white “sister” students refuse to do the work in allyship and solidarity. And collectives that control how we learn, where we learn and how we get licensure are constantly making it more difficult for women of color to become Midwives without consulting us. We’re dying in massive numbers that should be noted as a national crisis. Again, in my eyes this is all intentional.

Please check out interviews from Black student midwives following this post. Search "Black Student Midwife"

Birth On the Border

One million people legally cross the U.S.-Mexico border every day in both directions.

Among them are women from Ciudad Juárez who cross to give birth in El Paso, Texas.

Even with visas that allow them to cross, their journeys are uncertain.

Gaby and Luisa, two women from Ciudad Juárez, cross legally into El Paso, Texas, in order to give birth. Two Chicana midwives in El Paso, Lina and Sandra, support the women who cross.

After living through the extreme violence that engulfed Ciudad Juárez from 2008-2012 and with the looming threat of obstetrical violence in Mexican hospitals, Gaby and Luisa choose to cross, seeking a safer future for their children and the opportunity for natural childbirth with midwives. They risk losing their visas, getting turned back, and harassment at the hands of U.S. Border Patrol.

Against the backdrop of oppressive U.S. border policy, these women's stories of risk and resilience reveal the complexities of life on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Directed by Ellie Lobovits


Screen this film in your community! birthontheborderfilm@gmail.com

Tatia DC Event: Role of the Birthing Community in Improving U.S. Maternity Care

On May 1, The Tatia Oden French Memorial Foundation held an educational event in Washington, DC focused on highlighting the role of the birthing community in improving U.S. Maternity Care. The event included a screening of the documentary “Tatia’s Story: From Life to Death in 10 Hours,” and a panel discussion among maternal health experts and leaders in the birthing community regarding the issues of racial disparities in maternal mortality, the importance of being fully informed, and the dangers of using Cytotec for labor induction.

 

Speakers and panelists included: Nan Strauss of Choices in Childbirth, Tina Johnson of American College of Nurse-Midwives, Jennie Joseph of Commonsense Childbirth, Claudia Booker of Birthing Hands Midwifery and Birthing Services, and Maddy Oden, Executive Director of the Tatia Oden French Memorial Foundation

Birthing, Blackness, and the Body: Black Midwives and Experiential Continuities of Institutional Racism

by Keisha La'Nesha Goode Graduate Center, City University of New York

In honor of #BlackMaternalHealthWeek18 I wanted to share a published dissertation I found on Midwife Shafia Monroes website that I've been reading and studying non stop for a few days now. I truly appreciate Keisha's research and attention to this subject. Very rarely do we detour the conversation on Black Maternal Health away from "call your senators!" and "Townhalls" and put our energy and finances into realistic solutions we have access to at this moment. Black Midwives are underutilized  and Keisha explains how and why in 215 pages