25 | The Melanated Birth - Chinelle Rojas

Chinelle Rojas, a birth photographer/videographer, explained that her job is not about the crotch shot. Instead, the focus is on documenting the little moments that her clients may not remember after the birth of their child.

She knew from the birth of her three children that she wanted something to look back at. To be able to reflect on her birth experiences and also be able to share with her children. Chinelle loved photography and birth. Taking that into consideration, she wanted to be able to offer other families the opportunity to commemorate their birth experiences. She shot her first birth in 2011, and from there the rest is history.

Chinelle created Melanated Birth to bring awareness to women of color of the options available to them through the imagery of birth. Using it not only as a medium for families to document their birth stories but also as a way for future birth photographers of color and allies to learn about the importance of documenting birth in this way.

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24 | Her Holistic Path - Olivyah Bowens

Olivyah Bowens two pregnancies and births were very different. With her first child, her circumstances didn't allow for her to prepare or truly connect to her pregnancy. Understanding the impact that it had on her birth, as she found out she was pregnant with her second child Olivyah became a sponge, soaking up all the information she could find. She expressed that the gathering of information was transformative for her, even leading her to become a doula.

It was wonderful to explore with Olivyah some aspects of parenthood preparation that sometimes go without focus. The mission behind her support of families and what she shares is the role of the mind-body connection. We currently live in a space where medical culture isn't valuing the power this connection possesses — realizing that it is essential that we discuss the role food and nutrition play in our pregnancy, birth and postpartum. That the most crucial preparation we do for birth starts in the mind, accepting and releasing the fear that we incapable of sitting in our strength.

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23 | From the ROOTT - Jessica Roach, MPH

In honor of Black Maternal Health Week we had the opportunity to interview CEO and co-founder Jessica Roach, MPH about the mission and work of Restoring Our Own Through Transformation (ROOTT). 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. ROOTT was created by a collective who view the issues surrounding maternal and infant health as a consequence of structural and institutional racism.

This interview we delve deep into what taking back our reproductive choice and care can indeed look like — the work it takes to sit in our communities truth and power.

We must always go back to the root! - Jessica Roach, MPH

We are grateful for sponsors of this episode and other ROOTT activities this week. We would also like to acknowledge the Black Mamas Matter Alliance and all the Kindred Partners and collaborators for dedication to Black Mamas and families.

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22 | Abide - Cessilye R. Smith

What sets Abide apart from other facilities in their area is their focus of care centered in culture humility and addressing systematic racism. All those who volunteer, work or have any contact with families through Abide will find that culture humility/competence and implicit bias is embedded in their training — ensuring that care is easily accessible, holistic, evidence-based and free from judgment. Beyond these facets, co-founders Cessilye and Bethany are the foundation of upholding these standards, requiring each other and their community to have uncomfortable conversations to make the change.

A gem that Cessilye left us to sit with, think on, and process is that "As long as whiteness is the standard, black women will continue to die." Listening to this episode, you can feel the power in the mission of Abide and know that the work they are doing is shifting that narrative for their community!

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21 | Birth is Art - Lauren Turner

It was a great learning experience to listen as Lauren shared how her nursing journey with her daughter helped her to heal from past traumas and especially during her postpartum. In times when she was struggling she would reflect and sit in that space with her daughter using that time to anchor herself from what she was feeling. While we emphasize how nursing can be vital for our children it can also be just as pivotal for the birthing person(s).

Beyond nursing, another avenue that Lauren has used to process and heal is through her art. Inspired by the births of her close friends, she felt moved to get back to her art. Using it as a vessel of storytelling and reflection for them. Lauren has always loved art, but now she’s found a new love for her craft as she's painting black women in the way she has always wanted to paint them!

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20 | Futuristic Midwife - Barbara Verneus

Becoming pregnant with her daughter was a surprise for Barbara. Throughout her pregnancy, birth and postpartum, the community was a vital part of uplifting and supporting her. She discusses that during her pregnancy she was depressed, yet her community called her home and surrounded her in love. At her birth, her church family gave her shoulders to lean on and continued that support as she navigated the postpartum transition. That experience pushed her to keep being a doula and into becoming a midwife.

As we learned from speaking with her, there are only 2% of black midwives in the birth world. Taking that information and combining it with the fact that black women have higher rates of maternal mortality than their white counterparts it highlights why this statistic must change! One way we as a community can help with that change is providing our student midwives with sustainable access to resources. Barbara hopes that by 2020 she will be a midwife and we are here for it!

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19 | The Power Within - Alyestal Thomas

There are many emotions that pregnancy and birth can elicit from us. For Alyestal an emotion that covered her pregnancy was fear, fear of dying during childbirth. Her preparation, husband and midwife supported her in her birth. Specifically, in the moments when her birth plan shifted, and she needed an episiotomy and vacuum assistance. Because she had prepared in trusting her body and being flexible, Alyestal explains that she found her power through her daughter’s birth and continues as she navigates postpartum.

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18 | Tatia - Shared by Maddy Oden

This is a story about loss - In memory of Tatia Oden French & Baby Zorah

We had the honor of having Tatia's mother Maddy Oden to share Tatia's story with us. Maddy and her family knew that they didn't want others to go through the same experience. From their loss, they developed the Tatia Oden French Memorial Foundation in March 2003 to continue Tatia's memory and provide education to others.

This experience highlights the importance of informed consent, the medicalization of birth specifically with the induction drug Cytotec and infant/maternal mortality. We hope that as you listen, you don't sit in fear from their story, but instead take in the information, share it with others and help extend the mission of the foundation.

We can't control birth, and we can't predict outcomes, but we can gather information to ensure decisions are lead by our informed voices!

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17 | Standing in the Truth of Birth - Myra Barnes

Last month we were invited by the Birthmark Doula Collective to bring our podcast on the road and attend their first Black Birth Matters conference. It indeed was a day of empowerment and healing. During the conference, we set up a mini recording studio and invited attendees to come and share their birth stories. In doing so we met Myra Barnes, and she allowed us to hold space for her experience.

Myra's story was an accurate reflection of the conference. It highlighted the power in healing ourselves. Especially for women of color. When we can tap into the work (whatever that may look like) in making ourselves better, we can heal while adding in stopping cycles of trauma. To do that, we have to be ok with being vulnerable and transparent with our friends, our families and ourselves. Myra said it best, "I'm hoping that we can do a better job of supporting each other to be better givers of life. Better leaders and advocates, especially for ourselves in a world where we have been conditioned to be silent."

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16 | Healing - Erica Maddox

Erica was 19 when she had her daughter and while she wasn't necessarily sure how to prep she knew that no matter what she had to be in good space and mindset. Once her daughter made her arrival, Erica found herself struggling to navigate postpartum. A sentiment that many birthing parents can connect with. Breastfeeding was difficult, she was working through feelings of self-doubt and not being a good enough mother. While she was able to put on a face for everyone around her, internally, she knew something was wrong.

Erica is hoping that by being open about her experience and sharing her story, she's helping to normalize conversations of postpartum struggles.

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15 | Age Ain't Nothing But A Number - Derrin Moore

If you are a birthing person at the age of 35 or older, you have probably heard the term advanced maternal age. In this episode, we meet Derrin Moore, 42-year-old mama, who didn't let this term or categorization determine how she created her family.

Being a gymnastic and circus instructor coach, she felt fit and kept working until she couldn't. She hired a doula and sought out additional support. Derrin's birth did not go exactly as she planned and that's ok, that's birth. From her story, we realize how impactful society's view on our expectations of our bodies can be. To all the cesarean birth parents, you, your body and your birth journeys are powerful!

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14 | Led by Intuition - Kimberly Fayton

Two things we learned from Kimberly, there is power in your intuition and normalizing birth for older siblings! During the birth of the new baby, her children went about their regular routines but were always welcomed to join her as she labored throughout the house. We love that after the birth of her daughter, Kimberly sons, snuggled next to her on the living room couch and just observed her postpartum care and their new sister. Taking it all in, for them, this is birth, at home surrounded in love! 

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13 | Dropping Expectations - Lara Alsoudani Weeks

While her pregnancy and birth were healthy and easy to navigate, postpartum required more of Lara. She fell easily into her routine before baby but soon realized that she was starting to feel the weight of this new transition. Lara sought out support from her midwife and realized that what she was experiencing was affecting not only her relationship with Alfredo but also her bond with her daughter Layla. Lara got serious about her journey with postpartum depression and acquired professional help. She notes that it's on ongoing, she still has flare-ups, yet the most important and valuable thing for her is recognizing the time when she needs extra support and honoring that!

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12 | Being Present - Simone Toomer

As you listen to Simone's story, you realize that even when we prepare to the fullest extent, pregnancy and birth can still cause anxiety. As a doula, Simone had to remind herself to get out of her head constantly. Trusting the process of birth and being entirely in touch with her body and baby. The day that her son was born, she did that, as she states, her knowledge and experience couldn't prep her for everything yet when she was present in what was happening "she felt labor, she felt the birth" of her son. 

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11 | Birth & The Art of Mindfulness - Laurel Gourrier

Parenthood as a whole has this way of requiring you to surrender. Surrendering to the unknown, knowing though, that it's going to be a beautiful journey. When Laurel was finally able to yield she describes her son's birth as transformative for her relationship with herself mentally and physically. Many people claim birth to be a rebirth for the birthing person; her story is a reflection of that.  

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10 | Not so by the Book Mommy - Isabella Otarola

There were many aspects of her birth that Isabella expected. However, the speed at which her son arrived, caught her and her husband by surprise! Soon after her water broke, contractions began coming fast and fierce. She explains that when her midwife arrived, she looked at both her and her husband and told them she could feel the baby's head. Isabella followed the intuition of her body and birthed her son in their bedroom, squatting with the support of her husband. 

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09 | The Educated Birth - Cheyenne Varner

The Educated Birth provides educational materials for birth workers to help in preparing the families they support. They represent the diverse families within our community while being both inclusive and informative. Cheyenne began The Educated Birth initially out of necessity for her clients. She soon discovered that many other birth workers were craving the need for what she was offering, and with that, she opened The Educated Birth shop.

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08 | Primal Birth: Birth as Physiology - Amy Lee

All five of Amy's children were born unassisted in her home. A deliberate decision made by her and her partner as they wanted to ensure the sacred moment of the birth of their children was led and governed by their decisions. For those unfamiliar with unassisted birth, families who choose to create this birth space usually birth without the support of doctors or midwives. Through her births, Amy was able to find healing from past trauma and now guides other families who want to have the same experience. 

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07 | Birthing Magic - Chae Pounds

Birth plans/preferences can be a key component of birth prep, and while they keep us on track to make sure our birth stories represent our choices, they often change following the lead of labor. Chae and her husband didn't let these changes shift their focus or silence their voices. They made sure that when their birth plan changed, they still felt in charge and empowered in their decisions. 

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