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. Read More
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! Read More
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! Read More
This story matters. It exposes many stories and uncovers the truth. Unveiling a families immense courage and love. Thank you to Rasheedah and Mustafaa for their vulnerability! Thank you to Debbie Allen for sharing their journey. Thank you to Rebecca Coursey for capturing the beauty of it all. Read More
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! Read More
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. Read More
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! Read More
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." Read More
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. Read More
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! Read More
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! Read More
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! Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
While the primary focus of Birth Stories in Color is birth storytelling, we also want to highlight organizations and resources that are supporting our communities and families on their pregnancy, birth and postpartum journeys. In this episode, we hear from India Robertson COO for Birthing Beautiful Communities (BBC). An organization that is working with and for the community to combat infant mortality and inadequate care for African American families. Read More
In this episode, we meet Yolanda Owens who shares with us a story of perseverance, strength, trust and leaning on a community. While her pregnancy was pretty easy, labor and delivery for Yolanda were long and at times very tough. Throughout much of her story, she expresses how vital a role her husband played in being her birth helper and advocate. During their early visits with their care provider, they informed her that doulas were not allowed, a practice that some care providers and hospitals do have in place for their patients. When trying to figure out how to move forward, Yolanda expresses that her husband immediately assured her that he could fulfill that role for her! Read More