26 | I Am a Parent ~ HunterDae Little-Goodridge

HunterDae describes themselves as a black, queer, non-binary, fat proud parent. This is who they are, and these identities are important to their existence and interactions with the world around them.

When HunterDae became pregnant with their twins, it was a spiritual awakening. They realized they had received double the blessing and were now carrying three hearts. What their care provide saw was an individual that was checking off all the boxes for a high-risk pregnancy. This narrative continued into HunterDae's birth story.

As you listen to their story, you realize how imperative it is that when we are caring for individuals through their parenthood journeys that we acknowledge their lived experience. Care cannot be a one size fits all, and it has to come from a place of understanding the whole person.

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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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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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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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06 | Mothering the Mother - Birthing Beautiful Communities

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.

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03 | Lessons Learned - Dasha Tate

Each of Dasha's birth stories is different. With her first child, she was a teen mother. While the journey was unexpected, she found her stride with the support of her family. Her second birth, she took control, from the moment labor started until she was holding her baby in her arms. For her last birth, Dasha exclaims that she's grateful. The state of her relationship with her husband at the time had taken a toll on her pregnancy and birth, yet she birthed her daughter with no complications. Her stories allow us to reflect on the importance of childbirth education, informed consent, trusting our bodies and being mindful of our relationships with others. 

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02 | Taking Charge - Caitlin Kelley

Today’s episode features Caitlin Kelley, sharing her successful VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean). With her first daughter’s birth, Caitlin and her husband envisioned an unmedicated and vaginal birth experience. Due to a number of factors, this was not the case and Juniper was born via emergency c-section. Caitlin ensured that for her next birth she was well educated to have a different experience, focusing on education, tools, and support for an unmedicated VBAC. Using that knowledge and the support of a doula, Caitlin was able to give birth to Lou in the way she hoped for.

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01 | Birthing Confidence - Danielle Jackson

Welcome to Birth Stories in Color! A podcast creating a community for people of color to share and learn from birth stories of all types. In this first episode, you meet your hosts Laurel Gourrier and Danielle Jackson, both serving their community as birth and postpartum doulas. Danielle will also be sharing her two hospital births. While her first birth was overshadowed by her health history, she still finds confidence in its success. That self-confidence and knowledge helped her power through her second birth.

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