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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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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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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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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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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