Hello everyone! I am gearing up to take the NARM next week and am surfacing briefly from studying to say how excited I am to put more time and energy into this blog once I am done with that great big ol’ test.
I am also excited abut what will be appearing here! There will be reviews (including the classroom version of the Business of Being Born and the latest edition of Heart & Hands which I used to study for the NARM). There will be musings on the life of a new midwife. And perhaps it’s exciting of all, there will be a whole series of posts by my love (who also happens to be the herbologist at Worts + Cunning Apothecary) on herbalism and self care for the birth worker. Be excited, be very very excited!
Have y’all heard about the series Push Girls coming out on the Sundance Channel this June about four strong female friends who also happen to have spinal cord injuries? This show looks like it is doing so much right: strong women who hold each other up instead of tear each other down, interracial friendships, actors with disabilities playing themselves (instead of the countless roles in which able-bodied and typical actors play people with disabilities a la characters like Artie in Glee or Raymond in Rain Man). Not to mention the very real, complex, and interesting lives these women lead. The series looks like it is neither focusing solely in on disability nor ignoring it but instead include it as one dynamic in a shifting
One of the things I’m most excited about is that we follow Auti Angel, one of the Push Girls, on her journey to become pregnant and start a family. We almost never see images in the media of women with disabilities choosing parenthood. We don’t see positive portrayals (or any portrayals for that matter) of women with disabilities during pregnancy, labor and birth, or the postpartum period. I’m excited to nuance this conversation, deepen it, and look at it with all of its complexities and joys. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping she chooses a midwife, but I guess we’ll have to see. Mostly, I can’t wait to see how the show producers choose to portray Push Girls and this particular story line.
“It’s not acceptable that African American women, regardless of their educational and economic background, still have a four times greater chance of dying in the childbearing year than their white counterparts… It’s not acceptable that three to four times more Native American and African American babies die than their infant white counterparts.”
This is how the incredible Geradine Simkins opens this new film in MANA’s new I Am A Midwife series. I love this short film. None of these midwives are beating around the bush here. They give you the facts and make it clear just how serious of a problem racial inequality is for maternal and infant mortality. This film features some of the most brilliant CPMs today working on reproductive justice within a midwifery context including not only Geradine Simkins, but also Katsi Cook, Claudia Booker, Umm Salaamah Abdullah-Zaimah, Tamara Taitt, and Arizona’s own Marinah Farrell. I can’t even tell you how honored I am to be joining a community of midwives that includes these women. I feel like they and other midwives and birth professionals like them have been laying and continue to lay the groundwork and foundation that will allow these crucial changes to take place and transform maternity care as we know it in this country.
To that end, I leave you with this quote by Tamara Taitt:
“I feel like health disparities is really the battle ground on which midwifery will be proven to be the gold standard.”
In my last post, I mentioned that I was listening to this radio broadcast talking about homebirth and midwifery in communities of color both in Miami and internationally. The broadcast features Tamika Middleton a doula who is also a co-founder of Black Women Birthing Resistance and the two midwives from the brand new nonprofit Mobile Midwife, Jamara Amani and Anjali Sardeshmukh. The entire program is worth a listen, but I transcribed a few pieces that I found to be particularly interesting dealing with race and birth outcomes. I’ve been talking and thinking about this topic for awhile, but I think these women said it particularly eloquently. (Emphasis below is mine.)
Jamara Amani: Locally here in Miami Dade county one of the things that we’re really concerned about, and it is a problem across the nation, is the high rates of maternal and infant mortality. And it really does impact Black communities disproportionately. There’s huge disparities. Black women are four times as likely as White women to die in childbirth or in a cause related to childbirth, and Black babies are twice as likely to die in the first year of life as White babies. And there’s several factors that are involved in that. Tamika talked about the generational trauma around birth, around raising our babies. You know, there’s lack of access to resources, there’s the stress of living in a racialized society, there’s economic injustice, lack of access to healthcare, and one of the major issues that we’re raising is lack of access to midwifery care. And we know from research and studies that have been done that midwives can help to greatly reduce these disparities by helping women to stay healthy during their pregnancies, to work through some of those traumas, to develop a relationship with trust and a rapport that is individualized for that particular woman’s experience, to provide her with education that she needs to have a healthy outcome, and then to provide birth support that is natural, that is not full of unnecessary interventions that happen in hospitals such as medications and surgeries. And so what we’re working to do is to raise awareness about midwifery as a solution to these glaring health disparirites…
Anjali Sardeshmukh: Midwives do provide a lot of care afterwards too, and that’s a really important time. So when Muhammed talked about this isolation that happens I think one of the gems of midwifery care is that it really does look at … who is this person and who is in her community and where is she from and to honor that too…
Jamara: I want to just say too that some folks may feel like, “Well, this issue doesn’t really apply to me ’cause I’m not pregnant or I don’t have kids or I’m a man or I’m too old to have kids” or whatever reasons but this is really a community issue. It’s an issue of justice. If you were born, then this affects you so it affects all of us. And healthy mothers and healthy babies are everybody’s business. Because at the end of the day if we want to have a healthy community, we really have to take care of our moms and babies and this is an issue of justice, of liberation. Because how we birth has a lot to do with how we live …where do we enter. And there’s a saying that a lot of midwives like to say which is “peace on earth begins with birth.” So if you have a peaceful, gentle birth experience where your mother feels empowered, feels like she can do anything, feels like … her rights are being respected, then how does that affect how she mothers you? How does that affect how you’re raised? How does that affect how she interacts with, you know, other aspects of mothering? I think it’s just … such a initiation point and a transformation point for women … entering motherhood. It’s a place where I feel like we have to have justice.