Birth Justice

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…

And finally:

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.

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