I dedicate this piece to my late mother Esther Alston, my loving sister friends and all of the elder women who have mothered and nurtured me.
Something’s in the air
April 19th, 2018 was more than just a typical day. There was something magical in the air that evening – something that brought together women and their families from all over the city. Women from various backgrounds, cultures and life paths gathered to honor two of the most essential and beautiful acts of human existence – birth and mothering.
Everybody is a Star
Safety, quality care and the ability to exercise power in one’s life are undeniable human rights that all pregnant and parenting mothers should have. Yet for many American women particularly Women of Color, these rights are elusive. For many of us, the color of our skin paints our reality with a stain – a stain that runs so deep it supersedes notoriety, income and education.
Serena, her name is synonymous with the word champion. She has invested tens of thousands of hours into honing her craft and becoming one of the world’s best tennis players. Yet her journey into motherhood would prove to literally be the biggest bout of her life. Were it not for her persistent demand for life saving testing and treatment, she could have been one of the many African American women to succumb to maternal mortality. Simone Landrum, like Serena, was the featured cover story of a national publication. While she is not a renowned celebrity, Simone is a star and the world to her 3 beautiful sons (her only daughter was stillborn). Despite vast differences in income, access to care and influence, both of these women, Black women, had traumatic and nearly fatal birthing experiences.
The gathering that took place the evening of April 19th was to honor Simone’s story, to uplift her voice and the voice of thousands of women whose journey into motherhood is stained with trauma. We gathered to build and to envision solutions within systems that continue to fail our mothers.
The Many Shades of Mothering
There is no color or frame for motherhood. A college degree, wedding ring or biological age should not be the measurement of one’s humanity nor an estimation by which one’s capacity to mother children is weighed. Often when the terms “teen mother,” “incarcerated mother,” or “low income mother” are spoken, prejudice stains the lens by which these women are viewed and determines the (mal)treatment they receive from individuals and institutions as they maneuver through the world. Being Black while pregnant or parenting also warrants this same, and even deeper, forms of prejudice. Unfortunately in many cases, the compassion these women need and deserve is lost. We need to mother our mothers.
I became a doula to see if midwifery could be a possible career path. What I’ve gained is a life changing informed perspective on motherhood, reproductive justice, womanist theory and unfortunately death (a young mother I volunteered with prior to joining Birthmark Doula Collective, lost her first son during an emergency c-section). Maternal mortality is a trending topic at this moment in time. When the masses become consumed with the next big “thing,” the families representing these dire statistics and poor outcomes have to navigate loss and process trauma. Motherhood is the antithesis of a fleeting occasion. Mothering is a labor of love. Despite a mother’s background and the shades of mothering she chooses (or that were bestowed upon her), one thing that can make all of the difference in her outcomes and desired success is the support she receives.
Support Equals Success
Doulas are a valuable resource that mothers can utilize to navigate pregnancy, labor and early parenting. There are countless research studies demonstrating how we improve maternal child outcomes. I am a proud member of Birthmark Doula Collective. We assist women in having the most empowering pregnancy, birth, and parenting experiences possible. We provide emotional, physical, and informational support to women and their families throughout the full spectrum of reproductive health and parenting. We believe that every woman deserves a doula. We provide services to women regardless of age, race, income level, sexuality, ability and religion. We are a minute portion of birth workers who are invested in and support pregnant and parenting families across the world. By recognizing the value of all mothers and providing the support they need, we can improve maternal child outcomes one family at a time.
For more information on Birthmark Doula Collective and community resources they provide please see the links below:
#BlackBirthMatters 2018 Conference
Community Breastfeeding Grand Rounds
Jamilla is a Public Health Nurse, Certified Doula and writer. She has written for Antigravity Magazine and MamaBlack.org. She compassionately supports families as a member of Birthmark Doula Collective. Jamilla is currently a Nursing Clinical Associate with the LSU Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Parasitology where she supports community sexual health with STI testing, treatment and research. She loves to travel, read, sleep, burn nag champa & listen to indie hip hop & jazz.