As a Doula, I help Black Mamas Reclaim Control
14 years ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in a cold room, handcuffed and shackled to a hospital bed in a room of people, none of which were my loved ones, family or anyone I could count on to advocate for me. Although this wasn’t my first birthing experience, it was the first one where I was unable to be in control of how I birthed. I, just like thousands of other incarcerated Mamas, was robbed of the experience of giving birth to my child in a safe environment that centered both the well-being of my son and me.
As a Black birth worker I get to embody care, community and connection everyday. In my role as a Doula, I help Black mamas reclaim their control of how, when and where they birth their babies.
In my role as a Doula, I help Black mamas reclaim their control of how, when and where they birth their babies.
It is my lived experiences that help me connect with clients so that I may provide them with maternal health care that is rooted in community and love, which is something most hospitals and medical facilities are simply unequipped to do.
Although I assist all types of birthing people, I feel more closely connected to mamas who are navigating their pregnancy journeys while also living in correctional facilities. These mamas are stripped of their identities. Their names are traded in for inmate numbers and their voices silenced by harsh prison policies. The disgusting reality is that there is no reproductive justice for incarcerated Mamas.
My work with Forward Together is fairly new through their incubation program, Northwest Reproductive Justice Collective, a powerful community of Black and Indigenous birthing people, doulas and midwives. But when I learned that Forward Together’s theme for this year’s Mamas Day was Black Mamas Reclaiming their Space in the Reproductive Justice Movement, I immediately felt a sense of empowerment and safety. It is through projects like this that help center the voices and experiences of Black Mamas.
In the wake of anti-abortion legislation, the repeal of Roe v. Wade, state-wide abortion bans and anti-trans policies, Black Mamas and non-binary and trans birthing people have been and will continue to be negatively impacted.
Historically, Reproductive Justice includes the right to not have a child, the right to parent, a child or children in a safe and healthy environment, and the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy. Unfortunately, these are luxuries that Black Mamas and non-binary and trans birthing people just aren’t afforded.
What hurts most is that as a Black mama, I’ve never experienced raising my children in a safe and healthy environment. I’ve always been afraid of what will happen to my Black kids in a country built and run on white patriarchy and systemic racism. “What will they say and think about my kids? How will they be judged and perceived by authority figures?”
The recent shooting of 16-year-old Ralph Yarl, who simply wanted to pick up his siblings but was gunned down after knocking on the wrong door, is the latest proof that young Black children are not afforded a life of safety. I am raising 6 handsome boys, between the ages of 17 and 1 year. My two oldest who are nearly 6 feet tall with deep voices are often mistaken for adults and are often subjected to harmful stereotypes.
Black Mamas reclaiming their space in the reproductive justice movement is exactly what this country needs. This movement has been hijacked from us by cisgender white women who have failed to acknowledge the fact there would be no movement without the voices and experience of Black mamas. Listening to us means decreased mortality rates, safer and more inclusive birthing practices in medical facilities, not scare tactics to force us into unnecessary medical procedures that put us and our babies in danger.
Black Mamas deserve less toxic stress. We would not be afraid of birthing in a hospital. We would be able to deliver where and how we want.
Black mamas reclaiming their space in the reproductive justice movement means that we will no longer be fighting for a seat at the table we built. It means that our voices and experiences will be centered and honored because we know what’s best for our children and our communities.
In order to thrive, Black mamas need unconditional love, understanding, gentleness and encouragement.
This Mamas Day, I invite people to join Forward Together and help Black mamas reclaim their space! In order to thrive, Black mamas need unconditional love, understanding, gentleness and encouragement. In order to thrive, Black mamas need spaces like this. Black mamas must be listened to in order for us to see change that truly impacts us.