NATAL, Episode 7: “Alexius’ Story”
This week we’re at home with Alexius Hill, a Memphis-based young mother who chose to give birth at home despite her family and friends’ concerns about doing so. We discuss the stigma around home births, and explore the radical work of full-spectrum doulas and the ways they strive to provide quality perinatal support for all birthing parents.
In this episode we mention:
- Homebirths, and their costs, safety and legality
- Positive home birth outcomes for low-risk birthing parents
- Full-spectrum doula practice
- Charlie Monlouis Anderle of Nourishing Seeds Doula
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NATAL is produced by You Had Me at Black and The Woodshaw. Listen to You Had Me at Black wherever you get your podcasts.
Gabrielle Horton: Hey NATAL Fam, before we get into our latest episode, we’ve got some really exciting news to share with you. On August 15, 2020, we’re hosting the NATAL Summit. Sponsored by Black Mamas Matter Alliance, the summit will consist of a series of honest and lively conversations about the future of care for Black birthing parents. That’s right, we’re bringing the whole community together for this: parents, birthworkers, medical providers, advocates, and even our production team. So come join us at the NATAL Summit. To learn more about our inspiring speakers, programming for the day, and to register, visit natalstories.com
You’re listening to NATAL, a podcast about having a baby while Black
Martina Abrahams Ilunga: I’m Martina. Abrahams Ilunga. Welcome back to NATAL. I have to be honest with you. Before we started the show, I rarely thought about giving birth. My indifference turned to fear and anger when I started to understand more about the American medical system. And when I became aware of the Black birthing crisis specifically. Like most people, I assumed if, and when my time came to have a baby, I’d go to the hospital.
I began to fear for mine and my future children’s safety and grew angry at the idea that I’d have to settle for care that’s less than I desire or deserve. I started to question whether I wanted to have children at all. The beautiful thing about my journey with NATAL is that I learned about an entire community that centers black birthing parents and their babies.
I’m now more familiar with the network of midwives, doulas, providers and healers who affirm the dignity and beauty in black birthing and intimately value black life.
Due to the history of anti-blackness in the Obstetrics and Gynecology field, much of their work happened outside of hospitals.
I had seen photos and videos of women- all white- giving birth in pools and at home. I assumed it was all hippy dippy, white people shit. Turns out, I was very wrong.
In this episode, we leave the hospital step into the world of home births. We also dive into the work of doulas, like Charlie Monlouis Anderle, the owner of Brooklyn-based practice, Nourishing Seeds Doula. To begin to understand the role doulas play in pregnancy and childbirth, let’s start first with the story of Alexius Hill.
Alexius Hill: So I’m Alexius, I am a Memphis, Tennessee native, um, where my fiance and I live currently. Right now, I’m training to become a home birth worker. And I’m proud to say that I’m Chloe’s mom and this is my NATAL story.
All right. So finding out that I was pregnant was extremely interesting. It’s so weird because I keep a period app on my phone and I’m looking at it like, okay.
It says I’m two days late. This is not normal. Like my period comes all the time. And the night before I noticed the, um, the second day late, I was drinking, I was having fun, doing my own thing. And then I woke up and I’m just like, okay, two days is enough. Let me just take a test and see what it says. So I went to dollar tree and I bought the dollar tree test. I did the test that you put the little drops in and you wait for the lines to change and stuff like that.
So I dropped a little urine in there and then I got one line. I was like, okay, I’m not pregnant. At this point, I’m convinced that there’s no baby in there. I’m good, and the one line was just my verification that I’m not pregnant. So I took two of those. Once I got the one line, I was good. The instructions clearly say that you have to wait. I think about three minutes. Once I found the line, I was like, okay, throw it away. So two more days came and I’m like, okay, I’m telling my fiance, well, my boyfriend at the time, I’m like, okay, four days is enough. I’m usually on my period by now. Something is not right. Well, I couldn’t say that this was like something in my body changing or anything of that nature, because I knew what took place prior to me missing my period. But I also knew that I took a plan B, and I was secure. This was everything that was in my mind.
So, on the fourth day I called and I was just like, it’s not here. And he’s like, you can come to my job, stop and get a pregnancy test, and you can come here to take it. I’m like, okay, cool. I’ll come there to do this.
So, I went into the restroom, I peed on the stick, and my body like it almost shut down. Like I started shaking. So, Oh my God, it says positive. At this point, I’m scared, I’m crying, and he was like, you know, go ahead and take the second one and see what it is. I took the second test and it said the same thing. So once I realized that it really did say positive, I’m just like, what are we going to do? He was like, what do you mean we gotta do, you know, we’re gonna have a baby. Like it’s okay. Give me a hug. He gave me a hug and that was that.
Martina: In 2016, Alexius was 23, and still figuring out what she wanted to do in life. She was young and just having fun with her friends and now fiance, Cortez. Babies and parenthood weren’t even a real thought.
Even though she’d made up her mind, Alexius didn’t feel ready to share the news with her family. Little did she know, they were already in on the secret.
Alexius: The funny thing about the story is that my sister knew that I was pregnant before I did. And I say that because she had went snooping in my garbage can. And those tests that I thought were negative were actually reading positive, but I didn’t wait for them to finish processing.
So I went back home to retrieve them out of the garbage can. And Lord behold, they were definitely positive tests. So that’s four tests total that revealed that I was pregnant and I didn’t even know. Um, I can remember just going out to eat with my mom, my sister and my aunts. At this point, my sister had already told my aunt, and I’m just the one that at the table, that’s like awkwardly really trying to not eat food. Cause I didn’t want my mom to know that I was pregnant at that moment. Like I wanted to give her a time
Martina: Alexius needed time too, she hadn’t fully wrapped her mind around what it meant to be pregnant. She’d recently started working as a receptionist at Choices, a reproductive health services clinic. Choices provides everything from abortion to HIV testing services, to midwifery care, Alexius had options.
Alexius: So yeah, I had the choice to, you know, continue on my pregnancy. Abortion is something that I do think that if it is a choice, I’m pro choice. So, you know, but I knew in my situation that it wasn’t going to be something that I wanted to do, basically because my boyfriend at the time, um, we had been together for a while and I knew that he wanted the kid.
I wasn’t so sure about it, but I knew that speaking about abortion wasn’t any, you know, it wasn’t a topic for us. Um, when I told him he was just like, I’m with whatever you want. And I’m just like, we’re keeping a baby. So although Choices offered termination services and that wasn’t something that I decided to do. I was able to meet individuals that would soon provide me prenatal care.
Martina: Eventually Alexius told her mom.
Alexius: I can remember calling her to my job. I let her know what was going on. She was like, you know, it’s going to be okay, you’re, you know, mature, you’re doing your thing. You know, I’ll help you when you need to. And it’s okay. You don’t have to be afraid about being pregnant.
Martina: With the news out and her mom’s support, Alexius started to think about her prenatal care options.
Alexius: In the beginning, when I found that I was pregnant, I called my mom’s OB from when I was pregnant and my other siblings. And I set up an appointment. I continued care until about my second trimester and that’s when I came across one of the midwives that had just came on to work for Choices.
Martina: Alexius learned that midwives provide patient centered care, care that invites patients and their families to actively participate in consultations. It’s an alternative to traditional doctor-dominated relationships, where the physician dictates what’s best, without much input from the patient.
Midwives conduct prenatal visits, deliver babies, and support new parents in their early postpartum period.
After a few visits with the midwives at Choices, Alexius could see how different the care she received was from her OB/GYN. Her appointments were longer, she felt heard, they included Cortez, and she had a say in what she did and did not want.
She decided to switch to midwifery care for the duration of her pregnancy and delivery.
She also met Maya, one of Choices’ doulas. Maya was warm and honest and completely won Alexius over. She decided to work with her as well.
You may have heard of the term doula before, but what exactly is a doula?
Charlie Monlouis Anderle: A doulas is someone who provides support and that could take many different forms. Some of the kinds of support that birth and perinatal doulas provide is education around different options, um, support in making informed decisions, physical support, emotional support, connection to resources, and generally connection to a wider birthing community as well.
Martina: That’s Charlie Monlouis Anderly. There are queer and non binary, full-spectrum doula, a certified breast and chest feeding counselor, and a postpartum chef in Brooklyn. They literally do it all. While there are many kinds of doulas who focus on specific parts of the perinatal journey, “full-spectrum”, means they cover everything.
Charlie: Full spectrum is a term that sort of expands on what our traditional understanding of birthwork is. It’s not just about the prenatal and postpartum and the labor and birth period, but also any possible outcome from a pregnancy that could happen. Right, so that would include losses that would include miscarriage and stillbirth and abortion as well. Naming my own, uh, intention for my work as a full-spectrum doula is just saying that like once I start working with you, no matter what your choices are, no matter what your outcome is, I have a commitment to seeing it through, you know, and understanding that no matter what comes of this, there’s like a full spectrum of things that you could experience and also a full spectrum of who I could be working with.
Right? So like, I don’t only work with breathing women, but I also work with trans men and gender nonconforming folks.
Martina: Depending on where you live and when you choose to start working with the doula, hiring one can run you anywhere from $800 to $3,500 or more. Some insurance plans cover doula care, but it’s not guaranteed.
Only three States cover doulas for parents on Medicaid: New York, Minnesota, and Oregon. On the flip side, full spectrum doulaing is meant to be accessible to any birthing parent who needs it. Many doulas offer a sliding scale or name your fee pricing. This is some radical work.
After making the decision to work with the doula Alexius’ care team was finally complete. They met to discuss her birth plan. Alexius hadn’t thought much about giving birth outside of the hospital, but one of her sessions with her doula, Maya inspired her to.
Alexius: One of the options on there was like home birth, um, waterbirth, and I think hospital and I chose home birth. And this is because I remember just, you know, being on Facebook, social media, and I will always see like Caucasian women with these home births, in these home birth pictures and videos. And I was just like, you know, this thing looks cool, I really want to try this. I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t do my research. It was just something that I just wanted to give a try. Basically again, because I didn’t see any women of color doing it and it looked really cool.
Martina: According to the NIH, as of 2017, just 62,000 babies were born at home. That’s less than 2%. And of that 2%, only a quarter of them were black. In Episode Two, we talked about how the Western medical system in the early 20th century used smear campaigns to discredit midwifery and home births.
Decades later, that legacy remains. Home births in the U S are hella controversial. They’re widely seen as primitive, unclean, and unsafe. And parents who choose to have them are seen as irresponsible, several large medical associations, like the college of obstetrics and gynecology have concluded that in the US home birth, double childbirth mortality and complication rates. But what should we expect from a system that intentionally under-invests in the home birth system?
In 2014, however, the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s health confirmed that mothers with low-risk pregnancies who give birth at home with a certified midwife we’re not any more vulnerable to negative outcomes than those who birthed in hospitals.
In fact, home births overwhelmingly have positive benefits for low risk mothers and babies. They enjoy much lower rates of C-section deliveries and higher rates of breastfeeding, for example. Today, advocates of home birth are fighting for birthing at home to be legally accessible, to all birthing parents and widely integrated into hospital systems.
Parents looking to birth at home with a midwife have to consider their state’s laws before they can do so. Seven States outlaw midwives from attending home births altogether. Other States make doing so difficult. Like Arizona, for example, which requires midwives to perform painful vaginal exams throughout the parent’s labor.
With all the fuss and red tape around them, you can see why parents who choose to birth at home tend to find themselves defending their decision to family and friends. Alexius had the same issue.
Alexius: So, when it came to me, um, deciding that I was going to move through with having a home birth, questions will raise, um, even from my mom. She was like, what are you doing?Are you sure about this, to the point where she just needed to get some reassurance from the midwife. I kind of held off on telling my peers and like social media that I was going to do a home birth because not everyone understood. To be honest, I think I didn’t share that I had a home birth until like a few weeks after I had my daughter.
And of course they came with me explaining how it happened, explaining, you know, how I found them, explaining what my doula did, even now being in the birth world I still find myself explaining to people, you know, what midwifery care is about and what having a doula is about.
Martina: Like we mentioned in Episode Six, giving birth in a hospital can cost anywhere from $4,500 with insurance to $30,000, without it. Birthing with a midwife at home costs closer to the 4,500 number.
But instead of a single bill after the fact parents can pay out of pocket, oftentimes in installments throughout their pregnancy. Because she worked at Choices. Alexius’ prenatal care and delivery were free.99.
Alexius: We move forward throughout my pregnancy. Everything was internet personal. My appointments were long. We didn’t have anything rushed. Everything was accessible because I work for Choices. So leaving my appointments was super easy for me. Um, at times I can remember them, including my now fiance and every appointment, they made sure that he was aware of what was going on. They ensured that he was well aware of my safety and his safety as well during my labor and after labor.
Martina: That intimacy and strong personal connection is what black birthing parents should expect when working with the doula. Beyond the connection, the relationship can take many forms- from educator to coach or even therapist.
Charlie: Well, first when people reach out to me, which could happen at any point in pregnancy. And even before, you know, I have people reaching out to me for fertility support, um, people who are trying to conceive.
Especially queer folks who are unsure about, um, what their options are around conception. And if they already know that they’re going to be accessing support from a clinical provider in order to conceive, then you know, we might have a conversation around what different kinds of care they can access. And I really encourage people to look towards midwives, especially home birth midwives, who can provide those services at home.
Um, when people reach out to me during pregnancy, our first conversation, it’s really important to me to feel like we have a, just like a human connection, you know, like this is, um, a really intimate part of their lives that they are welcoming me into. And so I want to make sure that we have, um, a bond between ourselves as well, that we will work on, but that, you know, from the moment that we meet, there is some kind of click that happens.
And so that first conversation might be, um, an hour or so long. Um, but just to really feel out like, what are their preferences around their birth and, um, what previous experiences have they had, that’s informing the way that they’re approaching their pregnancy and birth and the kind of choices that they’re making.
And so that might look like just scheduling like several appointments where we’re meeting regularly and preparing for their birth. Um, doing like emotional preparing but also unpacking like whatever fears and anxieties they might have or discussing potential hypothetical situations that like they have time now ahead of time to think through how they would react in certain situations.
Sometimes that’s what people need to feel prepared and to feel like, um, not having like the pressure of like the unexpected happening and not knowing how to respond to it. There’s some clients that essentially say like, we’re going to meet, maybe have like three or four prenatals, um, be on call for the duration of those last few weeks of the pregnancy.
Um, and then, um, show up during the labor and be there for continuous support through the labor and birth, um, and immediate postpartum.
Martina: Alexius’ pregnancy was going really well. With her dream team of midwives and doulas, she felt confident about what lay ahead. When she started to go into labor, she didn’t have to rush to the hospital.
Her care team came to her.
Alexius: I can remember just being at home. We were chilling and I felt something weird, like with in my vaginal area. And I’m just looking confused, like, what, what is this stuff? So I called my, um, my doula and she came over to figure out, you know, what was going on. My labor, it took about three days.
But, the midwives came in to check on me the first day, and then they let me labor with Maya the second day. I can just remember the room being filled with so much energy. Nothing was negative. Everyone was supportive. The midwives made sure my boyfriend, you know, was included in everything that I did. From the hip swings, to getting me in and out of the pool, to just giving me the encouraging words that I needed to move forward with the laboring and process.
Martina: Doulas play a big role during labor. They’re laser focused on the birthing parent, making sure they have what they need to get through each contraction.
Charlie: Essentially like I’m observing any need that the birthing person might have.
Right. So I’m observing them, um, entering, like what is their own kind of rhythm and getting into their routine for how they’re adapting to the changes in labor and, um, adapting to the different sensations in their body. I’m helping to ground them and provide a sort of stable, grounded source of energy that they can anchor themselves to.
It can be very easy to get lost in the present moment and just feeling the intensity of every contraction. And so a lot of the time I’m presenting them sort of like a thread through their labor that they can tie themselves to and feel connected to the progression, like understanding, um, outside of just the numbers of like, you know, the clinical providers might be telling you, like checking their dilation and letting them know like how far along they are numbers, but I’m there to remind them that it’s nonlinear, you know, and that whatever rate they’re progressing is the rate that’s right for their body.
I’m asking them questions around what they’re experiencing to kind of like, pay attention to the details that matter, um, reminding them to rest, um, to feed themselves, um, to stay calm or maybe to be more active, if they’re healthy, trying to sort of like encourage things to pick up and get going. Feeding them, um, you know, providing different kinds of, um, physical support.
So having fluids with electrolytes nearby, making sure that they’re staying hydrated, encouraging them to pee every hour or so, um, to empty their bladder, you know, playing music or taking away distractions if it seems like they’re overstimulated.
Martina: You know how we say it takes a village to raise a child? Well, it takes a village to birth one too. Who’s in the room is just as important.
Charlie: It’s such a relief when there’s other people in the room who are there as support, you know, even as the doula, I could never claim to say that, like I could be the sole support for this person. Like, I really enjoy working with people who bring their whole family, because then there is someone to be doing everything.
And the more hands on deck, it’s like the more support there is for me as well. It’s a really like physically intensive experience to be giving hip squeezes, and bending up and down and picking up stuff for them and grabbing water and, you know, like following them around wherever they’re going.
And so we’re all sweating. We’re all like really involved in the process. And so I really see myself when I’m working with families, having real ass conversations about, um, you know, why is it that some people feel as if they don’t we’ll have a place in the room or as if, you know, especially within like a medicalized setting, um, that they can often be sort of pushed to the side or treated as if they are not playing a major role in the experience.
And so it’s always about like centering a family and also centering this as like the moment that a partner gets to meet the baby for the first time. That’s going to be really vital to like the ongoing bond and relationship that they have with that child. And that could be side with like anyone who’s the support person for the birthing person, you know, like that doesn’t necessarily have to be a partner.
I’ve done that with kids before, with like older siblings who are old enough to be an emotional support.
Alexius: On the day that I gave birth to Chloe, I had the entire family there. The midwives were there and my doula was there. The dog, my little brother, three generations, which included my grandmother, mom and myself.
I can just remember the room being filled with so much energy, nothing was negative. Everyone was supportive. The midwives made sure my boyfriend was included everything that I did from the hip swings to get me in and out of the pool to just giving me the encouraging words that I needed to move forward with the laboring and process
Martina: Laboring and delivering at home versus in the hospital is a different experience.
For one, it means saying, bye bye to medicinal pain relievers like epidurals. Instead, birth workers often help parents using pain management techniques like massages, sitting in hot water or meditation. You can also labor wherever feels most comfortable because at the end of the day, it’s all about listening to your body.
With her village queued up and ready. Alexius entered the final stretch of her labor.
Alexius: Labor for me was, um, it was different. A lot of people, when they see women doing a home birth, they automatically think the water I’m going to birth in the pool. All of this great stuff, laboring in the pool was not really a thing for me. It’s something about your body that tells you what you don’t like and what you do.
Like sitting on my butt, trying to push in a pool was not. It was not a thing. Um, so I can remember just, you know, asking my midwives, could I just get out and labor a different way prior to me removing myself from the pool, you know, they tried different tactics to get Chloe to move down, but it wasn’t working.
And this is the part of labor that people, you know, really don’t pay attention to. It looks good in the photos and, you know, in the videos, but in actuality, um, I had to face gravity. I wanted to push on all fours. The moment that I moved from the pool to my baby’s nursery, I knew that this was it. The contraction started picking up.
I don’t think I wanted to be touched and I want it to be on all fours. Between each contraction, they would check me to see where my process was and allow, and they allowed me to, you know, take breaks, get myself together and start again. The room was, it was really quiet. I can remember it some at a point, it got quiet in there.
Um, everyone’s looking around, I got super hot. My mom, she was right there, um, beside me holding my hand. I had two midwives next to me and one behind me preparing to catch the baby and my fiance. Well, my boyfriend at the time next to her getting ready to catch Chloe as well. I think it took, um, took about four pushes before she came out.
But I want to tell you guys about the feeling of her coming down. It’s like something that they call a ring of fire. You get this feeling of like a, a burning sensation. Like, you know that this head is engaged in that your baby’s about to come. And I always tell people, like pushing her out at their last stage, felt like a great poop.
I know it’s TMI, but I just have to tell you guys like this exactly what I can tell you feel it felt like. And I can just remember my grandmother looking at me and just saying like, I’m so proud of you. Like, she was so proud of me because, after that ring of fire, I pushed, pushed Chloe out. Like I got her out of there. Nine whole pounds, and there she was. And as I went back to watch the videos, I can see my midwife signaling, um, her dad to come catch her. Once he caught her, they brought it to me and I leaned back into my midwives arms and I sat there and I cried. The relationship with the midwives were super personal and just, you know, knowing that I wasn’t just another patient in labor made me feel so good.
I left my laboring stages, feeling like a queen. And I told people this all the time, because these midwives and my family and everyone around me helped me move through this process, you know, making sure that I knew that my body could do what it was doing
Martina: On July 27th, 2017, Alexius and Cortez welcomed baby Chloe.
It was a blissful delivery, but she was also overcome by another emotion.
Alexius: I was scared. I was afraid of being her mom. I was afraid to bring her into this world. And I was afraid of how the world would treat her, because right now we live in a era where things are not going to great. And I was frankly terrified of being her mom, but despite of all of that, you know, they securesd my space, they secured my sanity and my peace. If you were to ask me anything negative about those moments, I wouldn’t be able to tell you because they did their job in making sure that nothing went bad, nothing at all. Shortly after pushing Chloe out, the other birth workers that were at my birth, hey went into my room and prepared my bed for me to go in, to lie down.
So while they were doing that, we did skin to skin, which was definitely important. And while she’s laying on my chest, the midwives did delayed cord clamping. They let it continue pulsing for about three minutes and then they cut the cord. So that was our moment to just bond. I remember them wrapping her in the towel and putting her on my chest so that she can, you know, smell my scent and get to know her mom. And from there, we did our first latch, which was something that was completely beautiful just to see her crawl to me and, you know, latch onto my breast. From there. I can remember them helping me up. It was a really long process because the woman’s body after giving birth is really, really fragile.
I can remember being told to just hold my head up and don’t look down because after pushing for so long, there’s this feeling of you being so dizzy and if you drop your head down, you could possibly like tip over and fall out. So we’re walking really, really slow back into my room. They got me situated on the bed with Chloe and everyone’s around, um, I think at that point, I had finally snapped out of being scared and realized that, you know, she was my baby she’s there, she’s here. And there was no turning back.
Martina: Alexius pushed a whole baby out of her body. A new kid, a new body, a new lifestyle. There’s just so much for new parents to adjust to. Doulas help ease the transition for the whole family.
Charlie: Again, like the rest of my work, the postpartum period is a time where we spend a lot of time reframing the kinds of things that people have learned around, like what that period is, you know? So reframing expectations, understanding what’s happening in the body and what kinds of healing needs to happen.
But also acknowledging and holding space for that, this is an emotionally intense experience, regardless of like whether it’s positive or whether it can be traumatic, but holding space for that, this was a huge transition that the birthing person went through and that they need to be seen, that they need to tell the story again and again, so that they can process it and remember it.
The way that we deal with pregnancy and new parenthood, culturally, socially is somewhat disabling. You know, like we don’t have systems in place that support newborn parents in that transition to, um, to being a family and, and raising a child. And so it can be so isolating, especially if one doesn’t have friends who’ve already been through that experience and who can show up for them and, um, provide the kinds of support that they need. It’s like, you might not know what someone needs unless you’ve experienced it yourself. But, um, things like showing up and offering help without being asked for it. Like, hey, we, we were cooking some food and we’re going to bring it by later or, hey, we’re going to come by later and take out the trash and do some dishes.
You know, those are the kinds of things that we have to like re-educate ourselves around how to show up for people, because it’s just not like intuitive.
Martina: For Alexius, having Chloe was so much bigger than her. It became another reminder that a new reality is possible for black birthing parents. One where they are supported and empowered.
One that is wholly positive, joyous, and beautiful. And one that includes their partners, too.
Alexius: The thing I love most about bringing Chloe into this world was having her dad there every step of the way. In my generation, my society, in my culture it is often seen that African American families don’t, don’t make it. Like single moms, dads are absent, one parent households. So I’m really, um, I’m thankful that he stuck with me till this day after the birth of our daughter. And I will be able to tell the story to her about him being a present father when she grows older.
I thought that it was important for me to share my story with the world, because I felt that my birth story was important.
You know, with me being a young African American woman, it will be great for other women, like myself, to see that we have options out here that there are choices and that we can labor however we want. African-American midwives are available. Doulas are available. Healthy labors are available.
Martina: Black midwives and doulas are A-VAIL-A-BLE. I’m telling y’all, they’re part of a lineage of black healers whose work and traditions go back centuries. Credit for their contributions is long overdue. As we look to the future of black perinatal care, their work leads the way.
Charlie: My vision for black birthing people is to feel safe, is to feel empowered, is to feel seen, to feel respected, to feel as if the sacredness of their experience is recognized and held. To feel all of the resources that they might need at their fingertips. To feel that their birthing experience is healing wounds that sometimes go generation after generation, after generation deep, to know that their choices are valid and that all of their emotional experience is also valid. That, these systems that we’re navigating will absolutely have you out here feeling crazy. And, that those things are also not our fault. To recognize that we are not dependent entirely on the systems that seek to exploit us. That home birth is a safe option. That we can birth outside of the hospital. That hospital care is necessary for some people but that it is not the go-to or the standard.
You could be having prenatal care with home birth midwives, your entire pregnancy, and then go give birth in a hospital. You know, that to expand on what our imagination will even perceive as possible and to reimagine those kinds of birthing space for us, and to have that continue on into the rest of our lives.
Right? Because, um, the way that we birth is also going to be the way that we parent and the way that we live and to know that like reproductive justice is not just being able to birth in the ways that we choose when and how, and with whom, but also to raise our children safely and to feel like that work, that foundation that we lay in, the moment of them coming earth side is going to carry on in the way that we can parent them to provide them a safer world to live in.
Martina Abrahams Ilunga is the co-founder of You Had Me at Black, a podcast dedicated to reclaiming the Black narrative by passing a microphone to regular people to share stories and creating a multimedia archive of Black life. To date, their team has recorded almost 100 stories, 80+ of which are published on their podcast (downloaded over 500k times by listeners in 31 countries), and brought the show to life on a five-city tour. You Had Me at Black’s stories have caught the attention of For Harriet, Saint Heron, and XONecole. In a past life, Martina worked in sales and marketing at tech giants like Google and Square. She graduated from Georgetown University and is an avid lover of soca music.
Co-published with You Had Me At Black.