NATAL, Episode 8: “Trish’s Story”
In our season finale, Dallas-based mother and doula, Trish, demonstrates what agency from day one looks like for Black birthing parents: Trish shares what inspired her to become a birthworker, as well as the story of her home birth experience, including the phenomenal care she received from her Black midwife and doula. And Congresswoman Alma Adams (D-NC), co-founder of the Black Maternal Health Caucus, tells us why care for Black birthing parents is personal for her and how she’s fighting on Capitol Hill to improve policy and protections for them.
In this episode we mention:
- Homebirth midwives
- Congresswoman Alma Adams (D-NC)
- The Black Maternal Health Caucus and Momnibus Act of 2020
- Expectations placed on Black pregnant women at work
- Where you can rewatch the NATAL Summit
In this episode we mention:
Follow NATAL on social media: @natalstories
Join our Facebook Community to connect with other parents, birth workers, and advocates.
NATAL is produced by You Had Me at Black and The Woodshaw. Listen to You Had Me at Black wherever you get your podcasts.
[Raising Rebels Promotion]
Throughout the season, we’re highlighting different podcasts that explore various facets of the Black parenting experience. Raising Rebels is a podcast about oppressed parents, raising free children. Each episode host, Noleca Radway has liberating courageous conversations with real parents. Raising Rebels believes that the work as parents of color is to encourage our children to be fully themselves in a society that doesn’t always celebrate them. Subscribe to Raising Rebels on the Domino Sound Network.
And you probably heard we hosted the NATAL summit last weekend. If you weren’t able to join us, you can watch the recording on our website: natalstories.com/summit.
Gabrielle Horton: Hey y’all!
Martina Abrahams Ilunga: Hey, Hey. Hey!
Gabrielle: I’m Gabrielle Horton
Martina: and I’m Martina Abrahams Ilunga
Both: And this, is the NATAL season finale!
You’re listening to NATAL, a podcast about having a baby while Black
Martina: Whoo! Episode eight, can you believe it!?
Gabrielle: Uh, actually I can’t,
Martina: No, it’s been a journey
Gabrielle: And capped off by the NATAL summit last weekend, which was so amazing.
Martina: Yes! Shout out to everyone who came through.
Gabrielle: We had a chance to bring parents, birth workers, providers, and advocates together. And I really can’t wait until we can do that all over again in real life. But real talk though, we started needle over a year ago. I mean, not only did we birth a whole ass podcast, but we did so during a pandemic….
Martina: …And a global uprising on top of everything else.
Gabrielle: Yeah. Girl, come get your country, please.
Martina: Nah, I don’t seem it like that. But seriously, this first season has taught us so much about having a baby while Black.
Gabrielle: It has, what’s been the biggest takeaway for you Martina?
Martina: I mean, I’ve just been in awe of the birth workers we’ve met. Their working insight have completely transformed how I think of pregnancy and breathing. You know, we’ve talked all season about not being parents, and the fear that we have around birthing.
“Will I get the care I need? Will my child and I be safe?” And while I’m not thinking about having a baby, anytime soon, I’m happy to say that I’m no longer afraid to do so. I know my options. I know I can advocate for myself and I just know that there’s a whole community of folks advocating for Black birthing parents out there. And that is so empowering.
Gabrielle: I could not agree more. That advocacy piece that you’re mentioning, honestly, I kept thinking about that a lot this season too. I kept asking myself, how can I take all of this new knowledge around pregnancy, birth, and postpartum to support black families. Beyond the podcast right? So, well, I actually decided to become a doula and I just finished my training.
Martina: Yay! Congratulations, you are LA county’s newest doula! Call up Gabi yall! But beyond that, what’s been your biggest takeaway?
Gabrielle: I mean, when I think about this first season, I’m constantly reminded that birthing is isn’t a novelty, right? Like black people been birthing babies. We’ve been leading the way as birth workers. We are the original midwives, doulas and caretakers of this country. So it’s really been powerful for me to see that we have this rich ancestral lineage that we can tap into. NATAL reminds me of that. And the fact that it’s our right to define how we experience giving birth and to advocate for ourselves to make it happen, you know?
Martina: Preach. Yes, yes. Yes. And it’s been incredible to hear from our listeners that have come to the same conclusion.
My name is Charles Williams IV. I’m calling from Brooklyn, New York.My favorite this season has got to be Alexius’ story. And the reason is specifically because I had never heard of someone, you know, who’s nonwhite.I think having a midwife or a doula. And then as a man who hopes to one day soon be a father, to hear how involved Cortez was, gave me a lot of hope, a guidebook of how to be an involved partner, you know.
Hi, my name is Michaele Evans and I’m calling from Los Angeles, California. Um, I just wanted to share that my favorite episode this season was probably Shellie’s. She had me cracking up. It was really refreshing just to hear her being so vulnerable about some of the challenges that she dealt with mentally, feeling isolated, but I think that it’s so important to make sure we aren’t always checking in on the baby, but also on the mother, um, during the pregnancy. And then also after the pregnancy, Uh, one of the main takeaways from the podcast overall is that intuition that speaking to you, telling you everything isn’t actually okay, you have to listen to that. And you can’t blindly trust providers to have your best interest at heart. You have to be your best advocate.
Hey NATAL, my name is India. I’m a proud Dominican Trinidadian girl from New York. And I’m calling from San Francisco where I’m currently a medical student studying to become an OB GYN.And I just wanted to say, I am so grateful for the humanity, the advocacy and the vulnerability that NATAL has brought to the experience of black birthers. These are stories that I will carry with me through my clinical training and my clinical practice. And they’ve inspired me to think even more critically about my vision for the type of provider and healer that I hope to be. I can’t wait for the next season.
Gabrielle: We’ve covered a lot of ground this season. And the main question we tried to answer is, “What should care look like for black birthing parents?”
Martina: I think we’ve done a pretty good job of answering that question this season, but we’re going to answer it one more time in this episode.
Gabrielle: We sure are. Trish Jones is a 28 year old mom, ife and doula in Texas. And Democratic Congresswoman Alma Adams of North Carolina is the cofounder of the Black Maternal Health Caucus. And we actually get a chance to hear from them today in our final episode.
Martina: I’m still shook that we have a whole Congresswoman on this show.
Gabrielle: Yeah, that’s also really wild, but it was so great to hear from her.
Martina: Together with her and Trish, we’ll explore what it means to have autonomous birthing experiences and to be fully supportive throughout the whole process. And we’ll talk about how to implement successful community based care models at the national level.
Gabrielle: But first let’s start with Trish.
Trish Jones: My name is Trish. I live in Dallas, Texas. I’m a new doula, I’m Elijah’s mom, and this is my NATAL story.
Martina: Trish’s NATAL journey began in college when she decided to pick up a Woman’s Studies minor. This was long before she and her husband Eli ever thought about getting pregnant.
Trish: Um, so it was my first Culture, Sex, and Childbirth class.And that’s where I learned like the statistic that black women are four to five times more likely to die during childbirth or during pregnancy complications. And what I heard was I am three or four times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes. The whole class was just like very transformative for me Coming to birth work was not immediate, but I did know that like, I felt like this was going to be my thing. I just knew that I had to get involved some type of way. Because I distinctly remember when she read that statistic, looking around class, like, “Did anybody else just hear what I heard?” I looked around for reactions and it didn’t seem like anybody really had one. So that was the moment that I knew that I was going to be involved with birth work.
Gabrielle: After graduating, Trish started working in the reproductive justice space as an HIV prevention counselor.
Trish: And it was when I was at that job that I got a chance to meet a doula. And I swear she like, she floated into the room. She had her hair wrapped up. She was wearing a really long skirt and she just looked so magical.
And I asked her, I said, “What do you do?” And she said, “Well, I’m a doula.” And I was like, “Well, what’s that what’s that?” And she explained it to me that it was a support person, uh, for pregnant women. And I was very interested. I started like Googling immediately.
Martina: Trish started doula training in March 2019. A month later, her path took a detour.
Trish: I was three weeks into the coursework. I woke up. It was like a Sunday morning in like the middle of April and something just told me to take a pregnancy test. I don’t know what it was. I just got up and took one and I had these little cheapy strips from Amazon and I took one and I’m like scrolling on Instagram, I’m waiting.
And I looked down at the strip and it’s got like the faintest line. And I’m like, what is that? Is that something, I don’t know, I’ll just take another one. So I took another one and then I looked at it and it was like the faintest line. It was like, almost couldn’t even call it a line. It was like a smudge. So I’m in the bathroom and I’m like starting to sweat because I’m like getting really, really nervous because I’ve got two tests and both of them have something similar to lines on them.
So I was probably in the bathroom for about close to 20 minutes. I had seven strips in front of me when I was done and all of them have like lines. So I opened the bathroom door and my husband’s in here just like knocked out asleep. He has no idea what’s going on. So I wake him up and I’m like, I need you to come look at the strips.
I need to make sure, like, I’m not seeing things like I’m not having a stroke. Please tell me, you can see what I see. And he was like, yeah, they’re, they’re kind of lines, but they’re kinda not. And we should probably just go get a real test. So we went and got a test and like a bunch of candy bars because I was stressed eating.
I was like, I need some chocolate. I can’t. This is, I feel like this is about to say what I think it’s about to say. So I took the test and I left it in the bathroom and we’re both just sitting in the dining room, longest three minutes of my life. We’re sitting in the dining room and we’re just waiting. And then the timer on my phone goes off.
I covered the test up with a piece of electric tape. And when I got back, it was like blazing pink, like pregnant, pregnant, pregnant. I didn’t even take any more tests after that. I was just like, I’m pregnant. And we just kind of sat at the table like, huh? It’s like, huh? And like we went to Cheesecake Factory and then that was, that was how I found out I was pregnant Sunday afternoon, followed up by Cheesecake Factory.
I really didn’t have a lot to say I was excited, but like, that was one of the few times in my life where I was like rendered speechless. Cause like, you know, you’re doing what it takes to get pregnant, but when you see the line, the realization that you’re pregnant, it starts to like, it just slaps you right in the face. And I was just like, huh, pregnant. I just kept saying it all day. Pregnant.
Gabrielle: Yes. Y’all Trish was having a baby. As a new doula-in-training, she was learning so much about what was happening with her body, what could happen, and about her care options. At times, it felt a little overwhelming trying to process all the new information, but when it came to where she would give birth, Trish didn’t think twice.
Trish: I made the decision to have a home birth almost immediately. I knew that I didn’t like hospitals and I don’t like hospitals. I’ve never had to be hospitalized other than once for an allergic reaction. And by experience is not necessarily bad. They always have a hard time finding my veins for like IVs. And I just have a general distrust of the medical community, like, and because I was studying to be a doula, like I knew what I would be up against.
I had heard so many stories of people I knew, or people I know and people,I don’t know. And they weren’t positive. So I just, and I know that some women do elect to have like, you know, um, scheduled C-sections and they go to hospitals and they have positive birth experiences. It just wasn’t for me, I always knew that I was going to do it at home.
And even if I had to transfer to the hospital, I knew that I was going to start at home at the very least.
Martina: Congresswoman Alma Adams understands Trish’s sentiments firsthand. She represents North Carolina’s 12th district, which includes the city of Charlotte. Her passion for black birthing parents is personal.
Her only daughter, Linda, almost died in childbirth over 13 years ago.
Congresswoman Alma Adams: I’ve heard pregnant women say for example, that they were almost even afraid to go, uh, to the hospital and they wonder what will happen when it’s time for them to deliver their child if they’re going to do it at the hospital, I’ve got to tell you as a mother and as a grandmother, but, but mostly also as a, as a mom who had a situation with my own daughter who actually almost lost her life giving birth to my granddaughter, Jocelyn who’s now 13. Just very unexpected at the end. He had to have us a cesarean, Jocelyn was preemie, uh, and, uh, it was very terrifying. My daughter complained a little bit about um, pains and things that she was having in they basically kind of ignored that, uh, as she went, maybe back and forth to, uh, to talk to medical professionals and so forth.
So it’s personal to me. A lot of women are not delivering in hospitals anymore. You know, I, I don’t know. I don’t have a, an answer, but I just certainly there’s something to be concerned about. Um, uh, I can just remember when, when I was growing up, you know, you could, people had babies at home.
Gabrielle: We’ll come back to Representative Adams in a few minutes.
Last episode, we talked about home births, including the stigma around them. So it’s not surprising that Trisha’s folks questioned her decision to have one.
Trish: My family’s reaction, it was sort of a mixed bag. I got a lot of side eyes, um, just because I don’t know anyone in my immediate family or my extended family, there’s no one in my friend circle who’s ever had a baby at home. I am the first and only one. And so I remember telling my grandma and she asked me, “Why do you want to do that?” And that was just like, well, I just don’t want to go to the hospital. I just want to have my baby at home, like they did in the olden days, like women haven’t been giving birth for thousands of years.
Um, and she was just kinda like, “Well, okay, okay,” I got a lot of, okays. Okay as in, we’ll see how that works out. We’ll just like, wait and see. Um, I think they were as supportive as they could be, because like I said, they just never, nobody had ever done it. But I just think when it comes to home birth, a lot of people just, they don’t know what it looks like necessarily, or they’ve never seen it. They don’t, they don’t really have any experience with it.
Martina: On top of processing, the lack of support from her family back home in Memphis. Trish was also processing the changes happening to her body, and dealing with a toxic work environment. The stress of it all took its toll.
Trish: After I got pregnant, I felt like it was just compounded, because I gained weight like, like the physical changes of pregnancy really took a toll on me. And my job had me, like I had to walk a lot. I had to lift things, nothing that would be too heavy or stressful for a non-pregnant person, but for a pregnant person it just, I was just like, yeah, this ain’t going to work. And like I said, my job was just a really sucky place to work and nobody cared that I was pregnant.
They said they did, you know, it’s a lot of lip service, “Congratulations. Oh, don’t lift anything over your head.” But also, we’re not going to give you any other accommodations. Like they gave me a stool so I could sit and do like my job. Like I was processing like documents and checks. That was part of my job.
And so they gave me a stool so that I can sit and do that. But other than that, my workload didn’t change. Like I was still expected to perform, um, as if I wasn’t pregnant.
Gabrielle: A study published in 2015 by Harvard business school confirmed what many Black folks already know to be true. Black expectant mothers face greater expectations to work than white mothers because of deeper rooted stereotypes about who should provide labor.
But that’s a whole other conversation for another day y’all. In order to give birth at home in Texas, Trish knew she needed a midwife and not just any midwife, Trish needed midwife who could support her physically and emotionally since she and her husband’s families were so far away.
Trish: And I found her on Instagram.
I just typed in like “Black midwife DFW,” like I typed in a bunch of hashtags and her picture popped up and I saw her face and I was like, “I like the way she looks, I’m going to click her page.” And I clicked their page and I was scrolling. It wasn’t a lot there. And there was something just about her smile, just her, the way she looked, she looked like I could trust her.
And so one day I was at work and on my lunch break, I said, you know, I’m just going to call her. I’m just going to call her and see what she says, because she may not even be taking clients right now. So I called her and I was like, “Hey, I’m pregnant and I need a Black midwife and I want that Black midwife to be you.”
And she agreed to meet me. She was super, super gracious, super nice. And at that point I was like four weeks pregnant. Like she came to our house and she had like a birth, like a whole presentation for us. Like we had like childbirth education in my living room. Um, she was very hands on with making sure that we were prepared.
And even though she didn’t want me to dwell on what would happen if something went wrong, she made sure that I was, um, informed about what that would look like if I had to go to the hospital. And she just told me that, you know, she wouldn’t technically be operating as my midwife if we had to go to a hospital, but she would still be there with me.
She’d be, would be my advocate and she will be operating more as like a birth coach or a doula. And so she told me just for safe measure, I want you to pack a bag just in case we have to transfer. But I also want you to stick that back way, way in the back of your closet and don’t think about it.
And she encouraged me to like use essential oils, things that will help help me relax, because I didn’t have a lot of physical, familial support. Yeah. She was really encouraging. Also made a point to check on my spouse, to ask him how he was doing and what he needed out of the process. And he’s a sort of a cool cucumber. So he didn’t really, he was like, “No, I’m fine. I don’t need much. I just want to support her.” But she never stopped asking him. Every appointment she made a point to ask him if he had any questions, if he had any concerns.
Martina: Trish’s midwife Laquita sounds like a dream. I just think it’s amazing she found her on Instagram. Between her doula training and finding the right midwife, Trish felt confident about giving birth at home. But when it came down to it, there was no amount of books or training that could prepare her for her pregnancy.
Trish: So early pregnancy was very easy. I was glowy. I wasn’t tired. You’re my first trimester. I was living my best life. My second trimester is when all hell broke loose. I had had morning sickness in my first trimester and nausea. But during my second trimester, I threw up all the time. There were some days I could not keep up the meal down and I started getting dizzy. And so every time I would see my midwife, she would ask me, you know, how are you feeling physically? I would tell her basically, I think I’m dying. Um, I was promised glowing and I was promised like the picture of Beyonce pregnant.
Like wasn’t no flowers blooming honey. Like I was just throwing up, hungry, and exhausted all the time. And then my workplace was sort of toxic. So it really wasn’t lending anything to the experience. Like I was working, I’m throwing up, I’m tired. And, um, she was very proactive about my sickness. Like with like ginger tea, she gave me a lot of good suggestions, but those hormones was boxing me. And there was just nothing that could be done.
Gabrielle: Only one thing helped us settle Trisha stomach, soda.
Trish: I was drinking Dr. Pepper and Cokes and Pepsis and soda water. And she asked me like how my water intake was. And I was like, “Does carbonated water count?” And she’s like, yes and no it’s water, but because you have a problem with your iron absorption right now, you really should kind of lay off. And I did for like two days, but I was so nauseous that I just kept drinking it because it was the only thing that made me feel better. And she never once like, made me feel bad about it. Her motto was just, you have to do what you have to do to make yourself feel better. And I’m going to support you, whatever that looks like as long as like the baby’s healthy and you’re healthy overall, um, drink your soda water. Just make sure you’re taking your iron supplement and getting your vitamin C.
Martina: Weeks away from their December 28th due date, Trish and Eli started to have more frequent appointments with Laquita.
Trish: So one day she came in, I think I was about 39 weeks pregnant and she did my measurements. I asked her how much she thought the baby weighed. And she goes, “If I had to guess, I would guess about eight pounds.” And I was like, don’t tell me that, please don’t tell me that. And I’m like, Oh my God. Oh my God. I’m just thinking my poor vagina, please don’t say that. And she was like, “Yeah, he’s healthy and you’ve been doing good.” And I was like, okay okay. And I knew other women who were pregnant around the same time as me and I just remember everybody giving birth and I was just like, “Oh, congratulations on me next!”
But almost two weeks after my due date, I had still not given birth and I was pissed about it. Like I was just walking around with an attitude. I was so hot. I was so big and I just, I couldn’t take it. And she was constantly encouraging me like, the baby’s going to come when he’s supposed to come and you want him to stay in as long as possible, but I was not trying to hear that.
I was like, I don’t want him to stay in as long as possible. Like if he can be outside the womb, I want him outside the womb. I don’t want him to get extra time. I don’t want to throw up anymore. I wanna eat food again. I want a cheeseburger. And she was just like, it’s going to be okay. He’s going to come. It’s going to be over before, you know,
Gabrielle: As much as we all love a good plan there just simply aren’t any fixed schedules or calendar invites for birth. Trisha’s baby was going to come when he was ready, which was right on time.
Trish: So, on the 7th of January, it was like 11:30 at night. And that day, I was incessant, like looking like for any little sign that I could be in labor, like I’m Googling constantly.
My toe itches. Is this a sign of labor? Everything was like a sign of labor to me. So finally, on that day I started feeling like little twinges, like my period was about to start. And then over the course of the day, they started to get a little bit more intense. The day progressed and around 11:30 that night, I remember telling my husband, I think I need to go to sleep because I’m probably gonna wake up in labor.
Martina: Trish woke up the next morning to full on contractions. She was in early labor.
Trish: So I text my midwife. I’m like, “Hey, I think it’s happening.” And she’s like, okay, I just want you to relax and, um, you know, get on your birthing ball and get your playlists and try to get some sleep and like, let things happen naturally.
So around 4:30, they started to come closer together. Like I could time them. Like I knew I was going to get one every five to eight minutes. And so she told me to call her when they got that close. And so she came and I was in pain at that point, but I wasn’t inconsolable. So she checked me and I wasn’t that dilated.
And she was like, well, I’m gonna set up and then I’m going to go home. And I want you to just continue to labor. You’re only at about a 2 1/2 to a 3, so you’re not even in active labor yet. And I’m like, whew okay. Not in labor, but I’m still thinking because like, I’ve been studying it and I’m like, okay, most folk first time moms they’re only in labor for about twelve hours.
So in my mind, I was mentally prepared for a twelve hour labor. And I’m just knowing that within the next couple of hours, for the next six or so hours, I’m going to have it.
Gabrielle: Trish was only two and a half centimeters dilated. She needed to be at ten to push. Laquita returned the next morning when she entered active labor.
Trish: What I remember most is the sun going down and they coming back up on me, and thinking to myself, what have I done? And so I labored and I labored and some of the contractions were so painful, I constantly had my husband doing counter pressure on my back. It was, I can’t even describe the pain. Like it was awful.
Every contraction I needed support. And I had to basically will myself into like different positions. I had done all the reading and I was like watching birth stories and like doula diaries so that I could see women in labor, see how they were coping, but nothing could prepare me for coping with contractions.
And it was just bad. Like at one point I just refused to get up off the bed. I just laid there and screamed through contractions. Like I didn’t want to stand, I did not want to bounce on that damn ball. I did not want to sit over the toi-. I didn’t want to do anything, but just lay there and just go to the upper room.
I was so tired and I was still throwing up. And so I think the reason why my labor was so hard was because I was exhausted. I had already been throwing up throughout the duration of my pregnancy. And then I was here in active labor still throwing up. Like I couldn’t keep even water down. It was so bad. So my, my doula got here a little bit after my midwife.
And she came in and she saw me laying across the bed and she got really close to my face because at that point I was checked out. I wasn’t listening to my midwife. I was not listening to my husband. I was just content to lay in the bed and suffer. Even though in hindsight, my labor was stalling because I was being stubborn.
Like I was just laying there. I wasn’t active, I wasn’t moving. I was just laying there and hollering, basically. She was really calm and I can’t remember what she said exactly, but it was something to the tune of, “You have to get up because we’re about to have this baby. So you need, I need to try to drink some water, even if it doesn’t stay down.”
Martina: Trisha’s doula brought new energy to the room and it allowed her to focus and get her mind, right.
Trish: They blew up the birth pool and I was able to get in a couple of times. And, and I said to myself, when I give birth, I want to be quiet and I want to be graceful. But once I hate transition, I was not trying to be graceful.
I was not trying to be quiet. I was trying to get this baby out. I turned into a different person. I was screaming. And I looked at my husband at one point and I was like, I don’t know if I could do this. I don’t know if I’m strong enough. And I was like, yeah, I’ve got to call the ambulance. Yeah. You got to take me because I can’t do it.
And I was like, I want some morphine. I was just losing my mind. I was just saying anything. And I remember nobody responding. I might as well have been talking to a brick wall. And so my midwife excused herself from the room. And she was like, I’m just going to let you guys have the room so you can talk to your wife.
And my husband was like, “You know you don’t want to go to the hospital because when he goes to the hospital, the first thing they’re going to do is hook you up to an IV. And you don’t even like fluorescent lights and they’re not going to be able to eat at all.” And I was thinking to myself, why is he talking to me like this I’m in labor okay? You’re supposed to be supportive. And he was like, “This is what you said, you want it. And so this is what we’re going to do. So you just gotta hang on for a little bit longer. He’s almost here.”
Gabrielle: Shortly after the pep talk from her husband, Laquita told Trish that our cervix was fully dilated. She was finally about to meet her baby boy.
Trish: They said I pushed for an hour, but if felt shorter. Like that was the only part of my birth that felt like it took no time. Cause every time I got the opportunity to push, I push with every single contraction, because at that point I was like, I’m done. This baby’s coming. I’m tired of him being in here.
I’m tired of being in pain. And my midwife told me, she said, you know, you can take a break. You don’t have to push with every contraction. I’m like, yes, I do. And I’m going to, and, um, I was pushing on hands and knees. I remember feeling like the ring of fire and my midwife kind of like being watchful. And at that point, my body was sort of contracting and pushing involuntarily.
So it was really less me and more just the fact that it was time. And so I pushed, I felt a need to push, and I pushed and I don’t feel like it was a productive push, but like the next wave of contraction that I felt my body sorta did it for me. And he just slid out, my husband caught him in the water and they placed him on my chest and I was done.
And I thought I would cry, but I was just kinda like, like similar to when I found out I was pregnant, I was just kinda like, okay, I did it. And I just kept saying, wow, I can’t believe I did it. It was almost like I was outside of my body a little bit. I was like, I just had a baby in my dining room, in the pool.
And here he is, he’s like kind of purple and slimy. And this is the person that’s been kicking my belly button for like 10 months. I was completely like awestruck at what I had done, even though I planned to do it. After he was born, like, I felt like immediate relief and we, we did skin to skin contact and we stayed in the pool for about 10 minutes, ten twenty minutes, maybe.
So when we got from the pool to the bed, the first thing I did, I said, can you hold them up for me? Can I see him? And I saw him and he was just, he was gorgeous. He was like the most gorgeous thing I never saw. And it’s like, I knew he was going to be cute. I knew it was going to be cute. Cause it’s a baby, but I wasn’t prepared.
And I was just thinking, wow, I made that. I made that in my uterus. I made it myself! And he did skin to skin contact with his dad. And I was getting stitches and I was just like staring at the ceiling, like, wow, you just had a whole baby. You had a whole baby at home and you didn’t die. You had a whole baby at home and you didn’t die. Wow. Wow.
Gabrielle: Wow indeed! Childbirth ain’t no joke. It also reminds us that new families need all the support they can get during the transition, whether that’s from birthworkers, family, or friends and neighbors. Luckily, Trish and Eli had a great team around them. On Capitol Hill, Representative Adams is working to make sure that Black birthing parents everywhere can also get the support they need
Congresswoman Adams: The black maternal health caucus now is about one year old. Uh, we have over a hundred members in our caucus. Uh, I launched this caucus with my colleague from Illinois, uh, Lauren Underwood, who also had some similar concerns. We launched this, uh, caucus because of the concerns that we have about what we believe is a, uh, health public health crisis in this country.
Uh, with so many, Black women who are four times more likely to die from preventable, pregnancy and complications, more so than, than other women of other races. And so what we wanted to do a couple of things. First of all, to expand the, um, the knowledge base and educate not only our public, but members of our, uh, of our Congress, our staff, but then to get together to formulate legislation that would be helpful to, uh, address, uh, this issue.
And, um, we have been successful in the sense that we not only have uh, Black women, uh, in the Caucus, but we have men as well, uh, of all races and, uh, actually it’s, uh, it’s, uh, bipartisan as well. But we want to make sure that women don’t die and that they give birth and that so raise their children and the children will not be left without their moms.
So we found a, as we have gotten together with many of our stakeholders that not only is it preventable, but that there are many things that we think we can do right now.
Martina: Earlier this year, Representatives Adams and Underwood, Vice Presidential Nominee, Kamala Harris, and over 100 bipartisan members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus drafted the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2020.
The Momnibus is a collection of nine individual bills that fill existing gaps in legislation to better protect Black parents.
Congresswoman Adams: It is a historic piece of legislation and it targets the failures in maternal health, but it also addresses pervasive maternal health disparities through solutions that are culturally competent and that are proven effective.
And what it does, it, it not only makes investments in community-based organizations that are leading the charge to protect moms by maternal mental health conditions and substance abuse disorders. Some of these bills support, uh, doulas and, um, perinatal health workers. It addresses that some of the social determinants of of health, like housing, and transportation and nutrition.
Uh, but it also supports research, and training programs – bias and, and racism training programs. And it also gives us an opportunity to actually not only do the research, but to be able to formulate some kind of the data, gathering the data, because we found that there has not been an extensive exclusive study in many years.
And so we’re trying to be intentional. About centering the voices of Black women and ensuring that a Black women-led organizations were consulted. They have been participating with us. It basically says unequivocally that Black moms matter.
Gabrielle: It really is that simple. Black moms, Black parents, Black families matter.
Martina: Yes. nd throughout her entire pregnancy, Laquita and Eli constantly reminded Trish how much she mattered, and that her decision to have a home birth mattered. And just as important, they honored her wishes for her birthing experience every step of the way.
Gabrielle: And their support didn’t end after Elijah was born.
Trish: So he was weighed and, you know, she gave us all of our aftercare instructions and then they cleaned up everything, like, two days after I gave birth my house, it was like, like nothing ever happened. Like, it just looked like a regular house. Like you wouldn’t have thought that I was just in here pushing out a whole human. And then she came you know, like 48 hours after, uh, to check on us.
And then all of my appointments up until he was six weeks. So she was with me for a long time. The day of my six week appointment, like I almost wanted to cry because I was like, “I’m not ready to be without you.” I texted her about every little thing. And whenever I texted her, she hit me back immediately.
So the thing that I had was my midwife trusted me to make the best decision for me. And I think what’s missing is I don’t think that women particularly Black women are always listened to, and I also don’t think they’re treated like they have any type of expertise with their own bodies. Especially in the medical field, like a lot of, a lot of doctors, a lot of people have the ‘white coat syndrome’ and it’s like, you know, things start being suggestions and they start kind of being like commands. And if you do anything differently, you’re considered like difficult or like an outlier. I think that people inherently know what’s best for them.
And I think the same thing extends to when you’re pregnant. Like you, you can feel when you don’t feel well, and nine times out of ten know what will make you feel better. So I definitely think care should involve a lot more active listening and a lot more, uh, treating women like experts at their own bodies.
Um, because I think that women are experts at their own bodies. And that doesn’t stop just because you got pregnant.
I told her my husband, and I was joking, but I was like laughing, but very serious. I was like, I want my son to, and the first thing I want him to see is a Black woman’s face. That’s the first thing I want him to see.
And that’s why I was intentional about getting a Black midwife and having a Black doula and becoming a Black doula and supporting Black women and improving birth outcomes. Um, because I feel like it’s a space that was ours, that we inhabited, um, and it has never not been ours.
I just think it’s magical work. I just think there’s something magical about Black women taking care of other Black women. And I’m so glad that I was able to experience that.
Martina: Trish is so right. The way black women show up for one another is a story as old as time itself.
Gabrielle: it sure is. From Capitol Hill to Texas; California, to Connecticut, and everywhere in between, as mothers, grandmothers, aunties, caregivers, birth workers, medical providers, and even as reporters and storytellers, Black women, Black queer and trans trailblazers have led the fight for our collective reproductive health and freedom from day one.
Martina: And at the end of the day, our work affirms what we already know to be true.
Black parents are and deserve to be in control of their bodies and their reproductive choices.
Gabrielle: Absolutely. Those of us who love and care about the Black birthing parents in our lives, we have to be there for our people. We have to ensure that they know their options. We have to make sure that their wishes, dreams, and desires during their birthing journeys are honored.
And we have to ensure that they get to experience the abundance of joy, love, and affirmations that Trish and Eli felt bringing Elijah into this world. They deserve that we all deserve that.
Martina: The impact of this fight for better care and outcomes for black burning parents will ripple far beyond our community. When this country puts real investments in collaborative care models for Black birthing parents – and we mean money and laws – everyone will benefit.
Gabrielle: And now that we’re at the end of this season, in the midst of a deadly pandemic with a major election on the horizon, and the largest movement for Black lives and justice, this country has ever seen, it’s time for us all to do this work.
Martina: For starters, you can support Black Mamas Matter Alliance with a donation. Their member organizations provide and advocate for community-based care across the country. You can also call your congressperson to support the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, and demand your local and state politicians prioritize Black perinatal care legislatively.
Gabrielle: And finally, this November, when you head to the polls, vote for candidates, especially locally, who prioritize the health and wellbeing of black birthing parents and their babies.
Martina: NATAL is a collab between You Had Me at Black and the Woodshaw. Subscribe, rate, and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts.
Gabrielle: Visit natalstories.com for exclusive content like our community blog and resource hub. And donate to our production fund while you’re there.
Martina: Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Twitter @natalstories, and join the NATAL group on Facebook to keep the conversation going.
Gabrielle: You can find the links to everything in the show notes.
Martina: Special, thanks to: Black Mamas Matter Alliance,
Gabrielle: The University of Southern California Annenberg center for health journalism, and our reporting mentor, Catherine Stifter,
Martina: The economic hardship reporting project,
Gabrielle: Our sponsor, Coddle,
Martina: And NATAL advisor, Adizah Eghan, NATAL is executive produced by us: Martina Abrahams Ilunga and Gabrielle Horton.
Gabrielle: Tiara Darnell is the editor who puts it all together,
Martina: Jhodie Williams and Taylor Hosking, our producers, get the stories
Gabrielle: And our sound designer and engineer, Jess Jupiter, hooks it all the way up.
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.
Gabrielle Horton is an executive producer of NATAL. She began her audio production career at NPR member station Michigan Radio and Crooked Media and now works as a producer for such podcasts as Hear to Slay and The Black List. Gabrielle is a graduate of Spelman College and the University of Michigan.
Co-published with You Had Me At Black.