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Birth Should Be Better

    My granbaby turns two this week, and I’m thinking about the state of Black Maternal Health. What, if anything, has changed since he was born. It’s been a minute since I put ‘pen to paper’. I could blame the pandemic. I could suggest that I’ve been away ‘resting’. Neither are true. Frankly I just didn’t have the words.

    I know that that is hugely shocking for some of you. “Mars with no words? Inconceivable!”

    Much of my time has been thinking about all that goes on and continues to go on. The continuing affects of the pandemic on maternity. From the shortages of staff through to the bad practise going on behind the ‘wall of covid’.

    We have units that cannot get enough staff working in clinical areas because of fear of covid. This might be due to pregnancy or some health conditions. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t help an already stretched service that still needs to serve the pregnant women and people within it’s care. Today I have been reading about a New York hospital which has had to pause their birth services after a mass resignation of maternity staff after mandatory vaccine requirements. This is not, incidentally, going to be about vaccinations. Something that has come of this news is hearing wonderful voices of New York Doulas who are reminding people that birth can happen in many different settings, and not just a hospital.

    Meanwhile, what of the Black and brown bodied people? We’re waiting to hear the results of the ‘consultation’ with stakeholders and the passionate emails and appeals of the public with regard to the #NotSoNice draft NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines. For those that have missed this, NICE are recommending (amongst other things) that Black and brown bodied people are ‘offered’ induction at 39 weeks. This is their misguided attempt to lower the maternal mortality rates within that community.

    “It doesn’t matter how strong your opinions are. If you don’t use your power for positive change, you are, indeed, part of the problem”

    Coretta Scott King

    The glaring omission is the more pervasive systemic and structural anti-Blackness that lives within the maternity system and the societal narrative that allows it to continue. Early induction of babies doesn’t prevent the anti-Blackness that so many come up against throughout their pregnancy journey. Nor does it prevent the racial biological weathering that these women suffer throughout their life arc. Nor does it prevent the continued delivery of a curriculum that doesn’t teach about all people and has health care professionals talking about the toughness of Black skin, the ‘attitudes’ of Black and brown bodied women as they labour.

    What is needed is more holistic care to be built alongside the dismantling of a system that works exactly as intended, to the benefit of one people group and the detriment of the others.

    Birth should be better.

    It’s one of the most beautiful, natural, and life-changing processes any one of us can ever experience –– and yet, many of us have births that are frightening, medicalised and isolated from our cultural traditions, turning the whole experience into a gauntlet of trauma. And this is a tragedy in and of itself.

    I’m out to change that and I want you to join me.

    Creating the safety, space, and support for a good birth is, quite literally, world-changing. And there’s no other programme out there that teaches you how to do that in a culturally-grounded, heritage-rich way that makes birth safe for ALL –– not just the chosen few.

    Rooted is Abuela Doulas six month, immersive doula training course that begins 16th September. Rooted consists of a mixed curriculum of independent study, face-to-face training, ongoing mentorship calls, and community support.

    Find out more about Rooted

    My words are finding their way again, so expect to hear more from me. There is much to say and much to comment on. I’m aware of how quickly we are moving towards the publication of the MMBRACE study, and I still need to share the work that is going on with both Birthrights and RCOG (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists).

    Consider what changes you have made within your own practice and within your personal lives. Check in with yourself to ensure that the actions you took last year did not remain performative but are part of your continuing journey to colour in the landscape of birth, and your very world.

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