In 2018, The Center for American Progress reported that African-American women are three to four times more likely to die from childbirth than non-Hispanic white women, and socioeconomic status, education, and other factors do not protect against this disparity. Celebrities like Beyonce and Serena Williams have also helped to bring awareness to these claims, as they both shared the trauma surrounding their emergency C-sections in their respective documentaries Homecoming, and Being Serena.
Additionally, Black mothers' anxiety surrounding childbirth has increased significantly during COVID-19, due to hospitals limiting the number of people that can enter the delivery room, leaving many expectant moms feeling defenseless and unsupported. In tandem with that, a recent meta-analysis researching over 20 years of studies revealed Black patients were 22 percent less likely than white patients to receive any pain medication as they were perceived to have a higher tolerance for pain, have thicker skin, and less sensitive nerve endings.
On the other side of the statistics and fears, is holistic doula, and founder of Mama Glow, Latham Thomas. The Oprah Super Soul 100's Teacher established the first company to offer doula support at every stage along the childbearing continuum - including fertility doula service for women looking to conceive. Her company, which currently has over 400 doulas worldwide, has been at the helm of this resurgence of Black women reclaiming their birth experiences and seeking midwives and doulas to assist them in various stages of their pregnancy.
Here's what the author shared with us the state of home births during COVID-19, how we can show up for Black moms, and self-care:
The Current State Of Home Births
"They're a bunch of clients who were primed for a home birth, but systemically, midwives of color have been marginalized. Dating back to the 1600s, Black slaves acted as midwives and doulas until the mid to late 1700s. When obstetrics was introduced into America, white male physicians replaced midwives, and by the 1800s, legislation was created to ban midwives from practice altogether, and in some states, midwifery is still illegal. So, they are working at their fullest capacity and because there's not so many. Our county has created legislation that's undermined the sustainability of midwives and midwifery, so, unfortunately, it's not accessible to everyone."
How Expectant Mothers Can Stay Encouraged
"While there is a one support person rule that some hospitals have enacted, there are many things that a doula can assist you [with] via Zoom during childbirth. And if you're a single mom or single by choice, you can still bring your doula to act as your one support person.
"This is a challenging time, but it's also an exciting time in how you can prepare yourself in this process. It shouldn't be about being afraid but feeling empowered; I really want Black women to know that reclaim joy, I know tons of people who are having amazing births at this time. We can't allow fear to seep into our consciousness."
"It shouldn't be about being afraid but feeling empowered; I really want Black women to know that reclaim joy, I know tons of people who are having amazing births at this time. We can't allow fear to seep into our consciousness."
For Moms Who Can’t Afford A Doula
"There are doulas everywhere that do community-based work, and they will work with people regardless of the rate. This is a part of our scope of service at Mama Glow; it's my duty to put you in contact with someone who can help you even if I can't. We also have new doula trainees, and those doula services are much less expensive."
How We Can Support New Moms During This Time
"When thinking about Black mothers and how we are as a culture, we're with our people. We don't do this alone, we're a community that raises our children together, and not having that village surrounding us right now can impact new moms mentally. They're struggling; they don't have the support. There's no one cooking for you, holding the baby while you shower - we need to show up for them.
"I'd suggest sending them gift cards for groceries and having daily Zoom calls to check in on them so that the mom sees people every day, so if she has markers for postpartum depression, they're being seen. They should also consider reaching out to a licensed healthcare partner, as many therapists are offering that service online, with a sliding scale so they can work with you from home."
"For us, self-care is not just a frivolous thing, it's a necessity that allows us to combat things that can fry us emotionally."
What Self-Care Should Look Like For Black Moms
"I want us to figure out what self-care rituals that you can practice daily so that you can design a life you don't have to escape from. You might need to declare, 'I need a nap. I'm going to take my iPad in the bathtub and watch my favorite show, or I'm going to throw on some Beyonce and twerk.' We need to explore happiness. Recently, self-care for me has been putting together my 'stop doing list' where I proclaim what I won't take in. Black mothers accumulate so much.
"As I was thinking about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, I couldn't help but appreciate that my 16-year-old child son is home with me during this time. I sleep at night soundly, because I know where he is. The spikes of anxiety Black mothers face when we think about the safety of our children can destroy our nervous system. We need to think about the stress level that exacerbates our mental health; for us, self-care is not just a frivolous thing, it's a necessity that allows us to combat things that can fry us emotionally. I want us to practice self-preservation and self-love and use it as a model for ourselves and our children."
For more of Latham, follow her and Mama Glow on Instagram.
Featured image via Latham Thomas/Instagram
Originally published on May 22, 2020