In examining a her/history of pregnancy stories for Black American women, in the United States, one cannot gain a full spectrum, without assessing the her/history of slavery. For centuries, Black American women faced intense realities, and challenges, concerning their pregnancies. Their bodies, minds, and Spirits deal with extreme degrees of emotional stress, due to the given circumstances. Her/history has confirmed, enslaved Black women in the United States, were worked even while pregnant. Childbirth did not spare them from beatings, or any other forms of emotional, physical, or psychological violence. Much of this trauma continues to linger.
One of the key details of “enslaved midwives and nurses” is that Black American women created a support system from the experts, within their own culture, for care and well-being of their own pregnancy journey. Since these nurses and midwives were also enslaved, they clearly understood the struggles and circumstances, faced by pregnant women in enslaved communities. This makes them experts in the most suitable care for pregnant women. In addition to the birthing process, mental and emotional care was also needed. Releasing the stress and discomforts of their birthing experiences came with the support of these doulas and midwives of the community.
Though child mortality rates were high, as a result of atrocious conditions and environments, to enslaved Black American women in the US, one has to address the role of midwives in offsetting the infant mortalities, which could have happened, had their presence not been there. How did their work create some sense of relief for enslaved, pregnant, Black American women, who feared the conditions of losing their babies and lives of their own, while in this institution? How do Black American birth doulas and midwives re-create the birth experience for Black American women, as one that is safe, nourishing, and comfortable? One that decreases stress for their birthing experiences?
Fast forward to this current era, and Black American women are facing similar incidents of infant mortality. It stems from the same medical institutions, which has a her/history of abusing our bodies. Seeing them as having a high tolerance, while given insufficient doses of pain medication. Yet, there has been an ongoing continuation of Black American birth doulas and midwives, who are doing the important work of providing physical, mental, and emotional care for the women of their communities. Their work, though not given the necessary attention it deserves, continues to reach families and women, who would have been at the mercy of racist and sexist policies within mainstream medical institutions. Like the foremothers before them, Black American women doulas and midwives are continuing traditions of wellness to the birthing procedures, and overall experience, for Black American women. It is a healing journey for this peculiar experience.
One of the key beauties of birth doulas and midwives, is this sense of the feminine touch and healing when a pregnant woman, is surrounded by healthy women. Women, who bring forth, life giving energies for safe pregnancies, and others. There is a heavenly aura, arising, when women are safeguarded and secured by their fellow Sisters. For Black American women, that experience is amplified, due to the her story. Those spaces were heavily guarded and sustained, to ensure that support was there. In most circumstances, it was life saving for the mother and the child,
Organizations such as National Black Doulas Association organizes activities to address more holistic birthing experiences for Black American women in the United States. Outside of Black Maternal Health Week, other organizations as Black Women Birthing Justice have continued to play a perfect told in healing the birth journey in Black America. DONA International has also highlighted Black American birth doulas.
When examining the role of birth doulas and midwives, in Black American her/history, what we must also consider are their roles as, healer-in addition to life giver. What needs to be discussed is the breaking of generational distress, that has been occurring. How has the current generation of Black American women continue to hold onto memories of pain and death, when it comes to how our foremothers have been treated? Yes. There are the factors of social disparities and inequities. Nevertheless, how are rates of infant mortality in Black America, also connected to the strain of PTSD? The subconscious fear, as carried by our genetic memory, has not magically disappeared. Clearly, it still lingers. Which means that in addition to societal institutions, today’s current generation of Black American maidens and mothers are dealing with that same anxiety that their mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and so forth grappled with, in having to give birth in a society, which did not honor their roles as mothers. A society where, at a moment’s time, their infants could be taken from them-never to be seen again. Are these fears still real? How are they connected to the realities of Black American women, who feel unease when having a child at a hospital or other medical facilities? That genetic memory of childbirth being connected to the de-valuing of one’s womanhood and humanity, is still there. And, it is felt by all demographics of Black American womanhood and identity. Whether that be in the urban sectors or corporate America, it is felt. It is felt by women, who work outside and within our communities. Unfortunately, some of the hostilities, towards Black American childbirth journeys, is even felt within the communities, must clearly be addressed when it comes to our mental health and wellness journeys.
The miracle of Black American birth doulas and midwives is how their work provides comfort and reassurance of womanhood. Seeing another feminine Being, of one’s same coloring, culture, and shared herstory, reassures Black American women, that they are. . .women. That their birthing experiences are not for the production of a system. Which means that their bodies are more than deserving to be treated with the softness, that every woman needs, when she is giving life. Furthermore, these images of fellow Sistas in the garden, remind Black American women, that they too have a space and culture of their own; which is designed to protect, comfort, and heal them. In addition to the physical work and education, Black American birth doulas and midwives bring a psychological healing, as well. Assisting in Black America, ridding ourselves of PTSD, and breaking its repetition into the next generation.
Black American doulas and midwives are needed more than we ever thought them to be. Like magical fairies, they come to sprinkle their dust onto the bellies, minds, and Spirits of pregnant women of our communities. They bring an artistry of love and compassion for life giving into our people. They are guardians for the re-birth of Black American communities. It means they too must be protected and safeguarded-economically and socially. Our lives, culture, and continuation depends on how often they are able to move throughout our life giving gardens.