VOICES: The magic of perinatal care should be available to all

Mother’s Day is a wonderful time to reflect on all the magical experiences that this journey can bring. From the beginning, when you find out you have a living being in your body, to learning the gender of that being, to patiently waiting for it to make its grand entrance, and then finally getting to meet your nine-month “belly buddy.”

I’ll never forget the morning of April 8, 2016. I woke up to unusual cramps. I hadn’t been sure if I wanted to work with a doula or not. After the first contraction, I knew right away. Absolutely! Luckily, a doula that I was close friends with, Tiffany, made time for me on short notice.

I remember arriving at the hospital with my son’s father before Tiffany and experiencing a different kind of treatment from the staff. At the front of my mind, I remember the lack of questions and the lack of care or concern when my entire birthing plan had to change upon arrival.

At one point, my baby’s heart rate had dropped and we didn’t even know what that meant. None of the staff helped explain. Before my doula arrived, it seemed as though everyone talked at me, and not with me. I didn’t feel like I was a part of a caring team.

Once Tiffany arrived, she became the bridge between the medical staff and I. She asked them to elaborate on medical terms, advocated for me to take a walk around the long halls when I was told to lay down, and politely scolded them when they announced different codes without explaining what they were. Because of her presence, I truly believe that I was able to give birth to a healthy baby boy and leave the hospital healthy and alive. I tremble at the thought of her not being there.

Sometimes I feel privileged because I had the opportunity to experience the magic of a doula.

But it’s not a privilege — it’s a necessity.

According to the CDC, maternal mortality rates for Black women are 2.9 times higher than other groups of women. When you aren’t intentional and gloss over those stats, they are just numbers. But when you have an experience that shows why those numbers exist, you want to make sure that everyone understands just how important a third-party is for Black mothers during labor.

Fortunately, there has been a local and county push for support and care for Black and Brown mothers during their perinatal experience. Groups like Lattation, Milk Mama’s, and Tribe provide support through their experience and passion for this work. TRIBE, a cooperative in Dayton, is led by a group of 20-plus women (including Tiffany) that specialize in different perinatal professions.

From doula services to yoga, breastfeeding support, and other services, mothers are put at the forefront of care because these women truly value their lives and experiences. They value the magic of motherhood.

Celebrate Mother’s Day by supporting maternal care of mothers everywhere and by advocating for policies that provide additional support to mothers of color — regardless of income. Every mother deserves to have a magical experience when beginning their journey.

Te’Jal Cartwright is a media personality whose goal is to build community and bring healing through truth and transparency.

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