Positive Black Birthing Stories Are Not Only Beautiful but Also Necessary
Black Maternal Health Week, founded by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, is held yearly from April 11-17, bringing awareness to and advancing birth justice for Black women. The campaign focuses on centering the voices, experiences, and Black-women-led care solutions during childbirth. As we know, Black women continue to face extreme maternal health disparities in comparison to women from other racial groups, and the statistics are both alarming and grim (Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Far too many Black women have died senselessly because they did not receive the adequate care and support they deserved during their birthing experience.
But #BMHW23’s theme, Our Bodies Belong to Us: Restoring Black Autonomy and Joy!, reminds us to give agency and voice to the many positive birthing stories that do exist for Black women as a means to counter the suggestion that Black women are meant to only barely survive and not thrive in childbirth. Centering the birthing stories of Black women offers us hope, gives us healing, and, more importantly, is a powerful expression of the joy of Black motherhood.
“Despite the mainstream media’s fixation on death and negative statistics, there are models for joy in Black births.”
Dr. Kelly Jackson, a native of Louisiana, tells POPSUGAR that as a first-time mother, she was terrified to give birth in a new city without any immediate family present. But she was determined to have a positive birthing experience. “My husband and I had recently relocated, and neither of us had close family nearby. I knew that I needed my community to help support me in this new stage of life,” Dr. Jackson says. She opted to deliver in a hospital, but she also made sure to have a Black pediatrician, who is also a close friend, be present in the delivery room. Dr. Jackson shares, “It was a blessing to have someone that could advocate on my behalf and be in the room with me during delivery. I labored for over 28 hours and pushed for 2.5 with the help of numerous nurses and my OB, but standing next to me the whole time was my friend! She helped monitor my vitals and my daughter’s, coached me through the process, and stayed patient. I am forever grateful for that joyous experience, especially because I know there are countless Black women that do not have that level of support during one of the most critical times in their pregnancy.”
Julieta K., a mother from the UK, opted for a birth guided by a midwife and arrived at her room with mood lighting and R&B music playing to help prepare for her baby’s arrival. “It was a dream,” she shared as part of the Positive Birth Company birth stories blog. “I was elated and so proud of myself. Special shout out to the midwife who left me to my own devices and didn’t do coached pushing, as per my requests in the birth plan,” she writes. “I loved my birth so much. It was the most incredible moment of my life.”
It’s important for Black moms to be presented with birthing methods that make them feel safe, explains Haize Hawke, a mother, doula, and midwife who practices in Los Angeles and often incorporates guided meditation, spiritual baths, and self-care methods into her birthing practice. “Black joy and healing are always present in the space,” she says. “I see birth as a sacred and spiritual event, feeling the presence of our ancestors. I believe in Black women and their bodies.”
These stories are a reminder that Black birth can and should be a joyous occasion. “Despite the mainstream media’s fixation on death and negative statistics, there are models for joy in Black births,” says tech entrepreneur, author, and Black maternal advocate Kimberly Sears Allers. Allers created Irth, an app for Black mothers that seeks to give support through reviews and recommendations from the birthing journey to pediatric experiences, all in an effort to combat racism and bias in maternal and infant care.
Allers’s podcast, “Birthright,” also amplifies positive Black birthing experiences through the art of storytelling. When asked why she created the podcast, Allers said she wanted to depict Black birthing through the lens of joy. “The system is so used to documenting and showcasing Black pain.” But the truth is, “Our birthright is joy. Our birthright is to have positive experiences and to live through them,” Allers says.