“We deserve care” is one of the first things you’ll encounter when you load up actress, singer, and maternal health advocate,  Tatyana Ali’s very-own Baby Yams website. The site hosts a collection of quilts, which stand as the product of vibrant patterns and blocks, delicately unified by intricate embellishments and patchwork. Behind the beauty of the designs lies a story that is all too familiar for many women and birthing people in the United States.

Launched on April 16th, Baby Yams is among Tatyana Ali’s growing number of efforts to prop up women and birthing people, namely through her support of the indispensable efforts of midwives, doulas, and other birth workers fighting for better realities on the ground. After a traumatic birthing experience with her first-born, Ali leaned into the unshakable realization that birth trauma should not stand as a default. Her quest for answers led her to the reproductive justice movement, where she found community and solidarity with Black doulas, midwives, and other birth workers. During her second pregnancy, Ali would lean on a Black midwife and swaddle herself in the comfort and support of other birth workers.

Today, Ali is working to ensure that their indispensable efforts are met with support. Baby Yams is her unique approach to providing the capital needed for the intensive, longitudinal care that birth workers provide. For each purchase, 100% of the proceeds will go to Black and Indigenous midwives, who she aptly identifies as being uniquely positioned to provide women and birthing people with the care they need. 

When it comes to maternal health support, the mission of Baby Yams addresses a multitude of issues. In a nation facing one of its worst maternal health crises in recent history with glaring racial disparities, these intentional acts of support are not only helpful, but necessary in the fight to improve outcomes. Additionally, with growing rates of birth worker burnout that are partially attributable to low pay for services offered, tailored efforts to financially contribute to the workforce assist in underscoring the importance of funding this valuable work.

The first product under the Baby Yams brand is a series of handmade, heirloom-quality baby quilts created with Ankara fabrics. Titled Abundance, the first limited edition was designed by Tatyana Ali, and is available for purchase. Learn more about Baby Yams here.

There is no shortage of conversation and transparency about the pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting experiences in the United States. Whether it is in the form of an article, blog post, or TikTok video, information about the journey is widely accessible. However, in the hushed corners of our lives, behind closed doors and whispered conversations, exists a silent struggle that touches millions—infertility. 

Infertility is typically defined as the inability to conceive after twelve months of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse for couples under the age of 35, and after 6 months for couples over 35. Criteria is not limited to these circumstances, however. Infertility can also refer to the inability to carry a pregnancy to full term. April 21st marks the start of National Infertility Awareness Week, and in addition to informing ourselves, heightening awareness is about breaking the silence.

A widely misunderstood phenomenon that is often shrouded in stigma, infertility is intimately known by those who trudge through the uncertain journey. Luckily, even along a path that breeds feelings of isolation, there exist a few shepherds along the way. Among them are the United States’ indispensable workforce of fertility specialists, such as Dr. Cynthia Murdock. We spoke with Dr. Cynthia Murdock about her work as a partner and reproductive endocrinologist at Illume Fertility. 

While Murdock is board-certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, it is not her robust training alone that uniquely positions her to assist people in growing their families. Her empathetic approach, along with her consideration of a slew of issues facing those struggling to conceive, likely heightens her success. Her love for the unique interplay between technological advancement and personal agency led her to her career.

“I was drawn to the combination of patient care and basic science that exists in the field of reproductive endocrinology,” says Murdock. “There is no other medical specialty where you are able to have close relationships with patients while also being exposed to constant medical and technological innovations which can be directly applied to help build families.”

While technological innovation has been a transformative and virtually omnipresent tool in the world of medicine and family building, Murdock understands that it remains inaccessible to many. In a retrospective cohort study involving 554,995 live births associated with fertility treatment, Black and Hispanic women were approximately 70% less likely to receive any form of infertility treatment when compared with White women. A general lack of information and stigma about fertility issues partially set the framework for this inaccessibility. To Murdock, broadening the conversation through intentional storytelling is likely to put the option of treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF) on the radars of people of all backgrounds. 

“Everyone deserves to have access to family building. In some communities, infertility is still quite stigmatized, which often prevents people of color from seeking care. Individuals struggling with fertility often feel alone, which makes it all the more important that others share our experiences – particularly Black women. Not all patients feel comfortable opening up about their fertility journey, but those that do, like Shiraine, help to break that stigma and broaden the conversation.”

Shiraine is a Black woman of Caribbean background who worked closely with Dr. Cynthia Murdock after learning that her fallopian tubes were damaged. Murdock suggested that Shiraine try IVF, and was able to conceive after a single round. She and her husband Barry welcomed their baby boy Leland in 2022, and worked to share their story on social media, despite their fears regarding fertility as a taboo topic. 

In addition to a general lack of information, the cost of IVF treatment thwarts efforts at family building for many people. As a resident of Connecticut, Dr. Cynthia Murdock works in a region where the procedure is more accessible. However, she understands that it is not enough for this precious resource to be confined within isolated spheres. “We are lucky in Connecticut to have a state mandate for fertility coverage, so care is more accessible to all socioeconomic groups. For those in other states with no fertility coverage mandate, I encourage you to use your voice to push for change. Vote for leaders who support family building. More companies are also recognizing the importance of providing fertility benefits.”

Equally as important as using our voices to push for change is creating a reality where it is detrimental for employers to disregard the needs of women and birthing people facing this unique plight. “When you interview for a job, always ask about potential family-building benefits and policies. As companies start to recognize they will not attract the best new employees, or will even lose existing employees because of their lack of fertility benefits, they begin to understand how important this is.”

When it comes to heightening the agency of those struggling with infertility, the United States has a long way to go. As Murdock aptly mentions during our interview, intentional policymaking that renders these resources available to people in need is of utmost importance. In the meantime, we must welcome the stories of those navigating the journey, and prop up the efforts of those working to usher people to the other side.

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Dr. Cynthia M. Murdock is a Partner and fertility specialist at Illume Fertility. Dr. Murdock is board-certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.

The Maternal Health organization, Mama Glow Foundation, debuts a new national training program rooted in breastfeeding education and restorative justice. 

The First Foods Justice Breastfeeding Certification Program for Doulas, is centered on reclaiming breastfeeding education and bringing lactation support to communities most impacted by low breastfeeding rates. The program was first announced at the third annual Doula Expo by Mama Glow last year and holds a vision of restorative justice. 

Despite the benefits of breastfeeding, mothers belonging to historically marginalized populations engage at lower rates, when compared to their white counterparts. The maternal health organization, Mama Glow Foundation is unveiling a historic effort to address the disparities in Black breastfeeding rates in the USA. The training program approaches breastfeeding from the framework of first food justice—the notion that all infants should have the right to access the best nutrition, and caregivers their right to provide it. 

The First Foods Justice Program will provide professional lactation education to people who have been historically marginalized and whose communities fall victim to health inequity. Mama Glow Foundation holds a deep commitment to community and an investment in the workforce of doulas and community care workers. The design of this course centers the safety and support of Black and Brown mothers, birthing people, and families as they navigate the unique challenges and joys of breastfeeding.

The impact goals of the program are 1) to train 100 community care workers/doulas as Community Lactation Educators, 2) to serve marginalized people with community-based and trauma-informed lactation support, and 3) to measure the training outcomes and capture feeding success experiences within the program.

The First Foods Justice Breastfeeding Certification Program aims to address a number of disparities. While breastfeeding is often framed as a matter of personal choice or preference, the disparities warrant thorough investigation. Only 66% of Black infants are breastfed—a statistic that pales in comparison to those of white and Latine infant’s breastfeeding rates—82%. The disparities go beyond initiation. When Black birthing people breastfeed, they face challenges that impact their ability to nurse their infants long term. Only 44% of Black birthing people breastfeed for at least six months, when compared with 62% of white birthing people.

Another systemic barrier barring Black birthing people from breastfeeding is the decision-making occuring within the biomedical sphere. Unfortunately, hospital systems have historically been the target of the predatory marketing practices of formula companies, and this impacts specific demographic groups—like low-income Black women. This targeted approach is among the factors shaping Black mothers and birthing people’s disproportionate rates of formula use. 

The First Foods Justice Program is equal parts revolutionary and restorative. It is a rallying call to come to the table and imagine what it looks like to repair, design a new equitable future. This work embodies deep collaboration, community, and accountability, and provides a model for multidimensional support in our effort to prop up our nation’s mothers and birthing people.

Due to an overwhelming response and excitement about the program, hundreds of applicants applied to be a part of the inaugural cohort of First Foods Justice Advocates who will go on to be Certified Community Lactation Educators. With the first cohort of trainees complete, we look forward to welcoming the next cohort of individuals into the program.

Applications for the Summer Cohort Open in May and the next course starts in July. 

APPLY HERE 

As a Nurse Practitioner working in the medical field who also happens to be a woman of color, I have a unique perspective on the state of fertility care. The racial disparities between Black women and white women when it comes to reproductive and maternal health outcomes are shocking.

Black women are twice as likely to struggle with infertility than their white counterparts, due in part to a higher prevalence of uterine fibroids, ovulatory dysfunction, and tubal disease.

Many studies show that Black women also have higher rates of pregnancy loss, including miscarriages and stillbirths, compared to white women. This is likely due to the fact that Black women have higher rates of risk factors that are associated with pregnancy loss. These include obesity, diabetes, and low socioeconomic status. 

Beyond these biological determinants, a variety of other factors have contributed to the disproportionately high infertility rate among Black women.

Lack of Representation in Medicine

It is important for people of color to have access to healthcare providers who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) because it provides a sense of comfort and familiarity. BIPOC healthcare providers possess culturally-specific knowledge, skills, and experience that helps with the communication and health management process involving people of color.

Diversity in providers helps reduce barriers to the patient-physician relationship for racial/ethnic and linguistic minority patients.

In many situations, seeing someone that looks like you and understands your cultural background brings comfort and reassurance, increasing comfort levels and improving communication between patients and care professionals.

Many studies have shown that there are better health outcomes when patients of color are seen by BIPOC providers. A result of this is increased trust and communication developed between the patient and provider. The patient may also feel that someone who has a similar cultural experience to them is easier to share things with.

BIPOC providers also have insight into the specific and nuanced experiences of other people of color. They also bring an unspoken understanding of what the patient may be going through. Additionally, Black women who have a provider with similar cultural history may feel more comfortable speaking up and advocating for themselves.  

Many people of color have a (warranted) sense of mistrust when it comes to our healthcare system, due to historical practices based on racist ideals. As healthcare providers, we need to remain dedicated to bridging the gap to improve outcomes for patients of color.

Structural Racism & Implicit Bias

Both of these issues heavily contribute to racial disparities in fertility and maternal healthcare in different ways. Structural racism goes beyond the individual. It refers to inherently racist laws, rules, economic practices, and cultural and societal norms that are embedded in the system itself. 

Implicit (or unconscious) bias occurs automatically and unintentionally, nevertheless affecting our judgments, decisions, and behaviors. For example, a white doctor might downplay a Black patient’s complaints of pain after surgery due to subconscious, inherited stereotypes about the strength or pain tolerance of people of color, only to discover the patient is experiencing true discomfort.

Accessibility

Many people of color encounter barriers to accessing the healthcare they need due to lack of insurance (or insurance coverage that excludes fertility treatment). In addition to financial roadblocks, accessibility to quality reproductive care is often limited by their location (those in rural or underserved areas may not have fertility clinics nearby) and their employment situation (not everyone can take time off of work to go in for morning monitoring appointments, for example).

Harmful Stereotypes

Black women are thought of as being incredibly strong, and we are. But when we are elevated to Superwoman status, and then need to take off our proverbial capes to ask for help, we are often judged harshly or perceived as weak. 

There’s also a long-held myth that Black women (and men) are “hyper-fertile.” Basing medical care decisions on this assumption causes considerable harm, leading to a cascade of issues as a result. 

Religious Beliefs

Many people in the Black community believe in “praying your way” through difficult situations. And while it’s wonderful to have faith, sometimes it’s necessary to seek professional help. Trusting that a higher power will correct infertility leads some people to delay or avoid treatment altogether.

Mental Health

Shame, guilt, or anxiety about how people in our community may react prevents or delays many women of color from seeking treatment for infertility. The stigma of mental illness is also a concern when addressing infertility. Many people coping with infertility experience depression, anxiety and grief, and cultural norms can discourage people from sharing that they are struggling with their mental health. 

Isolation

Many people hesitate to talk about their personal experiences with infertility, which often leaves Black women with the impression that they are alone in their struggles or that infertility is a reflection of their character or a personal failing. That’s why sharing fertility stories is so important, especially in communities of color. 

 

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Thelma Osei is a Nurse Practitioner at Illume Fertility, specializing in fertility and family-building care for patients in Connecticut and New York. She graduated with her Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Western Connecticut State University and went on to receive her Family Nurse Practitioner degree from the University of Connecticut, graduating May 2019. Thelma joined the team at Illume Fertility in 2022.

As we close out Black Maternal Health week this year, we celebrate our wins!
Carol’s Daughter and Mama Glow Foundation proudly celebrate the fourth year of the groundbreaking Black Maternal Health Initiative, Love Delivered.  Love Delivered has been dedicated to improving maternal health for Black birthing people, and will continue to empower, support, and equip Black birthing people and the greater community through impactful programs and partnerships.
In partnership with CVS, Carol’s Daughter will support the Mama Glow Foundation in their mission to improve the experience of maternal health for birthing people everywhere with an additional financial contribution of $32,000 in 2024 to fund doula support for Black families in need. Families living in major cities including NYC, Miami, Los Angeles, Atlanta, New Orleans and Washington DC who are pregnant or recently postpartum can apply to receive doula services through the grant program HERE.
According to the CDC, The United States has the worst maternal mortality rate in high-income countries globally and the numbers have only grown. When compared to white women, Black women are more than 2 times likely to experience severe pregnancy-related complications and nearly 3 times as likely to die.
“Love Delivered is a testament to our unwavering belief that every Black birthing person deserves access to compassionate, equitable support before, during and after birth,” stated Carol’s Daughter founder Lisa Price. “I’m humbled by the impact we’ve made and the lives we’ve touched over the years. As we enter year four, we’ll continue to advocate for Black birthing people, ensuring they feel seen, heard and valued.”
Since its inception, Love Delivered in partnership with the Mama Glow Foundation, has engaged with nearly half a million people through events, doula support grants, educational programs, and webinars. To date, the Initiative has funded more than 120 births through the Mama Glow Foundation and reached over 5.1 billion people through digital advocacy.
Our partnership with Carol’s Daughter has been deeply impactful and one that is innovative and rooted in service of community.  Through our culture-shifting awareness campaigns, content and national doula service delivery program through the Mama Glow Foundation, we have been able to influence how care is delivered and how other organizations are modeling their programs. The Love Delivered partnership provides hope for a brighter future. Happy Birthday Love Delivered!

As a maternal health organization, the Mama Glow Foundation is deeply invested in not only the survival, but the thriving of mothers and birthing people. The United States is in the midst of one of its worst maternal health crises in recent history, and we know that the burden is not equal. Black women and birthing people are three to four times more likely to die of pregnancy and childbirth-related complications, at a baseline. It’s clear that we need solutions, and we need tailored-efforts to honor communities of highest burden.

The observance of Black Maternal Health Week calls on us for the advocacy that this requires. Held annually on April 11-17th, Black Maternal Health Week is a week-long campaign founded and led by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance to build awareness, activism, and community-building to amplify the voices, perspectives and lived experiences of Black mothers and birthing people. The official theme for this year was “Our Bodies STILL Belong to Us: Reproductive Justice NOW!”, which addresses the widespread restrictions on abortion care access, the rising cases of criminalization due to pregnancy loss, and the widening gaps of adverse maternal health and birth outcomes in the United States.

As we close Black Maternal Health Week, we wanted to take the time to honor the stories of Black women and birthing people touched by our efforts.

Maya Luisa featured with her two sons and husband

Maya Luisa, featured in the first image, encountered our organization in 2022, when she was 7 months pregnant with her first child. “I think the gift that Latham Thomas and the Mama Glow team provide for us as birthing people is a sense of being seen, and connectedness to community that helps us feel less isolated in the world. Mama Glow definitely recreates a tribal feel that is nurturing for the soul,” she said.

“Black Maternal Health week is a time to celebrate my life and vitality. To be more present to my children and enjoy their essence.”

Anita Powell crowned.

Our second featured mama is Anita Powell, who had several sacred experiences that tie back to our important work at Mama Glow. Her mother, who played a role in her advocacy, is a Mama Glow Doula. “On the day of my birth my mom, who is a nurse with experience in labor and delivery and also took Mama Glow’s Doula training weeks before my pregnancy, was in the room asking questions, reading machines and making sure that I got everything that I needed. The nurses and doctors respected her thoughts and opinions and were supportive of my needs. Pregnancy isn’t easy but with the right supports in place, it is a beautiful process, bumps and all.”

Chante Dyson and her son.

Lastly, Chante Dyson’s testimony beautifully captures the essence of this time. “As a mother of two young Black kings under two, Black Maternal Health Week means everything to me. The advocacy that takes place during this week is beyond necessary to amplify the unique needs of Black birthing women. Too many of us are falling in between the cracks with poor healthcare systems, outdated policies, and unsupportive environments for Black thriving families. Our country has a long way to go to ensure that the full pregnancy journey, including postpartum, is a sacred experience for all Black mothers and families. I am celebrating myself and my journey by both recognizing my strength as a mother to overcome the challenges of birthing and raising Black children in this county, and also by giving myself the gift of a regulated nervous system, ease of mind, and a deep trust in my divine path through a commitment to balanced living as a number one life value.”

When it comes to the impact of intentional effort and action, these beautiful testimonies are the tip of the iceberg. Our partners and other key stakeholders know this. And so, as part of our Love Delivered Initiative, Carol’s Daughter will continue to support our efforts with their annual 75,000 contribution and an additional $32,000 from CVS to fund doula support for Black families in need.

The United States is one of the most dangerous countries in which to give birth. Not only is our maternal mortality rate higher than that of any other high-income country despite advances in medical technology and healthcare access, but the burden is not equally distributed. Black birthing people are three to four times more likely to die of pregnancy and childbirth related complications, with this number representing the baseline. 

On April 3rd, 2024, the tireless efforts of the Black Maternal Health Caucus (BMHC) and advocates culminated in a major step in the fight to change these dismal outcomes. President Biden signed corrective maternal health priorities into law as part of the bipartisan Consolidated Appropriations Act and Further Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2024, which includes over $100 million for BMHC priorities and key Momnibus funding. This is one major step in what has been a longitudinal process, and will build on funding that the BMHC secured in 2023.

“For the fifth year in a row, the Black Maternal Health Caucus secured significant federal resources to address our maternal health crisis and save moms’ lives. As a Member of the House Appropriations Committee, I’m pleased that we reached bipartisan agreement to fund evidence-based programs to support moms across the country and to directly address the drivers of maternal mortality and morbidity,” said BMHC co-chair Lauren Underwood per their press release. “But our work is far from done. Moms across America are demanding a comprehensive solution, and they cannot afford to wait any longer. We must pass the Momnibus now.”

While the ultimate goal is the official passage of the Momnibus Act, the appropriations package includes a number of initiatives that are likely to address outcomes in the interim. Among them is the allocation of $53.4 million dollars towards the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) implementation of a Maternal Health and Pregnancy Outcomes Vision for Everyone initiative, which will allow the NIH to expand research on the root and leading causes of maternal mortality, morbidity, and disparities. Additionally, the funding aims to enable the NIH to investigate clinical and non-clinical interventions that will improve outcomes to promote maternal health equity.

The United States’ maternal health crisis reflects glaring racial disparities, and the bill accounts for the necessity of intentional effort and action in bridging gaps. Pulling from the demands of the Kira Johnson Act, the package is offering $7 million through the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Minority Health to fund community-based organizations that support birthing people in areas with high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity. This promising offering is a reminder that community-based tools and interventions are indispensable in the fight to improve outcomes. 

Additionally, the package offers $55 million through HRSA to fund Grants, which allows states to collaborate with key stakeholders and experts to implement policies and plans specific to local communities. Through their collaborative efforts, they will implement state-specific initiatives to improve access to maternal care services, identify and address workforce needs, and support postpartum and interconception care services.

For the BMHC, this historic win is only the beginning. As they consider the Appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2025, they are unrelenting in their demands for a solution that not just adequately, but also comprehensively addresses the United States’ maternal health crisis—the full passage of the Momnibus Act.

When it comes to performance, the United States fares high in several categories. We routinely rank well in terms of perceptions regarding our global reach, our job market, and our entrepreneurial opportunities. We are a nation of many feats and great technological advancement, and yet, we continue to loom behind our peers in categories that, arguably, are of greater significance. Within the past decade, the general public has been learning that the state of maternal care is among them. Our nation is in the throes of a maternal health crisis, with it being more dangerous for a birthing person to give birth now than it was three decades ago.

Unfortunately, recent tragedies, like the death of former Kansas City Chiefs cheerleader Krystal Anderson, further underscore the dismal realities of navigating the United States’ maternal health landscape. Krystal “Krissy” Anderson died at the age of 40 shortly after the birth of her daughter, Charlotte Willow Anderson, who, sadly, was born at rest, as named in Anderson’s obituary. As her husband Clayton Anderson speaks out about the conditions surrounding her passing, the details confirm that Krystal’s tragic death tells a story that, unfortunately, mirrors the experience of countless other women and birthing people in the United States. 

Krystal’s identity as a Black woman is a significant part of this story, as the burden of the maternal health crisis in the United States is not equal. Black women and birthing people are two to three times more likely to die of pregnancy and childbirth-related complications, and these numbers reflect the baseline. In states like New York, the gap is as large as eight or nine. Additionally, for Black women and birthing people, the stillbirth rate is over twice that of other demographics. As we close out Black Maternal Health Week, we must honor the lives of Krystal and other Black women needlessly lost to our deeply flawed medical establishment by facing uncomfortable truths.

As aptly noted by Krystal’s husband in an interview with ABC News, some of these harsh truths are tied to the very nature of how the United States’ medical establishment works. Krystal had previously suffered a stillbirth in November of 2022, and had a miscarriage scare in December of 2023. Aged 40 at the time of her pregnancy, Krystal was also of advanced maternal age. Despite the presence of these risk factors, the two were told that they could not work with maternal-fetal medicine specialists until week 14 of Krystal’s pregnancy. Expecting somebody who has had a loss to go four weeks in between seeing their care providers, said Clayton Anderson, is the same protocol that is done for a 23 year old of optimal health.

It felt remiss at the time, because it is.

In the absence of this tragedy, the reality of the bureaucratic nature of our medical establishment would simply fade to the background. Krystal Anderson’s tragic passing is a reminder of the deadly consequences of birth medicalization, and the systematization of pregnancy and childbirth in the United States. Under systems that do not account for variation between experiences and people, there only exists a “one-size-fits all” approach, where those who meet optimal standards thrive, and those whose identities and experiences deviate from the standard face one of two fates: survival, or death.

Under systems that do not account for variation between experiences and people, a Black woman who suffered a previous stillbirth and had a miscarriage scare, receives the same care as someone without the same background or medical history. As her experiences go unaccounted for, the chances that she’ll make it to the other side of her pregnancy and/or birthing journey safe and healthy diminish. 

In addition to investigating the systems-level issues, we must evaluate the interpersonal realities that make it more likely that Black women and birthing people have to scream to be heard. Notions of Black women’s exceptional strength and imperviousness to pain, or an unconscious disregard for our suffering, may lead physicians to dismiss Black women’s complaints, or assume that Black women and birthing people are not in need of support, even during a particularly vulnerable time. 

As we sit with the tragedy that is Krystal Anderson’s death, not only should we think about the deeply-ingrained beliefs that feed the expectation that Black women and birthing people do well despite inadequate measures, but we must continue to grapple with the question of what more could have been done, and why that was not the default. Without intentional effort to weave empathy, compassion and context into the cracks, we will continue to experience a system of care that fails to anticipate the needs of Black women and birthing people until it is too late.

The United States’ maternal health crisis is growing worse with time. The persistence of the issue of maternal mortality in a high-income country unfortunately means that high spending does not contribute to better health outcomes for women and birthing people. In New York’s Capital District region, a growing number of birth workers are turning to historical roots to tackle issues of today, and they’re using models of care that exist in the absence of money. In Spring of 2023 Mama Glow welcomed its first cohort of community doulas in the Capital District in a move to improve maternal and infant health outcomes in Albany and beyond. The group of doulas joined the Mama Glow Doula Homeschool Professional Training Program online. 

Birth justice non-profit BirthNet helped fund over twenty five local community members and University of Albany students scholarships through fundraising and grants to promote a team of doulas that are diverse, experienced, and qualified to support families in various birth settings, including home, and hospital births. We caught up with a few of the community doulas to talk about their work, and how they’ve honored the principles of their doula training with Mama Glow. For full-spectrum doula Sherisa Moore, RN, MSN, MA, IBCLC, the practicum program catalyzed ancestral healing and heightened ancestral knowledge, all while filling gaps in institutional knowledge. “As a registered nurse, the program touched on women’s anatomy in such great detail that I learned new things. Important things may I add that were never taught while in nursing school.”

Sherisa’s personal identities enabled her to come to the work with an appreciation for the teachings on mental and behavioral health. “The one thing that stuck out to me the most about Mama Glow is support for mental health. I read about birth worker burnout and that struck me personally as a healthcare worker,” she said. The Mama Glow Foundation captured the institutional and interpersonal shortcomings contributing to burnout in the Practicing Doula Experiences Survey earlier this year. 

Like Sherisa, many of the doulas juggle many hats. “As nurses, we are never taught how to support ourselves from being burnt out, especially since Covid happened. As a black woman, I also see burn out differently than possibly my other counterparts, and that was new to me. I love that Mama Glow focused on healing oneself before giving to others.” Equally notable to Sherisa is the work the Mama Glow Foundation is doing to drive policy changes that will guarantee doulas a livable wage.

The embodied practices also resonated with Sherisa. “I see me bringing movement and more breath work to my practice as a Doula. I find that that helps increase the bond you have with a client and helps them to process within themselves as well as into birth ultimately bringing that work into parenthood.” She explained that the most notable parts were the beginning, where they did meditation, the breathwork led by Mama Glow Founder Latham Thomas, and the ritualistic ending. “ Each training day was a joy to attend and help me to pause in life and work within myself. I also left meeting a bunch of great like-minded individuals. So my take from it is the importance of healing, you can not give to others with any empty cup.“

The training fits neatly within Sherisa’s path. “I’m a registered nurse of 13 years. I’ve been working in the medical field for 20+ years. I’m a lactation consultant and a Reiki level two practitioner. I’ve been a Doula for 3+ years, specifically supporting high risk maternity clients as my background is working with preterm infants in the NICU. I actually feel like I’m in the teaching phase of my work. I really enjoy educating and teaching all the things that I’ve been learning.  I see myself as a mentor for newer doulas.”

Since the training, Sherisa has committed to being a supportive educator to new doulas in search of mentorship. In addition to her pre-existing projects, she leads workshops to assist doulas in finding their niche within the sphere of birth work.