Doula Mode, Mamazine Moment

Black Maternal Health Starts With a Return to Ancestral Wisdom

Ella St. Hilaire | April 11, 2021

It is time to re-write the narrative on Black maternal health. To reclaim agency, power, and sovereignty within the black body. While the narrative of systemic oppression has dominated the conversations on Black maternal health for good reason— bringing attention to what our community faces within medical institutions—we must also recognize that we hold within our bodies the ultimate antidote to this generational violence: our ancestral wisdom.

As a womb healer, my vision is to uplift women in their liberation. When a woman is the leader of her own body, her own heart, and her own independent mind, she uplifts her whole community. Woman is the natural giver, the biological blueprint for life, and the muse of imagination. When we transcend the given rules and limitations of our time, we open up spaces for healing and hope. This expansion and reclamation of space must first & foremost happen within our bodies before it can shift the paradigm of other spaces.

Black women carry a particular weight of ancestral trauma, micro-aggressions, and PTSD— but it need not be a continued burden. Our experiences of suffering are unique invitations to start the healing process for ourselves and for our families. It is possible to alchemize trauma into lessons of resiliency, and to pass this knowledge on to others. I have seen it happen in real-time.

What would it look like to re-center the conversation of Black maternal health towards the ancestral wisdom that we hold within our wombs? After all, we are the gatekeepers of divinity, of connection with the natural world, and of deep spiritual potency. We have been made to forget this— from the times of enslavement to the continuation of systemic racism today. But when we live in the remembrance of our sacred nature, we step into our birthright and unleash the full-potential brilliance of our lives.

Certainly, I am not advocating that our roadblocks towards reproductive justice be diminished. As Audre Lorde said, “your silence will not protect you.” But while we continue to speak up against the injustices of the healthcare system, we must also balance the narrative with the truth of our strength, and our capacity to overcome these obstacles as a constructive community. To keep ourselves victims of the system does nothing to empower us.

Oppression is not the only thing we can expect from this world. There is another reality that lives within our bones—the encoded DNA of our dignity, resilience, & innate healing abilities. When we uplift this reality of body sovereignty and empowerment, we invite into our lives the energy of renewal & rebirth. It is by reclaiming this truth for ourselves that we start to shift the essence of our lives, and allow ourselves to birth new worlds of possibilities for ourselves and our descendants.

“To counter the fixation on a rhetoric of victimhood, black folks must engage in a discourse of self-determination.”— Bell Hooks.

To root this discourse into daily life, it is essential to ground down through practical ritual. This is how your body re-wires itself to learn new patterns of self-love, safety, and pleasure. Your body is a portal for life, and taking the time to rhythmically root into your sacredness is as essential as water. Ritual is the pillar for confidence and connectivity with the divine source that empowers us.

Re-claiming this time and gentleness towards yourself is the way to return within, and to heal the wounds created by white supremacy. While we continue to live in this system, I invite into you the following rituals as a balm for your wounds:

  • Ground into the mantra, “My body is my altar.” This body of yours is where you pay respect to your elders and ancestors, where you offer nourishment and sustenance, and where you place daily intentions of self-reverence and worship. Keep your bodily altar purified, dignified, and adorned with sacred oils to embody a state of tranquility.
  • Re-claim your connection with your ancestors. Even in the unknown tracing of your lineage, there is power. If you feel in the dark about your ancestral roots, do not worry— you are the ultimate physical portal to your ancestors. Your body is the culmination of thousands of lives, and all of them live within the light of your DNA. Any darkness or unknowing that you may have about your family’s past, is a darkness that can be filled with life-potential to seed the future.
  • Communicate with your womb. Remember that your hands are healing portals. By placing both hands on your womb space—in an inverted triangle below your belly button— you can breathe into your sacred gateway of ancestral knowledge. Here you carry the possibility to extend your lineage— and therefore, to continue passing down your ancestral wisdom. Spending a few moments here with yourself before falling asleep, or just upon waking, can give you a sense of deep connectivity with your body. A sense that you already carry the future within you.

Ultimately, all healing hinges on the compassion of time. Giving yourself time to replenish and restore your relationship with your body is the best preparation for motherhood.

Ella St. Hilaire is an artist, writer, reiki, and womb healer. Her virtual platform Bedrock Body is a creative healing space at the intersection of feminism, social justice, and spirituality. Her mission is to re-center indigenous and black healing modalities while re-connecting people to their bodies and to Earth.

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