In May 2020, when the murder of George Floyd was broadcast for the world to watch for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, I began to feel completely helpless and frustrated in knowing that not only was I living in fear of Covid-19, but my Black life was still seen as a threat. It was clear that even in the midst of a world pandemic, racism did not take a day off. So resistance could not either. As the streets filled with the uprising of people tired of Black lives being taken by those paid to “protect and serve,” I began to critically self-examine how I could bring healing to my community in a way that aligned for this time. This led me to revisit my “original” calling to birth work as a young child, during which I discovered the importance of the supportive role of a doula in combating the rise of the Black maternal mortality rate in the U.S.
According to the CDC, Black mothers in the U.S. are dying three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest racial disparities in women’s health. New Jersey reported that in 2019, Black mothers in the state were dying at five times the rate of white mothers, ranking the state 47th in the country for maternal mortality. As a New Jersey native, these stats alarmed me. How was I not aware that my state was one of the worst when it came to Black maternal mortality? At that moment, I realized this national issue was truly a local issue to me as I transitioned to researching how I could join the movement to protect the lives of Black mothers in my home state.
Becoming a birth worker was my own form of resistance against white supremacy in the medical field, which often goes unspoken on national political stages. My declaration that Black Lives Matter is embedded in my mission to protect and support Black birthing bodies ensuring the safe birth of Black babies. When I officially began training to become a full-spectrum doula, I offered community-based support for Black birthing people in the areas of most need. As a Black woman supporting Black families through their desired birthing experience, I show up for my community by serving as an advocate and empowering my clients with the knowledge they need to make evidence-based informed decisions. I am there to create a safe and healing container for the birthing person. I provide support by centering them and their experiences in life to get a better understanding of what they need from me. When you work to serve those who have generationally been “underserved,” you must be able to meet them where they are, not where you think they should be.
So, what does showing up actually look like for me in my work?
It’s staying an extra hour for a scheduled one-hour session to provide an anxious mother without resources that she can review her hospital’s policies for labor & delivery so she can feel better equipped to protect the life of herself and her baby during childbirth.
It’s leading breathwork to ground a mother who is in her parked car heading to an appointment where she knows the doctor is pushing for induction now that she is “overdue.”
It’s reassuring a mother she has the right to say no to medical interventions after the 4th nurse enters her hospital room at 3 AM with a bag of Pitocin when she repeatedly notified the hospital staff she wanted an unmedicated birth.
It’s rocking the baby to sleep as the mother squeezes in a nap during a postpartum session.
These are just a few ways my work has allowed me to serve my community in a direct way. I am honored to hold the title of birth worker and support Black families by protecting their lives and birthing experience.
Rebecca Elle is a holistic trauma-informed birth worker supporting birthing people in the Northern Jersey and NYC areas. She is the founder + owner of Birthing Your Light, a full spectrum doula service company based in New Jersey, providing e based information and support surrounding fertility, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Her mission as a birth worker is to center Black women and create a sacred space to heal and reconnect them with the ancestral wisdom of their bodies to birth their light into this world.