WE FUND MIDWIVES

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BLACK MOMS AND BABIES

ARE DYING during birth and soon after.

Our silence will not protect us.*

(Audre Lorde)

From this day forward, I’m making a personal commitment to promote funding for Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) midwives and doulas.

These funds will go directly to:

1) Individuals pursuing their educations as birth attendants (midwives and doulas).

2) Programs, community projects and organizations run by BIPOC, working to expand birth options for BIPOC.

Why Fund BIPOC in birth? 

Black women and babies are dying at epidemic rates in the U.S.

Recent CDC data shows that black women are 3-4 times more likely to die during birth than white women. In some communities, black women are 12x as likely to die during birth as white women.

RACISM is causing black women and babies to die.

Research shows that financial status, lifestyle, education and access to medical care do not protect black women from dying in birth. (Black women with advanced degrees are more likely to die during birth than white women who did not complete high school and don’t receive prenatal care.

The stress of racism harms black bodies.

Researchers use weathering to explain black women’s physiologic response to systemic and medical racism. This occurs as they 1) endure life in a country where they experience chronic systemic racism, and 2) confront medical racism when they seek healthcare.

91% of midwives in the U.S. are white.

Only 2% of U.S. midwives are black, far under-representing the population (12.7%) of black people in the U.S.

Few programs exist to provide healthcare providers with anti-bias (not cultural competency) training.

Despite required “cultural competency” training, research shows that medical students and healthcare providers continue to believe that black people feel less pain than white people and “black skin is thicker than white skin.” Cultural competency/diversity training fails to address healthcare providers’ deeply held, unconscious beliefs regarding race.

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Image by Katie Engelbert

WHAT BLACK WOMEN KNOW, BUT WHITE WOMEN WON’T ACKNOWLEDGE

U.S. midwifery represents the problems of White Feminism. Nearly all midwives in the U.S. are white – the culture of the midwifery in the U.S. centers around whiteness. While white midwifery models (i.e. the pervasive model of midwifery in the U.S.) claim to be “with women”, the lack of black, indigenous and midwives of color show that midwifery in the U.S. is “with white women.”

The History of Midwifery and the Doula Profession in the U.S. is white-washed.

Pioneers of midwifery and doula work in the U.S. took wisdom from BIPOC without credit.

  • Ina May Gaskin discovered the technique of resolving shoulder dystocia from indigenous Guatemalan midwives, yet it is credited in OB textbooks to her. (The Gaskin maneuver.)
  • Gaskin, “expert” in maternal death during childbirth, cannot understand the connection between racism and black maternal death.
  • Gaskin herself was trained by southern granny midwives.
  • Klaus and Kennell, “pioneers” of the doula profession in the U.S. and founders of D.O.N.A (dona.org) found the benefits of continuous labor support while researching birthing Guatemalan women. Research assistants were prohibited from speaking to laboring women; Wendy Freed, broke protocol to give them more attentive care.

Systemic Racism deprives BLACK, INDIGENOUS and WOMEN of COLOR of inter-generational wealth and financial mobility, depriving them of resources required for midwifery licensure. 

Systemic Racist Policies, (see Redlining”) have historically prevented black families from accumulating wealth.  In the U.S. today, for every $100 of white family wealth, black families only have about $5.04.

BIPOC face the following financial obstacles to pursuing a midwifery education/doula business:

  • Programs, books, licensing fees, housing, living expenses, and childcare.
  • Workshops, books, and seed money (for marketing materials, website, educational tools, labor support tools, as well as time spent away from making other sources of income.)
  • The unpredictable nature of attending childbirth requires students to be on-call, making it difficult to balance work for additional sources of income.

While white midwifery students  rely on inter-generational wealth to offset these costs, (savings, equity, ability to borrow student loans at reasonable interest rates) BIPOC midwifery students are forced to piece-meal their funding from unpredictable and inconsistent sources (small-amount scholarships and crowdfunding.)

BIPOC face the following systemic obstacles to pursuing a midwifery education:

WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

BLACK WOMEN LEADERS have emphasized again and again the importance of listening, funding and supporting black leaders to stop this epidemic.

There is a long legacy of “charity” – non-profit organizations, projects and endeavors to solve problems within communities of black, indigenous and women of color. TO DATE, THE VAST MAJORITY OF THESE ORGANIZATIONS ARE RUN BY WHITE PEOPLE – who have much work to do to undermine the structures of white supremacy that affect their worldview. UNTIL they do this work, they will not be effective in their efforts.

Black women and babies cannot wait for them to figure this out.

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THE PLAN

EVERY WEEK I will highlight an individual or organization on my social media pages and asking my social media partners/sisters to join me. I’ve spent the past five years providing free education for my community, and its time to ask this community to pay it forward.

  • Please signal boost these posts so that they aren’t suppressed.
  • Please take a personal commitment to invest in each of these women/individuals/organizations so that they feel our support.
  • If you’ve never given before, please give a small amount.
  • If you’ve given inconsistently, please commit to give consistently, in a small amount.
  • If you’ve given small amounts, please consider a larger commitment. THEN ASK YOUR COMMUNITIES TO DO THE SAME.

BLACK WOMEN AND BABIES

DON’T NEED OUR CHARITY –

THEY NEED OUR SOLIDARITY.*

{*From How To Spend Your Privilege, @thecut, by Brittany Packnett}

The most powerful way we can help black (BIPOC) mothers and babies (and women most at risk of harm during birth in this country) – is to UPLIFT BLACK (BIPOC) LEADERS.

Black women know how to save black women and babies. They need our financial support.

THEY NEED US TO DISASSEMBLE THE STRUCTURES OF SYSTEMIC RACISM THAT CONTINUE TO OPPRESS THEM.

This involves putting our money where our mouth is.

With sincerity and urgency,

Kate @taprootdoula