I’m not gonna lie: When those labor pains kicked my groin like they came from the hooves of a giant, honery, angry mule, I practically walked into the hospital spine up, ready for the needle-full of juice that would make the pain just, like, go away. Sure, my Lamaze class taught me and a host of other moms-to-be about the breathing and the relaxing and the focusing to help work through the contractions, but they were just as quick to say, too, that there wouldn’t be some mommy award waiting in my mailbox if I skipped the epidural. Their motto: If I wanted the pain reliever, I should ask for it.
And so I did with both of my children. I’m a chump like that. Word life.
Still, I’m consistently amazed by women who choose to have a deliberate birthing experience—one that forgoes medical intervention for a much more personalized, natural labor assisted solely by mid-wives and doulas. It was certainly on my mind after I had my Lila, who was born in a hospital where the nurses were quick to pump drugs into my arms and all manner of straps and even a catheter meant to monitor me and my baby, whose heart rate they decided wasn’t strong enough for their liking. Seriously, those heiffas wouldn’t even let me turn over in the bed much less get up to pee; I was forced to lay on my side for, literally, 17 hours because they thought it was “safer” for me and Lila, whatever that meant. All I know is when the shift change came and nobody was watching me closely, I turned onto my other side and, pow!, I dilated fully and Lila was out in three pushes. My ob-gyn, who was in the building somewhere, didn’t even bother to come in the room; some random, cocky male resident stood around while I delivered my child, and then sewed me up with a bunch of crooked stitches meant to fix the parts he forgot to massage as Lila made her way into the world.
Yeah, let’s just say after that experience, my ideas on the birthing experience changed radically. Maybe being in a room with women who actually thought of birth as the beautiful beginning of life rather than a huge check for medical expenses wasn’t such a bad thing. Maybe being surrounding by women who trust your body and know its wonder and treat you like a human being rather than an ignorant girl too dumb to take care of herself and her child properly could radically change the infant mortality rate in our community.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately after that New York Times story I wrote about a few weeks back—the one where the writer took a really condescending, shallow look at black infant mortality rates. Yesterday, I started taking an even more serious look at midwifery after peeping this story, AMP: The Business of Being Erykah Badu. In it, Kamren Curiel writes of the soul star’s work as a doula and her plans to become a certified mid-wife. With a little extra digging, I found a bunch of stories about how Erykah, a mom of three, delivered all of her babies naturally with the assistance of a midwife and a doula, and has been working as a doula since helping her best friend through a natural birth. Erykah, who playfully calls herself “Badoula,” has been offering up her services as a birth coach for years, giving massages and practicing Reiki on moms-to-be to help them relax during labor. And sis, who speaks of plans to open birthing centers in inner cities, does all of this out of the goodness of her heart—no charge.
Earlier this year, Erykah also became the spokeswoman for the International Center for Traditional Childbearing, Inc., an organization that promotes midwifery, recruitment and training for black women who want to learn, share, and practice birthing techniques of Africa, the Caribbean and the Deep South. ICTC’s intent is to help black moms-to-be have better birthing experiences and, certainly, to help stem the out-of-control infant mortality rates in our community.
Shout-out to the ICTC and “Badoula” for thinking more deeply about the business of birth and lending a critical hand not only to helping support black moms-to-be, but helping to safely usher our babies into this world.
Check out what Erykah has to say about her babies, motherhood and her decision to become a doula in the clip below, somewhere around the 2:10 mark.
- Tackling Black Infant Mortality Rates—Without Stereotyping Black Mothers
- Paying Homage To The OB-GYN Who Escorted Me Into Motherhood
- Nipples and Ninny: An African American Mom’s Breastfeeding Journey