“I knew the dangers for a pregnant Black woman. I knew that neither my degrees nor my access to resources could protect me from the Black maternal health crisis,” Tubbs wrote in The Guardian.
“I was aware that my experience of receiving care for my child was likely to be tainted by bias that could lead to my needs being disregarded by the professionals who were meant to serve me and my baby. And I knew that this was the case partly because the medical system I would need to rely on was built by experimenting on the bodies of Black women who were enslaved,” Tubbs says.
Birth doulas are trained professionals who give support to mothers before, during, and after childbirth. Organizations such as National Black Doulas Association help pair Black women with a doula they can work with during childbirth, postpartum, or for any issue dealing with pregnancy—including abortion, stillbirth, miscarriage, infertility, and more.
Angela Doyinsola Aina is the co-founder and executive director at Black Mamas Matter Alliance, a national network of women-led, community-based organizations that provide maternal reproductive health programs and services.
Aina tells The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the health care system simply doesn’t value the health and lives of Black women.
“They are not listening to us at all, especially when we complain about any pain or ailment that we’re experiencing,” Aina says.
Sabia C. Wade is the founder and CEO of The Black Doula Incorporated, located in Atlanta, Georgia.
Many of Wade’s clients come from marginalized communities and she notes that doula care can be costly and often not covered by insurance. She tells The Lily that “families of color are getting the short end of the stick. It all comes back down to marginalized communities needing equity in every way.”
Research suggests that using a doula can improve health outcomes for Black mothers and their infants.
Tubbs ultimately found help and a doula through Oakland Better Birth Foundation, located in California. There she was paired with a doula who’d been working in the industry for over 40 years.
She learned that the practice of using a doula is age-old for Black women. A new mother is led through her labor and delivery by an elder in the community, an expert who can guide her to a healthy outcome.
“It is also a tradition that has been under attack since the introduction of Medicaid in the US in the 1960s. Before this, Black women were met with hostility if they tried to give birth at hospitals, sometimes even being turned away; if they were admitted, they were placed in segregated care that was far from equal to their white counterparts. When welcoming Black women into hospitals became profitable and the birthing experience was medicalized, these women were treated as though they knew less about the birthing body than the doctors (invariably white men). It is an attitude that prevails,” Tubbs wrote in The Guardian.
Tubbs’ labor lasted 15 grueling hours. She says the doulas taught her how to nurse, carry her son in a wrap, and followed up with her for several weeks after.
“All birthing parents should feel as heard and supported as I did: partners should feel included, the environment filled with happiness rather than fear. Even when I felt the most unimaginable pain during contractions, the people around me made me feel stronger and more powerful than I ever had before,” Tubbs says.