The US has the “highest rate of maternal mortality in the industrialized world.” In the United States, the maternal death rate averaged 9.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births during the years 1979–1986, but then rose rapidly to 14 per 100,000 in 2000 and 17.8 per 100,000 in 2009.
On September 1, 2009, my water broke at about 5 AM CST. I was 8 1/2 months pregnant with my first child. My mother and I went to Barnes-Jewish Hospital, in full swing contractions. About 6 hours into my labor, with my mother and best friend present, I asked for an epidural. About an hour later, I told my mother, a former Labor & Delivery nurse that I felt cold.
I remember closing my eyes, and all the machines in my room going off. I remember the eyes of my mother going from mother-new grandmother to skilled health professional. She adjusted nobs and lines, and I remember her calling the nurse caring for me. I remember the fetal heart monitor going off.
Me and my baby…were dying.
I remember having what I know now as an oxygen rebreather mask. I had a catheter put in! I remember a resident being called that told the crowd of nurses and my family, I needed epinephrine and keep me on oxygen. I remember the strength of my daughter’s heartbeat, anchoring me to the moment I was in.
If my mother had not been there, had not known or recognized what was happening–happening to her daughter–I realize I may have died! I may have died giving birth to my daughter. She may not have had a mother, had her grandmother not been a nurse.
In the United States of America, there is still a chance for a woman to die during childbirth. There is still a medical stigma around Black women and the amount of pain we are able to bear. With this fear, with this understanding, I am glad to introduce to some and reintroduce to others: JAMAA BIRTH VILLAGE (JBV). Their mission is on their site:
Mission: To provide affordable access to midwives, doula’s and childbirth education for at-risk women in the St. Louis region in an effort to lower premature births and maternal-infant mortality through a network of health professionals and peers.
Vision: Jaama Birth Village’s vision is to create an exciting and engaging pregnancy wellness village and positive health community for women and families with access to high-quality health care during—and even before—pregnancy, as well as tangible tools to enhance the quality of life for at risk women and children by providing hands on education and compassionate support through a network of diverse professionals and peers through a culturally based model and approach.
The reason why this work is so needed, so incredible, is because it is revolutionary! I was introduced to JAMAA Birth Village due to Twitter, by way of the revolutionary Brittany Ferrell and a birthday donation appeal. She called it ‘reproductive justice’.
From the mention, I have followed their mission. Having started in 2015 (one year after the murder of Michael Brown, Jr. in the same Ferguson, Missouri), I am impressed with the tenacity of this clinic! I even know one of the doulas personally! JBV also as a new project it has gotten funding for called Equal Access Midwifery Clinic. At this site, there will be the following services:
● Sacred Pregnancy & Labor Home- Full spectrum pregnancy care with a culturally based team of midwives, doulas, childbirth educators, emotional + mental wellness counselors, as well as breastfeeding and postpartum peer coaches. Each mother will have the option to deliver at home or at your local hospital. (Jamaa Birth Village will operate as an Equal Access Midwifery Clinic in 2019 serving expectant mothers wishing to birth at a hospital but receive prenatal & postpartum care with a Midwife.)
● Women’s Health Collective- A comprehensive team of both holistic and medical women health practitioners focused on healing trauma, thriving wellness, and personalized woman centered and engaged care.
● Women & Family Cooperative- A collective team of experts in the areas of growing and nurturing food in urban areas, creating hygiene, personal and household necessities,and self-sustaining practices for an affordable and eco-friendly future.
● Life Forward Collaborative- Transition to a successful life with personal engagement for structuring a balanced family through stress management, self-care, parenting skills, financial and economic education and management, securing transportation and stable housing and personalized success.
● The Empowered Woman- Creating a life you want to live through continued education, business & economic empowerment for personal and generational wealth, small business empowerment and support for women business owners.
Donating when I can, and referring their services when I must. JAMAA Birth Village even has doulas, birthing classes along with lactation classes! I cannot emphasize of how imperative it is to have a knowledgeable people around you. Those knowledgeable people can save your life!
Being pregnant, expecting a child is an immense responsibility. It requires you to be both knowledgeable, and vigilant. The word ‘jamaa’ means ‘family’ in Swahili. If it takes a village to raise a child, then it would stand to reason, that a family would be needed to provide safe passage for the child to come into the world.
If you would like more information as to how to help, and JBV’s mission click here.
If you would like to donate to the righteous work of JAMAA Birth Village, click here.