Memories & Motivations from Trinidad

I am always excited after attending an event with the International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC).  Last week I returned home after a 7 night stay in Maraval Trinidad.  While there, I was working, bonding, eating, sleeping, sharing, growing and learning with a group of phenomenal women.   The women who attended are doulas, nurses, midwives, and mothers… sisters, daughters, American and Trinidadian.

Healing Hands

Healing Hands

As I sat to write this blog post, I thought back to February.  I wrote an article titled “Black Motherhood” that was published in the online publication Oya Nsoro. Below are some excerpts from that article.

Often times, when we use the word midwife in the black community it conjures up images of elderly women walking from house to house, dressed in all white catching babies by moonlight and kerosene oil.  For many, the idea of midwifery also brings up images of dirty old women who are uneducated, undertrained and unskilled.  These negative beliefs about midwives were shaped in our communities systematically as the government, the American Medical Association, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology worked together to rid America of its “midwife problem.”  A war was waged on black so-called granny midwives and they were slowly eliminated from our communities.  This systematic elimination that started with the Sheppard Towner act in 1921 continues today.  The Sheppard Towner Act, created “training programs” for midwives and forced many of them to abandon the historical knowledge and practices that had been passed down for generations.  Integration and the introduction of Medicaid brought poor, rural, and black women out of the homes and into hospitals to birth.  Maternity care become a VERY profitable business… there was then, and continues to be, money to be made regardless of the birth outcomes. 

While midwifery in the black community traditionally was an honored profession, today many hold to the false beliefs that midwifery care is second rate, something for the poor and the underprivileged. Or in some minds, midwifery is for “them” i.e. the rich, the granola crunchy types, the natural hair wearers and the vegans. 

Fortunately, in spite of these false beliefs, the practice of midwifery carries on today and is gaining momentum.   To those of us practicing “modern day midwifery” there is honor and respect in this profession.  We understand the shoulders upon which we stand and we carry on the legacy of the so-called “granny midwife” with passion and reverence. 

Midwives are, and have always been spiritual people.  Most midwives will tell you they were “called” into this business and no other profession is more directly linked with both life and death. They took care of the community. They had to because no one else would. They succeeded because they had no choice.  Today, we “modern day midwives” work with this passion and pray we can do the same.

I came into midwifery knowing that women in my community were NOT being treated the way they should be during labor and birth.  I was moved to become a midwife so that I could be a part the solution.  At that time, I had no knowledge of granny midwives and during my midwifery education; I don’t remember learning much about the legacy of black midwives.  In 2001 I was introduced to Rhonda Haynes the award winning producer of Bringin in Da Spirit, a wonderful documentary that not only celebrates but tells the truth about the legacy of Black midwives.  It was through meeting her that I began my slow and continual journey to learn more.  Through Rhonda, I learned of ICTC and met Shafia Monore, the midwife and visionary behind ICTC, The International Black Midwives and Healers Conference, and The Full Circle Doula Training.  It has been my involvement with ICTC, especially over the past 3 years, that has accelerated my learning curve and given me a bigger passion not just for helping birthing women but also to learn about the legacy of black midwives and healers.

It was with much excitement that I registered to attend the recently held combo doula training in Trinidad with ICTC.  While there, I started down the path to become a Certified Full Circle Doula Trainer.  Have you taken the ICTC FCD training? If not, no matter what your previous birth work training is, I definitely recommend it.  You can take it this July in Chicago 🙂 This training, is like no other training.  It is an international training that celebrates the legacy of the black midwife and brings to light our full and rich history.  It educates, informs, and inspires.  It allows us to learn, to grow and to bond.  New friendships are forged and new passions are ignited. This is the ICTC way.  Today, as I work to improve birth outcomes in my community, I salute all of the midwives and doulas working to create better births for women. Extra Hugs… Love… and Light to those of you working in the trenches, taking care of black and brown families regardless of ability to pay.  You do not walk alone.  We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Mamatoto Birth Center

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