My pregnancy and prenatal care were very isolated. I had support, though not really while I was at the clinic, it felt like they were just there to do their job. They weren’t able to really walk me through the process. I didn’t have a lot of supportive new friendships outside or at home, so I would have liked my doctors to really walk me medically through what was happening to me, what this transition was like. And nobody really did that. It was just checking to make sure I was cool.
I remember when I would go to the doctors at UCSF, and I’d see some of the different groups that they offered, I would want to go. I went to maybe one or two, but I was always the only single mom there.
I was also the only mom of color, and I felt very ostracized. I felt like this wasn’t for me, and so I didn’t engage. I didn’t find anything outside of blocking things out, and they did not take the time to really explain what the transition was, what was happening to my body during pregnancy.
I don’t think my providers saw me. I didn’t get a consistent provider throughout my prenatal visits. I do not feel like anyone said, “Oh this is what you need to get. You need to make sure that they’re looking at these. We want to make sure you gain what you need to move forward.” It was never a deeper conversation or anything more than just consistently pushing it on me.
I didn’t feel seen, and I didn’t feel like there were programs where I saw people that looked like me. I felt like people really didn’t want to, for lack of a better term, invest in my rearing of this child. Just making sure that the information got out there, whether I received it or not. That was very off-putting. It didn’t make me feel good. That definitely impacted my pregnancy and my journey overall.
Then there were providers like the one from Black Infant Health, the in-home nurse. He sat down and really explained stuff to me, checked up on me, made sure that I was okay. And I think that was something that definitely helped in the early postpartum stages, after I had my daughter. There were some providers that I had that were really good, but most of them in the institution just did what they had to do and moved on.
My most positive conversations, and where I’ve received information in a positive manner, was at Black Infant Health. It was the women there that really started my journey on, for lack of a better term, assertiveness. They helped me to realize that this is the care that I should be receiving, this is what’s out there. How do you feel about that? Like, let’s have a conversation. Really getting down to what it means not only to be pregnant in this time, but to be Black and pregnant. They really took the time to explain things to me.
I wish that the providers I had at first knew that I have community, and that I can understand everything that comes with being pregnant. I wanted to know more about it. I wanted you to want to share this journey with me.
I think my superpower is caring. I just want to make sure we’re all okay, and I want to do my part to make sure that we get to a place of good care for everyone.
My Experiences as a Doula
I’m now a doula [and a Program Manager at the California Preterm Birth Initiative at UCSF], and I recently attended a birth the first week of March, and I was not at all comfortable with the care that she received while in labor. There was not a lot of explanation. The bedside manner was not there at all. They explained things but not really. As a doula I’m there to ask questions and they weren’t happy that I was asking questions and stuff, but I was there to support her. I was there to make sure she understood the complete picture, so please make sure that that happens. She didn’t get the care that she deserved, and that was in a hospital that’s supposed to be one of the top hospitals.
Another time though, there was a mom who was preterm, had high blood pressure, and she had a Black midwife. Somebody that looked like her, understood where she was coming from culturally, while giving birth. She was able to really be straightforward with her, able to make sure that what she said my client understood. She was there to comfort her and she made sure that she comforted her the way she needed to be comforted. And my client gave birth to a healthy baby and it was just amazing and she felt empowered doing that. It was a really, really positive experience. It was what she needed.
When there’s care that looks like you, that understands you, the overall experience is better.
I have learned that there needs to be a rapport. You need to understand where I’m coming from and I want to understand where you’re coming from. I want to make sure that you get the entire picture, so I’m going to deliver that. I’m going to talk first about what it is, and let’s say it’s an intervention that a provider’s proposing, let’s say they’re saying they want to do it, I will explain this is what it does and can mean. This is the reality of intervention, and making sure you have the entire picture. This is what they’re going to be giving you. This is what the side effects of what they’re giving you are. This is the process that this is induction. I’m making sure that they have a very clear picture of whatever it is that I need to tell them to the best of my ability. And I’m there to answer questions. Let’s make sure we make an informed decision about whatever it is that needs to be decided.
I personally have had a client who was experiencing housing insecurity and it was threatening her ability to return home with her child. That is something that directly affects the pregnancy and the baby. If a woman is housing insecure, there is no way that we can get through this or experience this journey without stress. We cannot put more stress on these moms than they already have.
So if your client says, “I’m housing insecure,” make sure that immediately you’re writing a letter to whomever they need. This person is at this stage in their pregnancy and needs to be housed. We need to be making sure that they have connections to all kinds of housing resources.
It shouldn’t be a fight. When she was experiencing that housing insecurity, I showed up to the meeting with the program manager, with the ability manager, with everyone who is a part of that company that could make a decision on whether she was able to be housed or not.
Y’all need to fill up spaces like that. Make that a part of your care that you provide because that is a part of care. Make sure that your patient is not just coping by average standards. Make sure she’s healthy all around.