In celebration of International Day of the Midwife, we are uplifting a conversation held on IG Live during Black Maternal Health Week with our Founding Executive Director, Kiddada Green, and Detroit Home Birth Midwife, Cynthia Jackson of Sacred Rose Midwifery. Check out the full conversation here.
Kiddada Green (KG): We’re about to go live for Black Maternal Health Week. Cynthia Jackson of Sacred Rose Midwifery will be joining us. Happy Black Maternal Health Week, everyone. We’re so excited and grateful for Black Mamas Matter Alliance for starting Black Maternal Health Week.
So, Cynthia, tell us who you are!
Cynthia Jackson (CJ): I’m a home birth midwife. That’s my full-time gig currently. I’m a former doula. I’m also a community-based doulas trainer. I’ve done lots of different things in birth work. I’ve done childbirth education; just lots of different things in the community for Detroit families. I’ve grown since I’ve been in the community doing birth work since 2009.
KG: How did you come to that?
CJ: I didn’t know about birth work in college. I went down to the TSU thinking I was going to be a doctor and I was going to come back to Detroit and serve the families here. And that did not happen. I trusted the process and I ended up becoming a midwife. I had never heard of a midwife or doula when I was in college at all. But when I started learning about it, I jumped on that train and I rode it out until the end.
KG: Black mamas are claiming their power! We’re no longer demanding a seat at the table, but we’re making our own table. We’ve been at the front lines for every movement that has really enacted intentional change. And now we’re prioritizing our right to live and thrive. It’s about liberation. It’s about dismantling systems. Those are the words from the Black Mamas Matter Alliance but it really describes you and me.
I’m Kiddada Green and I’m the founding Executive Director of Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association. We started our work in 2007 and our breastfeeding club started in 2008. And one day here comes Cynthia in 2009 into the breastfeeding club. No babies! Were you a doula at the time?
CJ: I was a doula, but I didn’t have any clients. I was trying to get around some mothers because I wasn’t a mother. And I was just trying to understand what the community needed. So, I would go to different community meetings to find that answer.
KG: Tell us a little bit about a typical day in the life of a Detroit home birth midwife.
CJ: So the thing about it is there is no typical day. I’m going to (share what) a week (somewhat looks like). I have a system in place. I do three home visit days. I can see anywhere from 15 to 20 clients in a week. So that’s prenatal care, that could be a postpartum visit; anything like that all happening in the home. I do all the driving so all of their visits happen in their house. And then Wednesdays are dedicated to paperwork like birth certificate stuff. I do consultations on Wednesdays, on Zoom for people that are interested in becoming a home birth client. The rest of the days I’m pretty much on call every day waiting for my little magical call that somebody is in labor. But usually I’m off Friday, Saturday, Sunday to try to have balance. I answer lots of phone calls, lots of emails. That kind of happens throughout like every day. Actually today was an interesting day to talk about. I woke up at three o’clock in the morning and went to a birth. Left that birth at 1:30, got my brows done because you got to take care of myself. And then I went on two prenatal visits and now I am showing up here at the (IG) live.
KG:That’s definitely important to take care of yourself, so you’re able to take care of mothers. So tell us about your clientele.
CJ: Who is a client? Who’s a home birth client? I like that question. So for me and my practice it’s a Black woman! I am definitely 100% Black in my practice, that’s all I service. They are either having their first baby or their 10th baby, literally. They just want to have freedom to be involved in their healthcare. They just want something different. Home birth clients don’t look the same. They don’t act the same. We just have one thing in common: we’re in the Metro-Detroit area and we’re Black and we want our babies born safely at home and we want a Black midwife. That’s important! So I am the preferred Black midwife in the community. And so I do my very best to try to serve as many families as I can. I do about 40 families a year. And unfortunately I have to turn down a lot of families right now because the demand is high in the pandemic. I’m probably turning away 10 to 15 families per month.
KG: Folks are here in the (IG) chat saying we tried Cynthia but she was booked! Why a home birth midwife over a hospital or birth center?
CJ: So I like being a home birth midwife for several different reasons. I like people in their own element. And so they are naturally in their element when they’re at home. And so yes, you can bring birth to another place, but the birth will naturally go better if they already are comfortable in their own space. And I don’t care if that space is like this organized or whatever they’re comfortable there. So their bodies will naturally do the things that it needs to do to give birth. And we don’t have to add things to it. Interventions are less because we’re working with the families. And also, like I said, we’re doing home visits. So I know their home just like they know there’s, I am very comfortable with where I am just like they are, but definitely the births go better when they’re home. I did not want to do hospital midwifery after I went to my first home birth. So the first home birth I attended was in 2011 and I literally went to my car and I was like, that’s the best-kept secret. And I gotta figure out how to offer this to people that look like me. And that’s what I did. And that was 10 years ago. So yeah, it’s the best-kept secret. It really is, but it doesn’t need to be a secret at all, but it is a secret, still in 2021.
KG: The theme of Black Maternal Health Week is claiming our power, resilience and liberation. Tell me, how do you see liberation in the work that you do?
CJ: Liberation means freedom. People that give birth at home naturally have the freedom to do it in their own home and in the way that they want to do it. Unfortunately, when people go to the hospital, a lot of that freedom is taken away. In the home setting, you are just naturally free.
KG: There’s also freedom and liberation in breastfeeding. In Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association we see breastfeeding as revolutionary, how does breastfeeding come into play with your families?
CJ: So pretty much 100% of our ladies want to nurse their babies and are successful. There are a few that have challenges and we do a good job of sending them to different resources and we do postpartum home visits. Sometimes people can’t go to their mom or their aunt to talk about breastfeeding a lot of times they have to go to their friends. I didn’t even realize that until I was heavy into this work that we have not been breastfeeding for a couple of generations so this is definitely a revolutionary act for a lot of the ladies. People just now are understanding the importance of breastfeeding and how good it is for the woman’s body and the baby’s body; the nutritional aspect. We definitely support breastfeeding. We support all of our moms having that bonding experience. We support our dads. Breastfeeding is a top priority in our birthing clients that we see.
KG: I would be remiss if I don’t mention that Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association has a Community-based doula Program, accredited by HealthConnect One. And we are a licensed proprietor doula school, licensed by the State of Michigan. Cynthia, you have been our lead trainer for all three classes. What’s it like training aspiring doulas?
CJ: Training doulas is actually what I like to do because they’ve been wanting to get the information for a long time and just didn’t know how they were going to receive it. There’s nothing that I know that is a secret, I want everybody to definitely repeat, replicate this information. And so my goal, even as a midwife, is to train up the next Black midwife for Detroit. I have to do that before I retire.
KG: Tell us, what are some of your hopes for Black maternal health?
CJ: My hope is obviously that our Black women are being treated better; that they’re getting better care than what we are currently giving them. We definitely need more community resources and community engagement to improve Black families and their health. We have to get together as smaller communities to make that happen.
KG: Kiana (from the IG chat) is asking do you feel home births are safer than hospital births for Black women?
CJ: YES! I do post my statistics every year they are of a small population of people, but I’m really proud of my numbers. I think that we’ve been able to turn around a lot of situations that probably would go to the left if we were still dealing with only the hospital provider. We can fill in some of the gaps and some of the holes that Black women fall through, at home. We’re sitting on your couch, I’m seeing who you are and we take you from where you are and elevate you. People become so empowered.
KG: It wouldn’t be realistic to talk about Black maternal health and not talk about postpartum care. What does that look like for your home birth practice?
CJ: So a postpartum schedule for home birth midwives is that once the birth happens, we see the family three times in the first week of life. After that one-week visit, you’re probably gonna see the mom at two weeks, maybe four weeks out, again, definitely at six weeks. It’s more like a conversation woman to woman about how to manage being overwhelmed and not having a lot of sleep. Because nobody’s really asking you that if you had a hospital birth, you just go home, and then they don’t see you back until you’re six weeks postpartum. We see women do better in the postpartum experiences after they’ve had a home birth versus a hospital birth because of the kind of care that we give.
KG: I appreciate you taking the time to be with us, this was a great discussion. Thank you for being supportive of other Black birth workers and Black mamas. It’s so exciting to know that you service 100% Black women. How powerful! Thank you for joining us Cynthia!