Throughout her career, Chanel Porchia-Albert has had a front-row seat to the highs and lows of humanity. Such is life for a doula, which is a term for people who support parents before, during, and after they deliver a child. Doulas such as Chanel navigate an array of demands that can be uplifting, taxing, or somewhere in between. Creating a birth plan, helping manage the pain and stress of labor, and assisting with postpartum recovery all fall within a doula’s domain. Describing her role, Chanel shares: “Having a doula offers non-judgmental support. [Working with a doula] means not feeling shame about asking for help.” Asking for help plays an essential role in anyone’s parenthood journey. This proves to be even more salient for Black women, who are three to four times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women are. It’s a horrifying statistic. Fortunately, individuals like Chanel and companies like Baby Dove are working to address the disparity in Black maternal health outcomes and her insights below can be useful for people who are considering a doula.
Leverage Resources and Advocacy Groups
Chanel’s expertise has touched many lives through her organization, Ancient Song Doula Services, her work as a consultant for the New York Department of Health, her role on a board at Harvard Medical School, and numerous other contributions. Currently, Chanel has partnered with Dove on their Black Birth Equity Fund. Through this innovative $500,000 fund, people can apply for grants to help fund doula care. An educational video series called #DearDoula rounds out the campaign. Chanel commends Dove on their dedication to Black Maternal Health as she notes: “In our initial conversations, one thing I appreciated with BabyDove was that they are bringing to the forefront information about Black maternal health. They were really intentional about partnering with Black Mamas Matter and learning from others in this space. They went a step further and asked them what the issues were and how they could center the conversation. They were really humble about it.” The Black Birth Equity Fund exemplifies dedication to social change and agency for Black mothers. Commending Dove on their commitment, Chanel confirms: “One of the biggest things that BabyDove helps is to give folks the opportunity to tap into resources. BabyDove doubled the [Black Birth Equity Fund] investment from $250k to $500k to allow people to access services up to $1,300. The DearDoula series will reach individuals who are birthing and parenting and give them a space where there are no silly questions.”
Embrace the Role of a Doula on Your Caregiving Team
Reflecting on how the discourse around doulas has evolved over the last ten years, Chanel attests: “It’s gone from a place where doulas were not talked about to now we’re talking about doulas a lot. Doulas have become very popular and I hope that we can continue to be…but, doulas are not the only answer. We also need to lift up midwifery services, birthing centers, and OB/GYNs who are culturally responsive and humble.” Once upon a time, society seemed to be more sceptical about doulas. Chanel’s words suggest that doulas can easily fit within a broader constellation of maternal care in today’s world. In addition, doulas can be helpful in approaching health through a more holistic lens. According to Chanel, conversations in the doula community include questions such as: “What does it mean to bring a human rights framework into the birth realm?” and “What does support mean once the child gets here? What should postpartum help look like?”
Center the Conversation on Hope
The statistics around Black maternal outcomes are bleak. However, Chanel refuses to approach her work from a place of defeat or despair. Chanel explains: “I am super conscientious about framing the conversation that centers on hope and what it means to uplift our collective humanity. When it’s a conversation about people being in crisis, it puts a person in a position of feeling like there is no hope. Or it makes people say ‘[motherhood] is not for me.’ So I want to create a space where people know this is for them. I want to educate people about Black maternal health. I want to create a space to affirm yourself, your bodily autonomy, and your parenting in a space that can be hostile. I will tell someone from the door, if you want me to talk about the Black death I won’t. I will talk about centering on hope, joy, and love.”
Hope, joy, and love should play a larger role in medical discourse. This is especially true as the Supreme Court’s Decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has had devastating effects on marginalized individuals who were already struggling. Chanel offers some final words of wisdom regarding the current state of reproductive rights: “Now we are in a more trying space and have to help communities navigate hostile environments. We need to think about what it means to have childcare, transportation, and hotels readily available. Making sure that providers are safe is a big shift too. We were already working in some spaces with underfunded or non-existent resources, so now we are looking to help more community-based organizations.” For more educational content, check out https://blackmamasmatter.org and https://www.ancientsongdoulaservices.com/advocacy.