From The Grio — For some black women, home birthing offers a chance to reconnect with their African heritage.
These women see themselves as being on the front lines of a natural birth movement, a growing, but largely underground collective of women who believe that the mainstream model of obstetrics has transformed labor and delivery into a medical procedure — and a dangerous one at that.
The African-American women who advocate natural birth come from organizations with names like Black Women Birthing Justice, Harlem Birth Action Committee, International Center for Traditional Childbearing, Mamas of Color Rising, Black Women Birthing Resistance and Birthing Project USA, which describes itself as the “underground railroad for new life.”
Across the nation, these groups promote natural or at-home birthing, saying their goal is to teach black women what really happens to their bodies during and after pregnancy.
The movement is happening in Atlanta, where the Atlanta Birthing Project is educating young black girls on prenatal care. It’s happening in Harlem, where legendary midwife-activist Nonkululeko Tyehemba works to, as she says, “demystify” home birth. In Oakland, California, the women of Black Women Birthing Justice, under the guidance of women’s studies scholar Julia Oparah, are relating their pregnancy and birthing stories in what they call “sharing circles.”
More black women are joining the natural birthing cause. The International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC), a non-profit organization based in Oregon, is largely made up of African-American women. ICTC says its goal is to promote the health of women, and it has since become a notable midwife certification organization, and a popular entity in the natural birthing “movement.”
Award-winning singer-songwriter Erykah Badu joined ICTC as its national spokesperson. On her way to becoming a certified direct-entry midwife, she said that her three children were born in her home, with the encouragement of a midwife and a doula.
“It was a very natural experience,” Badu told theGrio.
For doulas, midwives and other advocates of natural birthing, it’s about keeping the birthing experience as natural as possible.
But what does ‘natural’ mean anyway?