#BlackLivesMatter: A Radical Afro-Descendant Midwifery and Birthing Stance On Systemic Genocide

13 Dec

momma africa

I have been grieving since the decision was made on Mike Brown. Since I got the news that Akai Gurley was gunned down and that there would be no charges for the murder of Eric Garner. It pains me to think of Amadou Diallo, who was killed when I was in high school in my own neighborhood, walking distance from my after-school program. #BlackLivesMatter is personal to me. And the personal is political. Because not only could these men be my brothers, I could have a son of mine shot because he has dark skin. I can be one of them. I am mourning the murders of Tarika Wilson, Aiyana Jones, Miriam Carey, Shereese Francis, Shantel Davis, Sharmel Edwards, Rekia Boyd, Tyisha Miller, Yvette Smith and countless other Black women who have been killed by police officers. I am enraged that Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Ken Holtzclaw was release from jail as he faces charges for sexually assaulting 7 different African American women while he was on duty. As a midwife, I am sick of knowing that not only are Black women being shot and killed, we are also being annihilated quietly at the hands of medical professionals.

I have been in an increasingly mounting state of utter rage since I realized that Black and Latina women have terrible outcomes in maternal and reproductive health. I can still remember how the information hit me like a ton of bricks during my birth doula training in 2010. African American women are four times as likely to die in childbirth than their white counterparts. Research states that the infant mortality rate ranges from 4.8 per 1,000 live births for Central and South Americans to 7.3 per 1,000 live births for Puerto Ricans. My Quisqueyana roots’ island has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, seven times higher than the United States. We are more likely to have a C-section, and have low-weight premature babies. We also have the highest rates of infant mortality and morbidity. We have more complications. We are subject to receiving terrible care and not getting informed consent when we are getting reproductive and maternal care. Just this summer, it was brought to the attention of the United Nations that the United States is in violation of a U.N Convention on racism in healthcare. This is a serious matter. It is the number one reason I decided to become a midwife. Because it is an act of resistance and because women like me need a health care provider who understands the nuances of being Black and is interested in their health.

There are midwives who are aware of the disparities affecting women of color. It is not enough and we need more midwives to attend us. Especially because of the historic dismantling of Black granny midwives in this country, it is our responsibility to understand how this made low-income Black and Latina women subject to being sites of experimentation by obstetricians and gynecologists. I personally do not consider hospitals safe for women of color with uncomplicated pregnancies for a couple of reasons. African American and Latina women are likely to be living in poverty in this country. Low-income communities often have sub-par hospitals so the care they can get is not culturally sensitive and at times cruel and abusive. Furthermore, the trauma that can be experienced in a hospital sets the stage for the bond between mother and child, thus producing a cyclical dysfunction in our families that is not being nurtured by our current medical system. Black mothers do not often have the resources and support necessary to them to be able to have healthy pregnancies and postpartum periods.

Additionally, I am deeply insulted by the fact that I need to be licensed to practice midwifery. I am even more pissed off that I cannot legally practice in New York because I don’t have a masters degree but will be able to do so in New Jersey. Why is this infuriating? Because it was through the implementation of licensure that granny midwives were wiped out. It disrupted the tradition of apprenticeship  that our ancestral mothers brought with them from the African countries we were stolen from. I will get my license but reluctantly so, as it is a reminder that I must continually practice Sankofa and go back to fetch the knowledge that was stolen from us at the hands of the American medical system. I also cannot bring myself to get a masters degree in midwifery. I have had to jump through one hoop to get this far and stay as close as I could to apprenticeship. I am not doing it again.

To promote birth outside of a hospital birth is one of the most radical things I can do for my women. They have been bamboozled by modern medicine to hand over their bodies without receiving the respect they deserve. The racism that they are likely to face in their routine gynecological and maternal care is alarming and quite frankly, I am sick of hearing the stories. I would be remiss not to mention forced sterilization on women of color, such as the infamous “La Operacion” that deceitfully sterilized Boricua women in Borinquien; women of color have also been sterilized while incarcerated and probably without consent. African American and Latina women can benefit greatly from the midwifery model of care that would give them a much more sympathetic ear and care centered around them. To have more midwives of color in our communities would further provide health care professionals that understand their reality and can help advise them on their health. We can promote the uncovering of knowledge that is still being held in our grandmothers and mothers by supporting community health plans and meeting spaces. Our future generations depend on us being radical about our bodies.

Radical comes from the Latin word “radix” meaning “root”. The root of many human dis-eases begins at birth. Racism is a stressful condition to live in. When a person is in a state of chronic stress, they are susceptible to illness because their bodies are out of balance. Stress causes hypertension, which is one of the dis-eases African American and Latino people suffer from. It is not a coincidence that living under the conditions we do and having this be our state of being for generations is continuing to keep us sick. For people of color, we must not only address other systematic ills such as the gunning down of our women and men but also understanding how this genocide begins in the womb.

I stand for justice and for respecting Black lives. I think so much of the mothers that must bury their children when they are murdered. Black and Latina mothers must carry the burden of fearing their child might be killed. Our hearts are broken in a way that most won’t understand. What justice is this that we must explain to our children at some undetermined point that they might lose their lives to a reckless cop? Often, when women of color around me see the violence threatening to snuff us out, they are reluctant to have children. While that is an understandable sentiment and I don’t judge the choice, a conversation I had made me aware that we need to do the opposite. Remember the infanticide that would occur on the Transatlantic Slave Trade when our ancestral mothers wanted to save their children from our current fate; remember the other infanticides when we got to this side of the globe. Remember the forceful sterilization that has happened and is happening to women of color around the world. Remember we have the highest rate of infant and maternal mortality in this country. This is a full-on genocide. The reason I have no tolerance for neutrality is because this has been going on for 522 years now. I’m sick of this shit. To get us to psychologically subscribe is part of that. They are not only murdering us on sight but also before we even get here, and choosing to birth is an act of resistance. I encourage us to love our children shamelessly and deeply. Fight to preserve our lives. Demand and seek better healthcare and birthing options. Resist. Revolt. Rebel. I will do my part to expose the inequities and create new possibilities for my people.

The Postpartum: Reflections After Midwifery School

10 Dec

Sometimes, after a woman gives birth, they need to tell their story over and over again because they are trying to put the pieces together to an otherwise indescribable event: birth. The magnitude and impact of delivering a child is so deep and so beyond our conscious mind that they have a hard time getting a grip. Everyone around them mills around them, continuing with their lives while the postpartum mother experiences a vast amount of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual changes. They are often neglected, in the sense that all the attention was on them when they were pregnant and few understand that they need support more than ever with a new child and a new reality to come to terms with. This is the most accurate way to describe how I’ve been feeling in the last 2 months postpartum from midwifery school.

I began my formal midwifery training last September 2013. It was conception. It was the beginning of gestating a brand new life and identity that I could never foresee how it would turn out. My year away from all that was familiar was hard. It had its stresses, worries, sleepless nights, and sudden growth spurts that only those going through this with me understood. I felt supported by my community from afar yet also isolated, unable to be honest and raw in the way I could be with a select few friends who got me through school with long hours on the phone. A major worry was finances, a common theme in my life. I am grateful to everyone who supported me to be able to pay for school and all my expenses (I owe some perks and am working on those). School itself was a challenge. One that I have yet to feel complete liberty to be frank about.

For starters, it was direct entry. I chose to learn this way because it does not sit right with my spirit to be trained in a hospital. I had to learn on the spot and that included emergency situations. I’ve seen hemorrhages and babies that needed help breathing. I’m glad I have not seen anything fatal but I didn’t have time to process what I saw – I had to keep going. The birth center I trained at is an incredibly high volume, so I saw nearly 100 humans come into the world plus the clinical hours of prenatal care I gave to the women of Juarez. It was a lot. There were so many long hours, as much as being awake for 36 hours straight and catching up to 2 babies in a 24 hour period. No time to recover, just keep going. It is a lot even now, as I struggle to tactfully write about this experience. The range of emotions felt varied from joy to rage for many reasons.

It was hard to be one of the only women of color training at this school. A lot of the rage came in here; again I don’t feel at liberty to flesh out exact details about why this was at times infuriating. I guess you can say that there was a lot of cognitive dissonance to deal with. For me, there has not been an opportunity to be solely trained by Black and Latina midwives for a variety of reasons. There is a sadness that comes from having had to learn from white midwives. This is not to say that I am devaluing how much I was taught. Most of my preceptors were great teachers and I connected with a few who I am still close to. Still, it speaks to the fact that the numbers of Black and Latina midwives leave much to be desired, as well as the fact that many women of color cannot afford to be trained for a variety of reasons related to the historical disenfranchisement of Afro-descendant people. It speaks to the removal of granny midwives and our own ancestral knowledge of birth; it is painful to know that this was stolen from us from the medical system.

Then there was dealing with my personal life outside of my education. So many things were happening for me, in terms of growing up, becoming an adult child of divorce, and as always, matters of the heart. I felt pregnant with this new person I would be at the end of this journey. I got to spend a whole year being known solely as Ynanna. I can count on one hand how many times someone called me by my birth name. I realize as I sit in the South Bronx where I was born Carmen that this is a huge shift in my reality. Midwifery made me come face to face with my own birth several times. It made me question who I am and how I came to be who I am. It also opened up this well of emotions and feelings about the world. I could feel myself feel increasingly enraged about the world I have to send these new creations into. Especially because they were Mexican-American children, the reality of their struggle was real to me. Because I was with women, the violence against women in this world made me want to break something. Becoming a midwife has made me even more passionate about human rights and less tolerant for pettiness. Perhaps borderline impatient but definitely more headstrong than I’ve ever been.

It has been hard being back. I know I am happy to be home and have been received rather warmly by those who waited for me to come back. But it’s like coming home with a new baby. What am I supposed to do with this new creation? Who is going to help me figure this out? Just like a postpartum mother has to answer these questions alone, so must I. What do I do with these emotions, particularly rage? How do I adjust to life outside of birth? Currently, I am waiting for my diploma from school and am figuring out how to study for my licensing exam so I can practice legally in New Jersey. I am looking for steady employment in maternal and reproductive health because I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve worked too hard to do anything but my career.  I hope to serve women of color because we don’t always have access to the best and most compassionate care. I can’t bear the thought of not being in service to my community. Mostly these days, I’ve been alone, like a mother nursing her new child, trying to make sense of this new person she’s become and birthed.

Gravida -

9 Dec

Gravida.
Meaning pregnant.
Full. Abundant.
Gravida implying gravity.
The weight of being with child.
My mind always hears ‘grave’
In Spanish
Meaning
Serious. Important. Momentous.

Pendulous bellies swollen
With lives that we cannot predict;
Heavy with a new life
An entire universe of a person
Weighing on these hips.

Though I am nulligravida –
Never pregnant, never this copious –
I have held laboring women
Their weight on me as I make myself
Strong
To support
To hold
To guide them
As they prepare to release
This load
This body
This life
This Royalty
This burden
Of mothering while Black.

It is a grave situation that
Breaks backs and
Breaks hearts
Knowing we must give our lives
Holding our breaths
That these children might be
Murdered.

It is too real
Sobering
Painful to feel your heart
Hold so much water
Leap into your throat
Nearly suffocating you
With the probable tears
That may be shed at birth
At a funeral.

This act of resistance
To still create in the ghastly face of
Death, destruction, execution -
Genocide -
In fear of this precious cargo
This gift of hope and promise
Being taken too soon from momma’s arms
Too soon from dreams coming true
Too soon
Too intentional
Too much history
Repeating
Replaying
Replicating itself
By a system
By overseers turned officers.

La situación esta grave.
The situation is serious.
If we didn’t love these children so much
We might commit infanticide just so
They can leave this planet on our terms.
We pray to our ancestral mothers for strength
To endure our children’s probable fates
To resist this darkness.

Gravida. This gravity.
Who will hold this weight but us?
The mothers
The ones sacrificing our bodies
Our wombs
Our hearts at risk of being annihilated -
Our arms nearly broken
For the way a child will fall heavy
Con esto
Tan grave.

I Sell The Shadow: Supporting The Substance to Change The World

3 Nov

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The end of a spectacular night

A rainy evening at Madiba Harlem at MIST was the scene for the introduction of a new dream being manifested. In her black dress and red accessories, Lisa Russell’s red and blue feather earrings reminded me her vision is taking flight. The need to create is a natural impulse humans have. In these precarious times in our global community, that impulse is the key to much needed solutions. What attracted me to Lisa’s work then is her dynamic use of creativity to address international issues. With over 10 years of experience producing films and creative projects for various UN/NGO agencies, she has kicked off an innovative artist initiative named “I Sell The Shadow”, aimed at developing meaningful relationships between creative professionals and UN/NGO agencies.

“I sell the shadow to support the substance” is the inspiration for the initiative’s name. It is a quote by Sojourner Truth, the famous African American abolitionist and woman’s rights activist who sold portraits of herself to fund her work. Lisa has worked with young and adult artists who use their talents to further change on a global and local level. On October 22nd, the launch weaved together both stunning performances by artists, videos and highlighted examples of issues that are being worked on by both the respective artists in their community work and global organizations. In Madiba’s theater space after an hour of networking, the audience was captivated by Chesney Snow, beatboxer and actor. Without warning, he began to beatbox some of the sickest beats that had the whole crowd engaged. It was incredible to hear a melody of different sounds coming from this one voice.

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Lisa Russell stood behind her camera, wearing her filmmaker hat in tandem with hostess, and alternated between shooting and facilitating the flow of the event. She introduced the show and expressed the importance of creating opportunities for creative artists and NGOs to work in partnership. “The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible,” Lisa stated, quoting Toni Cade Bambara, driving the point home. She shared the work she has done producing films on pressing global health and development topics in the world’s most remote places, citing how often she questioned herself about whether she should be the one telling the stories. Lisa understands well the thin line between raising awareness on issues and exploiting people’s suffering for media. Her sensitivity, work with various artist activists, and connections to the United Nations has confirmed her notion that the professional and artistic worlds must intersect to give advocacy work an authentic voice. In collaboration, the narratives are flipped and are empowered by those who are actively working on the ground.

Soré Agbaje and Ramya Ramana’s collaborative spoken word piece echoed the reasons MDG2, one of the U.N millennium developmental goals tackling lack of education, is being worked on tirelessly. These two young women wrote and performed this piece at a rally for A World At School, an international campaign aimed at making education accessible to all children. They specifically gave voice to the 31 million girls worldwide who are disproportionally affected. Timothy DuWhite took the stage and delivered a riveting poem about HIV/AIDS, highlighting the global epidemic from a personal perspective. Melissa Garcia Velez told the story of her undocumented youth status with her body, performing a powerful dance solo piece. The push and pull of her body movements made the struggle many undocumented people face so visceral. I felt her story in my own bones.

Tahani Salah, Soré Agbaje, Ramya Ramana and Timothy DuWhite.

One part of the presentation that moved me to tears was the International Youth Day Video on Mental Health and Youth. Edited by Lisa Russell with music by Ray Angry, the images by folks around the world describing their struggle with mental health touched me personally. Sahr + Ricardo, consisting of Fela’s Sahr Ngaujah and guitarist Ricardo Quiñones, did a musical piece about liberation and freedom, setting the stage for Liberated People. Special guest, actor and activist Gbenga Akinnagbe (The Wire, 24) spoke and introduced his company, Liberated People, a lifestyle brand designed to inspire people to act. The night closed with two poetry performances from Shane Romero sharing an exquisite love letter to the Sudan, Savon Bartley bringing Mother Earth to life in a piece for climate change and Jaime Philbert’s solo dance piece.

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A captive audience

I left the auditorium in a bit of a stunned silence as the gravity of our world’s most pressing issues hit me. The theater full of people came out buzzing, a mixture of high level U.N professionals and artists. The music for the networking after was provided by Africology, one of the sponsors of I Sell The Shadow. Additionally, this event was also sponsored by Trendy Tripping, Urban Word NYC, Women Deliver, Jacaranda Health, World Beatbox Association and Liberated People. Once again, the revolution was made irresistible. Through witnessing this powerful kick-off, I was inspired to continue my own work. As for “I Sell The Shadow”, it has certainly begun to make waves. The momentum keeps building with the upcoming screening of Lisa Russell’s award-winning short film PODER! followed by live performances and networking on November 21st. Check out the link and get involved:

RSVP for November 21st’s PODER! screening and event

I Sell The Shadow – Official Website

Coming Home Soon!

13 Aug

I will be coming home in mid-October and am looking for work involving prenatal, labor support, postpartum and reproductive health. I would like to work alongside another midwife as an entry-level midwife (I will be sitting for my licensing exam next year). I am also available as a birth and postpartum doula, open to various positions that involve educating young women and women in general. I would be open to providing childcare as well. I will be most likely coming back to the South Bronx area for a while for this chapter of my life. Any suggestions or leads are welcome :)

Becoming Ynanna

10 Aug

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This month makes 2 years that I’ve been Ynanna. The change from going by my birth name to my chosen name started late in 2011 and manifested itself right before my nervous breakdown in September 2012. I knew when I walked home two summers ago from my therapist’s office that I needed to change my name. “Carmen” didn’t feel like who I am. Or at least not who I am completely. I needed to have a balance of light and darkness. Like Inanna and Ereshkigal.

Ynanna is my spelling of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, sensuality, lust, and warfare. Inanna is the Queen of Heaven and Earth. She is the embodiment of all the phases and parts of feminine energy. Her most famous myth is a metaphor for the ultimate spiritual initiation into wisdom, expanded consciousness, and adulthood, in which one willingly faces their shadows and their demons, to embrace both sides of them and be complete and stand in their power. The story goes that Inanna went to the the Underworld dressed in her finest attire. Ereshkigal, Inanna’s older sister and the Queen of the Dead, is not happy about this. She instructs her gatekeeper to strip Inanna of everything, symbolic of having to give up everything in the descent into the unknown and darkness. Inanna is then killed, and rises from the dead after three days.

I believe my healing journey brought me to the point of such profound transformation. I became very conscious of my wounds when I was graduating from high school, so this change of vibration had been 9 years in the making. That’s what taking on a new name is – a complete change of the wavelength I vibrate on. It is connected to why curse words strike chords in conversations – they carry a certain energy and history to them. Names in particular carry our life force. They carry our history and destiny. I hadn’t considered this until I pledged for my sorority and was establishing the chapter at New Paltz. We as a group of women were setting the tone for the women who would become our chapter sisters by choosing to call ourselves the Orisha Chapter. As I studied in the Black Studies Department, I understood how countries that had been colonized underwent name changes that caused a separation from their primordial identities. Examples include how Quisqueya became Dominican Republic and Boriken became Puerto Rico. Though they are the same land, the names they now go by define them as colonized and so goes the history of these countries. The change of name was a change in the course of their self-determination.

Before Afro-descendant and indigenous people were killed and robbed of our lands, mental, emotional, physical and spiritual faculties, we were very conscious of how we named our children. It was understood that a name carried a person’s destiny and their livelihood. That still goes on today but not as purposely at times. I believe that when I was named Carmen, it was very intentional. I carry the story very close to my heart because I know it means a lot to my grandmother, my mother and family. I will not ever stop having a part of Carmen in me. However, when I am called by that name, I feel like a ghost is being called. As though my own Underworld is being summoned. I experienced a very profound sense of death when I was violated in 2010 and kept saying that to myself. I felt like I was dying. Around this time, I also began to lose my home, relationships, jobs…being stripped of everything to be more of who I really am. My mental health was deteriorating quickly and it was scary to reach and be so intimate with my demons and shadows. I found it harder and harder to explain to people that I was changing quickly.

It was a godsend to be away from people who have previously known me as Carmen for this year of my midwifery training. I’ve had the opportunity to be Ynanna fully. I really enjoy being Ynanna. It feels more like who I am and what my destiny is meant for. It encompasses my large spirit. I felt that changing my name was my rebirth, my rising from the death that truly threatened to snuff out my light. Ynanna is stronger, courageous, healed, more complete. I feel that becoming Ynanna was my initiation into my spiritual adulthood. I just hope that more folks who have known me as Carmen can transition to calling me Ynanna. It makes me happy to be called by who I feel I am now. Though, I have to admit that there are sometime when being called Carmen feels comforting, and only by certain people. It is certainly an interesting dynamic to live in. I liken it to Inanna and Ereshkigal. I must have both entities inside me to be whole and complete. It hasn’t been easy for myself to transition. I had moments where I’d ask myself if it was a good idea to shift. If I was or sounded crazy. If I was okay. Realizing that I had people around me who also made this type of change gave me the courage to become Ynanna.

Becoming Ynanna has given me the ability to embrace both my darkness and my light. Having taken the descent to my underworld many times, my name is a reminder of that strength that I have gained on this journey to being in balance with every aspect of who I am – both Carmen and Ynanna.

Nuestras Madres Jóvenes: On Teen Mommas and The Miseducation of Our Young Women

7 Jul

Women in labor are so strong. It never ceases to amaze me. The young mothers take my breath away most. They have quickly become my favorite mommas. My practice will definitely be geared towards young mommas, especially teen moms. Teen moms need such special attention and respect. They have decided to go through one of the hardest things in their young lives.

In supporting teen moms, there is so much attention needed to their nutrition and knowledge about their bodies. I know for a fact they’re not going to get what they need from school or their communities. As a midwife, I must teach too. So so much. My age group of specialty is the teens through 25ish. I often feel like this is where most of us get lost in the mix. I have had the pleasure of having two teenage continuity of care clients during my training here, three other women who I served as a doula, and have gotten to be the primary midwife for dozens of other young women who needed the careful attention to educating that I have.

One young mother who stole my heart was the one that set my heart on fire. She and I were serendipitously connected. It was amazing that I just so happened to be in the clinic when she went into labor. The midwives went to go find me to tell me she was in labor. I went to her and told her that I would help her with the pain so she didn’t suffer. It was a beautiful birth and immediately I made myself available for her postpartum care. I gave her a crash course in her reproductive system during her postpartum appointments, complete with diagrams and a handout. I stressed to her that she needed to follow her dreams and never feel ashamed for being a teen mother. I could see the hope swell in her heart and her mother nodding at my encouragement through her tears. I have had so much fun growing with them. I feel glad to have made them so comfortable to trust me with their questions. I have seen how important the close care of their pregnancy has been and know this is an integral part of my work – to work specifically with empowering young women with knowledge, care and respect.

It breaks my heart that more women than I care to count have been miseducated and neglected when it comes to their sexuality and bodies. Because I know I am not alone, the education of our young women is vitally important. Sending a woman into the world unprepared with no knowledge of her body as it relates to society is dangerous. Straight up. You are literally feeding a little girl to the wolves by remaining silent. The fatal miseducation of woman must end. we must start taking those after us under our wings. Be the big sisters we didn’t have.

Additionally, it is time to demand comprehensive sexual education and empowerment for our high school women. We must give them the opportunities to make informed choices about their sexuality, relationships and have a healthier sense of self. This world runs the risk of having the cycle of disempowered women continue if we do not become our little sister’s keepers. Though I am not here to save anyone, I certainly will not stand by and let more women fall through the cracks. I will do my part as a midwife. I hope you will join me.

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Las mujeres en trabajo de parto son tan fuertes. Nunca dejan de sorprenderme. Las madres jóvenes son las que más me sorprenden. Rápidamente se han convertido en mis favoritas. Mi práctica como partera definitivamente será enfocada en las madres adolescentes. Las madres jóvenes necesitan una atención especial y mucho respeto. Han decidido hacer una de las cosas más difíciles en sus vidas. Necesitan apoyo.

En apoyar a las madres adolescentes, mucha atención es necesaria en lo de su nutrición y conocimiento de sus cuerpos. Sé que no van a conseguir lo que necesitan en la escuela o sus comunidades. Como partera, tengo que enseñar también.  Siento que en la adolescencia es donde la mayoría de nosotras nos perdemos. He tenido el placer de dar cuidado particular a dos adolescentes durante mis estudios aquí, otras tres jóvenes que estuve en sus partos como doula y he llegado a ser la partera primaria para otras mujeres jóvenes quien necesitaban la atención cuidadosa y educación que puede darle.

Una madre joven me robó el corazón y me lo dejo encendido.  Ella y yo estábamos casualmente conectadas. Era increíble que pasó que yo estaba en la clínica cuando ella entró en trabajo de parto. Las parteras fueron a buscarme para decirme. Fui a ella y le dije que la ayudaría con el dolor para que no sufriera. Fue un nacimiento bello e inmediatamente me hice disponible para su atención en el postparto. Le di un curso intensivo sobre su sistema reproductivo durante sus citas postparto, con diagramas y un folleto. Destaqué que necesitaba seguir sus sueños y nunca sentirse avergüenzada por ser una madre adolescente. Pude ver la esperanza en sus ojos y su madre asintió con la cabeza. Me he divertido mucho creciendo con ellas. Me siento contenta de poder inspirar confianza y que se han sentido cómodas preguntándome lo que sea. He visto que importante ha sido la atención cercana de sus embarazos y es una parte integral de mi trabajo – enfocándome específicamente con empoderar a las mujeres jóvenes con conocimiento, cuidado y respeto.

Me rompe el corazón que mucha más mujeres no han sido educadas acerca de sus cuerpos y sexualidad. Porque sé que no estoy sola, es sumamente importante la educación de nuestras jóvenes. Enviando a una mujer al mundo sin ningún conocimiento de su cuerpo es peligroso.  Literalmente estamos hechando a las niñas a los lobos por permanecer nosotros callados. Debemos terminar este silencio fatal. Debemos comenzar a tomar nuestras jóvenes de bajo de nuestras alas. Tenemos que ser las hermanas mayores que no teníamos.

Además, es hora de exigir una educación sexual integral y el empoderamiento de las mujeres jóvenes. Debemos darles la oportunidad de tomar decisiones informadas sobre su sexualidad, las relaciones y ayudar que tengan un sentido saludable de identidad. Este mundo corre el riesgo de tener más mujeres perdidas si no nos volvemos guardianes de nuestras hermanas pequeñas. Aunque no estoy aquí para salvar a nadie, ciertamente no voy a dejar que más mujeres se caigan. Yo haré mi parte como partera. Espero que me acompañen.

 

Annie and Ray Kuntz, Wesley, Olivia, Nathan & Toby

24 May

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“I think motherhood in and of itself is made up of both of life and of little deaths. When you become a mother the first time, the single-carefree part of yourself where you could think of yourself first dies.  Now every little decision you make, where you go and when, what you wear, who you spend time with, is influenced by that child.  When your children grow, each step of the way, a little something new is born, and a little of the old dies.  When I weaned my daughter, Olivia, on her third birthday, there died our sweet nursing relationship that we both cherished.  But there was born a new independence and stepping further into herself without the same attachment to her mother.  When my oldest son lost his first two teeth, I noticed those were the first baby teeth that appeared after feverish, crying nights.  And now they sit in a little green treasure box and my boy has two bit teeth in his smile.  My two-year-old son says the most adorable and hilarious things as he learns to speak more clearly.  Long gone are the “gagas” and “dadada” sounds that he first produced.  My two-month-old son has already lost the shakiness of a newborn’s cry, and those certain sighs and sounds that a newborn makes.  None of my children will ever be newborns again.  The relentless march of time leaves those younger versions of themselves behind.  Except in my memory.

 There is a painting of a woman giving birth at my work with the following words written on it: “I am a woman giving birth to myself.”  And that is what birth is that we often look over.  It is the birth of the child, but also the creation of this new mother.  I wish that our culture celebrated that fact a little bit more. 

I don’t think you become a mother just once with your first child. I think you become a mother over and over again, each child that is born, each major life shift for your children. It’s ever-changing, never stagnant. And once you are a mother, you can never not be a mother again.”

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*Words cannot describe how much I appreciate this midwife and friend. Annie has been one of my preceptors since I began school here and has quickly become a great teacher and confidant. I am so proud of her and what I have gotten to know of her journey. It is my sincerest wish that she is blessed in all her endeavors as a woman, mother, partner and midwife. I love you Annie!

Griselda Rodriguez

23 May

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*This sister and I connected at a conference when we spoke on the same panel regarding African hair and its politics. One simple picture full of the light she is carrying, I am happy to share her joy on my page.

Monica Franco and Lianna

22 May

this one!

“Being a mom is everything to me. It means giving 100% to assure that my daughter feels loved and secure at all times. It means working my hardest to give her the best life possible because she’s totally worth it.”

 

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*I’m honored to have my beautiful cousin Monica and her adorable daughter Lianna as a part of my project. Aside from being a great mom, she also recently received her Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration. So proud of her :)