Why am I pursuing a license as a certified professional midwife? I respect all the other credentials, and it would surely be easier to get my education paid for because there is funding to go through the nurse midwife track. That’s actually the reason I went for the nurse-midwife track first instead of following my heart: because I could get federal loans to pay for the education. Capitalism strikes again.
I don’t have the desire to learn in a hospital environment. I don’t feel safe in a hospital as an Afro-descendant woman. Historically, Afro-descendant people in the United States have been seen as less than human, and thus the medical establishment has used our bodies as sites for experimentation (check out Medical Apartheid). Furthermore, because the medical establishment (among other things) is capitalist, Afro-descendant people who have been historically disenfranchised do not have the same access to quality care as a person who is usually European-descendant (the proverbial “White” person).
What I mean by that is that Afro-descendant people are much more likely to experience racism and sub-par care through micro-aggressions. A person who doesn’t speak English has a higher possibility of being disrespected and kept uninformed. Women who live in low-income communities usually cannot afford home birth midwives because of the financial barriers and not being able to pay out of pocket. This is not to say a European-American does not struggle financially to receive adequate care but the reality is that Afro-descendant women and people are disproportionately neglected. The hospitals in our low-income communities (I’m thinking the South Bronx as my personal experience) are less than adequate and do not have the best medical teams. Often, the doctors we can have through Medicaid are swamped with patients so we experience cold and insensitive care that is not interested in our spiritual and emotional health.
This spiritual and psychological sickness of white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism – in short, a dominating system forcefully taking control of the earth and its people – has created a severe amnesia in our Afro-descendant communities when it comes to health and wellness. We have forgotten that we are the reason the world has medical sciences to even begin with. When you are traumatized to the level that Afro-descendant people have been, you disassociate from your own reality and accept a reality (the oppressor’s reality) that helps you cope in some way. In relation to midwifery, women have disassociated from the true reality that our bodies are more than capable to birth children at home or where they choose without unnecessary interventions. Specifically for Afro-descendant women, we are not connected to our history of granny midwives nor is the idea of home births and birth clinics something that is automatically accepted. We have been indoctrinated otherwise. It’s not as easy to get the kind of information that a person with a certain level of privilege in the United States has access to. Furthermore, when you are worried about your family, your finances and other real-life situations, the last thing you have energy for is to explore options. And this capitalist system is all too happy to withhold those options from marginalized groups of people.
I have the memories of my ancestors very present in my heart. I know that we used to heal ourselves with knowledge of herbs and of how spiritual dis-ease caused physical dis-ease. I understand quite well how folks who still live in the countryside of Quisqueya, Borinquen, Cuba and the rest of Central & South America, El Caribe and countries in Africa still use traditional methods of healing. For me to honor my people, to authentically serve women as a midwife, I rather struggle to raise my tuition and be trained as traditionally as possible. I am aware there are obstacles laid in my path because I am an AfroLatina woman pursuing a credential that is not recognized in all 50 states yet. I am even more aware that Ochun, Yemaya, the Orisha pantheon and my ancestors need me to remind women and the human family that hospital births can be unnecessarily violent. I must remember and help my Afro-descendant people remember we have innate knowledge of how to take care of our selves that has been robbed from us. I am taking a stand for holistic birthing that is closer to the source than what we have been told to believe.
I am choosing to learn in a birth clinic first. It’s still a clinical setting but it’s my happy medium because I am also interested in integrating certain techniques that are life-saving and necessary. Like I have said before, it is not medical technology that I am completely against; I am weary of its overuse and our dependency on it. I am weary of the fact that we have handed over our power to the sole usage of medication and procedures. I plan to go on and apprentice with home birth midwives and remember how to use herbs. I don’t know where and I certainly don’t know how. I firmly believe that if my ancestors and the Orishas have pushed me this far for so long, they have a plan for me. And so it will be.