Midwifery in the Hands of Our African Ancestors
August 1, 2017
For decades, African and Black women have been supporting birth and delivering babies. Historically, the Midwives and Doulas of African communities assumed several roles such as catching the babies, supporting the mama during labor, breastfeeding consulting, and spiritual healing. The role of the Midwife and Doula was a honorable role and a sought-after position in African communities. Most importantly, they were advocates who provided essential resources to the people of the community. The role of the Midwife and Doula was prized and passed down through tradition as young women of the community were taught how to serve their people. As some African women were brought to America during the slave trade, not only did they continue midwifery for their community of women, but they also were forced to continue midwifery at the hands of their slave owners for white women who were expecting. As medicine developed and the practices of modern medicine emerged, there was less of a need for midwifery which lessened the need for midwives and doulas, especially women of African descent. Over the years, there was a huge shift in the midwifery community and the practice became somewhat taboo.
Just as the role of the Midwife and Doula was prized and passed down through tradition in African communities; it was also passed down to me from my great-aunt Hattie whom was a midwife herself. I discovered this deep seeded desire when I began my journey as a birth worker and looked to my family for support as to how I could make my dream a reality. I began searching for answers on how to go about becoming a Doula and I thought to myself ,”Where do I began?” I began with the town in which my roots lie and where my great aunts and great great aunts practiced midwifery. The town of Nacogdoches which is the oldest town in Texas. It was home to the women of my family whom were earliest midwives in the town. Starting there lead me to find out that my great aunts and great great aunts delivered all the babies in their neighborhood as well as parents and their siblings. Receiving this information was a joyful and positively overwhelming experience. From that moment forward I knew it was my duty to carry out the role of my aunts and my African ancestors who made sacrifices so that I could carry out my passion for birth work.
For the last 2.5 years, not only I have been committed to carrying out the traditions my ancestors, but also the mission of the modern day midwifery and doula community. I take pride in assisting mamas and their support systems from all demographics. It is my personal mission to increase public and personal awareness about the benefits of healthy pregnancy, unmedicated births, and healthy postpartum recovery.
Thank you for being bare with me.