– Breezy Powell
I got into the birth workers’ space because of my mom’s birth experience with me and my siblings
My mom never had a full-term labor; we’ve all come around like seven months. I was an “ incubator baby.” I was born at seven months, weighing three pounds and two ounces. I was so small they had to airlift me to John Muir Hospital.
It was hard on my mom. I had to stay in the hospital for a month and she couldn’t stay with me. She would visit, but she couldn’t stay because my brother was eight months [old]. Between working, caring for my brother, and needing to find a sitter, it was hard and it brought her to tears when she couldn’t come to visit.
What solidified my call to do this work was my sister, Seven. When my mom was pregnant with her, I was right there. I was like her doula, at nineteen, before I knew what a doula was. Innately, Black people just have that [ability to] care and nurture in us. I went to all of her prenatal visits with her. I knew her medical issues. She had high blood pressure. Her doctors knew she had high blood pressure and they also knew that she didn’t trust traditional medications. My mom practiced many Eastern culture therapies. But they didn’t provide her any alternatives.
In 2012, we went to a prenatal visit, which started out routine. When the doctor went to check for the baby’s heartbeat, she couldn’t find it. Instead of communicating to my mom like, “Hey, this is what’s happening,” she ran out, got another doctor, and they told her they were doing an emergency C-section. I witnessed them not treat her with care. They were rushing her and didn’t treat her as someone who could be losing a baby. They didn’t treat her with grace.
My sister, Seven, didn’t make it due to my mom’s preeclampsia. I remember when they brought Seven out to my mom, her skin was translucent and like a reddish color. I asked what happened to her skin, and they told me it was like that because she has been dead for some time.
I remember watching my mother and the extreme sadness and beginning of depression set in. It started at the hospital. They placed her on the same floor as women who had “successfully” given birth. So, [my mother is] down there being subjected to the cries and joy and laughter of an experience she does not have. Watching her battle postpartum depression made me want to make sure no other moms felt like that or got treated like that. I was like, “there has to be a way for you to support birthing people so that they don’t have experiences like this.”
I don’t want to birth in the hospital just due to the trauma that I have with hospitals and institutions and stuff like that. So, I want to do an in-home water birth. I’ve connected with a midwife and I have her on deck. [I have friend] who had me get this list together of birth affirmations. Affirmations, words, are power. We know this. The Bible is word, and it can inspire or it can destroy. So, I put a list together of birth affirmations, then after I did that, I recorded them. Then she said have my partner do like five more minutes [of affirmations], so Bass is going to record his five minutes.
She said, “Listen to this when you’re going to sleep so that it can get into your subconscious, because what you want to do is reestablish your relationship with pain, and reestablish your relationship with your body, and just things you’ve been told about birth.” I’m like, “You know what? You’re so right because, ever since I was little, the things that they’ve shown about birth is that it’s painful or you need an epidural or also it has to be in the hospital.” So, that has been helping me a lot, helping me stay in tune with my body and different sensations I’ve been feeling.
Also, my partner’s supportive. I really was breaking generational cycles with this. I was like, “I’m not choosing no man that isn’t going to be with me.” None of that. So, just surrounding myself with the right people.
I am the administrative assistant at Expecting Justice, and I’m also a dancer, doula, massage therapist, a community researcher for the Abundant Birth Project. Expecting Justice is tackling preterm birth rates by expanding doula access, and I am thankful for working with them.
As a doula, I mainly provide postpartum support, but we know what happens before the baby is born is equally important. One of the prenatal services I provide is this special massage. We know stress can cause moms to have preeclampsia. We know racism causes stressors, which can cause issues. So, I provide peaceful spaces for their therapeutic services. Also, I create a space for Black women to cultivate joy and celebrate their bodies—because we know joy is a revolutionary act—through dancing. We need things like this that center us. That’s why it’s important, because we don’t get centered in these spaces.
We also have to keep the community centered. I am trained as a community researcher. The way I was trained bridged the gap between the people in academia and the people in the community. I was afraid because I don’t come from academia, but my experience is what makes my point of view valuable…You really have to have people from the community that can relate to people [to do this work]. I am here to center them and it’s an amazing experience.