Mom, Birth Justice Advocate
– Erin Van Vuren, Writer
I come from a long line of community organizers and activists. From a young age, I saw both of my parents make measurable changes in the community. There was alot of drug dealing going on, and things where we couldn’t play in our neighborhood parks without getting exposed to traumatic things. I think that’s where I get my fighter instinct and the voice to try to make a change in places where I see injustice or where I see my own community being treated unfairly.
I started working in the LGBT community in my adolescence. That really gave me an insight into so many different walks of life and gave me so much compassion, to know that as human beings, we all have the same basic human rights we need to fight for all the time. It shouldn’t be something that we even have to fight for.
It was a really interesting trajectory and, as I continued to grow and change, I started working towards the health disparities that affect brown and black folks.
I came to midwifery from a community organizing place.
I was working in Washington, DC doing advocacy work and I realized I really liked working with my hands and Spanish speakers, so I started volunteering in different capacities to try out different jobs. I literally opened a phone book and found a clinic in DC that needed Spanish interpreters.
The night that I got assigned to work was the night that they did a prenatal clinic. Thinking about that is when I think about my ancestors. I think about how I’ve been guided in this. It hasn’t been accidental. The clinic had a lot of Central American refugees who were coming to the city and really needed help. Midwives were running the clinic and I was like, “These ladies are awesome.” I just fell in love with midwifery.
I had all the high-risk factors for my recent pregnancy. I’m Brown and Black, my mom’s Mexican, my father’s Black, I’m in a certain age range, and I’m at a certain weight. Because of this, I’m four times more likely of having my baby preterm. If my doctor would just say, “Hey, we’re going to give you an increased amount of care” or “we’re going to monitor you a little bit more closely.”
That would have made such a difference to me even in my initial visit because I ended up having to educate them – like, hello, I had post preeclampsia after my second child, my son. I am 38 years old, my mother’s Mexican, my father’s Black, which puts me in a range to have my baby preterm, etc, etc.”
It also shows me how much we don’t need to rely on a system that isn’t for us. It just emphasizes to me the need for care that reflects us, like with our Black and Brown doulas and our midwives – we can step away from hospital care. When it comes to being able to feel respected and heard and seen, and for me to receive the care that I feel that I need, without relying on people who don’t know me and who don’t seem like they care about me. That’s where I’m at.
A month and a half ago, I brought a new life into this world. The possibility of what that process could look like is a huge inspiration for me in doing this work. Reproductive Justice gives us a launching pad to be able to rebuild and reshape what kind of care we can create for our communities.