Mom, Graphic Designer and Communications Manager, California Preterm Birth Initiative
– Loren Newman
Originally, I only wanted to be an awesome graphic designer. I wanted to see my work in places and I thought that I wanted to do work for celebrities and music albums. That’s what I went to school for, but I was not getting any kind of callbacks on the resumes that I was submitting. I didn’t know that this is where I would end up. I just needed a job. But when I read this job description — and it was actually through word of mouth that I found out — I was like, “This is my job. This is absolutely the job for me.”
As a graphic designer, my thoughts initially around my role were “Am I really helping? Am I actually improving Black and Brown birth experiences?”. But the more I got into it, I learned that my design work really is important in shaping Black and Brown birth outcomes. A lot of these organizations that are fighting to improve care for our Black and Brown families need graphics that relate to the community, that are easily digestible, and that are informative — and that’s where my design plays a factor.
Once I started working with the community and seeing these organizations helping women out, helping young fathers out, promoting breastfeeding, and learning about lactation consultants, I just found this huge love for making something beautiful for the cause. It really really brings me joy.
It’s completely shifted my own personal thought process around birth. Before I was like, you get pregnant, you go to the hospital, and have a baby. I didn’t know anything about the Black infant mortality rate. I didn’t know anything about Black women being 3x more likely to die in the hospital. Through this work, I was able to partner and design for Expecting Justice and learn more about Pacific Islander women and what they go through. I’ve also been in touch with midwives and doulas — whom I never would have thought about incorporating into my own birth prior to working with PTBi.
Since giving birth, I definitely bring — and I already had brought — special care to this work. Me being a Black woman myself, I wanted to see more Black women and families comfortable and cared for in medical institutions. Since giving birth, there is this newfound power and motivation for me to let people know all the information that I didn’t know. For instance, people going into the hospital in labor don’t know that they can say no to certain things. These doctors and nurses, they don’t pose it as a question. Instead, they will say, “Okay, now we are going to induce you” or “Now, we are going to break your water.” So a lot of young families — sometimes not even young — they just don’t know that they can say no to these things or that they have more options. It’s important for me to continue doing this work because I want to see more Black and Brown families thriving during pregnancy, during birth, and after when they come home.
When I started my own journey of pregnancy, labor, and birth, I had more knowledge than I probably ever would have. I had a doula. I had two wonderful midwives. Nowadays, any opportunity I get to talk to any friend or any community member, I am always sharing the stats, sharing the importance of having a midwife and having doulas, and that less intervention is possible when giving birth.
COVID-19 played a huge factor in my pregnancy. I was pregnant during the height of the pandemic and gave birth towards the end of 2020 in October, so when we went to the hospital, I could not have my midwives with me, I could not have my doula with me. I had to call them and get their advice on things that the doctors were telling me and that made me think about people who don’t have the advocates and information that they needed. My midwives said to me, “You know you can say no to that,” “Ask the doctor for this,” “Tell them to wait,” and I did.
I truly believe that let me somewhat have the birth I wanted to have in the hospital. After going through that entire experience and coming back to work, I have this extreme amount of pride for the women and families that do this and still thrive without support and still choose to share their story and to educate the people around them.
I would say that growing up with a strong Black woman in my life: My mom has shaped how and why I do this work. I’ve heard my own birth story from my mother and though it wasn’t a fully traumatic experience, there were comments made to my mother that she at the time was upset about. But when I asked her the questions about my birth, she actually didn’t remember that. She was like “Actually, a matter of fact this nurse said da di da…” And I was like “She said what?”. Basically, questioning if my mom was on drugs because I wasn’t moving. And so I was just like “Wow, I am around all these amazing Black women who have given birth all my life.” That has definitely shaped how and why I do the work.
It’s also made me want to go back to all these amazing women in my life and ask them about their birth stories. I’m thankful enough to have a great-grandmother still alive who has four children and I’ve never asked her about her birth stories. I think it would actually be quite interesting for me to go back and maybe even motivation to hear how she gave birth and what she experienced in that time. Between my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, they definitely influenced the work that I am doing.
At first, I didn’t think that I was helping, but now here I am, feeling like I play an important role in educating the community and improving their birth outcomes. What inspires me is seeing stories of people that have had a difficult experience in a previous birth coming into themselves and coming out of that trauma with more knowledge and then becoming advocates themselves.
The most rewarding aspect is just the joy when people see something that I designed for them and that can be anywhere from making an illustration of someone or creating branding for an organization that didn’t have branding before. It’s really beautiful to see when their ideas and sketches come to light and it’s a joy for me to do that. I get the most pleasure from seeing their reactions and how happy they are with the work, especially when I do work in the community and I have community members that maybe have never had an illustration of themselves or seen some professional photography of themselves in a book or a brochure. Just seeing how happy they are and proud of themselves to be in this thing that I created. It just makes me so happy and I feel fulfilled when I see it.