Having a Baby While Black: Martina Abraham and Gabrielle Horton Know *All* The Stories

Please note: This transcript has been automatically generated.

Brittany Packnett Cunningham: Hey, y’all it’s Brittany. I’m still on maternity leave, so I’ll be co-hosting this episode with the incredible Treasure Brooks. Now y’all know that recently I shared with you my journey to parenthood. Everything was literally textbook until it wasn’t. And nobody really prepares you for that. Like, the movies tell you anybody can get pregnant basically on their first try.

And nine months later, you have a perfectly bouncing baby who never cries and never poops and always smiles the cutest toothless grin on command. Nobody talks about the miscarriages, the IVF, the surrogacy, the adoption, the NICU, the urgent care, the trying and trying and trying. The crying and crying and crying when the test is negative once again.

And even if that is never your story, we are owed the full story. I remember feeling angry after I suffered a pregnancy loss in 2020. I felt like the entire medical profession had failed me. They had failed to think this all the way through and talk about all the things that happened to so many of us that are frankly common.

And when they don’t do that, it puts the burden on the suffering folks. It shouldn’t require that birthing people excavate our pain just for people to know what is medically true. Somebody’s doctor should be doing that. My doctor should have been doing that. And the Black people from whom I am birthed have built communities of care over centuries.

We will always take care of each other, but at some point our system should be caring for us too. We are UNDISTRACTED.

Treasure Brooks: On the show today, an interview with Gabrielle Horton and Martina Abraham Iluga, the hosts of the Black parenting podcast “NATAL”. 

Martina Abrahams Ilunga: It also really opened my eyes to how much birth is a spiritual experience. There’s this alignment of your spirit and your body and everything that has to happen in order for this baby to pass through.

And so it’s made me listen to my body more. 

Brittany: That’s coming up, but first here’s Treasure Brooks with your untrending news. 

Treasure: Let’s start with a cause for celebration, Colombia elected Gustavo Petro, as the nation’s first leftist president. The election of a former rebel who’s promising to create a public healthcare system is a huge victory, but there’s more to this headline. Patron’s running mate, Francia Márquez just made history as not only the first Black woman, but the first Black person to be elected vice president in Colombia.

Márquez’s victory is significant on multiple levels. Her experience is very different from that of most politicians. She had a child at 16, she’s worked in a gold mine and as a live-in maid, and she’s a working class Black woman in a nation where Afro-Colombians have long been subjected to racism and discrimination.

Márquez’s activism began decades before her campaign. When at 13, she worked to stop a dam project that would’ve upended her community. She later led a march of 80 women to the capital to protest illegal gold mining. Her critics said she didn’t have enough experience, but here she is speaking with “The Meteor’s” Paola Mendoza last year. 

Treasure: She says “I want to build the type of experience that governs for the people of my country. That allows us to close the inequity and inequality gaps, that puts life at the center.” It’s a good piece of advice. As we in the US head into elections this fall. Let’s support the candidates that put our lives at the center.

This is unusual for UN trending news, but here’s a second good news story. Last week at a Juneteenth event in Sacramento, California officially recognized 500-page report documenting the impact and legacy of slavery on Californians. That might not sound like huge news, but the report is authored by the California Reparations Task Force, which is charged with drafting a roadmap for reparations, for descendants of people who are trafficked to the US during slavery. 

The remedies that the report suggests include free tuition and money for housing. This is incredible progress given that Juneteenth wasn’t even a federal holiday two years ago, California’s really been churning out reasons for me to be proud of my home state lately.

The next step is for the task force to hold listening sessions and conduct surveys to determine the best course of action. The actual dollar amount of the reparations plan is still up in the air. It’s actually so reassuring to see a state proactively working to address inequality and naming where that inequality came from, especially when in other parts of the country they’re literally trying to cover up history.

Cough, cough. Let’s hope California’s roadmap encourages other states to get on board too.

On the matter of long overdue payments, last week, Lyft agreed to a $25 million settlement for shareholders resolving the claim that the company was not transparent about its quote safety issues. That’s an incredibly cryptic way to describe what happened to 14 women who charged that they were sexually assaulted by Lyft drivers.

The infuriating catch to all of this, according to reporting in Jezebel, is that not a dime of those millions are going to the survivors themselves. Instead, it’s going to Lyft shareholders. Alison Turkos, one of the survivors currently suing Lyft, told Jezebel that she worries that anyone seeing the settlement headlines will assume that some of the money is going towards her and her fellow plaintiffs.

Instead she says, it’s just quote rich people again, getting richer. If anything’s going to change and keep the spotlight on survivors, it’s the voices of women, like Turkos. As she put it to Jezebel: Yes, you have these companies that are creating these situations, but you also have the incredible collective power of survivors who are finding one another.

And sadly, there are so many of us, so we cannot be ignored when we speak together.

One last news item and it’s UNDISTRACTED news. We’ll be on the road in DC next week. And Brittany will be in live conversation with the one and only Tiffany Cross, host of The Cross Connection on MSNBC. It’s Wednesday, June 29th at 7:30 PM. And we’ve reserved a block of seats for UNDISTRACTED listeners.

So DC folks come through. If you’d like to join us, email us at [email protected]. That’s [email protected] with your full name by Monday, June 27th. Hope to see you there.

Brittany: Coming up, I’ll be talking to the hosts of “NATAL”, a podcast about having a baby while Black.

Treasure: And we’re back. Our guests this week are the hosts of the podcast “NATAL”, Gabrielle Horton and Martina Abraham Iluga. The show’s tagline is deceptively simple. It’s quote “A podcast about having a baby while Black.” But contained within that is a rich mix of stories about how we care for each other and how systems fail to care for us.

And Gabrielle and Martina also take on that horrible statistic that we all know, that Black birthing people are three times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy than white folks. Brittany talked to Gabrielle and Martina about all these stories and why two folks who’d never had children decided to tell them.

Brittany: I wanna really just start with something that I found really interesting because neither one of you all are parents or have experienced labor yourself. So what made you want to dig into this particular topic? 

Gabrielle Horton: Yeah, I think around the time that we kind of started thinking about “NATAL”, or even before we were doing it together, we were already like many folks sort of taking in sort of this sort of bigger celebrity news that we were hearing around, um, Black birthing.

So, you know, uh, Beyoncé’s 2018 Vogue cover story, we heard about Serena Williams having to chase her doctors down after giving birth. Olympic gold-medalist Allyson Felix. And so these were kind of the big names we were seeing in the headlines. And then of course, you know, Martina and I are around the age where we’ve got friends and loved ones who were either thinking about kind of starting a family, expanding their families. 

We also had wrestled with these questions ourselves. And for me on a personal level, I actually had a childhood friend who developed preeclampsia, saw all the signs, was trying to warn her doctors and nurses.

They did not believe her. And, you know, almost lost her life, you know, had to give birth two months early. Baby was in NICU early. And I remember just being with her after she came home from the hospital and she was like, yeah, you gotta do something about this. You’ve gotta talk about it. cuz she knew I was already interested in the topic and like most millennials, I went to Twitter to sort of share, you know, just like this is so crazy that we’re not talking about this more.

And Martina and I had already been connected through her company who had me at Black, another Black storytelling project. And she was like, I’m interested in telling these stories, too. 

Martina Abrahams Ilunga: Yeah. Yeah. And you know, just hearing stories of the women in my family, um, my mother, she’s someone who shares all of our, her children’s birth stories with us intimately.

So, I had grown up knowing all of the good parts, but also some of the, the traumatic and, and scary parts of her birthing stories and starting to put together these dots and realize like, oh wow, these women in my family, they weren’t isolated incidents. They, they were a part of this larger pattern of, um, neglect, you know, that Black women and Black birthing folks experience.

Brittany: I mean, as somebody who now has become a parent and has had a, had a very dramatic and traumatic journey to becoming a mom, I’m so glad that conversations like the ones you all are leading exist in part because culture tells us, right? Like you have sex, you get pregnant, nine months later, a little person pops out and all of the ups and downs, the multiple pathways, the multiple ways this looks just do not exist in the narrative.

And so when a lot of us come to it, we are just completely lost, cuz we’ve not heard any of these diverse stories. I’m curious what you’ve learned, hearing the stories of birthing parents that you had no idea about going into making the show, right? That we’re just totally out of the realm of possibility for you.

Gabrielle: We’re always sort of thinking about what does care look like. And I think to your point, Brittany, we were interested in yes, overall, like, what was your experience like giving birth, but we also care about those little moments in between, like, what was it like when you went to the front desk at the hospital?

What was it like when you made a phone call to inquire with the insurance company, if you could change providers? What was it like, you know, to have like your grandmother around or to have your partner involved? And so I think for me, it was just all the different ways that people can be cared for. 

Brittany: Yeah.

Martina: For me, as someone who is recently married and also thinking about what my future might look like as a potential parent, it’s been really inspiring to know that, okay, I kind of imagine the kind of experience and care that I want. And I can create the, you know, do the right, what I have, do what I have to do to kind of make that a reality.

Brittany: I mean, what you’re doing with this podcast is activism, but it’s also storytelling, right? I’m curious why you chose storytelling as the means for this kind of activism.

Martina: Yeah. I mean, so first Gabrielle and I, we are storytellers like by profession, right? We’ve been creating podcasts and doing this audio storytelling for a few years now professionally.

So it was kind of the first thing we were drawn to because it’s like, we, we know we can do this. We know that we can do this well. But also as Black people, that’s what we do. We tell stories. We always told stories. Our history has been passed down through oral, you know, traditions and you know, these narratives.

And so is also just honoring where we come from and what we do best. And you know, so much of medical stuff is like just numbers and datas and, and it takes a, it doesn’t look at the stories. It doesn’t look at people’s actual lived experiences and kind of all the things that fill in the holes between the numbers and the stats.

And so we wanted to, to give Black parents an opportunity to tell their side of the story, because we really don’t hear our sides of the story. Our, our voices are discredited on so many different levels. 

Brittany: Yeah. Your point about the stories and the narratives as valid and quality data matters so much. I remember, I mean, this is a totally different issue, but I remember during the Ferguson uprising, we were out there telling stories that we had been living with for our entire lives. Right? 

Like I was closing in on 30 and I grew up in St. Louis county, not far from Ferguson, the police had always been treacherous. They had been torturing us for decades. And it was interesting because the DOJ under Eric Holder puts out this report that brings quantitative data to all the stories that we’ve been telling.

And all of the narratives suddenly were like, well, you know, it’s now been proven true. And I was like, well, why, why weren’t Black stories and Black people and Black bodies, enough proof for you, right? And it’s the same in this, in this medical conversation, especially because in these conversations, our bodies are telling the stories. Like, we wear the stories all the time.

I’m curious. How this has changed your own personal perspectives about your relationship with your bodies and relationship to birthing. Martina, I know that you’ve shared, right, that you’re thinking about potentially becoming a parent. 

Martina: Oh my gosh. So much. I came into “NATAL” very fearful of what it meant to have a, a child, just literally the, the, you know, the physicality of pregnancy and childbirth and the risks associated with it.

Um, and I have walked away with so much more, um, faith in what is possible. Um, and definitely leaning out, going outside of the medical system and leaning on the ways in which we’ve always brought babies to this world through midwifery care, through the support of doulas, through community care. So it’s something that has really kind of changed the way I think about it and changed the way that I would want to approach my own pregnancy or childbirth if I were to have, you know, have one. 

Um, and it’s also really opened my eyes to how much birth is a spiritual, like, transformative experience. Right? I’d never, I hadn’t thought of it in that way before I thought it was purely physical. 

And there’s this alignment of your spirit and your body and everything that has to happen in order for this baby to pass through. And so it’s made me, um, I think a much more spiritual person. And even in terms of just thinking about how I would prepare myself, it’s definitely forced me to go inward more and to listen to my body more.

Um, to advocate for myself when I go to the doctor now in general, if, if I know something’s not right, or I feel like something’s not right to speak up, it’s really empowered me in that way. 

Brittany: Gabrielle, something we don’t often talk about in the birthing conversation is access to abortion. cuz it is just as much a part of this story, as much a part of this work as anything else. I know you’ve been open and talking about having an abortion in the past.

I’m curious how telling these stories has, has helped you relate more to your own. 

Gabrielle: Oh, it’s meant everything. We knew that we wanted to, for sure, highlight that in greater detail this season. We’re seeing how the fight for abortion access is playing out, especially in the south. Um, where, you know, a lot of our focus is this season where a lot predominantly Black, rural folks live in the south.

Right. And that legacy of the Black belt. And so for me, I was 2 when I had an abortion, I had no care. I had no support. I was by myself, had just finished college. Um, and I was so ashamed to sort of open up and share with my family back home in LA. So I didn’t tell them, I told, um, like an older kind of big sister friend, but she was in New York.

And so physically day to day, as I’m waiting for my appointment to come up, there’s no one around me who knows what I’m going through, how I’m feeling, the physical pain I’m going through, the emotional kind of hell that I’m kind of living through, as well. And not so much I’m because I had to make the decision, but because I had no kind of care system around me, I had no kind of, you know, support system. Right?

And so thinking about just that evolution of that weight of that shame and those feelings that, you know, we kind of inflict on folks of the society. That’s something I internalized for a long time feeling like I was less than, or didn’t deserve, or that I was a bad person because I made this decision.

But, you know, being able to be a part of a show like “NATAL”, to create space for eople to share their experiences with care. Even if that includes an abortion, it has been very freeing for me, very sort of, um, affirming, 

Brittany: I mean, that intersection that you’re talking about of the guilt and the shame that society heaps upon birthing people.

That intersection shows up, especially across the global south, most, certainly in the American south. And like you said, you’ve chosen to focus this second season there. Why did you wanna focus on this region specifically? What about the stories from the south do you feel like are particularly instructive in this moment?

Gabrielle: I’ll start on the broader level. We knew we wanted to focus on what was happening in rural communities, because we did a really good job of highlighting different type of experiences in our first season. Um, I mean, everyone, we had queer and trans and lesbian parents. We had folks of all ages, you know, new parents, we had Martinez’s mom on this show, right?

So we knew we hit, we were hitting all these sort of different buckets, but we weren’t really hearing from folks who were not in big cities or who were in rural areas. And I think, you know, just sort of the basic sort of data that we knew about what was happening in terms of rural hospital closures. 

Martina: The south is also so rich with Black history. This is a Black show, right? So it’s like Black folks live there, but there’s this legacy of granny midwives. Like the first granny midwives that came from the African continent to this country arrived in the south. It’s been the ancestral home of so, for so many of us. And so as we’re thinking about not only where are Black folks living and what are their care experiences, look.

So many people’s care experiences in the south are honoring these ancestral traditions. And it’s really a, a place where we’re seeing this return to what we’ve always been doing and these innovations of how folks have nowhere else to go for care. They’re finding ways to show up for their communities and for each other, because babies are going to be born wherever at any time in any place.

Brittany: I’m thinking about the work that you all have been doing this season to center, um, on, on Fannie Lou Hamer, um, whose story tells us so much, not only about obviously political engagement, right? And, and the depth of political imagination that Black women hold, but also the toll of discrimination, uh, in the healthcare system and medical apartheid and the, the toll that that takes on so many women.

Can you tell us, for folks who don’t know, a little bit about her story and what in particular, her legacy teaches us about organizing around these issues? 

Gabrielle: That’s a favorite episode I think of both of us and our team, as well. You know, when we thought about how do we. You know, so we’ve got three families this season, and one of the couples that we sort of follow, Sheila and Eric Brown, are from rural Mississippi.

Sheila’s from the Delta. Her husband is from the northern part of the state, but they’d had these experiences that were not just sort of common and parallel those of our other families that we had on the show, but so many other folks, including Fannie Lou Hamer. Right? And so I think a lot of us may know her, you know, as an organizer, as someone who was a fierce civil rights advocate and all of those things are true.

She’s also someone who, you know, was sort of the victim of a Mississippi appendectomy. Right? And having a hysterectomy without her consent, which is very common sort of sterilization process. And, you know, honestly still being kind of used throughout the country in many ways on poor Black and brown people.

And so being able to sort of not just connect the dots between her experiences, sort of, you know, being under neglectful care, right? Under white doctors in the segregated south. But thinking about how that was also what really inspired her to want to vote for the first time. And then to also encourage other folks to sort of think about their rights and what they deserve as Black people.

Martina: I had always known Fannie Lou Hamer as like the voting, right,you know, activist. And I, you know, I knew about her speech on Capitol Hill, um, and real learning that the event and the incident that kind of started to spark that for her, that made her want to go vote for the first time was poor reproductive care that she received.

Brittany: You connect that, that through line to a point you made earlier around, you know, these current celebrity tales, right, of Beyoncé and Serena and Allyson, Felix having issues that they’ve had. And it’s like, okay, well, if one of the most powerful heroines of our civil rights history and some of the wealthiest, most well known, most powerful entertainers of today as Black women are having these experiences, then like, what is true for the rest of us?

And what is true is that Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes than white women. Um, and so these deep systemic inequalities in our healthcare system fail to identify our pain, fail to treat our pain, fail to carry us and often our children through to the other side.

I’m curious to know how you’ve seen birthing parents find real agency and autonomy in this experience while giving birth. I know for me, because my water broke in the middle of my 22nd week, so many of my options disappeared. So exploring home birth was out. I got to the point very quickly that vaginal birth was not going to be an option if I wanted our son to live, which obviously we did.

So, suddenly agency looked very different because the number of choices I had became much more narrow. So I’m, I’m just curious how you’ve seen birthing parents find agency in this experience. 

Gabrielle: One thing that we have heard from parents and those who listen to the show is like, just learning about all the options that you can at least start to think about early on.

Because I think for so often folks, like we talked about, it’s just kind of like, we’re assumed to kind of go through this factory line. Right? And there aren’t really questions and there aren’t moments of pause and reflect and push back or change. Think not just through the parent stories that we get to highlight, but also how folks engage with us beyond the podcast, you know, through our digital event series, they get to learn about different ways to speak up for themselves and they have new questions they can ask their providers 

They can switch providers and feel confident making that decision. 

Martina: And the only thing I would add to that is just also thinking about those of us who are not the birthing person, how do we show up and support the birthing person and their family, right? Whether it’s the partner, whether it’s your the friend, sister, cousin, mom, dad, whoever, it’s part of agency. 

You need a team of people around you. Everyone plays a role.

Brittany: You all speak in some ways so easily about switching providers, right? Like I’m listening to you all talk about it and you talk about it as if like, of course, like if you’re not getting the care you need, like switch providers and yet that can feel so intimidating for folks. I, um, I had a miscarriage at the end of 2020, I found out I was pregnant on my birthday, November the 12th.

Now six days later, I was setting up actually for a podcast interview. I had logged in, I had got, I had my questions on the screen and I was ready and I used the restroom and I discovered I was bleeding. So I called my provider. and it rings and rings and rings and rings and rings and rings. So I call back and it rings and rings and rings and rings.

At this point, I’ve gotta get on the interview. I don’t know what’s happening. I’ve called my partner and I’m like, I don’t know what’s going on, but like, can you come home? And I’m literally doing this interview and I I asked the questions and I, we didn’t do video at the time. And I would pause, I would mute myself when I was done asking my question and cry and then unmute myself and ask the question and then mute myself and cry again.

And that was what I did. And I literally could not get through until the doctor’s office until several hours later. And they basically said, we don’t know what’s going on. It could be this, it could be that. And I’m like, okay, well, can I come in? Can I go somewhere? And they’re like, well, you can come in in a couple of days.

And it was horrible. Like I just sat there and waited and fretted and got worried about all of the possibilities. Right? And I Googled myself to death trying to figure out what was going on. Um, when in reality, I had selected that doctor’s office because there was a Black woman doctor, um, not the, the entire practice was not Black women.

Um, but, I did not have the kind of experience that I was hoping for when I had found that particular needle in a haystack. And when I found out I was pregnant again, the next July, um, I immediately called my godsister, who’s also my assistant, who I trust with my life. And I was like, I need you to help me find another provider.

cuz I can’t, I cannot do this again. I’d love for you to talk a little bit about. what that experience of that loss can look like, um, and the gaps in care that people might exist. cuz I know I certainly experienced a very traumatic gap in care. 

Martina: Well, first we want to just, like, hold space for you.

Thank you for sharing that. 

Gabrielle: Yeah. Thank you. 

Martina: I’m sorry that, that you had that experience and you know, you’re not, you’re not alone. I think when we think about what, you know, folks who have lost pregnancies, one common misconception is, you know, folks hold that pain. Um, and many people feel isolated. They feel alone.

They feel like it’s, they’re unique in that this is only happening to them and pregnancy loss is a lot more common than we, than we realize, you know, uh, upward of 20% of pregnancies can end in a loss. And so it’s something that many families experience. My mom had a miscarriage. I’m her oldest. Um, she had a miscarriage after me, something my mom always says is that, you know, no one wants to talk about it.

So, you know, for her, it was like no one wanted to talk about the loss. And so acknowledging that you’ve just been through something traumatic, you have just lost some, someone that you were really excited to bring into this world and holding space for that grief in the same way we would hold space for someone who might grieve another kind of loss in their life.

Gabrielle: I think there’s questions that folks can start to ask. You know, perhaps there’s a little checklist of things that are important to you that you wanna get a sense from your provider ahead of time. Like, how do you respond to this? Or how would I get in touch with you when this happens? And so I think it’s really thinking about who do you want caring for you at your highest points and also your lowest ones. 

So I think we can start to sort of expand how we think about care because you do need to be cared for, you know, after a pregnancy loss. It’s not something you just sort of bounce back from no matter the outcome, no matter, you know, what sort of takes  place.

Brittany: Yeah. Because I had suffered this loss, early into my next pregnancy I was just tense all the time. Right? 

I was constantly on edge and, um, early on in the pregnancy, because of some pain I was having, I thought it could have been an ectopic pregnancy and I called the doctor’s office and she said, oh, well, come in today. And I was like, what? So I went in, they did an ultrasound, everything was fine.

And I looked at her and I was, actually white woman. I looked at her and I said, I’ve never had any medical professional respond this quickly. And she said to me, well, you know your body better than I do. So, we wanted you to come in. And that simple phrase was so affirming. Of course, I know my body better than anybody else. Right? 

These seem like really basic ideas. And yet, we’ve had systems wrestle our own knowing from us for so many generations that it was such an epiphany to have her look at me and say that 

Martina: Yes.

Brittany: And have me remind myself to come back to myself. 

Martina: It sounds like what you experience is what they call patient centered care. Right? Patient centered care is when the patient is at the center. When your, what, what you know about your body, what you know about your medical history, what you know about your desires and your wants is brought into the conversation. The, I guess the most common form of care that we see is the doctor walks in, tells you everything about yourself and what’s happening. And then you, as the patient is supposed to just accept it, not ask too many questions and go, but really medical care is a relationship. Right? 

You bring things to the table, you bring background history and knowledge to the table, and then the provider brings their expertise.

Brittany: That’s right. So we have very intentionally during this conversation been using the term birthing parents or birthing people, the people who don’t like that term, don’t listen to this podcast anyway. So I’m not worried about them right now, but there are folks who think that that’s just gone too far afield, right?

That there’s just like, oh, now we gotta talk about birthing people, blah, blah, blah. Can you talk about why that language is important to you? 

Gabrielle: Yeah. I mean, again, sort of thinking about sort of centering the patient, the sort of pregnant individual and the sort of care system. It’s also acknowledging who they are and, and how they choose to identify and their humanity. Right? 

And so we knew that we always wanted to make sure of this conversation include experiences of Black queer and trans and non-binary people because. Whether you like it or not, or have any questions about it, folks are getting pregnant. Right? And so, um, and they’re doing that and sometimes their needs and care might look different.

And so I think it’s also important to keep that in mind, right? 

Martina: Thinking from the Black feminist lens, you know, when we center the most marginalized of our community, then everybody benefits from that. And so when we think about birthing, we need to be moving more and more and looking at who, who are the people that are the most marginalized in these experiences?

And we hear that Black queer folks, Black trans folks, you know, they are just left out of the conversation. Their care experiences are in some cases, very horrible. And we need to make sure that we’re centering their needs because when their needs are centered, all of us benefit and care for everybody in this country will improve.

Gabrielle: Because even the statistic that we all know, that Black women are three to four times more likely. That’s Black women. Right? So that means we’re leaving off so many people from the conversation so we can start there, but it can’t end there. 

Brittany: Mm-hmm. It is deep ancestral work that you’re doing. And that cannot go without being said, I would love for our listeners before we go to know what they can do to support birthing people, birthing parents.

If any of our folks in our community know someone who is having a child, however that is happening, what can, and should we being?  

Martina: I think on an interpersonal level, right? It’s it’s showing up, it’s offering to be there. It’s, you know, offering to provide, you know, to send meals, cuz sometimes pregnant folks are too tired to cook.

Right? It’s offering to do research on providers or maybe accompany them. And for some of my friends I’ve done like doula interviews for them and I’ve gave them a list of doulas in the area and helped them to think about these decisions that they have to make. And just kind of whatever those folks need, just like showing up for them, being there, letting people know, call me if you need me, here’s what I can offer to you.

And, and doing that. I think that’s like first step, just on an interpersonal showing up for a good friend or a sister or a cousin. 

Gabrielle: And I think like on a maybe systemic level or organizational level, you know, Black Mama’s Matter Alliance is one of our founding partners and they do incredible work.

They’re essentially a national umbrella organization for birth workers and providers, but also legislators at all levels to really sort of think about ways to really move the needle when it comes to Black maternal health and outcomes. I also went through doula training and, you know, that’s offered at sort of different sort of sliding scales and different organizations have it.

But I wanted to sort of think about how could I sort of learn more about what it means to be a doula and also support my loved ones. So for me, it’s been really important to think about what can I do on an individual level outside of “NATAL”, and hopefully those are things that folks may wanna consider 

Martina: And then also paying attention to who, like, your local electeds or your state elected. Right? And so really advocating that your electeds, you know, support legislation that supports birthing people, that supports pregnant people, that supports people’s access to care, um, is also just something else that you could be paying attention to and, and, and, uh, supporting in that way.

Brittany: Well, I know that conversations about how to support Black birthing people and Black children have been very trendy as of late. So we appreciate you all for never treating us like a trend. Um, and for continuing to do the work that you do. Thank you so much for joining us here. 

Martina: Thank you for having us.

This is a pleasure. 

Gabrielle: It really was. Thank you, Brittany.

Brittany: Gabrielle Horton and Martina Abraham Iluga are the hosts of the podcast “NATAL”. You can find it, well, where you found this podcast. 

You know, I meant what I said to Gabrielle and Martina, that centuries and centuries of white supremacy have tried to separate us from our knowing. For marginalized folks, we’ve been gaslit into separating from our instincts that centered community instead of individualism, from our practices of care and medicine, from our networks, from our worth. Martina and Gabrielle are doing the work of helping us return to ourselves without apology, all the while never letting systems off the hook.

Imagine a world in which our institutions were actually modeled after our communities, instead of dismissing our assets and our instincts, they built upon and centered our experiences, our stories, our humanities. It’s absolutely not impossible to build this. You wanna know how I know because Black folks, indigenous folks, queer folks, marginalized folks across the globe are building exactly that infrastructure with no money and little support, but if we can do it, so can the governments who serve us.