Erykah Badu: Preserving The Tradition Of Black Doulas & Midwives
Before hospitals and technology became the norm, Black women relied on midwives. In traditional African culture, the midwife was the pillar of the community and keeper of sacred traditions. The International Center for Traditional Childbearing (ICTC) cites that, “Grand (Granny) midwives taught women how to be mothers and taught men how to be good husbands and father, they played a large part in shaping cultural perceptions of motherhood as well as functioning as officiate in the rite of passage of becoming a mother.”
Sharon Robinson, critic and professor of midwifery and Black health care systems, states in her 1984 study for the Journal of Nurse-Midwifery that the first Black lay midwife came to America in 1619, bringing with her knowledge of health and healing based on her African background.
Like many other of our customs and traditions, racism and patriarchal systems became barriers for Black women to continue their practice of midwifery. Today, organizations such as the ICTC, Black Women Birthing Justice and Birthing Project USA to name a few are helping Black women connect with their African tradition of home births by providing training, resources, education and a community of support.
What’s the difference between a midwife and doula?
A midwife is a trained medical professional. Per the American Pregnancy Association, midwives hold certification accredited by the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council (MEAC). With this certification they can work in private, public or group practice. Midwives can prescribe some medications, they can perform yearly gynecological exams, and they can deliver your child. They can also provide family planning, infant care, women’s health care, and provide prenatal and birthing care.
You can think of doulas like more of a coach for the mother. A doula should also go through training, certification and have experience with live births, but their primary job is really to be there for the mother throughout pregnancy, during the birth and in some cases, after delivery.
There are several doula certification programs available, including the more popular ones offered by ICTC, DONA, Childbirth Postpartum Professional Association (CPPA) and International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA).
In speaking about her own home births in an interview with Mantra Magazine, Badu shared, “My doula was very helpful too, but it still felt like I was being run over by a train and survived. [Laughter.] You know what I found out after that? I was surrounded by women in the room. I looked at myself and what was going on, and I said, “women are gods.”
Indeed we are, Goddess.
Watch Erykah’s Badu full interview with Sway below.