DES MOINES, Iowa — A group of Iowa women is working to diversify Iowa’s birthing community. Together, Jazzmine Brooks, Ebonie Bailey, and Selchia Cain formed the Iowa Black Doula Collective to represent, educate, and connect with mothers of color.
“It’s enlightening. It’s empowering to see people who look like you and traditionally the birth space has not been represented by us,” says Cain who is a certified fertility doula and owner of Amethyst Beginnings Doula Services.
Two years ago, WHO 13 brought attention to the need for more representation in Iowa’s birthing community. Then, Central Iowa has no certified doulas or birth coaches of color according to the Central Iowa Doula Association. The formation of the Black Doula Collective creates a space for women of color seeking services or looking to becoming a doula.
“I’m here to represent and say they are people that look like you and care about your birth journey and have a healthy birth outcome,” says Cain.
The outcomes aren’t always positive. Statistics show Black mothers are twice as more likely to have a stillbirth in Iowa and two to three times more likely to die while giving birth compared to White women according to the Centers for Disease and Control. Many women of color also report being dismissed by health care providers. The collective’s mission is to make sure mothers are heard.
“It’s our goal to make sure our clients feel like they have a voice and don’t feel like they have to be afraid going into their appointment and feel like they are asking a stupid question and that the doctor or midwife isn’t going to take the time to listen. Just know that we have their backs,” says Bailey who is a birth doula and owner of Naturally Ebonie
There are barriers to having a doula, like cost. It’s a service that can be covered by insurance or a health savings account. However, Bailey says the biggest barrier is where to find a doula, such as websites like doulamatch.com or DONA.
“We want to be in a position to say there are doulas of color here. It might be hard to find us or some people just don’t know where to look. These ( websites ) are just outlets where people don’t know to look at,” says Bailey.
Once you find them, the women say don’t let their name count you out.
“We are the Iowa Black Doula Collective and people wonder if we are only serving Black moms?That’s not the case,” says Cain. “We are centering Black moms. Black moms are who need us. We are interested in healthy baby and healthy mom outcomes. Point blank period. We are in a business of parents and babies seeing first birthdays.”