“I didn’t feel supported by my partner, mother, or father during my children’s births; not because they were being mean or hurtful, but simply from lack of knowing how to be fully supportive in my childbirth experiences.” - Deundra Hundon, Mother, Grandmother & Doula
Not sure if you knew…
Black women are four times more likely to die of complications from childbirth than white women
Historically, most midwives in the U.S. were Black women
Doulas are often forgotten in the conversation about healthy pregnancy, labor, and delivery
32% U.S. Cesarean birth rate in 2015. An all-time high following a 13 consecutive year increase.*
Black infant deaths per 1000 live births: 10.93% (2014)*
* Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2015
For decades, African and African-American women have been supporting birth and delivering babies. Historically, the midwives and doulas of African communities assumed several roles, such as catching the babies, supporting the mama during labor, breastfeeding consulting, and spiritual healing. The role of the midwife and doula was an honorable and a sought-after position in African communities. Most importantly, midwives were advocates who provided essential resources to the people of the community. The role of the midwife and doula was prized and passed down through tradition as young women of the community were taught how to serve their people. As African women were brought to America during the slave trade, not only did they continue midwifery for their own community of women, but in most cases were also forced to continue midwifery at the hands of their slave-owners for non-black women who were expecting. As modern medicine developed, medical organizations actively undermined the reputation and practices of midwives in America. As a result, the number of practicing midwives and doulas diminished greatly, especially among birth workers of African descent.
Just as the role of the midwife and doula was prized and passed down through tradition in African communities, it was also passed down to me from my aunt Hattie who was a midwife herself. I recently discovered this deep-seated desire to be a birth worker and looked to my family for support as to how I could make my dream a reality. I began searching for answers on how to go about becoming a doula and I thought to myself, “Where do I begin?” I began with the town in which my roots lie and where my great aunts and great-great aunts practiced midwifery. The town of Nacogdoches, which is the oldest town in Texas. It was home to the women of my family who were the earliest midwives in the town. Starting there lead me to find out that my great aunts and great-great aunts delivered all the babies in their neighborhood as well as my parents and their siblings. Receiving this information was a joyful and positively overwhelming experience. From that moment forward I knew it was my duty to carry out the role of my aunts and my African ancestors who made sacrifices so that I could carry out my passion for birth work.
For the last year, not only have I been committed to carrying out the traditions of my ancestors but also the mission of the modern day midwifery and doula community. I take pride in assisting mamas and their support systems from all demographics, which is one reason why I have decided to align myself with the San Francisco Birth Center and Friends of the San Francisco Birth Center as a board member. It is my personal mission to increase public and personal awareness about the benefits of healthy pregnancy, natural childbirth, and support during postpartum recovery.
Written by: Deundra C. Hundon, Doula