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EPISODE 02

Morine’s Joy

A Dream Birthing Team Goes Viral

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Episode 2: Morine’s Joy: A Dream Birthing Team Goes Viral 

What does it take to have a positive birth experience? Apparently, depending on where you live, it can take a lot. In this episode, Morine shares her birth story moving from Durham, N.C. to Knoxville, TN, and her quest to find a provider who looked like her. Along the way, I explore the history and impact of Black women OB/GYNs, the standard of care white women receive, and how digital platforms are helping to level the playing field.

Resources/References

  • Click here to watch episode extras on BIRTHRIGHT’S YOUTUBE PAGE!
  • Check out HealthInHerHUE.com, a digital platform connecting Black women and women of color to culturally competent healthcare providers. 
  • Looking for a Black provider? Check out the Association of Black Women Physicians, Black Doctors USA or the search portal at BlackDoctors.org as a starting point. 
  • Learn more about having a safe and empowered birth by downloading the free ebook: Birth with Irth: A Mini-Manual to Pregnancy and Childbirth for Black People 
  • Get full episode details and transcripts (posted by midday) on www.BirthrightPodcast.com 
  • New episodes are released every other Wednesday! Subscribe now!  
  • Follow Kimberly Seals Allers on Twitter on Instagram: @iamKSealsAllers 

Birthright is funded by the California Health Care Foundation.

Morine Cebert Gators

I end up going on Facebook and joined a few Knoxville mom’s groups. And so, based on like the different parts of Knoxville, there’s one for West Knox and all that stuff. So I joined all of them. I’m still in a lot of them right now. And I simply put in the question, Hey, I’m looking for a provider of color can anyone recommend anybody? And all these women were just like, well, this person is not black, but I had a great experience with them. And these were all white women responding to. So I’m like, I can’t trust you. I can’t trust you. You, you don’t know what I’m looking for and why I’m even asking that. So there’s a level of like, you just don’t get it.

Kimberly Seals Allers

Welcome to Birthright–a podcast about stories of joy and healing in Black birth. My name is Kimberly Seals Allers and I’m here to help Black women and birthing people reclaim joy as our birthright and to lean in to and learn from positive Black birth stories. Today’s story involves a dream team and a viral tweet. Want to know how those come together for Black birth joy? Well, let me introduce you to Morine Cebert Gators, PhD. 

Morine Cebert Gators

My name is Morine Gators. I’m 30 years old and I live in Knoxville, Tennessee. And this is my birthright story.

So, I found out I was pregnant about two weeks after I defended my dissertation. Uh, so I graduated from Duke University school of nursing with a Ph.D., in nursing science. And I defended on my birthday actually, March 31st. And, um, you know, a few days went by and I was exhausted and everybody said that’s super normal to be tired after defending your, your dissertation. Something like I was working towards for nearly five years. And I just noticed I was a bit more tired than usual. And literally, I just woke up one day and I told my husband Beau, um, at that time I was like, something’s not right. And got a pregnancy test and sure enough, it came back positive and life hasn’t been the same ever since.

Beau Gators 

I’m Beau Gators. I’m 35 years old. I live in Knoxville, Tennessee. I am the father of Beau Jr. and I am Morine Cebert Gator’s husband.

That moment was honestly, it was, it was shock, because so much was happening, with COVID and Morine was in the process of defending her dissertation. I had transitioned from teaching on campus to virtual, which was just scattered for myself and my students, but we all made it through. 

Um, and we were spending a lot of time just in the house just relaxing, going outside, playing board games. I like board games, but it was shock initially and then excitement like, wow, we’re going to have a child. Like, you’re pregnant! This is exciting! and I, I believe the, she recorded me and I believe I said, wow, with that head nod. So.

Professionally, I’m a historian of Latin America. I focus on. African descendants in Latin America. So black folks in Brazil and Cuba, Colombia, Mexico. That’s what I do professionally but as a professor, I love to be a mentor

Morine So, I had been living in North Carolina,for about five years but then my husband got offered this amazing position at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville as a history professor. I think within weeks of him receiving the job offer and me, you know, finding out I was pregnant, we learned that we would be moving to Knoxville, Tennessee, by mid to end of the summer. So. There being a difference of where I thought I would deliver at first I was, I was scared. Um, so in Durham and, um, where I was living and, uh, in North Carolina in general, there is actually quite a healthy amount of Black providers and providers of color. And so I had already set up my prenatal care, like from the moment that I learned I was pregnant, um, I called them and it was just about, you know, just a few weeks. Away from that moment. And I was able to get a provider, um, that was trusted by a lot of people that I knew in North Carolina, um, to, to go to her and seek care. She’s a black woman within that office. I believe there’s one or two other black women and just really diverse office with nurses and ultrasound techs and all that stuff and also, lab techs. Everybody was a person of color. Um, all the front-facing, like staff members were very diverse and very sweet. And, I feel like I was just kind of starting that process with them. And I was hoping to replicate that process in Knoxville, Tennessee. So I pretty much just went on a Googling and research, you know, a frenzy, trying to find a practice that, had a diverse staff and specifically diverse OB/GYN providers.

Kimberly This is a common refrain from Black women and birthing people. They feel more comfortable with a person who looks like them taking care of them. And while this is no guarantee, for many it is one measure that can improve the likelihood of a better experience. However, Black people only represent 11% of all OB/GYNs and 5% of all active physicians, so for many, depending on where you live, finding a Black physician is like finding a needle in the haystack, a mission nearly impossible. But thankfully, some digital platforms are helping to fill the gap. 

Ashlee Wisdom
My name is Ashlee Wisdom and I’m the co-founder and CEO of Health in Her HUE, a digital health platform, connecting black women and women of color to culturally align insensitive providers, health content, and community

I created Health in Her HUE because I saw that there one, I know that there is a lot of fear and trepidation that black women have is they’re navigating. A health system that quite frankly, wasn’t designed for them. And so I wanted to create a space online that empowered black women. So you are able to find providers that they’re more likely to trust so that there is less fear as they’re going to seek care from a health system.

Morine As a nurse practitioner myself, I did work in women’s health for quite, for a short time in an outpatient setting. And I just saw the difference of connections that I had with my patients, who we either share the same skin color or, same values in some different way.

And also I had my own experiences of a negative health care experience while pregnant, early on in my pregnancy before, my first prenatal scheduled ultrasound, I was having really, really bad morning sickness. It was pretty much all day long sickness for me. And after a few days of that, I was feeling really weak and I went to a local hospital to try to get care, just some fluids.

You know, I worked in the ER myself, so I had experiences as well with, people who are pregnant coming in and just. Trying to seek some relief for a little bit. And the way that I was treated was just awful. These assumptions that were made about me and what I knew, you know, I came in early, like maybe 4:00 AM, so I’m just in regular sweat pants and stuff.

And, It was just a shock when people found out what I did like, Oh, you have all these degrees and stuff. I’m like, why does that matter? And I noticed they were like looking down at my hand. Did I have a ring on at the time? Multiple questions of was this pregnancy planned, do I even want it? Which, I was just like, I, I don’t see the point in asking all of this I’m coming for dehydration, nausea, and vomiting why does that matter? And, and so it was just a weird experience. 

Kimberly And by weird, you mean racist… But, uh, please continue Morine. 

Morine And even like later on and mind you, at that point, I had already defended my dissertation. I ducked out level degree. And, um, usually I don’t like. I’m not like showy with that or anything like that. And so the physician assistant came in and called and called me like, um, I think she called me like “little girl” or something like that.It was just this really disrespectful tone. Um, and comment that she said, um, asking if I was going to do a pre-made. Oh, she was like, Hey girl. You know, are you thinking about prenatal care? And I’m just like, why, why wouldn’t I, like, what makes you think that I wouldn’t be doing prenatal care and taking all those, like, you know, recommended measures and stuff? And so it was just a challenging experience. I was like, I don’t want that again. I don’t want that again at all. And I don’t want that at the most challenging moment of my life like childbirth is, is, is a challenging experience. Anything could go wrong. That is life or death. And I didn’t want anybody looking down on me as if I was nothing.

BEAU Morine is one of the most confident people I’ve ever met in my life. And so seeing how nervous and worried she got about the birth, um, made me realize that not only do I have to physically be there, but I have to talk her through things that, um, and not talk her through things as far as giving her information, but letting her know that her voice needs to be heard.

Morine And I wanted to feel like a patient in that moment. I didn’t want to have to have all my hats on like, Ooh, you know, this dose is incorrect. That dose is not correct and stuff like that. And yeah, I can advocate for myself. I have no problem doing that, but, which I learned later on. I’m very vulnerable at that moment. I am tired, going through contractions. Not that I don’t want to have to be double-checking your, your calculation. It’s just to make sure I’m safe. 

So I started at the end of May and. By Googling. Okay. OB/GYN practices. And so a whole bunch of popped up and I just started clicking and I noticed that everyone is white, like everyone. And I’m just, and I’m looking at, um, all the websites and often, um, You know, there’s, there’s the tab for like our providers and, you know, if, even if there weren’t any pictures I would copy and paste and, you know, uh, look up their name, see if I can find them on LinkedIn. Like, what do you look like? Um, I know it was challenging.

And I ended up going on Facebook and joined a few Knoxville moms groups. And so, based on like the different parts of Knoxville, there’s one for West Knox and all that stuff. So I joined all of them…I’m still in a lot of them right now. And I simply put in the question, Hey, um, I’m looking for a provider of color. Can anyone recommend anybody? And all these women were just like, well, this person’s not black, but I had a great experience with them. And these were all white women responding too. So I’m like, I can’t trust you. I can’t trust you. You, you don’t know what I’m looking for and why I’m even asking that. So there’s a level of like, you just don’t get it. I think if it was a sister of color who said, Hey, I had this experience, but I didn’t get that in those conversations. And then honestly, it just became like a daily thing of just looking for weeks, an hour or two at a time, you know, if I had some downtime, like on my phone, I just be looking up different things.

Ashlee And so black women want to make sure that they’re seeing doctors who understand their lived experiences or cultural contexts and that’s often difficult to find because there aren’t a lot of Black physicians in the workforce. but there’s a level of trust and, um, compassion that black women field they’re going to get from a provider who looks like them and who has shared similar lived experiences.

Morine And then, and I looked up my insurance provider, so just went through the whole list. And of course, Dr. Welch, Charles W last name was at the end of the list. So it took me a while to find her. And then when I finally put her, I did a copy and paste and put her in, I saw her Brown skin and I was like, Oh my God. Oh my God!

Dr. Shenika Welch-Charles

My name is Shenika Welch, Charles. I am an obstetrician-gynecologist. And right now currently practicing in Knoxville, Tennessee. Um, I work at a very large academic medical center, UT medical center. Uh, it’s kind of a hub in East Tennessee.

So a lot of volume through that particular hospital. I have been doing OB/GYN now for about 14 years, which kind of blows my mind because saying it sounds so much longer than what it feels like. I feel like I just got started and I have so much more work to do. I grew up in Nashville and I would have loved to be back in Nashville, but, um, Circumstances dictated otherwise. And I came to Knoxville. Moving here I did not realize that there was a shortage of, um, black OB/GYNs let alone black physicians at all. That was just something that I never even thought about. It was never on my radar. To think that there needed to be more diversity in black providers. It was just one of those situations that I actually came to learn from my patients. They would come into the room and it was like, they were looking at a unicorn! Like, oh my gosh, I’m so glad you’re here. And initially, my eyes were big as saucers because I’m confused. Like, what do you mean? And you know, it kept happening so much that I started doing research and I’m thinking, Oh my goodness, I really am the only black OB/GYN in Knoxville. And that is alarming. In so many ways. And so, you know, I had this conversation with my husband and he’s like, well, that’s good. 

And so, you know, for me, it was a little bit of closure that, you know, even though Knoxville, wasn’t where I had intended to come when I came back to Tennessee, that this is where I needed to be, and I’m happy to be here. 

Morine Oh, my God. I think I even told my husband, Beau, I’ve found a black doctor!! And it was just, just seeing her. And honestly, I hadn’t met her at that time just yet. But it was just something about the fact that she was Black and, and I, you know, just felt comfortable in that moment, um, making that first appointment with her and it honestly did not disappoint when we got there.

So, Dr. Wells, Charles is a ball of energy. She is just so funny. She walked in the room and she immediately began joking with my husband, Beau. Beau never missed any of my appointments. That is part to his character and then also part because like COVID and quarantine, he didn’t have to be on campus at all.

So he was at every single appointment with me. And just immediately, she connected with him and asked him what he was doing. And, you know, she talked about her husband and like all the cool things that they had in common. 

Dr. Shenika Welch-Charles I think that patients feel that they need to have a Black OB/GYN because they feel that there is a connection there that, that I get where they’re coming from, that they hope, you know because it is a huge assumption when they come in and make that, but that they hope that we have some of the same ideas and we grew up, you know, knowing some of the same things and that they can talk about their braids and their struggles with their hair and, and I can get that. And so I think for a lot of black women, that’s what they want to find in a provider being an OB/GYN I understand it’s tough because women come to you and their most vulnerable states and not to mention that they have to get completely undressed most of the time when they’re there, they’re also having to share intimate parts about themselves and they want to feel that they are around someone who can understand that on the level that they want to explain it.

 

Morine Just being able to talk about like our hairstyles and she was like, girl, I’m just trying to have it this way, you know, to survive the next couple of weeks. And like, I get it right. We often just don’t want to do our hair a lot. And then when I had to do like my gluecola testing, uh, we talked about like Kool-Aid and how it’s made and how, you know, it wasn’t that bad and all that stuff. And honestly, in the times where we couldn’t meet with her, just because of schedules, not aligning, but, you know, I needed to be seen within like that specific week, my husband and I were just like, Oh, this is a bummer. Like, we felt the difference when she wasn’t there, even just her energy in general. And I think part of it has to do with her being a Black woman. Part of it also has to do with, you can just tell that she feels called to this field.

She, she feels like this is like her God-given ministry in a sense. So she puts her all in. And, um, that’s what we get in return for sure.

Midway through my pregnancy around week 28, 29 or so. Um, you know, I’m on the computer every day. I’m doing my post-doc virtually, so the zoom calls and emails and all that stuff. And, um, so as sitting one day at the computer and then I just started getting this really bad headache, and then I just wanted to lay down for a little bit and then just experience a lot of nausea and vomiting and stuff with the headache.

And, you know, I immediately called my husband. We went to the hospital to get checked in, you know, they’re trying to clear me for like preeclampsia and it was my blood pressure was perfect. I was having the headaches, which then went away, but then this protein, it just kept consistently rising each week.

And so, Dr. Welch Charles, at some point, you know, I was supposed to be in every two weeks, but then she had me coming in weekly or sometimes twice a week and the protein levels just kept on rising. But my blood pressure was remaining like really low. And so I kind of gave this like, I kind of gave her a bit of a conundrum, a medical conundrum, because she didn’t want to, you know, take the baby too early and like, you know, have that whole like NICU experience and all that stuff.

But then she also didn’t want to wait too late. And so she really kept eyes on me. Um, and. We could tell that she was paying special attention to us because there was a visit where we ended up having to see like another provider in the office. Who’s awesome. But you could just tell that they’re a bit more nonchalant about it than she was.

Whereas Dr. Wells, Charles she’s like, I don’t want to cause like a stir, but I want to prepare you. For all of our different options and we felt extremely safe and heard with that. Um, and so as time went on, I was getting closer to my, uh, 37th week and the protein levels, I did another 24-hour protein and it was even higher.

Dr. Shenika Welch-Charles There is a syndrome that can happen in the third trimester called preeclampsia yet. Um, the older generation will call it toxemia, but it’s the same thing. And pretty much it is a multi-organ system type of slow failure and it’s very progressive.

And so it starts with the kidneys and the kidneys will no longer be able to filter like they usually would. And so the first sign of that is that you will start to notice protein in the pregnant woman’s urine. During prenatal appointments, we check blood pressure. We checked urine every single time. And that, that is one of the things that we’re trying to ascertain when we’re doing those very simple, seemingly simple things at each prenatal appointment, we look harder at it, especially as it starts to occur in the third trimester.

And so with Morine, she started to have protein in her urine and it was early, it was late second, early third trimester that I was starting to notice this, and her blood pressures though were not elevated. And so with preeclampsia, it’s usually the combination of the two of them that will give you that diagnosis.

And it is a very progressive disorder, disease, however, you want to call it, that if you don’t catch it early, You can catch it too late and it could be detrimental to mom, detrimental to baby to the extent that either, or it could die. And so you have to be very astute and knowing what you’re looking for and knowing how to handle that, and also knowing your patient population.

It is very common in African-American women. And so that is one of the things that started to happen with Morine. She started having protein in her urine. She was fine. She had no other symptoms. And so we watched it for a while and, and it was only a small amount, but then it would come and go. And then finally, I got tired of watching it because I knew that that was writing on the wall.

And so that was my conversation to Morine and Beau. Okay. Listen. This is where we are. This is what, what is happening. I have no guarantee that you will progress to preeclampsia or not, but I do know that if we don’t do anything, that there is a strong chance that you can, and we don’t want to miss the window. If we know that the writing is on the wall, why are we going to keep watching it? So as soon as we got to a point to where it was fine seemingly to, to go ahead and induce meaning that we didn’t have any concerns about putting baby Beau at risk for lung issues or breathing problems, or potentially a NICU stay.

Then we made that call and I pulled the plug.

Morine So, just in terms of like safety, just in terms of safety, we ended up just scheduling an induction and I was really happy with it. Um, you know, most people in women’s health, they try to, you know, avoid inductions and all that stuff. I was happy because Dr. Welch Charles was going to be on call that day, the day that we scheduled it. So I was like, sign me up if she’s going to be there. Um, I’m happy with that. And so, uh, we ended up coming in, uh, for the scheduled induction and. That experience having Dr. Welch Charles and the whole staff at the hospital is great.

My husband and I, we did a birthing class at that hospital and prior to, um, coming in for the induction. So we were familiar with the area, um, like the floor because of COVID we weren’t able to tour it. But that morning we came in, they called us, um, to come in and we laugh about it because when we walked in, Dr. Welch Charles also was walking in. So we both wrote up on the elevator to labor and delivery. And so, um, we get to the labor and delivery room. And, uh, were checked in, uh, I change into my like birthing gown that I had gotten, um, from freedom mom, which is great, very comfortable. Um, and we had an initial nurse, who was a white woman and she was cool. You know, we’re having conversations with her as she’s like getting us checked in, do my labs, and all that stuff. And she goes, um, you know, what do you do? And I told her, I was a post-doc at U Penn. I study actually study infertility and black women. And she goes, wow. You know, we’ve been like learning a bit more about Black maternal health and stuff. And I just think it’s like so awful. And like the simple fact that. It seemed as though maybe the floor was talking more about Black maternal health and the issues that are rising nationally. I was like, okay. That I feel safe. I was like, okay. 

Dr. Shenika Welch-Charles And so the day of the day that Beau Jr was born was a very sweet day, Morine and Beau actually met me in the elevators as I was coming in to start my shift. They should have been there the night before, but labor and delivery was crazy.

And so they kept pushing their delivery off. So when I got on the elevator and saw them there, I was like, Hey, are we ready to do this? And they were excited and I was excited and I was kinda, I didn’t tell them that, but I was like, Oh my goodness. I hope that I’m going to be able to be here for their delivery. Because again, they were delayed. They should have been there several hours before already having the process rolling. But they weren’t. And so, you know, when she finally got into the room, I was thinking, okay, I hope that this works out to where I’m here for 24 hours, but this is her first baby. This could take forever,, I know that she could very well deliver at noon the next day, and I will be at home asleep, catching up, but it didn’t work that way. Her entire process was as smooth as it could be.

She transitioned so fast, so gracefully and just the two of them, just seeing how they mesh together and worked together to get through that delivery was inspiring to the entire floor. I mean, they were the talk of the floor. I don’t know if they realize this or not, but they were just from the moment that they walked in, just they were holding hands. You could tell they were in love. This was gonna be a great time like this should be everybody’s birth story.

And, you know, I say that. And, and, and fond recollection of the memory. But then, you know, as I recall it, I do remember thinking to myself, why are they making such a huge deal about them? And the reason is because they were Black, they were making a big deal about this beautiful couple going through this beautiful birth. Because they don’t see that a lot. The nurses do not. I mean, we see it every day, all day, all the revolving door of the white couples who come in loving, you know, doting on one, another supporting each other right there every step of the way. But we don’t see that a lot with our own race.

And so it was inspiring to everybody, but it did give some pause and, and a little bit of sadness because you’re like, man, why can’t everybody just have this. This birth experience, but yes, that was a very, very sweet day. Little Beau came out before I could get back into the room. I don’t know if she shared that part, but Julia was right there to hold it down. And so as soon as, um, as soon as we all got into the room and he was there, you know, that we finished the delivery and it was just a beautiful day.

Morine We started with the misoprostol, which is like inserted into the vaginal canal.

And so that kinda started my labor. And at first, I didn’t want an epidural. And so as like contractions started getting more intense, um, my husband was a great help and he was rubbing my back and we were doing all the things that we learned in the birthing class. And so I was having IV meds for pain and it was working great. Um, but then at a certain point they stopped working and it’s not as helpful. And it was getting very tough and her checking my cervix and stuff. Um, Dr. Welch Charles and like the other nurses checking my, it was just becoming more uncomfortable and painful. And, uh, before I had resolved not having a, um, epidural, because honestly, I was scared. I didn’t want to feel that helpless. Cause when you get an epidural, you know, everything is numb, you’re in bed. So if anything changed at that point, I was going to feel stuck. And this is before we knew that, you know, Dr. Welch Charles was going to be there. And so it could have been anyone in her practice that maybe didn’t feel as comfortable with. So I was determined to ride out this, uh, birthing experience without any pain, like intense pain management. And then honestly, it was just getting to a point where I was like, Oh, I, I can’t do this.

And I looked at my husband, I looked at him. I was like, I can’t do this. He was like, listen, you’ve been a rock star. You’ve been taking this like a G. That’s how he talks. He’s from outside Chicago. He’s like, you can take him. This is like a G you know, if you get the epidural, it doesn’t make you less of a person or anything like that. You know, if you want to ride this out without it, I got you. I’m here and all that. And otherwise, like, you know, this is it’s whatever you want to do. 

Beau I was very cognizant to make sure that it was her saying, this is what I want. So instead of me saying, okay, you want the epidural? Do it now. It was. Okay, well, how do we phrase that to make sure that she knows that this is what she said she wanted, and if she changes her mind, then that’s fine too, but that you are supporting her in whatever that decision is.

Morine And so I ended up saying, okay, I’ll take the epidural. And at that point it was like change of shift. And, um, the second nurse, Julia came in, a Black woman.

And so right as, um, our first nurse was nurse was giving report to Julia a second. The second nurse that came in, uh, anesthesia came in to do the epidural. And so I’m just like, praying, you know, at the side of the bed, like, Lord, let there be no side effects. Lord help me through this. Like, you know, also working through the contractions and my husband is coaching me.

He’s praying in my ear. And then, you know, the anesthesiologist who came in, she was just like, Hey, this is the process. These are the potential symptoms here is, you know, the consent form signed it and all that stuff. And so, you know, I’m sitting on the side of the bed, just waiting for her to start.

And I just kinda like feel her like feeling, you know, for the place. And then all of a sudden, Julia, who’s still talking to the other nurse, stops that conversation and goes, hold up, we need to do a timeout. And then in that moment, this was just like, yes, God is in the room. God is here because as a healthcare professional, I know to do a timeout and a timeout just to explain that is something that got put in place many years ago, because of all the medical mistakes that were happening. So before any surgery, it could be as small as like a bedside thing and not like an ER to like a huge like heart transplant. You stop before anything is done and you verify who the patient is.

Beau When nurse Julia came in and she was so… I’m trying not to be so Chicago. She was just on point. Like the way she came in was so G she just came in like, Hey, this is what we’re doing. It was so business. And then she turned to us and had a casual conversation. What do you do? Oh, I’m from here. I just traveled here really calm and then went right back to the professional. And I was like, Oh, she knows, she got this. She got this.

So I was already comfortable with Dr. Welch Charles, but, her coming in and what she did with the anesthesiologist opened my eyes because I didn’t know about a time out. I was at that point, I was just like, okay, this is what we’re doing. And so for her to make sure that the steps that were needed to be taken care of were taken care of. It calmed me and I wasn’t leaving the room. Um, they kept saying like, Beau, you need to eat. And I was like, Nope, I’m good. I’ll be right here. Um, and, uh, it was funny because they kept saying leave. So I left, I ate, came back and just, just her attentiveness really stood out to me, but I also saw Morine become more calm. Um, it was just paying attention to her and seeing her just relax. Hmm. The way Julia spoke to me was like, my sister, like, this is what we doing. She’s like, okay, dad, this is what we’re gonna do. You’re gonna lift the leg up. Like it wasn’t Hey, well, think about this. She’s like, look, this is what we’re doing. I know what I’m doing. And so you need to just. You on the team, you are already doing what you need to do. Um, and I, I just, I appreciated that. Um, yeah, I, I really appreciated that.

Morine Who’s in charge of this experience in terms of whether the head nurse or the head doctor, um, and what is going to be done. And everybody needs to agree that this is what’s going to be done. You know, so people need to clarify, is this a left leg amputation or a right leg amputation? These things are important.

And so like, I knew that I needed to do that. But in that moment, I was just worried about the side effects. I didn’t want a headache. I didn’t want my blood pressure to drop. I didn’t want, um, my labor to stop. And so that’s what I was worried about and praying for in that moment. And Julia really made sure that all angles were taken care of in that moment. And I feel like that along with the epidural helped me relax a lot more and my labor from that moment, it was like 7:00 PM. I was three centimeters and I started pushing around 10:50 and I was fully dilated just within a few hours. And we met our son shortly after that.

Beau The birth was really quick, which shocked me. It was really quick. So the, what happened is, uh, Julia said, Hey, we’re going to do some practice pushes… some practice pushes. And what took place, I think maybe on the third practice push, Morine was like, Wait he’s coming out. I can’t, I can’t stop him. And so now it’s like, no, no, no, no. She’s like, no, no, no, really. I can feel him coming out and he’s like, Oh, he is coming. And so, um, it happens so quickly. And in that moment, my whole idea, um, Was just to be supportive of Morine. So right before we did the practice, I made sure that I prayed over her. I prayed over the room.

I just held her hand and let her know that God’s will be done. We are in the presence of the Lord and that’s what we are here for. So then going to how quickly it took place. It wasn’t, I mean, it was a shock because it was quick, but I wasn’t worried because it, because I just knew that this is what was supposed to be happening and they pulled baby Beau out, and gave him to Morine and I was just immediately thinking, wow, Beau, you are a father. And after that, it just, I immediately looked at the room. I was like, Oh my God, look at these strong Black women. Julia, like from her presence in that hour or so two hours. I could tell how she was Dr. Welch Charles, just how informative she was not just giving us the literature, but breaking things down in detail and asking, do you all have questions?

And whenever we would say no, what I love about her is she would pause and say, okay, so do you all have any questions? Because people’s first response is silence, right? Like, no I don’t. And then you let them know, like you can’t ask a question, then they have, they do have things to ask. And so, because I saw that I immediately sent a message to each group chat that I was updating. I was like, this is a room full of powerful Black women. And my brother-in-law’s like, Hey, Beau, you have to make sure that you get a picture of that. So that Beau junior knows that he was brought into this world by strong Black women. And brother Ernie is always on point. So I was just like, Oh, right, right.

Morine Everyone was Black. Everyone’s fine. My Black husband was next to me. Um, the Black OB/GYN was there,  and Julia, um, It was awesome. There, there was, you know, can’t forget her a surge tech that was helping Dr. Welch Charles, after Dr. Welch, Charles, you know, check me, make sure I didn’t have any like, tears or anything like that.

Um, I asked the surge tech, I was like, can you take a picture of us? And so, so it was me. Julia the nurse, um, my husband, the baby and Dr. Welch Charles. And I ended up posting that picture to Twitter just to my 300 followers, explaining my experience. And, um, at this point now it’s gotten maybe over 21,000 likes and retweets and stuff like that. So that is available for everyone to see.

Just weeks earlier, before I delivered, there was a story of a black pediatrician who died in childbirth and it gets me emotional. Because one, I find that to be just like so unfair that any highly educated woman like that didn’t make it out of this experience. And I believe she had a daughter and like her daughter won’t know her and then her husband has to go on and do this without her. And it’s important for us to know those stories and when that happens, so we can push, you know, for better, you know, reproductive justice and a better, safer experience and stuff like that.

But I went into my experience rather than terrified if Dr. Welch Charles, wasn’t going to be there. I was not going to get that epidural because I didn’t know what was going to happen. And if somebody would take care of me and, Whew, sorry. And so with all those negative stories that we heard, I just wanted to show what it meant to have a positive experience.

Part of it was me, you know, advocating for myself and pushing until I, I found a provider I was comfortable with. I often find that people, especially in the Black community, even my friends right now, they’ll often say, Oh, I feel like my doctor doesn’t listen to me. And I’m just like, you know, you can go to a different doctor, right? You don’t have to stay with that same doctor, you know, and people do it all the time. Whether for moving or insurance changes, mid pregnancy, they changed providers. And so. I just want to tell people, you don’t have to feel locked in to a situation that you’re not comfortable with.

And then also on the other end, providers, this is how you deliver culturally competent care. You connect with people, institutions, you will hire people that look like the patients in your area. You know, UT medical center is blessed to have Dr. Welch-Charles. And so they need to know they need to hire other people because I’m also afraid that she might get burnt out if she’s the only one and all these people are coming to her as well on the patient and on the provider and just telling institutions how, what a positive experience is.

Kimberly When, Morine shared a photo and series of tweets about her all-Black birth team and experience on Twitter and it went viral almost immediately. One respondent said “I have tears of joy in my eyes while reading your beautiful non-traumatic birth experience which sadly should be the standard. This gives me hope!” Another said, “This is the best love story ever” and “what a hope-filled, successful birth story.” I could go on! Morine, were you surprised by the response on Twitter? 

Morine Yes, I was surprised at that point we have 300 followers. I mean, I only have 800 now, but, but I really was just sharing the experience to like, you know, colleagues and friends who followed me on Twitter. And, the response that I got, they were some who are like, man, I wish I had this experience. I had a negative experience. There are women who are pregnant now who commented and said, Hey, you know what? I don’t feel this connection with my OB/GYN group, I’m going to switch. And there are  providers who are like, wow, this is great. Like now understand like how we can make this a better patient provider communication experience.

And then also too, there were people who got educated on like, you know, why, why this Black maternal health experience is so different for different people. Um, and then also too, I got a whole bunch of people who said, um, you know, they were thinking about going into labor and delivery as a nurse, uh, at a nursing school. So they felt inspired. Uh, Julia had shared with me that it was her and one other Black nurse, and they were the only two Black nurses on staff in the labor delivery unit. And so that’s another God experience. The fact that she was on shift and got assigned to me. But, that’s kind of troubling too. Like what if she just wasn’t feeling well and called out, you know, which is her, right. You know, I would have been maybe not as safe. Who knows? I don’t know. Yeah.

Dr. Shenika Welch-Charles A lot of the literature is saying that there is better care given when you do have a provider that looks like yourself.

And I do agree with that, not refuting, but, I also like to shed light on the fact that if providers, if your OB?GYN is simply following the standard of care and doing things the way that things should be done, then you wouldn’t have to fight so hard to find a Black OB/GYN, and it should just be across the board. But the harsh reality is it’s just not. And so because of that, that is the reason why I think a lot of women feel the need to ensure that they are in the hands of someone who seemingly has their best interests at stake. I want to share just a brief. Excellent. Just a brief little story about one of my really good friends.

 

So, obviously, we’re older, so we’re considered, you know, if we were pregnant around this time when she did just have a baby we’re considered now the geriatric pregnancy, I refuse to call it that because. I still consider it to just, I will just say advanced maternal age, geriatric pregnancy, to me, just sounds horrible and rude… but anyhow, she, um, she lives in Atlanta. She’s a physician herself. She is a Black woman. And she went out of her way with her first pregnancy to ensure that she had a Black provider. And she had a chang in her insurance this last pregnancy so she could not see that black provider again. So she was heartbroken and she, you know, did other research and she just kind of asked around and she ended up in a practice that had no Black providers, but the doctor that she had there immediately came in and started rattling off all of the things that needed to happen. And she started by saying, because you are a woman of color, these are the things that are going to be different in your care. We will need to do X. We would need to do Y we would need to do Z. And she came back to me and said, are these things right? And I said, of course, they’re right.

And she was, and she’s like, I never had any of that in my other pregnancy with the Black provider. And she started to feel some type of way. And I didn’t at that point, want to bring it up because even when she was, you know, Gung-ho about finding that Black provider the first time I, you know, I wanted to share those things, but I didn’t want to rain on her parade, but I just kinda wanted to bring that up as a juxtaposition to show that really, if you are doing what you’re supposed to be doing, in my opinion, and you’re following the standard of care and the current guidelines, and you’re staying current, then Black women’s shouldn’t have bad outcomes because those things should have been taken care of from the very beginning. So I, again, that’s why I said, I don’t think it’s a direct correlation. I do think that there is some correlation to it, but I just feel like as healthcare providers in general, we just need to do better.

Kimberly Dr. Welch-Charles’ point cannot be overstated. Yes, Black women tend to feel safer in the hands of another Black provider, particularly a Black female provider. But they shouldn’t have to. ALL providers should be giving Black and brown birthing people the same standard of care mandated by their own governing organizations and quite frankly the same care they give white women. The racial disparities in birth outcomes shows that it can be done–white women are doing pretty well–not great–but better than Black women so if we can just get to their levels–it will be a significant improvement. 

I close every episode asking this question, what is our birthright? What do you say, Dr. Welch-Charles?

Dr. Shenika Welch-Charles I feel your birthright is to be in an environment where you feel completely safe. And protected. And I try really hard with all my patients, not just my Black patients. So if you feel safe and you feel secure and you feel protected, then you can sit back and just really enjoy this wonderful, wonderful blessing. This wonderful process, miracle that is about to happen. And that was what I feel each woman should have as their birth experience. Just to be able to enjoy it the way that they want to enjoy it without being scared.

Kimberly Morine, how would you answer? 

Morine Our birthright is to be seen, um, is to feel heard. It has to come out of this experience, feeling empowered and alive. Yeah. That’s all I have.

Kimberly That’s more than enough. After all, living out your birthright should be simple. Not a months-long, research project. In the end, Morine received her birthright and became a viral sensation in the process. As she said on Twitter to the 21 thousand people who liked her post–she said, “Praying for the day when this testimony is not the exception, but the norm.” Indeed, we are. 

I’d like to thank my guests for this week, Morine Cebert Gators, Beau Gators, Dr Shenika Welch Charles and Ashlee Wisdom founder and CEO of Health in Her HUE.

 

About Morine

Morine Cebert Gaitors is a PhD prepared nurse researcher who focuses on infertility within the Black community. Morine is originally from Bridgeport, CT but is currently living in Knoxville, TN as she remotely completes a post-doctoral fellowship out of the University of Pennsylvania. She is the proud wife of Beau Sr. and the mother of their sweet son, Beau Jr.

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