Finding Black Birthing Joy in Rural Georgia
Season 2, Episode 3: Finding Black Birthing Joy in Rural Georgia: Aquarius’ Story
While rural communities around the country—like LaGrange, Georgia—are battling limited maternity care access, mothers like Aquarius Watkins, are still striving for joyful birth experiences. With the help of a local Black OB/GYN, here’s how Aquarius advocated for herself and manifested her dream birth. Come join host Kimberly Seals Allers as she travels into the community south of Atlanta where mothers and perinatal physicians are working together to center joy and healing.
- Dr. Joy Baker is a board certified obstetrician and gynecologist in her hometown of LaGrange, Georgia. After completing her medical school and residency training at Morehouse School of Medicine and Grady Health System, she worked in urban and rural communities for 10 years. In 2019, she became one of the first OB/GYNs to earn special certification in Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, as well as treatment of addiction in pregnancy. Today, she supports birthing people at Weststar West Georgia Medical Center. IG handle: @deliveringjoymd
- Chanel Stryker-Boykin is the owner of In Joie’s Arms Birth Doula Services, LLC, and a Holistic Labor Support Specialist (Doula), Placenta Encapsulation Specialist, and a Community Childbirth and Lactation Educator in the Metro Atlanta area.
- Interested in having a doula and/or midwife for your pregnancy, birth or post-partum period? Here are resources for finding Black midwives, doulas, lactation consultants, and other perinatal specialists of color: Sista Midwife Directory, The Bridge, and National Black Doulas Association. IG handle: @onejoiefuldoula
- Research: Learn about labor and delivery unit closures in rural Georgia, the impact of Medicaid on perinatal health, and other socioeconomic barriers to rural maternal health.
- Watch Dr. Joy Baker remedy rural maternal health disparities by supporting mothers in her community on “Remote Chance: The State of Rural Health Care,” a two-part documentary short series by award-winning filmmaker Elizabeth Arledge; hosted by WETA and Wells Beings.
- Download Irth, the only app where you can find prenatal, birthing, postpartum and pediatric reviews of care from Black and brown birthing people. Leave a review today to help inform and protect others!
- 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
- For Black breastfeeding resources, visit Black Breastfeeding Week, Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association (BMBFA), and Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE).
- Get ready for the fifth anniversary of Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW) on April 11-17! Founded and led by Black Mamas matter Alliance, BMHW officially recognized by the White House is a week of awareness, activism, and community building.
- Catch up on episode extras from season 1 and 2 on BIRTHRIGHT’S YOUTUBE PAGE!
- Subscribe to be notified for new episode releases every Wednesday! Love Birthright? Leave a rating and review.
- Get full episode details and transcripts on www.BirthrightPodcast.com
- Follow Kimberly Seals Allers on Twitter on Instagram: @iamKSealsAllers
- Birthright is funded by the California Health Care Foundation and the Commonwealth Fund.
Kimberly Seals Allers 00:04
Welcome to Birthright, a podcast about joy and healing in black birth, where we share positive birth stories of those who have lived out their birthright and help heal those who have been denied it. My name is Kimberly Seals Allers. I’m the founder of the Irth app and your host. This is where we celebrate the ways we find joy in our birthing experiences, and ultimately reclaim our birthright.
Hello, I’m Aquarius. I’m 31-years-old. I’m from LaGrange, Georgia. I’m the mother of Nova. And this is my birthright story. I’m from a small place, LaGrange, Georgia. It’s about 45 minutes from Atlanta. Really country. We don’t have anything here. The main thing we have to eat is Longhorn. I don’t even know if anybody knows what that is. It’s very country. That’s where everybody go eat at. Everything is really close around here. It’s a really, really small town. I don’t have to travel far for anything. Most people have never even heard of LaGrange.
Kimberly Seals Allers 01:14
Well, that may be true of many rural communities. But when it comes to birthing, there are unique factors to consider here. Since 2010, more than 100 rural hospitals have closed. A disproportionate number of these hospitals have been in the south. And in Georgia, the state that has consistently maintained one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the nation, nine rural labor and delivery units closed outside of the Atlanta area, just between 2012 and 2016 alone. A recently published report found that labor and delivery units that closed in Georgia had higher percentages of black female residents and their primary care service areas had higher numbers of black birthing patients or patients with Medicaid and had fewer obstetricians. LaGrange is technically a maternity care desert. The study ultimately concluded that closure of these labor and delivery units in rural Georgia had a disproportionate impact on black women and low income folks. Take us back to finding out you were pregnant. What was that like?
Oh, my gosh, I was so shocked. Because I had never been pregnant. So I did not think I was pregnant. My fiance was like, I think you’re pregnant. And I’m 30 years old. And I’m like, I’ve been waiting this long. And I haven’t had a baby. There’s no way. I’m just gaining weight. I’m thinking everything is normal. And one night, we were about to go out on a date and I just wasn’t feeling well. And he was like, well, before we go on this date, you’re going to take this test tonight. And I was like, okay, fine. And I took the test. And it showed up that I was pregnant. And we both were excited. I was crying. He was just hugging me. We were very excited. We wanted a daughter. I prayed for her. But I just didn’t know that she would come so fast. Like I would write about her in my journal. I literally think I manifested my daughter. So I have a journal and I write in it all the time. But I had wrote down. I would just jot down things like that I wanted to happen in 2021. And in January, I think right at the beginning of the year. And I started writing things like fix my finances, improve my relationship, be the type of mother that I wish that I had, have a great relationship with my kids. I would just write this down. I had no idea that I was speaking these into fruition. And I don’t know, I just wrote that I wanted a daughter and a family. I would just write it down just whenever it would cross my mind, I would just write down things. And when I look back on it now, it’s so crazy because like this is literally what I wrote down — everything that I’m experiencing. I was really afraid because I had heard so many horror stories. And it’s like soon as you listen to a woman, she tells you all these bad things, these bad experiences. So I was just really scared. I had no idea what to expect. And once I really realized I was pregnant, I didn’t care if it was a girl or a boy anymore. I was mainly concerned with I want my baby to be healthy. I want to have a healthy experience. You know, that was my main concern. So I didn’t even have any dreams or aspirations for my pregnancy. I just wanted to be healthy. Me, be healthy. My baby, be healthy. As soon as I found out that I was pregnant, I became sick. I couldn’t eat anything, I couldn’t keep anything down. My main thing everyday all day was throwing up. I spent a lot of my days on the bathroom floor. That literally was me. I couldn’t get out the bed a lot of days. It was really like one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. And I was like, this is crazy. I was starting to doubt myself, like, can I really do this. But I would also keep in the back of my head like this is what you asked for. This is what you wanted but at the same time, it was like such a big struggle every day. I couldn’t do anything by myself pretty much for the first five months. It was really rough. It was really rough. I barely could eat. I lost about 20 pounds in the beginning, I think. And I’m thinking pregnancy, you’re supposed to gain weight, but I lost about 20 pounds. All I did was throw up every day and sleep if I could sleep. It was hard.
Kimberly Seals Allers 06:03
Aquarius, what was your support like?
My fiance was there for me every step of the way. Like I remember one day in particular, I was in the bathroom. I was just throwing up. Just throwing up. I had been in there for a while. And I came out the bathroom and he was standing there with a base full of rosaries. And he was like baby, I was waiting on you to come out the bathroom. You’ve been in there so long. He had been standing at the door for so long. He was there with me every day. My mom was there. My sister was there. My dad and his wife was there. My support was everything. I had a really great team. At the time of this, COVID was so bad at the time. So I was so afraid. I just thought I was just going to go to the hospital. And it was just going to be me and my fiance. And to me that was scary. Because this is my first child. I wanted my mother there. So it never occurred to me to go anywhere except for going to the hospital. I was afraid. I don’t know. I wanted to be in the hospital in case something happened. I never knew what to expect or anything like that. Oh my god, Dr. Baker. Dr. Baker. I love her. She is amazing. She’s amazing. She to me was the main reason why everything was how it was. It went so smoothly. I came and I met with her one day. And she told me she could tell that I was scared. But I didn’t come off as scared. I came off as like really firm. And that was just telling her that, you know, a lot of black women died. They’re not heard when they are feeling things. I want to be heard. I want to be safe. I don’t want to be forced to have a C section. I want to go the natural route. And she talked to me not only as a doctor, but also as like, you know, one of those aunties you might have in your family. She’s like, I’m your doctor, but I’m also a black woman just like you. I’m going to listen to you. I’m going to take care of you.
Dr. Joy Baker 08:06
I’m Joy Baker, I’m an obstetrician and gynecologist at Wellstar West Georgia Medical Center in LaGrange, Georgia. I’ve been practicing now, wow, for almost 10 years since I finished residency at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. Aquarius and I met at the beginning of her first pregnancy, so maybe about maybe, let’s say 12 months ago or so. And it was really interesting because she became a patient in our practice. And normally, my nurse practitioner and I work together to care for our patients. And if they’re relatively low risk, meaning they don’t have a lot of medical problems, and they’re on their first pregnancy, my nurse practitioner will see them for the first part of their pregnancy, usually up until about 18 to 20 weeks, she’ll see them for those initial visits, get the labs collected, get the ultrasounds done and kind of get them oriented into the prenatal care spectrum. So this particular patient was really adamant that she just wanted to see me. She said, You know, I am almost 14 weeks and I have not seen you. I said oh, okay, well, let’s set up a visit and let’s sit down and talk. And whenever I encounter that kind of, you know, she was very adamant. Like I said, well, whenever I encounter something like this, it’s usually someone has a fear, you know, there’s something that they are feeling anxious about. So we sat down and we talked and I said, Hey, I heard that you really wanted to meet me? And she said, Yes, I need to meet you and I don’t understand why you haven’t met me yet. And I’m almost 14 weeks. I said, oh, so Well, normally, I don’t usually meet people who don’t have a lot of medical problems until they’re about 18 or 20 weeks. And she was like, oh, okay, well, I just want to know who you were because I need to make sure I know what’s going on in my pregnancy and who the doctor is that might potentially deliver me, I’m up on my information. I’ve been reading, I know what’s going on. And I know that black women are more likely to die in childbirth. And I want to make sure that you’re good before I continue on here. So I said, okay, so it kind of gave us an opportunity to really sit down and get to know each other. I actually thought it was great. I mean, I know, some people might find it off putting, but I actually do a lot of education with my patients, and I want them to know how to speak up for themselves. So I was all for it. So I said, Okay, well, let’s sit down. I said, you do have questions for me. Like what, you know, what do you want to know about me? I will tell you anything you ask? So she asked me lots of questions. She wanted to know what my outcomes were and how things had gone in my practice. And so I told her, and we just had the best conversation. And every time we had visits, we just had really great conversations. We started talking about what her desires were for her birth and really setting some intentions for her. And she, you know, had these things that she had envisioned in her mind.
Listen, I wanted it to be unmedicated. But when I got there, we went the other route. I didn’t know how it was going to be. I was really scared. I did get an epidural. That made the process way better. But um, another thing, what made it special to me was because COVID was so high, and they were saying that the doctor, you can only have one guest. And that was my fiance. But I wanted my mother there. The day that I got to the hospital, I was talking to one of my nurses. I was telling her how I really wanted my mom here and I was scared and she was like, girl, call your mama and tell your mom to come up here. I was like a little bit confused. And she was like they just took up the visitors to two people like three days ago. So, that was a blessing because when I checked in it was just me and my fiance. And I called my mom and she came up the next morning and that was wonderful. Like, I had my fiance. I had my mom. I was good to go then.
Kimberly Seals Allers 12:46
Did you know that less than 15 minutes of your time can help make black birth safer for us all? Irth as in the word birth, but we dropped the b for bias, is the first of its kind nonprofit rating and recommendation platform for black and brown women and birthing people to find and leave reviews of their OBGYNs, birthing hospitals and pediatricians. My name is Kimberly Seals Allers, and I created the Irth app because I wish I had it when I gave birth. I learned the hard way that reading the doctor and hospital reviews at mainstream sites, which were overwhelmingly from white parents, was just not helpful to me as a black single mother at the time. Irth is by us and for us. In less than 15 minutes, you can complete the structured review of your birthing experience. Also, tell us about your prenatal postpartum and newborn care, so we can inform and protect each other. We turn Irth anonymous reviews into meaningful data to work directly with hospitals, payers and providers to improve our care now. When it comes to safe, respectful and dignified care, we got us. Download the free Irth app now and leave your reviews. Follow @TheIrthApp on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Dr. Joy Baker 14:13
LaGrange is in West Georgia. It’s almost on the Alabama line, probably the nearest large city of Columbus. And we’re about an hour and 15 minutes southwest of Atlanta. I enjoy living in LaGrange. It’s a very charming town. We have an actual square in the center of the community and there’s a fountain there. There are lots of little shops and restaurants that surround the fountain. And I think that you know, it’s a great place to raise a family. There is definitely a small town feel but there also has come in the past 10 to 15 years to be a lot of diversity in LaGrange and so we have a Kia plant now. And we have several industries that have come to be in this area. Traditionally, LaGrange has been a town of industry. So there have always been textile mills or other large industries and businesses that have come to this area. And you know, because of that, the area has flourished. So we’ve kind of become sort of a bedroom community outside of Atlanta now. In terms of my practice in LaGrange, I think that it’s very important to travel outside of the metropolitan area when it comes to being a healthcare provider, because we do need these services and we need state of the art care outside of the metropolitan cities. And I think that for places like LaGrange, we’re at risk for not having that. We definitely are at risk for becoming a healthcare shortage area. So I enjoy practicing here. I was born here, my family’s here. So it’s a great place for me to practice. You know, I’ve worked in communities outside of the Metropolitan Atlanta area for my entire career. So I’ve been in LaGrange, back in LaGrange, for about two years now. And it really does require a little bit more what I like to call tenacity, or tenacious pursuit of resources, because we have to really, like I like to say go hard in the paint for our patients. And we have to make sure that we have the referral resources that we need. We have to really fight to get some of the resources that are available in larger cities to become available for our patients. We may see more patients than the average OBGYN in a city. We may have patients that are coming from farther away, they may live 30/45 minutes, an hour or even more. So when they’re coming to see me they’re coming sometimes from really far away. I have patients that live an hour or more away that have been working with me for many years, and they’ve just kind of continued. Wherever I’ve gone, they’ve gone too. So we serve a wide variety of patients from lots of counties. So generally, when we think about OBGYN care, we want to have one OBGYN for every six to 8000 Women like per capita. And here it’s about one per 15,000. So we’re definitely what is called an at risk area. So it is definitely an issue of access. And it becomes an issue of access. And so one of the goals in this area is to recruit about three more OBGYNs over the next couple years to make sure that those who are getting closer to retirement age can do so comfortably, but that we still have access to be able to serve the needs of women and people who have the capacity for birthing.
Kimberly Seals Allers
That access must include access to doulas. Doulas are trained birth support professionals who decrease the likelihood for medical interventions and bring trusted personal advocates into that labor and delivery room.
My name is Chanel. I am a doula here in the metro Atlanta area. I consider myself a community lactation and childbirth educator. I’m also an evidence-based instructor. So yeah, that’s, that’s me. I’m also a birth assistant and a midwifery student. As far as the city and the rural areas are concerned, I just think the biggest difference is access to resources, right? And access maybe to education is the difference in the two places. The metro area is heavily populated, whereas in your rural areas, it’s not. I think about between, and don’t quote me on the year, but somewhere in the early 2000s, to now about 93 labor and delivery units closed in the rural areas in Georgia. And so you’re having people having to travel, you know, hours, sometimes to birth somewhere that is better than, you know, the options that they have in their community. And so you know, I’m really trying to exacerbate my efforts well not exacerbate but expand my efforts in trying to find like the doulas and the midwives that work in the rural areas that are assisting these people because they do not have access to the resources. And like I said even us here, right in the metro that has the access, we are still really struggling in these hospitals. And so that’s why you have the uptake, about 29% of births, I think it was a 29% increase of home births that occurred in Georgia during the pandemic, from 2020 to 2021 because of the barriers are hospitals. And I’m sure this is all around the nation, they have, you know, limited the number of support people that you can have in the hospital. I just found out with my work with Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies, that there is a hospital in rural Georgia, that I think it’s Jefferson County that does not allow doulas at all. Not because they, you know, have some sort of bias. They just said they don’t even know what it is. So it’s not something that they are allowing, right? And so it’s the lack of education, information and resources, like I mentioned before, that’s creating this huge barrier. And a lot of political things, too, right here in our state.
The main thing that she said to me, when I got ready to go to the office, she said, pack patience. That’s what she said. She was like you’re having a baby. So just be prepared to do a lot of sitting around. And so I remembered that when I went home and I packed up my things I was like, I’m just going to take it, you know, one day at a time, I’m not gonna rush. I’m just gonna chill. So that was the main thing. She told me to just be patient. And once they told me that my mother come, oh, I was good. I was fine. I got induced. So I knew to come into the hospital Sunday night at seven o’clock and that Monday would be the day of having a baby.
Kimberly Seals Allers 21:41
Okay, interesting. Do you know why you were induced?
I was already almost 40 weeks. I would have been 40 weeks that Thursday. So I was already going to have her. I don’t know why I was induced exactly. We packed our bags and we went to the hospital. And we checked into our room. And the main thing that we did was we just laid around and watched a lot of TV. I had a lot of food. So I was laying in my bed, eating chocolate covered strawberries and eating cake. I was perfectly fine. He was laying there with me rubbing my feet. They pretty much just got me prepped for Monday because Sunday was like the preparation. They put my IVs in and things like that. It wasn’t going to be any serious business until the next morning. I knew that. So, I was pretty relaxed with that. We just chilled the first night, really. You just watched a lot of TV, talked. They told me to get some rest but you’re so anxious, you’re not going to get no rest. The contractions started that night and later on that night and that’s when it kind of got serious. Like okay, I’m really about to have a baby. And the contractions were hard. But to me, nothing was more hard than the months that I had been sick. So everything that I was experiencing now, the contractions, getting ready to have my baby, to me, was nothing, because I had been sick for five months. So I was ready for this. I’m not gonna say that for every woman. But for me, Yes, ma’am. Yes, ma’am. Because people don’t understand, I threw up from the time I opened my eyes in the morning, usually until the time I went to bed at night. So it was hard. I would throw up so much I couldn’t, I really didn’t have anything in my body to be able to use the restroom, if you get what I’m saying. Like I was very weak. That was the worst part. I don’t know if anybody knows this, but the worst part of throwing up is the nausea. Once you throw up, you kind of feel better. It’s that nauseous feeling with you all day long. I had heard so many stories before. So I kind of was expecting it to be worse than it was. They pretty much just kept checking me to see if I had dilated. I was dilating. Really, I was making really good progress is what they were telling me. To me, it didn’t feel like it. It was an all day event. But I had packed my patience, so I was good. At some point during that day, the anesthesiologist came in and I got an epidural. And from that point, everything really was fine. Everything was fine then. We were playing cards. Me and my fiance and my mom were taking pictures, making videos.
Dr. Joy Baker 24:38
The father of the baby was there and he had just did you know, doting on her throughout the day. Every time I would come in, he would be talking to her, asking her what she needed and doing different things. I tend to approach birth with as much hands off as possible, in terms of me as the physician, I want the mom to be able to experience her birth and her labor without me doing too much to her. Like in terms of interventions, if they’re unnecessary. My patients will eat until they get an epidural. So she was eating, having a good time, having her favorite snack. Brought everything from home that made her feel comfortable. As long as it’s not an open flame, I tell people bring anything from stuffed animals to movies to whatever it is you need to feel good in that space. So we get all kinds of stuff from LED string lights to — we have all kinds of stuff going on. And I think it’s really a great atmosphere. But it was just good, like, you know. Dad was at the bedside, and he’s helping her with her legs and he’s telling her how strong she is. And we’re just kind of making jokes. We’re laughing and just — we’re having a great time.
Oh, my gosh. Everything happens so fast. Like all day, you’re used to them just coming in and telling you, oh, you’re four centimeters dilated. You’re five centimeters. Like you’re used to that all day. And the next thing I know Dr. Baker was like it’s time and I was shocked. I’m like, oh my goodness. And they started breaking down the bed, getting ready. Like, we’re fixing to have a baby right now. So everything is exciting. My mom is excited. My fiance is excited. And Dr. Baker was telling me I’m about to start pushing. And I started pushing. And I think all in all it took about from that moment when she told me to start pushing my first push. My fiance started recording the video. The video is 40 minutes long. It took me 40 minutes to have her. And I don’t know. It was great. I would do it again. So Dr. Baker had her nurse with her. I wish I could remember her name. Her nurse was amazing. Her and Dr. Baker were like Batman and Robin. They were like, tag team. A match made in Heaven. She was telling me how to push. She was walking me through it like you’re doing great. You’re doing a good job. And because I didn’t have any feeling and I’m just really pushing. I have no idea how close I’m getting to pushing my baby out. I just hear people saying, oh my god, I see your head. She has a lot of hair. I’m really getting excited. And I’m pushing. I’m pushing. They pull that little baby out of me and I just lost it. Like, I lost it. That was the best feeling ever. One, she was out of my body. Two, she was healthy. I just started crying. I just started crying. Like the ugly cry. Nothing cute about it. Like, I was just crying. She was so beautiful. And I was like so proud of myself. Because I remember at that moment, looking back on all the days and I was like I can’t do this. This is hard. And it was like, this is what this was for. You did this. And that was an amazing feeling. I can’t even put into words what I felt. Unless you are a mom and you’ve given birth, I can’t even tell you. Amazing. I’m about to cry now talking about it.
Dr. Joy Baker 28:25
And then she birthed her baby and the baby came out screaming. Her name is Nova and we were like okay, Nova, tell us all about it. She was just beautiful. She had all of this curly hair. She was just so gorgeous. Just this beautiful chocolate drop with a big afro and curls. And it was just a wonderful moment, a wonderful moment. And even when I came to check on them the next day, she had these matching pajamas that she had brought for her and her baby and she wanted to take pictures in them. And then dad was like, well where my orange pajamas like you didn’t pack any for me. Like I want to be a part of the, I feel left out. So it was just a lot of fun and, and as she said to me, she turned to me and she just had this look on her face that she just said I just want to say thank you. For real, thank you. She said I didn’t have any trauma. Everything was perfect. Everything was just like I set my intention in my head for it to be. You know, people were kind to me. I didn’t have to worry about fighting for anything. I just felt so safe. I felt loved. I felt like everything was what I wanted it to be and I’m just so grateful that you were just coaching me through everything during my pregnancy and that you were there.
It’s like more so people speak on the painful things, the trauma, or whatever. But for me, the nurses were amazing. But I also went into the hospital and my doctor appointments, I was very positive. I was very happy. I was very respectful. How can you not be respectful and positive and nice to the people who are taking care of you at your most vulnerable time? So I think what I put in is also what I got out. I was very kind to the nurses and they were very kind to me.
Kimberly Seals Allers 30:35
Wow, Aquarius, how was your fiance’s experience?
He was laying up in there, girl. He thought he was a king. They bringing him snacks and juices. And the next day, I think, he gone say, it really wasn’t all that bad. Like, I got a lot of sleep. It was great. I’m like, boy, that was for you. I went through a lot. I went through a lot. But uh, he had a really good experience. And he recorded the whole thing. So we have it for life. I know we all had a great time, because during the process, I was laughing. Dr. Baker was laughing. The nurses were laughing. My fiance. It was like we were all having a good time. No way in my mind did I envision I would be laughing and playing and joking while giving birth. No way. I could have never even imagined that. I just thought I’d be crying, screaming. No. It was fine. I was laughing a lot. And that’s all my daughter does is laugh. I think because I kept a positive attitude and I was happy that yes, I really do. Yeah, she’s a very happy baby. She loves to laugh, loves to play. Yes. I didn’t breastfeed. I wanted to. I went into it with a mindset to do it, but once I had my baby, I was so exhausted. I was like, I can’t do this. I am so tired, y’all. Can y’all just give her a bottle? The next go round, I am going to breastfeed because that is one thing I do regret is that I wish I would have breastfed my child. I never thought it would be like that. It was very important. I honestly wish a joyful experience on every woman. Because I don’t know, like, it was amazing like I can’t, it’s so hard for me to put into words to you to make you understand, like, it’s so important. And I wish women could have the doctor like I had, the nurses like I had, the experience that I had because it’s beautiful. And me having that beautiful experience, when I came home, I was in such high spirits. I was so happy. You know, like, I think a lot of that affected me when I came home and my everyday life. And everybody even when they meet my daughter, they’re like, she’s so happy. She be smiling and laughing. And that’s exactly how I was the whole time: laughing, smiling, happy, because everything was so positive like everything. I don’t know. I’m really blessed. I’m really thankful.
Kimberly Seals Allers 33:09
I close every episode by asking what is our birthright? Dr. Baker?
Dr. Joy Baker 33:16
That is such a great question. And you know, for me, it kind of brings me back to a conversation I had with a patient a few months ago. I went in to ask her about her desires for her birth, you know. And I have that conversation with every patient, but usually between 28 and 34 weeks. And I said so, what are your desires for your birth? And she said, well, first of all, I just don’t want to die. And my mind was so far away from that. I was thinking well do you want low lighting and birthing balls? Peanut balls? Do you want to get in the shower, let hot water run on your back? You know, I’m thinking about these other things. And she in her mind is just thinking, I just want to survive. And so when I think about what is our birthright, I think that we deserve to be safe, to feel supported, to feel heard, to feel listened to, to be educated by the people in our healthcare team. And to have access to education ourselves that’s accurate, so that we can go through this process without fear and without all of the anxiety that I’m encountering with a lot of moms now. I think that we deserve as black birthing people to anticipate birth with joy, with an open heart and open hands and not feeling like we have to ball our fists to defend ourselves all the time. And that, I think, should be a right of all birthing people. And so that’s what I feel. We should have the right to get safe, competent care that’s not colored or tainted by someone’s personal ideas about, you know, race, which we all know is a social construct and not a biological one. So, that’s what I would say our birthright is. We deserve safe care. We deserve great care. We deserve joy.
Kimberly Seals Allers 35:40
Aquarius, what is our birthright?
I think it’s just whatever your birthing experiences is. Whatever your right to have whatever type of birth you want to have.
Kimberly Seals Allers 35:54
Season Two of Birthright is funded by the California Health Care Foundation and the Commonwealth Fund. Birthright is produced by Motor City Woman Studios in Detroit with Kimberly Seals Allers as executive producer, and Alexa Imani Spencer as researcher and assistant producer. Our music is by Dantrel Robinson and we dedicate this season in his memory. And don’t forget to subscribe to Birthright wherever you get your podcasts. Give us a rating and review if you like what you hear. Find episode notes and learn more at www.BirthrightPodcast.com. And don’t forget to like and follow the Birthright podcast YouTube page for exclusive videos and extras. Follow at @iAmKSealsAllers on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and please support our Patreon account. Together, we are reclaiming our birthright, one story at a time.
Aquarius Watkins is a 30-year-old stay at home mom in LaGrange, Georgia; a rural community about one hour south of Atlanta. Born and raised in LaGrange, Aquarius gave birth to her first baby in her hometown with the support of a local OB/GYN.