Supporting Black Motherhood Through an Equity Lens

Morghan and Jazzmine

When conversations turn to the topic of health equity, it’s easy to fall into a thought pattern that puts humans in categories — sometimes by race, income or country of origin. But when it comes to the importance of prenatal care or developing a postpartum care plan, health equity simply means helping to ensure that all babies have the same opportunity to be born healthy, into a healthy family, by a healthy mom.

EveryStep focuses on health equity by seeing each individual as the unique person they are without putting them into a preconceived category.

Morghan's Story
A standout athlete at Urbandale High School, Morghan was active in gymnastics, basketball, volleyball and soccer, but her primary sport was track — even competing with a traveling track team in the summer. Upon graduation, Morghan accepted academic and track scholarships to Grandview University in Des Moines.

Morghan’s life revolved around sports. “But then I decided that I didn't want track anymore because it was literally my whole life,” says Morghan. “I wanted to know what my life would be like outside of track. I’d traveled with sports, but I never really got to actually enjoy it.” Morghan made the decision to leave Grandview University and traveled with friends, working part-time jobs to pay the bills.

Morghan eventually returned to Iowa and while in a relationship, discovered she was pregnant. Though she had a strong support system, she reached out for help and became involved with EveryStep and Jazzmine Brooks, who works with EveryStep’s specialized Doula program that offers doula services to pregnant individuals who identify as Black or African American. Jazzmine also teaches EveryStep’s Black & Birthy childbirth classes and collaborates with several other EveryStep programs and services.

The Importance of Cultural Understanding
“I think there are always great doulas out here doing great work, but when it comes to being a Black woman supporting another

“Culturally, there's just a certain understanding and communication about things we understand. It’s great to have that understanding with someone who's the same color as me.”

Black woman, we understand each other in a unique way because we share a culture and tradition that can't be duplicated in other spaces,” says Jazzmine. “I know she knows what I'm saying without having to dive through things. I think the other layer, too, is I'm not coming with preconceived notions about her life and understanding that we have similar backgrounds, but maybe different walks of life. There's still this synergy between the two of us and her family that we can laugh and joke and be, you know, kin to each other.”

 

This cultural understanding of Black motherhood is important to Morghan, as well. “Culturally, there's just a certain understanding and communication about things we understand. Not that it's any different from anybody else, but it's great to have that understanding with someone who's the same color as me.”

Supporting Morghan and Her Family
Jazzmine supported Morghan through the birth of her baby, Kiyomi, who is now 14 months old. And now Jazzmine is there again to support Morghan in the birth of her second baby, due in late May.

“We talk about how I want my birth to be and some things to practice, like breathing techniques and birthing positions,” says Morghan. “She’s basically helping me prepare for the birth.” Those prenatal preparations include attending EveryStep’s birthing classes and participating in EveryStep’s Stork’s Nest program. By earning points for attending classes and going to doctor’s appointments, Morghan has been able to “purchase” items like diapers, child safety devices and other items from EveryStep's Stork's Nest store.

Because of the importance of prenatal care, an EveryStep nurse also visits Morghan to check on Kiyomi’s development and to make sure Morghan is doing well, too. “I'm very taken care of by EveryStep!” says Morghan. “I’ve taken advantage of the events EveryStep hosts, like Baby Bloom, too. Any help is appreciated. You know, they say it takes a village to raise kids.”

“I think Morghan is the perfect example of somebody who just needs a little help,” says Jazzmine. “I think people assume folks are just in this really bad spot, which, of course people can be. But that's the narrative they run with — that Black women are at terrible risk, but they don't really realize it. I think the world doesn't realize how much [Black women] are socialized to be strong even amid our troubles and I think Black women are the strongest beings on this planet because we do a lot with a little. Sometimes we have enough, but just need a little more. It really is just about supporting. I have full faith in Morghan and her mothering.”

Even a blessing like a baby can be challenging and pregnancy can be an especially vulnerable time. EveryStep shows up when people need us most. Our staff listen to people’s short-term needs and long-term goals, and then offer holistic care and support. By offering people the connections, tools and resources they need to take control of their future, we foster a flourishing community and a healthier, more equitable future.

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If you or someone you know is struggling to find the support they need, please contact EveryStep at 515-558-9946 or complete the commitment-free, confidential “Find Care” form on EveryStep’s website at www.everystep.org/find-care. EveryStep staff will follow up with a phone call to answer your questions and help.