Empowering. Life-changing. These are two words women often use to describe natural childbirth. Painful would be a third. But that’s a different story.
This story is about midwives in Los Angeles, California. They are trying to bring more women of color into the natural childbirth profession and convince more women to give birth at home.
But the numbers are small.
Only one percent of babies in the United States are born at home. However, interest in home deliveries is on the rise. In Los Angeles, California, for example, some women are choosing to use midwives instead of the usual hospital birth with a doctor.
But first -- what is a midwife? Midwives are specially educated in childbirth. They begin as apprentices or students and then must pass state-issued tests, or Medical Boards.
In 2012, Jasmine Lavender delivered her second child in a bathtub.
Natural birth advocate Jasmine Lavender.
“It was an amazing experience. Very empowering. You know, I encouraged to support other moms to have a vaginal births. It was life-changing, to be honest.”
She chose home birth with a midwife because she did not want to repeat the hospital experience she had with her first child.
Ms. Lavender says at that time, the hospital performed an unneeded and hurried medical operation -- a Caesarean section. During the birth she says she felt that her time was running out. And not time on her body’s clock but rather on her doctor’s clock.
But some women, because of medical reasons, need to have a Caesarean section and some simply choose it. It is a personal choice!
Ms. Lavender’s second baby arrived naturally with help from the Community Birth Center in south Los Angeles.
Licensed midwife Racha Lawler established the Center. It provides services to people who might not otherwise receive them. Ms. Lawler says the Center offers some general health services, such as testing for sexually transmitted diseases -- or STDs.
“You know, as a midwife you can draw people’s blood and test people’s blood and test people for STDs. You can, you know, teach women about how their bodies work in regards to their ovulation and fertility. So why not make sure everyone in the community knows that?”
When the Center first opened, there were about 300 licensed midwives in California. Most of them were white. But Racha Lawler hopes to increase by 100 percent the number of midwives of color. She hopes to do this through reaching out to the community and offering free help for students like Tanya Smith-Johnson.
Ms. Smith-Johnson says women of color have a special need of pregnancy and delivery care. According to her, the “stats” which is short for “statistics,” show that women of color need special help when it comes to caring for mothers and babies.
“The stats (the numbers) show women of color, we’re the ones who need maternity care. Our babies die at rates 3 or 4 times that of white women. And one of the solutions to that is having more women of color tend to women like themselves.”
Are home births and natural childbirths more common where you live? This is a great chance for our women listeners to share their thoughts on childbirth in our comment section! But of course, everyone is welcome!
From VOA Learning English, I’m Anna Matteo.