September 18, 2010 is a day I will never forget.  It is the day that I realized I had made the most important decision in my child’s life—to have her at home.  My daughter was born peacefully at home with an Illinois midwife.

I stand by this decision and know that it is better for me and the women in my community.  I know allowing for culturally competent, licensed professionals to attend women during pregnancy, birth and postpartum will stop the disproportional rates of infant and maternal mortality in the Black community. Black babies are 2.4 times more likely to die as infants compared to non-Hispanic white babies.  Also, Black mothers are 4 times more likely to die than non-Hispanic white mothers.  I know wholeheartedly that this must change.

Many of my sister friends know this as well.  That’s why they are choosing  home birth for themselves and their families.  Many of them are working with unlicensed, underground midwives.  Underground midwives cannot legally carry oxygen or anti-hemorrhage drugs; both important for saving lives.  They do not have privileges to perform certain newborn screenings nor can they file birth certificates.   If a mama in their care needs an emergency cesarean section, an underground midwife cannot call ahead to a hospital and ask to have an operating room ready.  She will not be taken seriously because she is not part of this defunct healthcare system–neither are many Black women.

Many of my sister friends are also choosing to do it themselves—having “unassisted” home births (which has increased in Illinois by 10% last year). Should they have to go to the hospital with an emergency, these same women are also challenged by hospital staff, policed, and threatened with  DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) intervention.  Black women and their parenting will continue to be scrutinized if we do not change the system.

This is why I am sincerely requesting that the Illinois Black Caucus vote YES to the Home Birth Safety Act, currently amended to SB3712, when they see it next week in Springfield.

We need licensed, Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) to work in our communities to make sure we are getting the appropriate care we need to keep Black mothers and babies healthy and alive—to improve our increasingly devastating outcomes.

This is birth justice…

Jeanine Valrie, mama of Ahimsa Logan