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What Self-Care Looks Like in the Black Birthing Community By Birth Stories in Color.

By Laurel Gourrier and Danielle Jackson

This article was written by Birth Stories in Color (BSiC), a podcast where Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latino and Multiracial individuals can share their birthing experiences. It’s a space that specifically celebrates, mourns with and supports them and their transformation through birth. BSiC also emphasizes the role of storytelling as a way to equip future parents. Listening to real birth stories is one way to discover the expected and unexpected parts of the journey. While there are birth stories not being heard, BSiC’s hope is that all who share and listen find this platform to be a community and an invaluable resource for those navigating their own journey.

As wives, mothers, birth workers and the hosts for Birth Stories in Color, a podcast for Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latino and Multiracial individuals to share their birthing experiences – we have walked as individuals and with families through the transformation of birth and parenthood. We are the authors and the audience and our bodies deserve rest and rejuvenation. 

Self-care has been a buzz word over the past few years that has become a top priority in theory for women. It is even more prevalent in motherhood circles, but most women don’t know where to start. We have found that what is missing from this trend is self-love, yet it should be at its core. Self-love is the regard for one’s well-being and happiness. As motherhood begins through pregnancy and beyond, our self-love can shift drastically. Both mental and physical changes are unearthed as we learn new parts of ourselves. Our inner voice becomes a guiding force for seeing ourselves and allowing others to share space with us. 

We carry this love as we watch our bodies expand and grow a new life. We are charged with advocating for the best care that we deserve to maintain our health and wellness, as it can mark the beginning of loving our new selves. This can be further complicated for BIPOC mothers, as healthcare is far too often not a safe space due to racist practices and biases. We have to build the birth team that honors how we envision and dream of what our children entering this world would feel and look like – maintaining the sacredness of the birth space by being mindful of others’ energy and its ability to shift the atmosphere.  

Postpartum care and village building can help support you in continuing that empowered feeling. It is essential to accept the help so as not to lose yourself. The village care shared in many BIPOC families makes way for the mother to be given respite from her usual duties as she is fed, bathed, and given space to rest as her body heals. Family members and close friends prepare nutrient dense meals for the mother or birthing person that will provide nourishment for the whole family.

There are special traditions regarding bathing after birth, including the use of healing herbs and soothing oils that aid in purifying the womb. Rest is an essential component to healing and is facilitated by having someone else contribute to caregiving for the newborn baby. This hands-on support of the village not only helps with physical healing but it allows the mind to reset and prepare for this next stage of motherhood. The village brings the celebration of joy that the family has continued to grow and they acknowledge the work of the mother through pregnancy and labor. Partners or other support persons often have the unique insight into our needs but are better advocates when those needs are expressed. 

Asking for help is a radical act of self-love. It is a space of vulnerability and self-preservation. We release our minds from unrealistic expectations and honor our ancestors’ knowledge as the village is ready and expectant of being called upon. You do not have to hold it all. And when the village opens up for you to take the lead, this is where you find yourself discovering what practices empower your self-love.  

Self-love is changing the narrative in pregnancy, motherhood, and womanhood for BIPOC, especially Black women who have been blamed for their health challenges in their motherhood journey and mislabeled as being strong no matter what the circumstances are. Our strength is not a scapegoat for lack of empathy and care. Be soft, be open, be gentle with yourself; sip on your favorite herbal tea, clear your space with sage, pray, dance or call in and upon your ancestors. Center yourself in ceremony as you are deserving of love. 

To our BIPOC mothers, as you move along this journey, we call you to reflect on the time before you were told that your experience would be anything other than you imagined – begin from that point and let that be the start of defining your self-love.