Beyonce Knowles-Carter. Serena Williams. Shalon Irving. Yolanda Kadima. The latter names you may have never heard of, but they were mothers who died from pregnancy-related causes. Not only were they mothers in their thirties, but healthcare workers as well. Dr. Shalon Irving was a former lieutenant commander for the U.S. Public Health Service and a CDC epidemiologist. Yolanda was an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and a doula. Though Beyonce and Serena are common household names and superstar mothers, they both experienced traumatic deliveries, but survived. Collectively, these women demystify any stereotypes about the cause of maternal mortality in black women because they are either wealthy, educated, or both, yet they still could not educate or buy themselves out of one of the widest disparities in women’s health in America- the maternal mortality rate for Black women. When it comes to maternal mortality, racial disparities exist across socioeconomic status and education level. We are faced with an imperative, yet arduous question: How can we protect Black women?
“Midwives of color protect women in a system that is hostile to them.” These are words of Patricia Loftman during a 2018 Vox interview on the culture war between midwives and doctors. Patricia, now retired, spent 30 years as a certified nurse-midwife.
Today, only 5 percent of midwives in the United States are women of color. Black women face a significantly higher maternal mortality risk. In fact, Black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of White mothers from childbirth. In the midst of the Black maternal health crisis, White women are four times more likely to have a midwife-assisted home birth than are women of color. Asasiya Muhammad, midwife, mother of five, and owner of Inner Circle Midwiery, is aiming to change that.
This quarter, Birth Becomes Her is highlighting Asasiya’s commitment to social justice through midwifery. When reflecting, Asasiya stated “being a champion of justice has always been an aspiration of mine.The goal was to merge my education to be an advocate. I found no matter how far back I went with our people, the best place to start is when we come into this world. So, the connection between the mother and the baby has the most potential to transform humanity and to cause change.” Asasiya graduated with honors from Temple University in 2006 with a dual major in Strategic & Organizational Communication and African-American Studies, with a concentration in Political Science. Known affectionately as “The People’s Midwife” in her community, Asasiya is also a doula, and started her formal midwifery training in 2011 at Maternidad La Luz (MLL), a nationally accredited Midwifery school at the U.S./Mexican border in El Paso, TX. In addition to being a Certified Professional Midwife and Licensed Midwife, Asasiya started her own practice, Inner Circle Midwifery in 2013.
Not only is finding a midwife typically a challenge, but adding the additional stress and uncertain financial burden due to COVID-19, midwifery services become a luxury most cannot afford. In an effort to lessen the burden on parents, Asasiya and other local midwives have a goal to serve expecting parents through the COVID-19 Philadelphia Birth Fund. With a goal of raising $50,000, these midwives aim to provide midwifery care for 20 expecting parents in 2020. Asasiya stated “we have been able to serve 17 families in real-time” with the $40,000 they have raised. As they receive the funds, they are matching families to midwives for home births. Asasiya believes White allies can “organize themselves by using their resources and their privilege to leverage the access to high quality maternity care for Black women and they are helping with the maternal health crisis by doing that” as White birth workers have done with the COVID-19 Philadelphia Birth Fund.
From inclusivity to empowerment, Birth Becomes Her is committed to uplifting the community. We are excited to support the COVID-19 Philadelphia Birth Fund in reaching their $50,000 goal of serving 20 families by matching the first $500 raised starting on August 26th through August 28th. Please tag #bbhmatch when you donate so that we can track and match your donation!