A Black OB/GYN on Why She Opted for a Home Birth

Until the late 1800s, most births in the United States were attended by midwives, many of whom were Black. However as obstetrics and gynecology grew as a field, deliveries began to take place in hospitals. And, as Black women return to the practice, stigma against homebirths and midwives still exists—despite the serious dangers that persist for Black pregnant women in hospitals.

This stigma is part of the reason award-winning journalist and author Kimberly Seals Allers created the Birthright podcast—as a means to "reclaim joy, respect, and positivity as a birthright" within the Black birthing experience.

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In season one, episode nine, listeners learn that the dangers of hospital births for Black women are a reality even for Carla Williams, MD, a Black obstetrician and gynecologist in New York. After having her first child in a hospital, she chose to plan for home births for her second and third children. Kimberly Seals Allers chatted with her and her midwife Kiki Jordan about her decision.

"The story that was being told was that either that midwifery was unsafe or that they were a part of the fringe culture," Seals Allers said. "But when someone on the inside of the OB/GYN field stars looking outside, it's time for us all to pay attention."

For Dr. Williams, it was essential to protect her bodily autonomy and for her environment to be curated. She could move about her home, have her daughter present, eat when she felt hungry, and set the mood with dim lights and music.

"I had a water birth at home and being comfortable and being surrounded by people that are giving you your space and your time, not pressuring you," Dr. Williams said. "It really eliminates or substantially reduces the fear that sometimes is associated with birth."

Well+Good is bringing this joy to life in a photo essay featuring five families who experienced joy during childbirth. Photographer Kwami Merzier went into Dr. Williams' home to capture a snapshot of bliss between mother and son.

"It was beautiful. I got to shoot them in their home," Merzier says. "Carla's mother was present too… I got to talk to them about their heritage, life, work, and how it's been raising three children. It was a different kind of pace basically because it was a bigger family, kind of like catching the kids running around. I like really rambunctious energy. It was a fun time."

Listeners can stream "Carla's Story: An OB/GYN Chooses a Home Birth" here and you can check out the photo essay, Joy Is a Metric, to read more about Dr. Williams and her family.

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