Friday, July 21, 2023
Season 2, Episode 14:
Black Birthing Joy
In this episode, we are talking with Tamara Mason about her work with the March of Dimes and as a doula to support Black maternal health and Black birthing joy.
Season 2, Episode 14: Black Birthing Joy
Welcome to the Public Health Joy podcast, the safe space for real and honest conversation about what building a public health research career is really like: the challenges, the triumphs, and all the lessons we learn along the way.
I’m your host, Dr. Joyee, a Public health researcher, PhD survivor, and entrepreneur. In today’s episode, we are talking with Tamara Mason about her work with the March of Dimes and as a doula to support Black maternal health and Black birthing joy.
This is where research meets relationship and together, we will find our Public Health Joy!
The Black Maternal Health Crisis is a very real issue we are currently facing in America. With it comes a real fear of the birthing process and the entire pregnancy journey. In this episode of the Public Health Joy Podcast, we talk with guest Tamara Mason, MPH, CHES, a public health professional, consultant, and advocate working to improve the health and well-being of marginalized communities. Tamara graduated from Brown University in 1998 with a B.A. degree in Health and Society, with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health. She earned a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree, with a concentration in Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, in August 2003 from the Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University. She has held several research and program management positions within Emory University, including serving as the Director of a breast cancer education and outreach program for over a decade. Tamara is the Director of Maternal and Child Health Collective Impact at March of Dimes and also is the Founder and Principal Equity Consultant of Mason Consulting Inc. LLC.
In our conversation, we hear about the background of March of Dimes and Tamara’s role as Director, as well as the founding journey of her consulting organization. We share thoughts on the engagement of the Black Maternal Health Crisis, the realness of the fear surrounding Black women and pregnancy, and unpack the concept of Black Birthing Joy. She touches on the Collective Impact Approach, and why all stories are important, and also explains the differences between a certified midwife and a doula. Tamara is working hard to achieve Black Birthing Joy, and we hope this episode will encourage and instill a shift towards displacing the fear of birthing toward a focus on the joy of birthing. This is where research meets relationship, and together, we will find our public health joy. Don’t miss out on this insightful conversation, so start listening now.
For more information on transforming public health research into positive community impact, visit https://joyeewashington.com
More links mentioned in the episode:
- An introduction to today’s guest and topic of conversation. [0:00:27]
- Tamara tells us about who she is and what she does. [0:02:00]
- Tamara gives a background on the March of Dimes organization. [0:02:55]
- The three specific strategies to achieve their established common agenda. [0:0415]
- She shares the founding story of her consulting organization. [0:04:57]
- Her thoughts on the engagement of the Black maternal health crisis. [0:09:36]
- We talk about the devastating tragedy of Olympic athlete Tori Bowie. [0:12:16]
- The fear of becoming pregnant and living with the real fear. [0:13:00]
- We unpack the joy, bringing in the stories and finding solutions: Black Birthing Joy. [0:14:00]
- Tamara elaborates on the Collective Impact Approach. [0:16:00]
- She talks about her personal belief that solutions are already in the community. [0:17:18]
- We dive deeper into what Black Birthing Joy means to Tamara. [0:19:00]
- Thoughts on the idea that trauma and joy coexist, you can’t separate the two. [0:23:40]
- All stories are important and we need to hear them; traumatic and not. [0:23:27]
- The difference between a midwife and a doula. [0:26:39]
- She talks about the benefits of having a doula and the support they provide. [0:27:30]
- What a doula cannot do and what a certified nurse midwife can. [0:29:25]
- The importance of a support system in achieving Black Birthing Joy. [0:32:25]
- What brings Tamara joy in her work. [0:34:03]
- How to get in touch or connect with Tamara. [0:35:23]
- Tamara’s hope and what she hopes listeners will take from this conversation. [0:36:30]
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[0:00:50.9] JW: Well, welcome to another great episode of The Public Health Joy Podcast and today, we have Tamara Mason with us, who is the director of Maternal and Child Health Collective Impact at March of Dimes and also is the founder and principal equity consultant of Mason Consulting Inc. LLC and so, we are super excited to have Tamara with us today and Tamara and I know each other from the Internet streets particularly and working with the same public health business coach and consultant as well, Dr. Huntley.
So Tamara and I have been in the space, the public health entrepreneurship space, with one another for a little while now, and we got to meet in person recently, which is always exciting when you get a chance to meet your Internet friends, and you get to meet them in person because it’s like, “Oh, I didn’t get catfished. Like, this is a real person.”
[0:01:47.9] TM: Right?
[0:01:50.8] JW: Always a really good feeling. So I’m going to go ahead and let you take the reins, Tamara, and tell us a little bit about you and what you do and your work.
[0:02:00.5] TM: Well, thanks again Joyee, for inviting me to chat with you today and to be on your awesome podcast. I’m really looking forward to our conversation. As you mentioned, I wear several hats, right? Which, I feel like as Black women, we all always wear several hats.
But professionally, my day job is that I work for the March of Dimes, Georgia, Atlanta market as a director of maternal and child health collective impact here in Atlanta and then also, as you mentioned, I am a public health entrepreneur with my own consulting business, Mason Consulting Incorporated LLC, where we are focused on helping organizations and communities improve their health, particularly, marginalized communities, using social justice and health equity lens.
So I guess I can start with the full-time job, the day job and so in my role of Director of Maternal and Child Health Collective Impact for Atlanta, so March of Dimes, which I should probably get some background on the March of Dimes, everyone may not be familiar with the March of Dimes. I hope you all are though but we are actually celebrating our 85th birthday, our 85th, our 85th anniversary this year, and we are one of the leading organizations in the country actually that we’re fighting the health of all moms and babies.
And we really feel that in order to do that, to make sure that every mom and every baby has the best possible side in life, we have to close out the equity gap, and we also realize that we cannot close this health equity gap alone. So in my role as a maternal and child health collective impact director for Atlanta, I’m working with a group of stakeholders, some of which makes sense, are in the maternal and child health field landscape, but pregnant women don’t live in a vacuum, right?
So we also need to involve folks who are in food and security, housing, and transportation because if a mom is not able to get to her appointments where she’s housing insecure food insecure, that’s when it impacts her pregnancy journey. So we also have some of those stakeholders and partners as well in this collaborative where for the past two years, we have agreed to a common agenda, and our common agenda is that all Black moms, parents, families, and birthing people in Atlanta’s Fulton County will have positive outcomes before, during, and after pregnancy.
And we’ve also agreed to three specific strategies that we’re going to use to achieve that result, and so we say we are going to dismantle racism, and I always joke around and say, “Of course, when we have dismantled racism, I will in the Nobel Peace Prize.” We’re going to increase access to equitable and affordable care, and then we also have a community engagement strategy.
So just really proud to be in the backbone organization leading that work. We have about 30 organizations that are involved in some way, some capacity here in Atlanta in that work, and just very excited to have been leading it for the past two and a half years and then, for my consulting organization, as I mentioned, I probably also should give the background of that. I just, I love to give background, as you’ll see.
I actually started my consulting organization in 2019 during a period of unemployment. Prior to this position at the March of Dimes, I was actually in academic public health. So Joyee and I can also talk about that in Emory University for almost 13 years, where I served as a director of a breast cancer patient and outreach program. That program was funded by an outside entity, and essentially, in like 2018, the entire entity closed —
Closed up shop and so was like, “We’re no longer funding this work,” and in all things, as we’ll hear on the conversation as I go along, I’m blessed and highly favored. So even with that, right? I was actually given a year’s notice that my position, would be ending, and so I’m doing my due diligence. Of course, we always have in our mind that things are going to end up in the most ideal fashion.
So in my mind, I was going to interview for a year, and like early 2019, I would move into my new, Big Willy public health job, right? Well, that did not happen, and it was definitely a very humbling experience for me. I was unemployed for the first six months of 2019 and I think I was in a space of you know, “I’m not a very new public health professional” right? I graduated with my MPH in 2003 of course, you know, 2018, 2019.
So obviously, I’m not entry-level, but I guess I also wasn’t considered right at the executive level, and so it was this very weird space of, “You’re too overqualified for this position, you’re not qualified enough for this position” and so while I was unemployed and undergoing this very humbling experience, you know I’ve been working since I was 16 years old. So I was just like, “I don’t understand this” like no money coming in situation and just trying to figure out.
And again, I’m blessed and highly favored. Thankfully I have a husband, a partner, so he was able to hold things down for us, but yeah, I just was trying to figure out, “You know, how can I bring income but also still be in public health and work in my public health passion?” and I just noticed, I kept seeing people saying that they’re public health consultants, public health entrepreneurs and I was like, “What does that mean?”
“What does that mean that you’re a public health consultant?” and I just started reaching out to like colleagues, former classmates, friends on LinkedIn, and I was like, “I see that you’re saying you’re a public health consultant, what does this mean?” and essentially, what I took from it, Joyee, I was like, “Okay, so essentially, it’s a consulting, you’re putting yourself out there as an expert.”
I was like, “I can be an expert, I have this big fancy FPH from every university, I went to Brown University for undergrad. I can be an expert in certain things” and I’m being funny and a little facetious but really, when I started to drill down and think about what I’m passionate about, right? Like all my public health positions have focused on health equity, have focused on closing the disparities gap, and have focused on making sure Black folks and Black communities have the best outcome.
And so I was like, “Well if I’m going to do something on my own but also for the people, that’s what I want to do” and so that’s how my consultant business came about, and I’m sure, as we’ll talk, things morph and change, but that was the initial impetus for it. So I’ll stop there.
[0:08:09.0] JW: No, you’re good. And your story is always so very similar to mine as well, and it was funny because as you were talking about March of Dimes, and I literally have not thought about this in years, but I serve — when I was in high school, and they had like this youth group that would volunteer and serve with the March of Dimes.
[0:08:29.8] TM: Wow.
[0:08:31.9] JW: I literally had not thought about that in years, and even when I had met you before, I don’t think I thought about that experience.
[0:08:37.7] TM: Yes.
[0:08:38.4] JW: But it’s interesting because I remember, some of the things we would host events like we did like a pancake breakfast, like a charity, donations, fundraiser for March of Dimes. We were also meeting at the March of Dimes office, but now that I think about it, I don’t remember – and I’m not saying that I was the only Black person, I just don’t remember any other Black people.
[0:09:03.5] TM: Right.
[0:09:04.0] JW: No other Black students that were like me or any other Black staff. I just don’t recall seeing those people, and they took us on trips like to the NICU and different things like that and thinking back on it, I’m like, now as a Black woman, who is of age to be able to get pregnant and give birth, I’m like, “How differently would it have shaped my experience if I knew about the Black maternal health crisis when I was in high school?”
[0:09:37.4] TM: Right, absolutely. A couple of things, first of all, I love hearing stories like that, and I hear, I don’t want to say all the time, but when I hear stories like that similar to yours, right? In terms of, “I was involved with March of Dimes in high school,” or you know, one thing that March of Dimes is famous for is like our signature fundraising walk. It’s called March for Babies, and there are so many people who are there like, “I’ve been doing March for Babies walks since I was like five years old with my family,” and I just think that’s amazing.
And also goes again to the history, the fact that March of Dimes has been around for 85 years but to your point, and I think that that’s – for myself and I also have a colleague, Canon Landen who, she’s a Black woman as well, we’ve been very intentional in the two, two and a half years that we worked for March of Dimes in terms of a couple of things, right? So right now, folks are talking about the Black maternal health crisis, but we weren’t always engaged in that conversation, and right now, you know particularly in March of Dimes, and I love the languaging, right?
We believe it that we have to close the health equity gap, but March of Dimes probably, like, eight, maybe even 10 years ago wasn’t using that language, and so it didn’t necessarily resonate, right? With the, “Let’s be real and honest to Black and brown communities” like it should. So I’m thankful to be working for March of Dimes now, like at this moment in this history, and also, I appreciate the languaging and the messaging because that’s where we need to be.
You know, you’re a public health researcher, I am, by trading as well. At the end of the day, that’s the data, right? Like, that is who was dying disproportionately, Black moms, Black women, Black birthing people, and also our Black babies. Like here in Georgia, Black babies are almost two times more likely to die before their first birthday as compared to white babies, and none of that is acceptable, but that’s the data, and so we have to talk about the data but then also, talk about the solutions of how we can move past these disparities and close the health equity gap.
[0:11:38.2] JW: Exactly, and I think what you mentioned about the March of Dimes is like once you have that data and you have that research, how do you make the positive impact? What do you do to shift that narrative to take that action? And that’s what we want to see in organizations. We want to see you walking the walk and talking the talk.
Like, we need to be able to work together and work collaboratively to understand, how do we transform that public health research into a positive community impact, and I know with a lot of the Black maternal health crisis, specifically in America, is also – the data is in the stories.
[0:12:15.1] TM: Yes.
[0:12:16.4] JW: The things that come out that we see in the news. Recently, we had the devastating tragedy of Tori Bowie, and Tori Bowie was an Olympic athlete. I keep thinking about an Olympic athlete whose body had to be in the finest shape, right? And Tori Bowie is from Mississippi as well. So this really touched home for me, and being a Black woman from Mississippi, Tori Bowie went to the same college that I went to.
[0:12:47.5] TM: Wow.
[0:12:49.6] JW: And so this touches me personally because I am child-free by choice, and the reason for that choice is because I’m scared.
[0:13:01.2] TM: Yeah.
[0:13:00.9] JW: Like, it will be real, I’m scared. I’m scared to get pregnant, I’m scared to give birth because I’m afraid that I’m going to lose my life or that my baby is going to lose their lives and that’s a real fear and seeing all the statistics, seeing all the stories, seeing everything that’s happening, I have had several conversations with my husband about having children or not having children, what does that look like and in America, I don’t feel like personally, there’s a system to support me as a Black woman to give birth safely.
And that’s the thing, and to give birth safely and to continue even post-pregnancy, to continue in raising this child safely. So, there is so much to unpack, and it impacts my decision on whether I even want to have children or not.
[0:13:59.5] TM: Right. Absolutely. So much to unpack there, and I think I’m going to start with the joy, right? Because this is your podcast, right? And so, as Joyee mentioned, we met in person; it’s about a month ago now at Empowering Mississippi Communities Conference, put on by the Mississippi Department of Public Health.
I was the keynote opening speaker there, and one of the things I mentioned, the stats are important, and again, we’re researchers, public health people, and we have to talk about the stats, but lately, for me, I really have been trying to find the balance of how do we talk about the statistics, which they are what they are.
But then to your point of bringing in stories and narratives and also talking about solutions but then, also, talking about joy because there is joy in birthing. There is joy in being pregnant, there is a Black birthing joy, and I want us to get back to being able to talk about that and not, and those feelings of you know, the fear that you have, they’re very real, right? But also, how can we get back to, as a community, talking about the joy of birthing?
So I wanted to start there. The other thing I wanted to say, with those very real conversations that you’re having with your husband, the ability right to choose. The ability to choose to say, “You know what? Right now, I’m going to opt out of this.” There’s also beauty in that. Some people don’t necessarily – we all have choice and agency, right?
But some folks may have less choice and agency due to a variety of reasons, a host of reasons including a racist system, right? So I also want you to be able to revel, for lack of a better word, being able to have that choice and agency that makes that decision for you, your husband, and your family, right?
But the other piece I want to go back to, which is also connected to my March of Dimes, where – and why I really am such a believer in the collective impact approach, which honestly, it’s really through this position that I’ve been very engaged in the collective impact approach and one of the hallmarks of the collective impact approach aside from being database and having the common agenda that I mentioned is that we have to be rooted in community.
So again, you know, as a training, as a public health researcher, we all know, we all know studies where the community is not involved, right? And that’s like the researchers in the Ivory Tower are talking about what they feel the community needs; they design a program, they design an intervention, and they bring it to the community. It’s like, no, we can’t. Just in general, we shouldn’t be operating that way, but particularly for collective impact, we can’t operate that way.
We’re talking about Black women in Atlanta, Fulton County dying, Black babies in Atlanta Fulton County dying so we need Black women at the table, and so I’ve been very conscious, right? With my collective impact initiative, that we have moms with lived experience and are still struggling to get more dads, but we have a couple of dads because the partners also, right? Like women birthing, people are now having these babies on their own. So the partners have to be involved in the conversation, and I also believe, a personal belief that the solutions are already in the community. So like as researchers again, a lot of times, we’re coming with our big fancy solutions and what we think are big, fancy solutions but the community folks, the folks on the ground, the grassroots organization, that community-based organizations, they have those solutions, and so we have to work with them to scale it up, right?
Figure out how it can get bigger, for lack of a better word. So that’s something that I’ve been really proud of with our collective impact initiative, and I’m thankful for that experience that I’m having through this position and through that work and really being able to be genuine about that.
[0:17:49.7] JW: And that’s exactly what my mission and what I love doing in my work as well, through my consulting business, Joyee Washington Consulting, is working directly with those community-based organizations, directly with nonprofits or public health organizations, because like you said, the solutions are there.
The solutions are with the community and if we can figure out, “How can we serve better, how can we work together better, how do we use this research to directly impact the community in the way that they feel that they need to move forward?” that’s where we start seeing the shift. That’s where things are looking different, and that’s where we can start looking at what does it look like to experience joy from research because those are two words that we don’t often associate with one another, but we need to start, and so my question for you, you mentioned Black birthing joy.
So maybe we need to dive deeper into what that means. What does Black birthing joy mean to you, and can you describe some examples of what that looks like?
[0:18:59.6] TM: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think it is different for everyone, right? But I do think that just as a community, a community of Black folks, of African ancestry originally, we’re coming from a model, honestly to me, that is rooted in our spirit, right? Like when you think about what we know about, and we may know different levels, right? But what we know about what happened in the motherland, in Africa, right?
Like it’s a community approach, first of all, first, let’s back up. It’s a joyous occasion when someone is pregnant because, in general, that means you’re extending your lifeline, your legacy, right? So just joy in general of, “Yes, I’m going to have an addition to the family, an addition to my legacy, an addition to my bloodline.” So that, especially if we’re going all the way back in thinking about chiefs and chieftesses, it’s important. The chief needs to have the bloodline continuing on. So that initial joy that that’s how we experienced it in the motherland, right? And then also the community vibe of it, like the community being excited. Again, we’re going to have an addition to our community. I also think when we think about also, you know, some history, right? When we think about midwives, which the definition of midwives has changed.
But Black folks, we were the initial midwives like that’s what we were doing again in the motherland and even when we were forcibly brought here. So again, that community vibe, that community experience of this experience that’s going to bring someone else in this world that we hope that’s good. So to me in general, that’s what I think of, of Black birthing joy. I am a mom; I have two children.
A ten-year-old who will be 11 in August and an eight-year-old, who should be nine next month in July, two totally different instances of pregnancy, and I remember though, particularly with my son, I felt joyful in terms of that I was very physically active and I was able to be. I know everyone is not able to be during their pregnancy because of various reasons, and they have very bad morning sickness or they have pre-existing conditions and things like that. But thankfully, I didn’t have any of that and I played tennis up until I was like six months pregnant and got into the championship with my partner. My partner is like, “Your belly, I’m nervous,” and we literally threw the match because she was like, “Your belly bump is starting to get so big. If you fall on that belly, your husband is going to come for me” but I was really proud of that, and that gave me joy, right?
To be able to exercise and exercise to that level that at six months, I’m in a tennis championship, right? But you know, that’s joyful for me. I used to be a tennis player, unfortunately, I don’t get to play anymore, but that brought me joy. So again, whatever it is for people different people and to be able to experience that during their birthing experience, I think is important as well.
[0:22:03.8] JW: Even as you’re talking because I think for me, I’ve tapped into the fear for so long that I haven’t even conceptualized or thought about, “Oh, you could have joy in your birthing process.”
[0:22:18.3] TM: Yes.
[0:22:19.3] JW: I haven’t even considered, like I think about the joy in parenting, right? After the birth, after the baby gets here, but I am anticipating that the birthing process, the pregnancy process, will be so traumatic just from the stories that I’ve heard. It’s one of those things where I’m like, “Well, you know, if it happens, it happens. I’ll deal with whatever may come if I were to get pregnant, but I’m going to do my best not to get pregnant because I don’t even want to go there.”
But when I started thinking about as you’re talking like, “What would it be like to experience the joy of birthing and bringing that community together, bringing my family together?” and even with myself, when my mother was pregnant with me, that’s why she named me Joyee because my grandmother was sick at the time, and so my grandmother died three months before I was born and although the family was in such pain, everybody kept telling my mother, “This baby is going to be such a joy” and so that’s why she named me Joyee.
So I even think about that story that I’ve heard my entire life that even in the midst of pain and trauma and the things that may be going on, you can still experience joy, and I was listening to a news segment, this is on June 10th, somebody made a comment that are Black people and Black communities that trauma and joy coexists.
[0:23:44.6] TM: Right.
[0:23:45.5] JW: You can’t separate them.
[0:23:48.6] TM: Right.
[0:23:49.2] JW: And so, as a community, we’ve learned how to navigate the trauma and experience joy within our communities and what that looks like in different spaces.
[0:24:01.5] TM: Absolutely, yes, that’s a word. Yes.
[0:24:05.8] JW: And that definitely applies to the maternal health crisis, the Black maternal health crisis as well, and so we have to start thinking and learning and unlearning, right? And thinking about what needs to be done so that we can focus on how do we get to the joy.
[0:24:23.6] TM: Absolutely, yes. I agree with that so much, and again, for me recently, that balance, right? That we have to – all stories are important, right? To your point, the narrative stories and some of the narrative, some of the stories are going to be trauma-filled, have traumatic elements. So we need to hear more of the stories that are not traumatic, right? That are not trauma-filled.
We need to hear of the joyful — for the entire nine months, if that was you, joyful pregnancy experience; we need to hear more of those as well. There is – I sort of fan girl over her, Kimberly Seals Allers; she is a Black woman, a sister. Well, she’s developed an app called, The Irth app, and it is actually one of our solutions for dismantling racism, working through our March of Dimes collective impact initiative, where The Irth app is like a Yelp-like review.
Where Black and Brown moms, birthing people, dads, and even doulas can leave reviews of their birthing experience, birthing journey, including the OB-GYN, you can leave a review of the pediatrician and also hospitals but also something else that Kimberly Seals Allers has been talking about a lot really that resonates with me is having the narrative stories about the joy and so she also has a podcast called like Black Birth Right, which spokes a lot about the joy of pregnancies, the joy of the birthing journey, particularly from a Black perspective.
So if anyone is interested, please definitely check her out; Kimberly Seals Allers Earth app and Black Birth Right is the podcast.
[0:25:54.1] JW: Okay and another resource that I recently learned about also is a book called, Pregnant While Black: Advancing Justice for Maternal Health in America by Monique Rainford, who’s a medical doctor. So that is another resource that discusses about not just the disparities in maternal medicine but also what are the solutions, how can we repair the damage, and how can we do better by Black moms and Black babies. So definitely, that is another resource that we should definitely check out as well, but you mentioned doulas.
[0:26:28.4] TM: Yes.
[0:26:29.1] JW: And we talk a little bit about midwives already, but I want to shift to doulas. So for those who may not know, what is the difference between a midwife and a doula?
[0:26:39.4] TM: I love this question; you also know I’m a transparent person, so of course, I’m biased. I am a doula; I still say newish doula. I am a certified labor doula. I was trained in April of 2020, so a little over three years now and so a doula; I’ll start with the doulas since I am one; a doula is a non-clinical professional. So I’m not an OB-GYN, and I’m also not a certified nurse or midwife, and I’ll get back to that. I am not a physician assistant, so a non-clinical professional who is able to provide support to a birthing person and also her partner, and her family, and that support comes in the form of informational support, educational support if the client, the family is open it, spiritual support, and I think really what’s very important, a doula is your advocate, is that birthing person’s advocate.
And in addition to being your advocate so that you can have the birthing journey that you would like to have, we are also very instrumental in helping you to advocate for yourself, helping you and your partner, helping the birthing person, the partner to advocate for themselves, feel empowered to advocate for themselves. I am actually a member of the doula agency here in Atlanta called Atlanta Family Doulas.
The owner of the agency — she uses this term, which I love; basically, a doula is your birth BFF, right? So we’re really their BFF; I think we all know that’s best friends forever, your birth BFF to assist you, empower you, educate you, advocate for you, advocate with you through your journey, and I just think I get all biased. I think all women, all birthing people should have access to a doula.
Unfortunately, that has not happened here in this country but particularly for Black women because of what we’ve been talking about, right? The Black maternal health crisis, the dire statistics really should be able to have a doula. Like, who wouldn’t want a birth BFF, right? For some of the reasons we’ve already spoken about, the fact that we’re birthing within a racist system, let’s just call it what it is.
We’re birthing, and some of us rightfully so are fearful, are fearful, “Am I going to live? Is my baby going to live?” and so having a doula there to advocate for you, again, provide support throughout your entire birthing journey, I just think all women should have access to that but definitely Black women and Black families [inaudible 0:29:05.5] So that’s a doula. A midwife now, you know the definition and certifications and trainings, and all of that has changed, but I will give the, I guess, the medical definition right now.
So a certified nurse midwife is a clinical professional and has gone through various levels of training to be a certified nurse midwife, but a certified nurse midwife can deliver babies. That’s the other thing; I cannot deliver a baby as a doula even though I am there; I’m usually in person while the birthing person is laboring and giving birth and going through that, and I am there supporting them, there supporting the partner.
At the end of the day, I am not delivering a baby. I’m not catching a baby because again, I am a non-clinical person. So we do need a clinical person to actually deliver a baby, and one of those clinical people can be a certified nurse midwife. A certified nurse midwives and midwives tend to practice a little differently from OB-GYNs because they tend to have a more like holistic view of care and understanding and realizing that women can have a birth team.
That can include a doula, that can include the partner, a chiropractor, or other folks that really this more holistic approach that seems to work better in my opinion and then also particularly for us, for Black women, Black birthing people but yes, but the main difference like if I had to just give like one sentence between a midwife and a doula is that a midwife is a clinical professional who can actually deliver the baby and a doula is a non-clinical professional who cannot actually deliver a baby, we’re there for support.
[0:30:44.8] JW: Okay, and I love what you said about having an advocate who is going to be your support system and not just your partner or your family or your friends but someone who knows what happens during the pregnancy and birth process because I had in my consulting business, I was working with a client in designing some educational presentations and trainings based on research to educate pregnant moms about the pregnancy process.
The entire process, from the beginning to labor to post-after labor, post-partum, all of that, and I was like, “Oh my goodness.” I was like, “Wait, I’ve never been through this before,” so even though I am in the health field in the medical profession, I know about pregnancy, but it’s like a whole different world.
[0:31:42.7] TM: Yes.
[0:31:43.4] JW: And I’ve never been through it. I’ve never been through it. So reading it from the textbook style is a lot different than like hearing people’s stories and really understanding what people are afraid of and what they need to hear and so having that person who is the advocate, who is the expert, so to speak in the birthing process and the pregnancy process and the post-partum process that you can ask questions.
That you can ask for help too when needed, who will love you because I think that’s part of the – from what I’ve seen about doulas, like you said, they’re your BFF. They love you, they love you not just as a client, but they’ve become your friend. They are an active part of your support system, and so that’s very important in figuring all of it out. Having that support system is super important in being able to achieve that Black birthing joy.
[0:32:39.9] TM: Exactly, yes. I love that, and that is exactly as a doula; that’s how I practice, and that is what I say to my clients and my families. At the end of the day, you have a vision, right? Of how you would like your birthing journey to go. I am here by providing compassion and support to you. Again, education, information, resources, working with you to advocate for yourself, but I am here so that you can have that birthing journey that you deserve and you would like. Now, of course, always where safety is the end goal, especially in light of this Black maternal health crisis.
So yes, we may have a birth plan that we talked about, and that’s what you would like to happen, but if we get to a point where safety is an issue, we may have to deviate from that plan a little bit but still, working with you, supporting you that even if we have to deviate from that plan, how can you still have an outcome that you would be happy with, for lack of a better word. So absolutely, so I love that you said that.
[0:33:38.6] JW: And in thinking about, since we’ve been on the topic of joy, of course, this whole conversation.
[0:33:44.7] TM: We did that on purpose.
[0:33:46.3] JW: Yes. So just thinking about your work and not just March of Dimes but your consulting and your work as a doula and all of those things, I got to ask you this one last question.
[0:33:57.6] TM: Yes.
[0:33:58.1] JW: What brings you joy in your work?
[0:34:02.0] TM: You sent that question in advance that I really, really pondered it I think and I think it comes down to a very simple point and sort of what we were talking about when we started the conversation about Black birthing joy and brought it back to the motherland and thinking about your legacy and how that was really important. We’re joyful, we’re happy because we’re going to continue on our legacy, our bloodline.
I think for me what brings me joy is the legacy, the legacy of my work that will be left and that pretty much I’ve dedicated my work, I’ve dedicated my public health career to helping communities, helping people, and individuals be it being a doula have the most – beneficial is not the word that I want to use but have the health outcomes that they want and that’s my legacy and I’m proud of that.
And then, particularly as Black people living in this racist system that we may not always get the outcomes that we want, right? Or that we deserve, and so that my legacy is continuing to fight that fight so that we can have the outcomes that we deserve and that we want, so that what brings me joy.
[0:35:12.5] JW: I love that. If people wanted to get in touch with you or wanted to connect with you on either March of Dimes, consulting, or a doula, how do they get in touch with you?
[0:35:23.6] TM: Yeah, great question. I’m very active on LinkedIn, so that honestly probably will be one of the easiest ways to get in touch with me. Hopefully, you see my name there, Tamara Mason, but of course, I also have a website for my consulting business, which is masonconsultinginc.com. That’s another great way to get in touch with me as well. Just go into the website, and you could shoot me an email, but yes, I think, honestly, LinkedIn probably is the best way to reach me.
[0:35:52.0] JW: Great. Well, thank you so much for engaging in this conversation with me. I so appreciate it and you have. Honestly, I’ll probably say, my fears have been eased a little bit like now I’m focusing –
[0:36:05.0] TM: That’s good.
[0:36:06.1] JW: I’m focusing a little bit more on the joy.
[0:36:08.5] TM: You’re going to focus on that joy. I mean, you can. You cannot remain Joyee and not think about the joy, okay? So I’m glad, but I do also want to say, it’s very real. That is very real, that fear and it’s very real, particularly in our community, and we don’t want to be dismissive of it, but again, I think for me, and probably what I would love the most for folks to take from this conversation, is that balance.
How do we balance it, right? And how do we move along the continuum in a trajectory to get to where it is more focused on joy but it is that fear is real, but I’m glad. I’m glad maybe we moved the needle a little bit for you because, with the name, your first name is Joyee, so come on.
[0:36:52.6] JW: I know. I know, I know, so I’m going to work on that. I’m going to work on that; we’re going to have to have some more conversations off of the podcast if that is something –
[0:37:00.7] TM: Absolutely.
[0:37:02.7] JW: But all right. Well, that is going to wrap up this episode of The Public Health Joy Podcast.
[0:37:09.6] TM: Thank you so much, Joyee. I enjoyed being in conversation with you.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:37:16.0] JW: I am so grateful for this time we get to spend together. If you enjoyed this episode, I need you to subscribe, rate, and leave a review. For more information on transforming public health research into positive community impact, visit www.joyeewashington.com. This is where research meets relationship and I’ll see you next time on The Public Health Joy Podcast.
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