Black Maternal Health Week: Empowering Moms of Color in South Florida

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Authored by Southern Birth Justice Network (SBJN) & Esther McCant of Metro Mommy Agency

Doula Esther McCant leading a recent doula training
Jacqueline Thompson snaps picture of her doula mentor, Esther McCant, during BEAM Doula Training sponsored and organized by Simply Healthcare, Broward Healthy Start, and The National Doula Network (NDN).

As a mom of four boys and the owner of Metro Mommy Agency, I am very passionate about helping mothers increase their confidence in natural childbirth, breastfeeding, and motherhood. I have worked as a birth and postpartum doula for over 7 years and served 200+ families, including more than 12,000 hours of breastfeeding experience.

Black Maternal Health Week

This week is the 5th annual Black Maternal Health Week (BMHW), which intends to deepen the conversation around Black maternal health. BMHW was started by Black Mamas Matter Alliance, with Miami-based non-profit Southern Birth Justice Network as one of its founding members. For me, involvement in the Miami Birth Justice Initiative (MBJI), which is a 3-year campaign led by SBJN, is central to Black Maternal Health Week. MBJI is focused on increasing accountability of our healthcare systems, integrating midwives and doulas into the maternity care team–especially in hospital settings–and improving systems of care that impact maternal and infant birth outcomes. The target hospitals for the MBJI Campaign are part of Jackson Health System in Miami, the 3rd largest hospital system in the United States. Changes that happen here potentially have ripple effects across the country.

This campaign is so important because the United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths compared to other wealthy countries. In Florida in 2018, non-Hispanic Black women experienced pregnancy-related mortality at a rate nearly three times that of non-Hispanic White women, a problem that worsened during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic. I had the opportunity to speak at the MBJI Campaign Launch in November 2021. This was a unique opportunity for me as a doula to stand up and share my own testimony and experience working with families in Miami-Dade. I talked about how I was born by c-section in 1986 at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Sharing My Story

Thankfully, when I became a mother, I was able to have all four of my sons vaginally. My births were great and amazing. It all started with midwifery care and hiring a doula for my very first birth. She was a Black doula and childbirth educator who took the time to inform me of all of my options. I felt safe, centered, secured, and absolutely brave. 

Esther McCant speaking at a Miami Birth Justice Initiative event
Photo Credit: Karyl-Lyn Sanderson. Esther McCant speaking at Miami Birth Justice Initiative, Press Conference Launch in November 2021

After serving over 200 families myself, I noticed that my clients all come from very different backgrounds. They might be private pay, Medicaid recipients, stay-at-home moms, working or unemployed but they all want the same things. They want a doula to care for and pay attention to their emotional and physical well-being. Over 95% of my clients experience better than average birth outcomes, with many breastfeeding for more than 2 months. Doulas are essential!

How You Can Help

Recently, I was invited by a doula friend, Rebekah Antoine at SBJN, to a meeting at Jackson Memorial Hospital. In that conversation, Rebekah shared her experience giving birth at Jackson and I shared my experience supporting clients there. Overall, it seemed like a welcoming space for deeper collaboration on improving maternal and birth outcomes. Led by SBJN, everyone present shared their visions of increasing access to midwives, introducing a doula program, and birth justice education for medical students. I feel committed as a doula to making these visions a reality for the moms in my community. You can support the Miami Birth Justice Initiative vision during BMHW by:

  • Attending one of SBJN’s many events
  • Donating
  • Visiting SBJN’s website to learn more about birth justice

A speaker at a recent Birth Justice Initiative event

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