Watch The Full Interview Below
Who is Brandie Bishop?
Brandie Bishop is a doula in Atlanta, Georgia and owner of Your Tribe Family Services, LLC. in metro Atlanta. Since she was a young child, serving others has brought her great joy. Early in her career Brandie’s primary focus was serving pregnant refugee women from around the world. This work challenged her thoughts on how pregnancy, labor, delivery, and the immediate postpartum period should be experienced.
Brandie has been supporting the births of black, brown, and refugee families for over 7 years. Brandie is a mother to her biggest cheerleader– her baby girl Joy, who is now a Sophomore in college.
Why Brandie’s Story is Important: Black Birth Outcomes
Brandie witnessed the vaginal, natural, hospital birth of a healthy 10 pound baby! Her account of this birth is important because in the opinion of western medicine, a 10 pound baby is not only cause for concern, but it is very often termed as macrosomia (too big baby), and is given by many doctors as a justifiable reason black women should elect to have their babies surgically removed from their bodies by Cesarean Section (C-Section).
Why Brandie’s Story is Important: Refugee Resettlement
“During that time I was working at a refugee resettlement agency…The woman who gave birth to that baby…was actually a refugee that was being resettled here in America…she was from…the Central African Republic. Every time I think about [this story] it almost brings me to tears just because…typically they don’t allow refugees to travel if they are more than 4 months pregnant, but [because she was a taller woman, looking at her from behind you couldn’t tell she was pregnant]. So, she was able to get here…to America [at] about 8 months pregnant and nobody knew. She just wanted safety so much for her family …”
“I was her case manager and a part of my job was…handling intensive medical cases. [Some were torture and trauma victims dealing with extreme medical conditions, and others were women coming to America pregnant.] They couldn’t speak the language, they didn’t know the medical system…so it was my job to navigate that for them; set up all of their prenatal appointments, be there with them through labor and delivery, and then of course do some…basic postpartum stuff with them. It was from doing that [that I discovered] ‘oh, I really like this. I wonder what this is…do people do this?’ “
The 10 Pound Baby
Brandie says that mom pushed for about 40 minutes, experienced minor tearing, and though her doctors expressed concern and their opinion that baby should be born via C-Section, because big babies were common in her experience from her home country, mom never believed her baby wouldn’t come out of her body. “[T]he beautiful thing was she couldn’t understand them,” Brandie recounts.
Brandie shares how the experience changed the view of the attending provider:
Because refugee Asylum programs in the United States identify it as a good fit for displaced people of diverse backgrounds, Clarkston, Georgia hosts people from all over the world. So while Brandie’s client did not have friends or family in America at the time of her pregnancy and birth, she did have other women in her apartment complex who were also from the same region of the Central African Republic as she. Though at the time, they had never met her before, once her roommate informed them that she had given birth, they came over to support her postpartum by conducting traditional rituals exclusively done for postpartum mothers in their culture.
Through sharing her experience working with refugee women resettling in Georgia, Brandie shows us just how far out the black maternal health crisis in America spans. This refugee woman’s ignorance of fear in labor and her welcome home tribe of women reveal that this crisis we face here is a much more comprehensive problem than our focus currently reaches and that community and culture around birthing women are, in addition to quality health care, important missing factors.
Brandie’s Doula Work
Brandie’s Faith Foundation
Being the daughter of a pastor and the niece of a youth pastor, Brandie grew up attending church regularly. She makes the distinction between church-goers and true Christians, however, and she refers to herself as more of a “Thursday Christian”.
Brandie’s Experiences With Systematic Racism
In most of the births she attends, Brandie says she is able to go into hospitals and foster a team environment with medical staff. She is nice to nurses, she gives gift cards in appreciation to hospital staff, and she sends thank you cards to doctors’ offices once births are done. “When I come to a hospital, I want my name to proceed me. [I want to represent doulas well and to create the idea in the staff’s minds that doulas are part of the birth team].” But, Brandie says, this year (2020) has been rough:
“I have never had experiences like I’ve had this year where I’ve had to literally have  hard conversations with nurses [and] doctors like ‘she just told you she don’t want you to do that so you not gone make her do that’ or ‘she actually told you she don’t want [an] episiotomy so I don’t know why you got scissors in your hands’ or like ‘her blood pressure is  170 over  90 so  you need to get a doctor’…It’s never been as blatant as it has [been] this year. I’ve seen it before. I’ve identified it before. I’ve even had to approach people before but it was much more like they see that I see it [and] they stop. This year, it’s been like, ‘I don’t care if you see it…’
For black birth workers, navigating and supporting hospitals births can be stressful and exhausting. The experience can easily go from bad to worse in an instant and we are met in these spaces with so much opposition that births become battle grounds. This is a unique challenge that our white counterparts do not have to face.
Brandie recounts a particular birth that found particularly frightening:
How does having a doula help this problem?
What do we want Black Women to know?
You have options and the options you choose have consequences. No, we shouldn’t have to carry so much weight when it comes to the birthing process because there are entire public and private institutions designed to carry the weight of our maternal health concerns. Unfortunately, as with many aspects of black life across the United States–past and present, we have to hold our own weight and we have to know more. We have to realize our current position in this country and understand that these negative maternal health outcomes are not just happening to us, but they are being done to us. We are at war for our lives. Fortunately though, as we gather the right information, the right armor, and the right intel, we can continue to win more battles.