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A 10 Pound Vaginal Birth: Insight From a Black Doula

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.

“These women taught me more than I could ever put in words and ignited my passion for birth work.”

Brandie Bishop; Doula & Founder Of Your Tribe Family Services

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.

“Joy’s support and encouragement mean the world to me. I thank the Lord for this journey and every lesson that has come.”

Brandie Bishop; Doula & Founder Of Your Tribe Family Services

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).

“[T]hinking back to her birth it was…amazing…to watch [.] Because I had not been a doula for very long, I was very shocked that she was able to have this 10lb 8oz baby completely natural vaginal birth.”

Brandie Bishop; Doula & Founder Of Your Tribe Family Services

Why Brandie’s Story is Important: Refugee Resettlement

Brandie recounts:

“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 …”

Brandie continues:

“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?’ “

[A]nd once I was at one of my clients’ births and I met a doula in the hallway and she was telling me what she was doing and I was like oh my gosh [] I kinda do that already…that’s interesting…I began to do research and…that’s…how I found myself in this field.

Brandie Bishop; Doula & Founder of Your Tribe Family Services

The 10 Pound Baby

During the time she was pushing it was a little bit slower than I’ve had…experience with since then but that’s just [be]cause baby girl was…pretty big…so we had to be patient, we had to coach mama through it, but when I tell you she gave birth to this baby and maybe five–ten minutes later literally got up on her own 2 feet and walked to the bathroom, took a shower…it was so amazing…It was a good experience for sure.

Brandie Bishop; Doula & Founder Of Your Tribe Family Services

The Outcome?

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.

She did have a husband but her husband and her had gotten separated during a war in Central African Republic and so that…plus some other issues is why she was being resettled in America. After she gave birth she called her husband on the phone [they cried while I held the baby]…it was such a beautiful moment.

Brandie Bishop; Doula & Founder Of Your Tribe Family Services

Lessons Learned

“She was like a famous woman. Everybody in the hospital wanted to come to her room. All the nurses…the doctor asked can he take a picture with the baby; it was the biggest baby he had ever…delivered a natural vaginal birth for; all of the nurses on the unit came down…[saying] ‘we heard it was a 10 pound baby’…she was famous in this hospital.”

Brandie Bishop; Doula & Founder Of Your Tribe Family Services
The 10 Pound Baby

One thing I was combating a lot…working with refugee women…[is] the mindset…that because they don’t speak English…because they come from less progressive nations that they don’t know stuff…because they were choosing to have babies without these interventions or choosing to have babies that we…deemed to be too big that they just don’t know.

Brandie Bishop; Doula & Founder Of Your Tribe Family Services

Brandie shares how the experience changed the view of the attending provider:

I worked with that provider a few times after that–never having another 10 pound baby but I do…think that his mindset when it came to working with, at least my clients, he seemed to be much more open to allowing them to make their decisions.

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.

“It really showed me the importance of sisterhood; of us celebrating motherhood; and not just celebrating babies…I did love the really good facts that I learned from actually going to training. I think that trainings definitely have their place when it comes to being a doula, but those women, they changed my life and they taught me more than I can ever put into a book or into words about what it means to be a doula.”

Brandie Bishop; doula & Founder of Your Tribe Family Services

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.

“I do think in America we do get…a few things right…but that lack of community; that lack of allowing a woman’s voice to be heard during her pregnancy [,] her labor and delivery [,] and also her postpartum period is one of the things that we get terribly wrong.”

Brandie Bishop; Doula & Founder of Your Tribe Family Services

Brandie’s Doula Work

“I really wanted to make sure that my business…was owed to the women [who] taught me how to do this work…My approach is…really mother-centered. I am truly a believer that if I have a happy healthy mother, I can almost guarantee you that I’ll have a happy, healthy baby. [It doesn’t necessarily work the other way around,]…I am always very mother-centered [] I learned that from these women.”

Brandie Bishop; Doula & Founder Of Your Tribe Family Services

Brandie’s Faith Foundation

“God gives women this ability to get through birth…that…is a spiritual process. [] That’s not…man-made that’s spiritual.”

Brandie Bishop; Doula & Founder Of Your Tribe Family Services

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”.

“Purposely I serve all kind of clients because…I am a true believer that the love of Christ is not something that I need to keep in a box…I serve clients who…have different pronouns than I do. I have a couple of couples now who are same sex relationships. I purposely serve everybody because…just like when I was dead in my sin, God had to meet me where I was. I’m not here to…judge anybody’s situation and I truly believe what helps people is seeing the love of Christ. If I can’t love on you…there’s really no purpose.”

Brandie Bishop; Doula & Founder Of Your Tribe Family Services

Brandie’s Experiences With Systematic Racism

“Racism is real…it’s very real. It’s alive and well in these hospitals, it’s alive and well in the medical system…”

Brandie Bishop; Doula & Founder Of Your Tribe Family Services

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…’

“It has been disheartening but…I feel like it’s preparing me for something…Every time I have an encounter I get better at [handling it]…I [have gotten] to a place…[where] I [am]very okay with being angry and black and a woman…”

Brandie Bishop; Doula & Founder of Your Tribe Family Services

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.

This is not about luxury. This is not about fluffed pillows and [] chamomile tea…this is about making sure you make it out this hospital alive.

Brandie Bishop; Doula & Founder of Your Tribe Family Services

Brandie recounts a particular birth that found particularly frightening:

“I…traveled to this birth in Missouri and…mom was preeclamptic and it was such a hard situation…at so many turns..[it could have ended bad] just based on the care that she was getting….they had broken machines in her room…her nurse call button [didn’t] work. I could just see it…and then later [when] we go through and we talk about her experience, she’s like ‘Brandie, I have flashbacks when I think about [it]”’.

“For black women that’s the reality. The reality is we wanna live to see our babies…We want those experiences to not be traumatic.”

Brandie Bishop; Doula & Founder of Your Tribe Family Services

How does having a doula help this problem?

“I tell black women, ‘you have to have a doula because you can’t see’…it’s not about you being smart enough to see it or you not knowing enough to see it. ‘[You’re] in labor…so [you can’t] see…”

Brandie Bishop; Doula & Founder of Your Tribe Family Services
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.

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