Watch the full interview.
Who is A’briel Banks?
A’briel Banks is a 23-year old black woman, a new mother, a labor and deliver nurse, a doula, and a native of Marianna, Arkansas.
A’briel is also the co-founder of Melanin Maternity TV; A FACEBOOK GROUP that provides a space for expectant Black mothers to convene and share their journeys of birth through live video, while receiving support from other Black women around the world.
Heart of a Doula; License as a Nurse
While A’briel values her professions, she admits there are some unique challenges that come with being a doula who is also a nurse:
- the challenge of protecting your license
- orders from doctors to “keep an eye on baby” or consistently monitor women who don’t want to be monitored
- helping patients understand why labor inductions require monitoring
At my hospital we don’t have wireless monitoring…so you have to stay within 4 feet of your bed…I know it’s not fun but…as a nurse I have [legal] responsibilities…that would literally…ruin my life if I didn’t uphold [them]. That’s difficult.A’briel Banks; L&D Nurse/Doula
Why Share Her Birth Story?
“Representation is important. I want black women to see other black women in these spaces. I have been operating in the birth world for quite some time and there is just not really a place for us…my best friend…was not super excited to share her birth story ever just because she didn’t feel it compared to other people’s birth stories who didn’t looked like her…I just want to put an end to that. “
A’briel Banks; L&D Nurse/Doula
Advantages of being a nurse & doula as a black birthing woman?
While A’briel had only been working on her unit as a labor and delivery nurse for 4 months, she says she had already been labeled the “crunchy” nurse and given the natural birthing patients. A’briel was blessed to labor and deliver in the hospital where she worked and was blessed with co-workers who thought of her birth outcome as much as she did.
A’briel says she trusted birth, her body, and her baby:
Even though I had this clinical experience and knew all the things that could go wrong, I also knew all the things that could go right.A’briel Banks; L&D Nurse/Doula
All The Things That Could Go Right
According to A’briel here are some Actions that can help birth go well:
- Be active in your pregnancy
- Educate yourself during pregnancy
- Study and understanding fetal monitoring
- Understand the difference between a CRASH C-SECTION and an EMERGENCY C-SECTION
- Know what a deceleration looks like
- Move during labor
- Facilitate optimal fetal positioning
- Hire a Doula
- Know your options
- Know that you have autonomy over your body and that you have time to make the best decision.
- KEEP YOUR AUTONOMY (YOUR POWER) DURING LABOR
“You know your body and your baby and we don’t know you. We do have knowledge that a lot of people don’t have but at the end of the day, holding on to your intuition is super important.”A’briel Banks; L&D Nurse/Doula
A’briel’s Recommendations for Natural Hospital Birth
HAVE A BIRTH PLAN AND HAVE YOUR DOCTOR SIGN IT.
Even if your doctor is not “on call”, or the doctor delivering your baby at the time of your labor, having your doctor ‘have your back’ on paper, is really important. Other doctors are more likely to follow plans if they have proof your doctor approves of them.
START NATURAL TO FINISH NATURAL
“If you come in natural we are out of your hair because we want to protect your head space to keep facilitating a physiological birth. We aren’t doing excessive cervical exams. We don’t have to worry about if you had an epidural and your blood pressure is really low so now your baby is distressed and now we have to flip you back and forth. We don’t do that. Laboring women are bears. Birth is wild and it should stay that way. So we don’t go poking the bear. You’re more likely to have the experience you want coming in after letting your body do most of the work at home.”
Type 2 Diabetes
“They want to induce you at 39 weeks if you’re a diabetic even if your levels are fine… [but] knowing that doesn’t have to happen is important…[you’ll be fine] if:
- you’re able to control your blood sugar
- your baby is growing appropriately
- your placenta is functioning normally”
having a “too big” baby?
With type 2 diabetes there is a fear among doctors and nurses that mamas will have a baby that is too big to birth vaginally. However, A’briel maintains:
“Unless there [are] some…anomalies going on with your pelvis, you usually don’t know that your baby is too big to fit through…until the baby tries…so don’t let anyone tell you at 32 weeks that your baby isn’t going to come through your body…just trust that if you’re doing what you’re supposed to [do] to treat your body…in the healthiest way you know how then trust that. Lean on that.”
A’briel’s Pregnancy & Birth
New Insight As A Nurse
While A’briel’s says she has always been an advocate for her patients, she has gained deeper insight of what birthing black women experience in hospitals and wants her professional community to understand the part they play in black maternal health outcomes.
Her advice to other nurses?
DROP YOUR BIASES. They don’t serve anyone.
You can follow more of A’briel’s journey as a new mother on INSTAGRAM: @naturallybri__
You can also join her FACEBOOK GROUP, Melanin Maternity TV, a group that provides a space for expectant Black mothers to convene and share their journeys with birth through live video, while receiving support from other Black women around the world.