As the pandemic continues to expose racial and socioeconomic disparities in health care, three Black Bronx-based birth workers decided to join forces to help Black families within the Bronx.
Founded in late April, Bronx (Re)Birth and Progressive Collective provides affordable doula care to Black Bronx families as well as a donation drive of essential items for infants.
Doulas Evelyn Alvarez, Nicole JeanBaptiste, and midwife Carmen Mojica founded and mobilized Bronx (Re)Birth in less than a week.
“If I spoke to Nicole on Tuesday, Carmen called on Wednesday, on Thursday we all spoke, and by Friday, we had an email and Instagram,” said Alvarez.
The decision to quickly congregate came after an emotional phone conversation about Amber Rose Isaac, who died at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx in April due to complications after an emergency C-section. Alvarez, JeanBaptiste and Mojica were fed up with the Bronx being under-resourced and underserved.
“We have the pandemic, we also have maternal mortality that has been an issue, but with the case of Amber Rose Isaac, it really hit close to home,” JeanBaptiste said.
Black women in New York City die from of pregnancy-related complications at almost eight times the rate of white women.
According to NYC Health, the Bronx ranks the highest in pregnancy-related mortality ratios out of all five boroughs in New York City with 26.9 deaths per 100,000 live births.
At the end of April, Mojica realized the pandemic had left some Bronx families unable to afford basic necessities for their children. Bronx (Re)Birth started a diapers, wipes, and formula donation drive funded through crowdsourcing. The organization has donated to over 600 families and donated more than 50,000 diapers since May.
In July, Bronx (Re)Birth started a doula core service spearheaded by JeanBaptiste. This service provides birthers in the Bronx, doulas at low rates while making sure doulas in their network are being paid their valued amount.
“We’re seeing that [Black] folks are going into hospital spaces, and they’re needing to self-advocate, or at least have someone there who can support them in doing this [childbirth],” Jean-Baptiste said.
Akilah Browne, a Mott Haven resident and first-time mother, contacted Bronx (Re)Birth in July, when she was 22 weeks pregnant, to find the perfect doula. After viewing several doulas’ biographies, she chose Kris Bailey to be her the doula.
“As a Black woman, it was important for me to have somebody to be able to recognize my humanity and recognize the fears that I had,” Browne said.
While in excruciating labor pains, Browne felt uncomfortable with the number of interns and extra staff in her room at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. Bailey was able to ask the extra attendees to leave the room without Browne having to advocate for herself.
“You can pick your OB [OB/GYN], but you can’t guarantee the nurses, you can’t guarantee who’s gonna be there after with you. But you can guarantee this doula is going to be there with you and be there to support you through the process,” Browne said.