Here at the Center for Sacred Window Studies, we share voices from many perspectives and backgrounds. We believe that the sacred weeks post birth, and the experience of humanity is experienced in countless ways. We learn by listening to one another and honoring our stories. The views and opinions of our writers do not necessarily reflect the mission, viewpoints or opinions of the Center for Sacred Window Studies.
*For clarification, this article centers on anti-racist work specifically in regards to Black U.S. Americans.
Sitting here with my sweet baby son late into the eve before Samhain, I relish in the quiet space to settle IN to Being. This is the time of the year, it is said, when the veil between the worlds of living and dead is thinnest. And so I write tonight on a topic that has penetrated ALL of us for generation upon generation: racism.
This is my letter on an entry into anti-racist birth work as a white-bodied perinatal professional.
In deciding to talk about embarking on this work, several tensions immediately spring into my mind. The list runs on: white supremacy, racialized trauma, health inequities and disparities, cultural appropriation, lack of access to quality health care, low numbers of Black midwives, doulas, and OB/GYN’s, barriers to professional training and support for Black birth workers, white privilege, white fragility, a messy history of brutality and violence in endless forms.
So, where do I begin?
Through meditation and honest reflection, I have found that the only path into sustainable and meaningful action is through presence and Love. To me, this looks like opening up continuously to BEING with something – a truth, a reality, a history, trauma, pain, discomfort. Being with it with my settled presence and Love is an initiating step. Love means looking with openness and honesty: holding something in my awareness, making space for it, and staying grounded in my body. Even when I start to feel pain or discomfort.
Meditation makes way for somatic inquiry and inner work, for beginning this work from within.
Earlier this year, a dear friend handed me the book My Grandmother’s Hands. Author Resmaa Menakem illuminates a path of healing racialized trauma from within; somatically or through the body. This approach and the trauma perspective resonate so palpably for me. I am a very tactile person. And I describe myself as fairly sensitive to more subtle types of inner work and healing modalities. So this approach really makes sense to me.
In starting to read and work through My Grandmother’s Hands, I connected into a pathway of understanding via my own extensive experience with trauma. Through drawing upon my own relationship with trauma, I started to understand a new-to-me perspective on racism and white supremacy. And my commitment to taking responsibility for generational trauma and violence reinforces my determination to take this work personally. I am claiming liability and accountability for the wounds of racism and the healing that is needed for us ALL to move forward in health and liberation.
There is the inner work of realizing how white supremacy has wounded me, has permeated and infected my thought processes and worldviews, has limited potential connections and damaged relationships, has led me to potentially perpetuate racism and ignorance through speech and complicit silence.
I don’t expect ease in this path. While seeking Truth and to be an agent of positive change, I admit that I have no idea what that will look like. I am in this work because it is deeply needed. I believe we need many more white-bodied folks engaged in the work of healing racialized trauma and dismantling white supremacy. And not just ending racism; but also undoing. Part of this undoing is taking apart thought structures, opening up for a rewriting of worldviews.
So if I am making way for a new inner understanding, I want to fill my cup with the Truth.
There is the invention of race, the invention of whiteness. And the foundation of relations between white-bodied and Black people in this country: the transatlantic slave trade. There are widespread acts of reproductive crime and injustice. I am educating myself gradually about Black history, the lives of black folks in this country, and in particular Black birth keepers and reproductive rights for Black bodies.
I am hopeful that attending a Phase I training with the Racial Equity Institute (REI) in 2020 will help me deepen my knowledge and strengthen my understanding of structuralized racism. This training is
designed to develop the capacity of participants to better understand racism in its institutional and structural forms. Moving away from a focus on personal bigotry and bias, this workshop presents a historical, cultural, and structural analysis of racism. With shared language and a clearer understanding of how institutions and systems are producing unjust and inequitable outcomes, participants should leave the training better equipped to begin to work for change.
Our current reality of health disparities and inequities
Health outcomes for Black mothers and babies are notoriously worse in the U.S. than are the outcomes for white-bodied mothers and babies. There is news to keep up with, Black midwives and Black doula organizations to support, and understanding the relevance of and advocating for culturally-centered care.
This is only the beginning: inner work, education, awareness. This is my foundation. As I build my foundation, I nurture fertile ground for hope to blossom and meaningful action to take root.
Relationship building and the hope for collective healing
I aim to get to know my local community: Who’s here? What is this place’s history? I am relatively new to this area. Instead of letting my feelings of newness un-ground me and keep me from connecting; I’m letting myself open up more, reach out, and gently root in. This feels vulnerable and right.
I have hope for trust to be earned and relationships to grow – and always staying open to the possibility of connection, even if it takes a long time or the rest of my life. I have zero reason to give up.
Humility and courage are the virtues I am drawing on.
I acknowledge that I’m probably going to mess up. I am not perfect; I’m trying to do better and BE better – to be part of the change that is desperately needed in our world. I will continue to educate and grow myself and always trek forward on this healing path, the best I can.
Nena is a Holistic Full-Spectrum Doula, yoga teacher, mama, and graduate of the Ayurvedic Postpartum Caregiver program. She lives in the Asheville, NC area.