Racial Disparities In Birth Work: My Experience With Breastfeeding USA
Before making this blog post; I made a GoFundMe and shared my story with it. Why? Fear! I know a lot of times people see a GoFundMe and don't even bother to read it. I wanted to feel like I was sharing my story, without actually being fully transparent. I needed validation. I needed for people to tell me that I wasn't just feeling this for nothing. I needed to know that this was real; and that it was wrong. So here goes........
Back in November of 2018, I joined Breastfeeding USA in hopes of becoming a volunteer breastfeeding counselor. As a current birth worker and non profit owner; it is a goal of mine to learn a number of different skills, to be able to support moms in my community. Especially mothers of color! We are the most under served, unheard, and the most affected by maternal and fetal death rates! It's especially important that women of color have access to birth workers of color, who are able to support them in ways that many others cannot. When possible, many birth workers of color prefer to take trainings and gain knowledge from organizations that are run by other people of color; or that are at least culturally competent. Unfortunately, this has proven to be an ongoing and maybe increasing issue in regards to the difficulty of finding programs to suit our needs.
Shortly after completing my application to become a member of Breastfeeding USA; I had my first experience with their lack of customer service. There was an immense delay in getting my application processed. Well beyond the time frame that was initially given. The woman that I spoke to had a way of saying rude things in a way that masked her attitude. In short, she told me that they were volunteers and they'd get to me when they did. She also told me to let her know if I wanted to still take the course. As if me asking for an update implied that I didn't want to. The nerve!
It took over a year for the next series of events to take place. I had taken a break, because when I first enrolled, I had just found out that I was pregnant. I had done some work and then I asked for my account to be placed on hold for a bit. They agreed, and I resumed my course work in the late Summer / early Fall. Usually I am a fast worker. When I had taken the break, it killed me mentally. I beat myself up over it. So when I was ready to get back into it, I wasted zero time. I was barreling through my work. For me, I needed to not waste anymore time. Apparently though, the tutors at Breastfeeding USA felt that it was not acceptable for me to work that fast. They couldn't understand how I was able to complete (OPEN BOOK) assignments at that pace. They were "concerned" about my ability to absorb the material by going that fast. Quite frankly, I don't know who can absorb much of their material anyway. The videos are from the damn early 80's, and they may as well have just given you a bunch of handouts and textbooks. Anyway; they proceeded to interrogate me and also ignore my many requests to move forward to the next module. Meanwhile, my white peers (who I completed my role play assignment with) who submitted their assignment on the same day that I did, were pushed through. The day that I found out that they had been put through to the next module, I cried. I called my mom and I cried. I was so hurt. If you know me personally; you know how hard I work. You know how much of what I do is for other people. To be treated this way was unbelievable. Why was this happening to me? There could only be one explanation! Nobody can convince me of anything different!
There is nobody to talk to that will care! I don't even want to try. They don't even have a phone number. Everything is e-mail based. So now what? There is no way that I will certify with them. I cannot be under their umbrella and represent them. Now I am out of my money and most importantly my time (which I cannot get back). I feel like this is my chance to make a difference. To advocate for the racial disparities in the birth world. To help my fellow sisters and allies not get targeted.
If you would like to read the screenshots and see the full story, please go check out the GoFundMe. Donations are encouraged, but not necessary. Proceeds from the fundraiser will support the following:
*Funding for me to take a new breastfeeding training
*Funding for pregnancy/birth/postpartum support for women of color via my non profit
*My ability to offer free training of my placenta encapsulation course for a handful of birth workers of color