When Kiki Jordan was about eight months along in her pregnancy, she made the decision to work with a midwife for the remainder of her pregnancy, a choice she said changed her life.
“As a Black woman, I didn’t feel like I was really seen,” Jordan told The Huffington Post. “I didn’t feel like I was being listened to. I was seeing a different provider every time I went in for my prenatal visits. I knew that I wasn’t going to know who would deliver my baby. I had these very short 15- to 30-minute visits, and there was no one speaking to me,” she explained.
After going through that, Jordan decided to work with a midwife which she said was “a full-body, full-mind, full-spirit approach to care.” She wanted other people of color to get the same care during pregnancy, so she started a career in midwifery in 2005.
Jordan, along with her partner Anjali Sardeshmukh founded Birthland Midwifery in Oakland, California. Their mission is to make the experience of having a high-quality midwife accessible to people and communities of color, and low income individuals.
About 80% of the clients at Birthland Midwifery are Black, which Jordan says is aligned with her passion given the high risk Black people face while giving birth. The maternal mortality rate among Black women is significantly higher than that of white women. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, Black women are 45% more likely to die in a hospital while giving birth than white women, even when you control for education level and socioeconomic status.
Numerous other studies have outlined the danger Black newborns face in hospitals, especially while under the care of white doctors. Racism, in the form of implicit bias of individual providers and the institutionalized racism built into the healthcare system are large factors in the dire statistics.
“Black women encounter implicit bias from the moment they walk to the front desk,” Jordan said. “As they navigate a system that is not designed by them and where they may not be adequately integrated into it, they get shuffled through and lost.”
“When you’re walking into a system where you already are feeling underrepresented, unappreciated, feeling like you have to code switch, and you’re talking about your healthcare –– that affects your physical health,” she continued.
Jordan says the coronavirus pandemic has led more Black people and other people of color to seek the care of a midwife. Birthland Midwifery saw a four-time increase of clients since the pandemic began.
While Jordan sees the increase as a positive thing, her desire to expand services is on pause as the pandemic continues.
“We wanted to have ongoing in-person childbirth education, lactation education, postpartum support groups, prenatal groups, annual family reunions, etc. to keep people connected,” Jordan said. “That vision is on hold because we really can’t do anything in person, but that’s our dream –– bringing people together, keeping clients connected even after they’ve transitioned out of our care, building community.”
Regardless, the mission and passion Jordan started out with remains intact. “There’s nothing better than working with a Black woman and watching her fully unfold and blossom in your care,” she said. “I am her, she is me. She sees herself in me.”
Photo: Getty Images