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In this episode, the Minnesota Healing Justice Network is taking over the podcast! In this very important episode, our guest speakers are Ihotu Ali, Daniela Montoya-Barthelemy, and Shayla Walker. 

**Content warning** this podcast includes discussion of racial violence and racial health disparities.

Ihotu Jennifer Ali, MPH, LMT, (she/her) is an integrative medicine doctor in training, with a decade of experience in public health and traditional practices around emotional support, pregnancy and newborn care, healthy reproductive cycles, healing after sexual violence, and mediation and violence prevention. Ihotu offers abdominal and craniosacral therapy, herbs and nutrition, birth and postpartum care, with plans to open a healing justice and integrative medicine center for families, children and holistic mental health.

Ihotu has worked with the U.S. Congress and United Nations on maternal and child health policy, teaches education courses for midwives, and is a co-founder of several mutual aid collectives including the Minnesota Healing Justice Network. She owes gratitude to teachers across the Black Diaspora, and particularly to her grandfather in Nigeria, who was a Village Chief and head judge and mediator of the Council of Elders. Ihotu lives on Dakota and Anishinaabe land known as the Twin Cities with her medicinal garden, loves virtually visiting her grandmother, nieces and nephews, and singing to the Orishas. Ihotu is the self-published author of “Seven Portal Sky: Afrofuturist Medicine from Minneapolis.”

Daniela Montoya-Barthelemy, MPH (she/her) is a queer Chicana from a small town in northern New Mexico. Her business, Mama Sin Verguenza, was born out of her first son’s birth and her passion for sexual health and social justice. The services offered reflect her gifts in balancing strategic health research with holistic modalities of care. Over the last 5 years Mexican Traditional Medicine and somatic psychology practices have become the twin pillars of her service offerings. 

Daniela aims to support individuals navigating the life and death cycles around reproduction and trauma transmutation. She loves getting into the nitty-gritty academics around public health research and enhancing that knowledge through intuition.

 Shayla Walker (She/Ella) is a Black Dominican American Gemini Sun /Libra Rising/Taurus Moon. She is a rare Twin Cities native – who loves Minneapolis just as much as St. Paul. In her free time she practices pleasure liberation through engaging in humor, joyus deep belly laughs, twerking, bougie restaurant eating, napping, car karaoke and manifesting dough & dreams.

In her work time, Shayla serves as the Vision Realization Advisor of Our Justice, a Twin Cities based Reproductive Justice organization that seeks to ensure that all people and communities have the power and resources to make sexual and reproductive health decisions with self-determination. 

Ihotu, Daniella, and Shayla discuss talk about the challenges of racial health disparities after the murder of George Floyd and connecting with their community through times of tragedy due to racial violence. They also discuss the importance of cultural connections and ancestral practices in birth work, self care, and wellness.

Resources

Learn more about the Minnesota Healing Justice Network here (https://www.mnhealingjustice.com/) along with their resources of other BIPOC providers here (https://www.mnhealingjustice.com/providers).

Follow Minnesota Healing Justice Network on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/mnhealingjustice) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/mnhealingjustice/).

Visit the Solidarity Network here (https://linktr.ee/solidaritynetwork)

Visit Daniela’s site here (http://mamasinverguenza.com/

Learn more about Autumn Cavender-Wilson, CPM and Yellow Medicine Midwifery here (https://yellowmedicinemidwifery.org).

Follow Minneapolis Indigenous Breastfeeding Support Circle on Facebook.

Learn more about Oily Doula MN here (https://www.oilydoulamn.com/) and follow Oily Doula MN (Rhonda Fellows) on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/oilydoulamn/) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/oilydoulamn/).

Learn more about Britt Jackson and Metro Home Birth here (https://www.metrohomebirth.com/) and follow on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/metromidwiferymn/) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MetroMidwiferyMN/). Learn more about the Black Home Birth Initiative in Minnesota here (https://www.metrohomebirth.com/black-home-birth-initiative). 

Learn more about Roots Community Birth Center here (https://www.rootsbirthcenter.com/). Follow them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/rootscommunitybirthcenter/) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/rootsbirthcenter/).

Learn more about Our Justice here (https://www.ourjustice.net/). Follow Our Justice on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/OurJusticeRJ/), Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/ourjusticerj/) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/OurJusticeRJ).

 

Learn more about Indigenous Roots here (https://indigenous-roots.org/). Follow Indigenous Roots on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/IndigeRootsCulturalArts/) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/indigeroots/). 

 

Learn more about Ninde Doulas here (https://www.diw-mn.org/health). 

 

Learn more about Black Lotus Mothers here (http://blacklotusmothers.org/). Follow Black Lotus Mothers on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/blacklotusmotheringthroughpain/), Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/blacklotusmother/?hl=en), and Twitter (https://twitter.com/blacklotusMa). 

 

Learn more about the Minnesota Prison Doula Project here (https://www.mnprisondoulaproject.org/). Follow the Minnesota Prison Doula Project on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/prisondoulas), Instagram (https://twitter.com/prisondoulas), and Twitter (https://twitter.com/prisondoulas). 

 

Learn more about Millicent Simenson and Mewinzha Ondaadiziike Wiigaming here (https://www.mewinzha.com/).

 

Learn more about Everyday Miracles here (https://www.everyday-miracles.org/). Follow Everyday Miracles on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/everydaymiracles.mpls/), Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/everydaymiracles.mn/), and Twitter (https://twitter.com/evd_miracles).

 

Learn more about the Unrestrict Minnesota Campaign here (https://unrestrictmn.org/). Follow Unrestrict Minnesota Campaign on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/UnRestrictMN/), Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/unrestrictmn/), and Twitter (https://twitter.com/UnrestrictMN). 

 

Learn about Nadine Ashby and Doula4All here (https://www.doula4all.com/). Follow them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Doula4all) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/Doula4all/). 

 

Learn more about The Radical Doula here (https://radicaldoula.com/).

 

Learn more about the Cultural Wellness Center here (http://www.culturalwellnesscenter.org/). Follow the Cultural Wellness Center on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/culturalwellnesscenter/).

 

Learn more and follow Ahava Birthwork on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ahavahbirthworksorg/).

 

Learn more about Memphis Choices here (https://memphischoices.org/medical-services/lgbtq-health-services/). 

Transcript

Rebecca Dekker:

Hi, everyone on today’s podcast. We’re going to talk with Ihotu Ali, Daniela Montoya-Barthelemy, and Shayla Walker about birthing in a world with reproductive justice. Welcome to the Evidence Based Birth® podcast. My name is Rebecca Dekker and I’m a nurse with my PhD and the founder of Evidence Based Birth®

Join me each week as we work together to get evidence-based information into the hands of families and professionals around the world. As a reminder this information is not medical advice, CEB birth.com/disclaimer, for more details. 

Hi everyone. Welcome back to the Evidence Based Birth® podcast. If you’ve been following along with us this week, we have been doing a very special three-day intense focus on the work being done at the Minnesota Healing Justice Network. 

In episode 141, I interviewed Rhonda Fellows and Dr. Jennifer Almanza about their work in birth and midwifery in Minnesota and the birthing disparities there. In episode 142, I interviewed Janae Heron and Marcel Malakebu about their birth experience and the wake of the uprisings that happened after George Floyd’s murder today. I’m doing something very special that I’ve never done before, and that is a podcast takeover.

In this podcast takeover, our guests will talk together and to you, the audience, without me as a filter. I think it’s important to let the words from Ihotu, Daniela and Shayla speak for themselves. And I am thrilled that they were willing to come on the podcast and talk with you directly. Before we get started, I do want to let you know of a content warning, and that is that there will be discussion of racial violence and racial health disparities. Also, as I am reading this, I’d like to acknowledge that I’m standing on Shawnee Land and our podcasts guests are on Anishinaabe and Dakota Land. And now I want to introduce our esteemed guests who will be taking over the Evidence Based Birth® podcast today.

Ihotu Jennifer Ali, (MPH, LMT, She/Her), is an integrative medicine doctor in training with a decade of experience in public health and traditional practices around emotional support, pregnancy, family, and healthy reproductive cycles. 

Ihotu offers birth and postpartum doula care, abdominal and craniosacral therapy, herbs and nutrition, and is in school to become the first black woman chiropractor in Minnesota with plans to open a healing justice and integrative medicine center for families, children, and holistic mental health. Ihotu has worked with the US Congress and United nations on maternal and child health policy, teaches education courses for midwives, and as a co-founder of several mutual aid collectives, including the Minnesota healing justice network. She owes gratitude to teachers across the Black diaspora and particularly to her grandfather in Nigeria, who was a village chief and head of the council of elders. Ihotu lives in the twin cities with her medicinal garden, loves virtually visiting her grandmother, nieces, and nephews, and singing to the Orishas. You can follow Ihotu’s writing on Patreon for the healing justice for all series, in her upcoming ebook called “Seven Portal Sky, Southside Minneapolis stories and a Black Healer Healing after George Floyd.”

Daniela Montoya-Barthelemy, MPH. Daniela is a queer Chicana from a small town in Northern New Mexico. Her business, Mama Sin Vergüenza, was born out of her first son’s birth and her passion for sexual health and social justice. The services offered reflect her gifts and balancing strategic health research with holistic modalities of care. Over the last five years, Mexican traditional medicine and somatic psychology practices have become the twin pillars of her service offerings. Daniela aims to support individuals navigating the life and death cycles around reproduction and trauma transmutation. She loves getting into the nitty gritty academics around public health research and enhancing that knowledge through intuition.

Shayla Walker (She/Ella) is a Black Dominican American, Gemini Sun, Libra Rising Taurus Moon. She’s a rare Twin Cities native who loves Minneapolis just as much as Saint Paul. In her free time she practices pleasure liberation through engaging in humor, joyous deep belly laughs, twerking, bougie restaurant eating, napping, car karaoke and manifesting dough and dreams. In her work time she serves as the vision realization advisor of “Our Justice,” a Twin Cities-based reproductive justice organization that seeks to ensure that all people and communities have the power and resources to make sexual and reproductive health decisions with self-determination. I am so thrilled that Ihotu, Daniela and Shayla are taking over the Evidence Based Birth® podcast today. And now I’m going to step back and get out of the way and let them share their important message with you. 

Daniela:

Ihotu did you want to start with something?

Ihotu:

Yes, so I really love the idea of gateways and portals and being able to kind of open up a new space by inviting everyone who’s listening with us right now to take a comfortable seat, take a few deep breaths into their shoulders, into their bellies. And I’m just going to sing a little something to invite in the Orisha spirits, to invite in sound, to invite in vibration and breaths because calling on the intention of this time we have together. So this is a little invocation to Ellegua, who is the Orisha spirit connecting into gateways and portals, and just open up the space for us so.

[singing]

So opening the door into this practice of Indigenous medicine. And that has really been a big part of how I’ve made it through being a Minneapolis healer, Black healer through the George Floyd uprising. So thank you for just receiving that, so grateful to be here with my friends, family, and let’s get started. 

Shayla:

Yeah. I’m feeling all tingly. This is Shayla. Just taking a moment for myself because that was really powerful. 

Daniela:

That was so beautiful, Ihotu. Thank you. 

Ihotu:

Beautiful. 

Shayla:

How did we get involved in Minnesota healing justice? How did I do that? Again, this is Shayla (She/Her) and I am a Saint Palm native and I got involved with Minnesota Healing Justice, just through a friend of mine, Rowan, who invited me to be part of the community. I primarily work in reproductive justice advocacy specifically surrounding abortion care, abortion access. And unfortunately work can be very isolating and Rowan invited me to a space where I could find family, where I can find community. And I’ve been thrown into the healing justice work here. I feel like I’m a connector in healing justice space. I’m a coordinator. I get folks connected to healers, get folks resources. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the longest time with just abortion work. And now I’m just expanding it to all types of healing. And so, yeah, that’s me, piece of the glue, gluing folks together. Daniela, Ihotu.

Daniela:

Hey, so this is Daniela yeah. So I first got involved with the Minnesota Healing Justice Network, really just by hanging out with some folks and with Ihotu, us and Rhonda and Jennifer and a handful of others decided to just, we were overworked and under cared for this group of healers decided to go and do a little retreat together to care for each other and just relax in nature. And for me, that was the start of it all just being invited in so sweet and we’ve been through a lot ever since then. I can’t believe it’s been already three years is it? Yeah. Three years. So with everything like my business has gone up and down, but what I provide, what I bring into the realm is coaching and education in sexual and reproductive health. I root it in a framework of social justice. When I say coaching and education, it’s kind of layered. So I have my full spectrum doula work. 

So I care for people in all realms of reproduction and of loss, and miscarriage and abortion, as well as birth and postpartum. I’m agreeing to that work in Mashika traditional medicine, Mexican traditional medicine. And I bring to it, my training in somatic experiencing and my background in public health and social work. And with all of that, I also provide one to one holistic health coaching. And then I do workshops rooted in all of these things specifically, most recently I am working on a workshop around the healing of the cesarean because it is very, very rare to really talk about that as a different kind of healing. 

And right now I am willing to bet, although numbers are not out yet, I’m willing to bet that cesarean is on the rise across the United States, because it allows doctors for a lot of control, the hospitals to build and made some money maker and it controls time and it can be argued that it would make sure that people are not exposed to COVID as much being in the hospital, get them in and out. And yet this is not the safest thing, especially for my folks. And it is highly over utilized. So yeah that is my entry way in. And what I’m focused on right now, thank you. Ihotu.

Ihotu:

I’m catching the vibe. As we say, when we have calls. My name is Ihotu, and I use She/Her pronouns also very strongly identify with both my feminine and masculine sides of myself, my energies, I think in terms of the network, I feel like kind of a grandmother, maybe a 35 year old grandmother, I think of myself as a connector, kind of a caretaker role in the network and also maybe a vision coach prodding people to, especially since COVID and since George Floyd to find our power to go further in our work, to support one another to reach. And that means reaching our communities more, yes, many different types of medicine. What comes to you and spirits of dreams? I call myself lately a public health Afro futurist because I think public health needs some futurism in the conversation. 

I studied public health many years ago. And from there became a doula and was a doula in New York city for many years, working, especially for a lot of Black immigrant families and young families like teen moms in Brooklyn, in Harlem and the Bronx, and was a part of a co op of doulas of color out there before coming back home to Minneapolis, Minnesota, or a little bit of rest and healing for myself, having been recently divorced and having always thought I would have kids and have this kind of this, I was a doula. 

And then I would very easily and smoothly transition to being a mother myself. And when that didn’t go as planned. And I got kind of kicked off of the mainstream train, it led me to explore a lot of who I am beyond the identities I had set for myself, who I am, who was my healing work beyond the typical categories of public health exploring this idea of healing justice, what does it mean to find justice in your healing? And how does that take your healing further, to actually feel like you feel in right relationship with the world, and reproductive justice became really important to me as someone who became a doula, birth doula and postpartum doula, and then did an abortion full spectrum doula training, and also was a body worker, yoga teacher, nutrition coach.

And had studied craniosacral and Myan abdominal massage and Spinning Babies®. And so people were coming to me after all kinds of stages in the reproductive story, right after a miscarriage after loss, while pregnant, after having a baby maybe years after having a baby, because they still had as Danielle speaking to C-sections, are they still had scarring that was causing a lot of pain. So from a body work perspective massage, I would say to folks about castor oil packs and steaming and what they’re eating and how they’re moving and feeling in their bodies, are they feeling safe in their bodies, they feeling safe in the belly, what trauma’s held there as a way to do healing justice work. 

I talk a lot about the things for me that I’ll tie together a lot of different types of Indigenous medicine, which I would say healing focuses around often drinking soups and broths, and teas of varying varieties and herbal blends, and also taking bags and doing massage and thinking of yourself in a big soup bowl, right? Getting that those same herbal medicine since that same care, that same water and steam and heat on your skin, as well as inside your body. 

So that’s really me within the network was, yeah, it’s getting access to a space. It was those first few retreats that were magical and just realizing that we needed each other to heal ourselves and how complex healing is. It’s not a pill. It’s not just going in first visits. It needs those things, but needs a lot more than that. And so it’s been yeah, three years of trying to explore with you all and also just finding rest for ourselves. We know that rest is so important, especially after all we’ve been through with George Floyd and being in Minnesota at this time. So I’m going to toss up the vibe and see who wants to catch it. 

Shayla:

I’ll catch the vibe. So our first question is, this is Shayla again, what does reproductive justice mean to you? And I wanted to read something. I like reading a lot. I love reading. So I did want to read something from SisterSong. So the reproductive justice movement arose in 1994 through the Black women’s caucus, sponsored by Illinois Pro-Choice Alliance in Chicago. So essentially these Black women, they were invited to international conference on population and development in Cairo, Egypt. And there were a whole bunch of folks there and they’re like this pro-choice pro-life narrative really doesn’t apply to black women. So what they did was create a framework reproductive justice that incorporates a core of ideas and concepts. Like it analyzes the ability of any person to determine their own reproductive destiny is linked directly to the conditions of their community. And these conditions are not just a matter of individual choice and access. 

So it went beyond choice and access. It really analyzed and looked at like, okay, what access do these folks in their community, what do they have? Support and resources for making choices regarding the production to be safe, affordable, and accessible. So as Daniela was talking about there, a lot of C-sections that’s happening right now are those safe, are those affordable are other methods of birthing accessible to our communities? So applying the reproductive justice lens, we would ask those questions when we start realizing, wow, we have a whole bunch of folks having these C-section bursts. And it also addresses isolation of abortion and other social justice issues that concern low-income communities and communities of color, issues like economic justice, environmental justice, immigrants rights, disability rights, discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, and a host of other community-centered concerns. So that’s directly from SisterSong, and reproductive justice it means to me that people are able to access reproductive care, no matter what their zip code is, no matter what their background is or their social orientation, they’re able to access care within their community with dignity. 

And I think it’s just so important. I think of my great grandmother in the Dominican Republic, who she had 13 kids, but was pregnant probably maybe 20 times, giving birth in the compost, like in the countryside of DR, what kind of care she had access to. It made me think of my great grandmother, Effie Clemens in Mississippi, her leaving her abusive husband and coming up from Mississippi to Minnesota, riding in the back of the train, with the luggage, with her two babies in tow. Yea. It’s some heavy stuff because I come from this and it’s like in my blood, it’s in my body. And honestly, I don’t think that there could be a version of myself that exists without advocating for reproductive justice, just because of what exists in me, where I came from. So yeah, reproductive justice means that we are able to arrive in a world where folks can get the care that they need and do it with dignity. 

Daniela:

That’s pretty much a mic drop right there. Shayla, thank you. You were bringing up our abuelas and I just want to add to that, like, thinking about my own, you definitely conjured some images for me. I was just recently hearing… this is Daniela by the way, but you just kind of heard some images of my abuelita giving birth in her house. They were our little town of Vadito in New Mexico where I’m from. They were so proud because they were one of the first houses to get electricity. Right. And I recently got to hear some of her birth stories of five children, and she did it with like her sister coming to help her and her sister was not a midwife. Her sister was not… they just knew they just had that knowledge within the family coming to be with her and care for her while she did this. But I wanted to also just add that part of reproductive justice for me. And like I completely agree with everything that Shayla just said.

And I want to just add it to, I keep seeing different things that like reproductive justice is. And all of these other things, like adding on to widening our concept, being able to start accessing our ancestral knowledge, having that not be illegal, having not shame around that, around what we’ve lost, what we’re trying to regain. That’s part of that reproductive justice to me, as well as thinking about, just being able to raise your children, feeling safe, like you’re not going to get taken away from them, or they’re not going to be taken away from you as far as both black folks having to worry as soon as you birth your babies. And having to worry about them from birth and then immigrants coming across the border and being stolen away from each other, that is all reproductive justice. 

Ihotu:

I remember becoming a birth doula and did my training in New York with DONA. And this was gosh, a long time ago, 2011 maybe, and being exposed to this world of birth stories where, it was so fun to just sit down with someone who I knew it was a parent saying, like, tell me your birth story. And then I get a minute by minute play because there were so happy to have the audience. And I remember asking my mother my own birth story and trying to get first stories out of my grandmother, and some aunties and grandmas won’t say anything at all, like, it was fine. That generation that just wasn’t allowed to talk about it. 

And then also thinking about my conversations with a lot of clients in the clinic and how to continue these conversations virtually as well around, like, what are the things that we birth that aren’t necessarily babies, and allowing people who don’t burst space to feel that their womb is still activated, or they’re even for folks who don’t have a womb or don’t any longer have a womb that they still have a power creation center in her body regardless. And we all birth, the Minnesota Healing Justice was birthed out at this retreat in Osceola, Wisconsin. And also, I feel a new version of the network was birthed through COVID and George Floyd passing and the visions and the birth and the labor that’s involved in birthing.

I think I’ve gained so much wisdom from my life that I talk about a lot with clients around that moment of transition when things are really, really hard and you are ready to just throw in the towel and say, no more, you might be really close to birthing. And I wonder about where our country is at. And if we’re in labor pains right now, what are we trying to birth? And how close are we? Are we just at two centimeters or are we actually at nine?

I’ve seen snap, snap, snaps. But I think a lot about people who’ve lost babies and people who have had to make really hard decisions around whether or not to have children to continue carrying it to term or even myself as a 35 year old grandma because I feel very old, also still very young and not knowing if the stars are going to align for me to have children, but still really deeply wanting that experience. Especially having been a doula for so many years and just not knowing, not knowing if my body will function, if I’ll have the partner. For me it’s been a really big conversation about, do I have the village support that I think is really needed, because on both sides of my family, my father’s Nigerian, my mother is Polish Irish. Going back to where I want to say fourth generation here in the US. On my mom’s side, I’m the first generation born in the US and my dad’s. 

And on both sides, I was a girl raised with this huge extended family, which is really common in Nigeria. I feel like as a halfway person in the United States, like you don’t always see that in my culture, but my grandmother was the matriarch of the family, my Polish grandma, cooking and making sure we sat down. I just felt really similar on both sides actually. And I’ve seen how things change in my generation, people drift. And then I see more nuclear families. And I work with a lot of parents who are just single, young feel like their family is not there for them. And so for me, reproductive justice is also creating a society and also, essentially government and corporate employer support so that if you want to have children, you feel like you can do it without sacrificing everything else in your life. 

Shayla:

This is Shayla, this reminds me of the question that we have. Do you have any thoughts to share about decisions not to birth? And I feel like we kind of naturally went there and Ihotu, you were speaking on the government support or corporations support. And I think that’s like a big reason personally, why I’m hesitant about birthing myself. It’s not that I don’t believe that I don’t have the familial support. I definitely have family, but I don’t feel like I have the support of everything outside of my family. Like, there’s like a lot of things that I can’t control. And so that makes me a little neurotic about bringing somebody earth side, like yes, my dad will be there but what if my dad needs to make his rent? So he needs to work extra hours at work. So he wants to be there and he wants to offer that to me, but maybe he may not be in a position to offer that. So I don’t think it’s always about like, not having the people around, but the people who are around what is their capacity and why their capacity looks the way it does is because what we exist in because of capitalism, because of always chasing the dollar, we don’t have those support systems to hold us up and to hold our support systems up. 

Ihotu:

Especially, Oh, I’m sorry.

Shayla:

Go ahead.

Ihotu:

As Black people, as a Black woman, as a Black femme, there’s a whole conversation and stereotype that we try to, we run from our whole lives to not be like the baby mama or to not think we have too many children. And that’s a stereotype that we don’t need to take on also, but that’s always been kind of in the back of my head, because I was raised with this idea, like, “you got to focus on your career, but then also you turned 35.” I was like,” so where’s your babies?”

Shayla:

Exactly, exactly. This is Shayla again, don’t have a baby right now. And then all of a sudden you turn 30 or 35 or whatever. And they’re like, well, where’s the babies. And I’m like, well, not to mention, I feel like we’ve birthed so many different things, like you said, outside of birthing people we’ve birthed movement, we’ve birthed community, we’ve birthed ideas, strategies, like all these things. And I feel like a lot of times they’re not held up to the same degree as if you were to have a kid. Daniela, you want to pop in?

Daniela:

Absolutely. Okay. So I love all of that. And I want to say as somebody who works with people with coaching them through womb stuff, I just want to again, say absolutely we birthed so much through our wombs, through our intuition, that creative center. And it should all be acknowledged. And I personally, as a mum of two young children right now, completely adore and value the tias and tios that don’t have children and are willing to be the village. 

Yes, it is so important. And my kids are young and I’m older already. I am already 37. And for me growing up in Penasco in this tiniest town in New Mexico, right. Penasco,I love where I come from. And every time I would go home, it was like, okay, so where’s the babies, where’s the man, where’s the partner. Where’s the person that, and for the longest time it was like, Nope, I’m not ready for that. I am going to school. And I was super paranoid of getting pregnant and getting quote on quote, “stuck there,” because there was a lot of pressure. We had a lot of people who did, that was just part of the way of life. It was like getting pregnant early and you stay in, you make your babies and there’s nothing wrong with that, but there can be a lot of pressure to change that cycle. 

And so I definitely had that pressure as well and in a certain way. And then also just really valuing the community that has come around us now as parents, when they did decide to have my little ones who are now almost three and five, so they’re tiny and they’re a lot, it’s a lot to be doing both things, trying to do work, trying to have babies, trying to all of these things. And when I was growing up, I lived right next door to my abuelita and my mom’s still had all kinds of guilt because she stayed working. But she was able to give me to my grandparents all day long and then they would come home. She was a teacher. And so they would come home and care for me after. And it’s not like I was with anybody that I’m familiar. I love my abuelita but there was still a lot of guilt there. So for me now it’s been this very like touchy thing. And I found somebody who I love is like a tia to the boys who takes care to them. And I trust him with all my heart. That is so important. Anyway. Thank you.

Shayla:

Yeah, Daniela, that’s a blessing because not everybody has that and not everybody has those folks around them. And again, that’s part of reproductive justice going beyond the choice. Is it really a decision not to birth or to birth when your decision is made for you already, by the proximity of people around you who can take care of your children, by how much you are able to earn and take care of your children. It doesn’t really feel like a choice at that time. It just almost feels like you have to walk that road. If you go ahead and continue with your birth plan, like, I don’t know how I’m going to make it to the end of the month. I don’t know how to eat. And shout out to people who just do it regardless. There’s like folks are like, “you know what I’m pregnant, I’m going to do this. And I got to get it done.” 

But also a lot of folks who are pregnant, who are suffering and who we’re not being taken care of. We had a mom with a 10 week old baby in the camp at Powderhorn. And she was like, “what is that choice then, like really?”

Daniela:

Exactly. And our elders are not able to be young elders that are retired. You know what I mean? The grandmothers, the grandparents are so important in that functionality of caring for the family and the way things are set up these days, the financial security of our elders is so limited. 

Ihotu:

It makes me think so much about how I see even within the network watching so many different ways that people are a birthing parent. We have folks in the network who are currently pregnant and folks who have kids. And I think you’ve got homeschooling now that we’re heading into this September time. And I get texts about childcare collectives that we can try to connect with better, and in the neighborhoods. And I feel really inspired just to be in a community where Daniela, you and I have had conversations about working through my own issues with my own mother, and that how that has blocked me also from wanting to have children. So working through that. I think it’s, even if you don’t have necessarily a group of healers or prompt you to text anymore, but a group of people who are committed to walking the adventures of life with you, I’ve always thought that I wanted to spend time before, like part of my preparation, if I going to kind of having children would be building my village early and trying to find those people around me. 

And what you said Shayla was so powerful about the choice. I wish it didn’t have to just be on me to create that. Right. I feel like for me, reproductive justice is also being able to create a future vision of family, of community for ourselves. So extending it beyond just the nuclear family, but talking about extended family, can we bring that back into our culture and what big work, big vision, big asks. So we have to make that possible. Like in Europe they have policies that really support families and extended families to have the time to be there when a child is born, that we don’t have here in the US and we had a whole conversation with the last kind of political cycle around family leave. Right. And we had bills passed. And so where is that going? How has that work continuing now that we have, I know COVID but also a lot of reckoning? 

And I say 2020 is a year of alignment. It’s a year of reflection. It’s a year of realizing all the things that aren’t working for us that we need to change. And so I think that’s a part of the network too, is both being a community, trying to be the change you wish to see, but also ask for the change because we don’t need to do all ourselves. 

Shayla:

Amen.

Ihotu:

We have people that have five, six kids and folks who don’t have kids and folks of all kinds of stories. And just for us to share our stories is really liberatory as well to know you’re not alone. 

Shayla:

It sounds like you kind of answered or were alluding to the question Ihotu of what would a world with reproductive justice look like when it comes to fertility and preparing for the birth. Daniela, you was going to chime in? 

Daniela:

No, let’s go after that. I love it. Cool.

Shayla:

Well you also seem like she already answered the question for us. Man, I think for me, And I think for Black people, it would look like some reparations. There’s so much that has been done so much knowledge that has been extracted from the Black woman’s body that we need some reparations, of course, there’s nothing that could ever fill the hole of all the damage that hasn’t been done to black women over these years over the centuries. But I think for us to really be successful in creating communities that would thrive would be some reparations. I don’t even know what to say beyond that. 

Ihotu:

And I think reparations can look so many different ways. I think there’s already been reparations given in terms, like we gave out stimulus to the whole population, right? Why can we give the stimulus to the whole population, but we can’t give stimulus to a portion of the population that we know also needs it and stimulate the economy. 

I think even having Evidence Based Birth doing this whole campaign around amplifying voices of folks of color, inviting us on, working with us so that the time you would be patient with us, I think like just seeing the humanity in people and giving extra, being extra patient, being extra generous, I feel like that’s a form of reparations for Black women in terms of like families and families of color. There’s beautiful work happening around. Part of me wants to shout out some of our comrades doing beautiful work here too that make it on with us. Our form of being in committee with them is they couldn’t be here right now, but we’re going to bring them into this space.

Shayla:

Oh that ministry, is that what you talk about Ihotu?

Ihotu:

That ministry is always in the background with us. 

Shayla:

Reparations, you know, there’s a lot of healing. There’s a lot of rest. And I know that a lot of mamas, I know a lot of birthers. I know a lot of folks who are caring for other people, caretakers, whatever you identify, whatever language you choose, they’re tired, it’s exhausting. So I think just having the plan of rest for them, that’s part of reproductive justice. I often think too of people right in the middle of caring for kids and caring for their elderly parents, those folks need some time to rest and recalibrate because that’s a lot of pressure. You changing a diaper over here and then you go to your mama’s house and change her diaper too. I think we need to include that in our reproductive justice framework. Just knowing that we’re caretakers all around. 

Ihotu:

That actually brings me to a thought, I was just having a conversation with someone this weekend about after you have a baby, the conversation kind of this Indigenous medicine world and do postpartum doulas is 40 days, 42 days that exists in so many different cultures that have not talked to each other, but this 40 to 42 days always shows up any, even in the United States, we have a six week period, which is 42 days, right. Until you go back in and what if we could have that kind of window, that healing time for after an abortion, right after miscarriage, right. Where you get to, and you can be as public or not as you’d like, but for it to be supported and not shamed to take that time. So you can actually rest. I think that would just do amazing things for the anger and the trauma that we walk around with, because so much is unprocessed. What we carry into when we do have children, just having that time for rest as reparations is huge. I just want to say that.

Daniela:

I’m going to jump in there. Thank you Ihotu. This is Daniela. So at the time that I had my first baby in 2015, I was working in children’s mental health for the state, and my partner was in the middle of his medical residency program. So both in healthcare. And you brought me to the fact that here one of the things I appreciate so much about the Healing Justice Network is that we are all healers that can understand the need for our own care is super important if we’re going to be caring for other people. And in the mainstream healthcare system, that is not even acknowledged, it is more so like, you want them away, you want to take time for yourself? 

What a wimp, it’s really looked down upon and for medical residents, for example, it’s like they have to prove themselves by working themselves to death. Right. And at the time that I gave birth, both of us barely had… I wasn’t going to get any paid leave because I was newer to the job. And honestly, that environment leaving that environment and being home and then trying to go back to that environment was so quickly after a newborn, I was like, I can’t leave my newborn to go back to that environment. That’s like not…How do I do that? So I basically, I cut her entire increment half and we just made the choice. We were lucky enough to be able to do that. But he got two weeks, two weeks in the middle of which he still ended up going in a couple of times, we were barely and, you know, through the postpartum period. 

It’s just such a big hazy time, the time everything kind of melts together. And it was so hard and it was so lonely and Minnesota winters are just so cold and dark. And anybody here that is going through that, it can be very isolating even just in sunny, California having postpartum time. But here, we really need… it’s so valuable to be able to be checking up on folks. And again, caring for ourselves to care for others is super, super important. And part of reproductive justice in my view.

Shayla:

That’s real. This is Shayla. Yeah. When you said that Daniela about the mainstream not wanting to take care of themselves, thinking it’s so grand, I kind of had a flashback to all my providers and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, if they’re not taking care of themselves, how are they going to take care of me?” 

“I want you to be well, so I can be well.” And as a manager of a call center, I’m like, I knew how important it was for the folks working on the phones who are taking calls. I used to manage a call center where folks were calling in to get abortion care throughout the US, and I’m just like, “I need my people on the phones to be well, so they can receive these calls with grace, with love, with like clarity.” If you don’t have like good mental health, how are you going to extend that to somebody else?

Daniela:

Exactly. And when you think about our providers who are surgeons, who are doing all of this really, really invasive work, and they are not being encouraged to care for themselves, what kind of harm is that or toxicity is that perpetuating.

Shayla:

Ihotu, were you the one, this is Shayla, were you the one talking about if you’re doing like a therapy or like, was it, I don’t know, it was like body work or if it was somatic therapy that you have a spotter and to somebody to watch you do it. And so they can make sure that you’re taking care of yourself as you’re taking care of other folks. Was that you?

Ihotu:

I think that’s me. But I did do a talk in New York a few years ago that was talking about this energetic circle between healer and patient or provider and patient, that you are in an energetic space together and you affect each other’s space. And so if someone’s really off that comes through and learning how to be a healthcare provider is not just about science. I’m in school now to be a chiropractor and learning anatomy and spine and pelvis. And also as a healer over all these years, I’ve learned so much about how to hold my energetic ground and how to be kind, even when someone’s in an agitated state in front of me, right. How to not let that influence me and how to hold a space. How to use my own practices when I did. Obviously you get off my syndrome is just as human as anyone else. And I’m vicariously receiving a lot from working with folks. 

So all of this time through George Floyd, the protests and everything. We did our #TurnUpAtYourAltar campaign to try to remind us all to ground ourselves first, before we go out and talk to people.  Having things around like sage. Even right now, as I’m talking with you all, I have a stone that kind of a worry stone that’s really screwed that a client gave me over the weekend. I have a poem for someone who had written, [laughs), this beautiful tree. I have a tree just like that. I had this poem that’s seeking to horrors and deaths, but it’s also saying,” I see to your antidote in Molin Rose and arms, mine and yours around me holding” right. 

And talking about black Harbor tea. And I have my herbs and I had my music and my guitar, my drums here. So there are plenty of things that I feel like it’s important for healers to learn how to cleanse ourselves, how to not carry things home, how to not carry home things to work. And that’s really important for healthcare providers were listening to this right now to take key. It’s a stressful time. We’re all dealing with hormonal and mental health and uncertainty and fear and grieving. We’ve had a lot, a lot of loss, a lot of loss in a country that’s really doesn’t have it strong rituals around grieving and letting go, and honoring ancestors once they passed on. And knowing how to transition those relationships to other folks who have a sense of continued relationship with that person once they pass on. 

A lot of traditional medicine, Indigenous medicine helps us get through hard times like this, right? Being Nigerian, being Black and like the resiliency that’s baked into our culture that I don’t see on my White side of my family. So I think it’s so important that any kind of healthcare provider right now, and healer you knows those things, and can teach all of us how to do that too, I feel like that’s public health, right?

Yeah. I think there’s another thing too. I just want to mention too is transformative justice as a part of this too. The choices that we have to make, or the choices we don’t make and how do we sit with those things? How can we have circle practice or just spaces to talk, just spaces to talk and realize what kind of unfair systems we’re living in that affects the way that we heal? You know.

I’m kind of frustrated and angry. And I think we’re at a time where we’re allowed to feel our anger a little bit and let it warm us and let it carry us into action. And I feel a little angry about just the fact that I have been a healer for so many years and have so many different types of trainings, and people still really aren’t healing because they don’t have time to sleep, because they don’t have 42 day periods of rest after they have a baby or any other huge shifts or grieving time in their life. That people do feel like when they do take time off that they’re called a “wimp,” or there’s some internal message critique in their head that will let them rest that we have broken families. And I think it’s like, I’m just trying to heal, trying to heal and try to heal, it’s not just you, who’s in charge of your healing. 

I mean, we live in a society that allows sickness to fester. And I think we see it really clearly in COVID. And that makes me frustrated, and it makes me feel as a healer because I feel like it makes my work in some ways a bandaid, when I’m interested in larger systemic change so that we can actually have human justice for everyone. 

Shayla:

I feel that, this is Shayla. I feel that so much Ihotu, especially the pressure of having to heal yourself or you be responsible for your own healing. Like the whole self-care thing, like “self-care get a bath bomb, self-care do your nails like, yeah, nails in a bathroom” and whatever, but like that also doesn’t take away all the injustices that I’m trying to heal from, and trying to battle up against. So I was reading Bell Hooks, All About Love, and this really speaks to like what I was reading. 

Do you mind if I share a little will some some? 

Daniela:

Of course. 

Shayla:

Okay. So let’s see. “The more we accept ourselves, the better prepared we are to take responsibilities and all areas of our lives. Taking responsibility does not mean that we deny the response, the reality of institutionalized injustice. For example, racism, sexism, and homophobia all create barriers and concrete incidents of discrimination. Simply taking responsibility does not mean that we can prevent discriminatory acts from happening, but we can choose how we respond to acts of injustice. Taking responsibility means that in the face of barriers, we still have the capacity to invent our lives, to shape our destinies in ways that maximize our wellbeing. Every day, we practice this shape-shifting to cope with realities we cannot easily cheat.” So yeah, I think that’s what a healer is practicing that shapeshifting. And I’m kind of like with bell hooks, like yeah, we can do that but how long can I shapeshift? And is that sustainable? So yeah, I’ve been in conversation with this book and when you said that, Ihotu just like pull this out, I’m like, Oh yes, you must’ve been talking about Bell Hooks too. 

Ihotu:

I love that book. And I love that you had it on tap. Trust, I have my Audrey Lord. Oh snaps here too, because that’s what’s going to get us through is also going back to… we are not the first ones to go through difficult times. It is in our history. People have written about it. It’s in our books, it’s in our bodies if we listen, it’s in our dreams. And I think it’s really time of listening and seeking wisdom. If you don’t feel like you were an okay place. And I have for sure, been there through the last few months, where are you going to pull strengths? And that’s what I always tell my clients when they’re in labor as well. And when they feel like I can’t do it. It’s like, well, who and were you able to pull strength from right now? And will you allow yourself to receive it often? And that’s all that the compensation is like receiving the care. 

And I saw how that network really got started because I think we weren’t all asking for the care that we needed. And so we have our own practice of checking in, like Shayla and I was like, “I’m anxious about this podcast.” And she was like, “do you have water?” And I said, “no.” We can get some water and tea, because we need each other, and that’s what’s reproductive justice, that’s what Indigenous medicine, integrative medicine, the healing justice, not having to go it alone. And even if you don’t have people around you, finding your author guides, your spirit guides, your ancestors, your animal guides, right. Going out to the woods and talking to the trees. And knowing that even if you don’t have humans around, even if you’re at home by yourself or you it’s just you and your family, you can just..there is support out there for you.

Shayla:

You dare to put your feet on. 

Daniela:

And so many of us have been trained so, so much not to receive that there’s like this visceral, this somatic reaction when people give us anything, even just checking on us, right? So like, Ihotu you checked on me not long ago. And I kind of disappeared for a bit. This is Daniela. And we go through our cycles of being able to hold so much and not hold. And one of the things that I do appreciate about the network too, is just as just allowing us grace to come and go as we can, put in what we can and tend to ourselves and each other as we can, than pulling each other back in and being like, Hey, are you doing okay? What’s going on? What do you need? So it’s beautiful in that way. And yes, just always know that there’s people there for you, and also just grounding into the dirt, grounding into the earth, grounding into your body, knowing that your ancestors are there as well.

Ihotu:

Ase. We could go all day, and we do.

Shayla:

Because I thought this kind of related to like, “why is full spectrum doula care so important, and how is your community training and organizing full spectrum doulas?” Because I feel like doulas, I know they’re like used specifically for birth and death, abortion, miscarriage loss. But I feel maybe the network has become like a doula for my life, like a life doula, checking up on you, making sure you drinking your water, recalibrating, would that be part of spectrum doula care.

Ihotu:

I told Rhonda that she was my housing doula because she help me to get into farming. And the needs, everyone has all different kinds of needs, and we need someone to be there for us. And it makes me think a lot about how the nature of family has changed and how can we recreate that, those structures that were really meant to support us. 

Shayla:

So like, are you saying like, this is Shayla, doulas are formalized way to replace things that we already have, like through our families and communities?

Ihotu:

This is Ihotu. I think doulas came up because things that used to exist no longer did, at least in certain communities. And doula is a Greek word that means servant or caretaker. I know there’s a lot of other history, some of it problematic around that word. So some people choose to use it or not, but this idea of caretaker that’s so undervalued in our culture. And so something that used to be provided… so my dad’s side of the family Nigerian, when you’re in Nigeria and there’s always someone around, not everyone has jobs like here in, everyone has a job, except now with COVID, not everyone has a job. 

It’s just seeing change for Nigeria. There was always a grandma or auntie, or some neighbor around who could swing by and bring you food, and who would be able to help you out with different things. And just that extra hand around. I think that’s what I think about as a doula extra support. And it’s just interesting how that doesn’t exist in our society in our generation anymore.

I remember when I was a birth doula and my ex-husband at the time, he would say that he was the doula to the doula, because the doulas need doulas, the doctors need doulas.

Shayla:

That’s what I was thinking that support. I knew it was, you was telling me when somebody, if somebody is doing something and they need some, the person who’s doing something to the other person needs support. So if you’re the doula to a client or whoever, your ex-husband, your partner, your friends, whoever would be the doula to the doula. So yeah, it’s kind of like a triangle almost, or a circle. 

Ihotu:

You remember all the things I say, I don’t know if I remember. 

Shayla:

I remember, I think it was you. I’m pretty sure it was you. 

Daniela:

If there are any other last thoughts, people wanted to kind of fit in and also shout out our comrades, who couldn’t be on with us. 

Ihotu:

Yeah. I think, yeah. Full spectrum doula support is super important. Going back to what we were talking about earlier about being providers and caring for folks like right now, I’m caring for my abuela. I cared for my great grandmother until she passed. And so I felt kind of a doula in that sense, and we need more doulas, it’s hard out here. 

Shayla:

I was looking up a PCA and like the most they were paying for PCA work was $13. And I’m like, “what, why?”

Daniela:

We don’t value? We don’t value care work of any kind in this country. At least we don’t put any money behind that. You don’t have that fair exchange. And that’s a huge part of reproductive justice.

Ihotu:

Are we going to do the shout outs Shayla? 

[See the Resources tab of this Blog Article for links to all the Shout outs!]

Shayla:

Let’s shout them out. Well, I want to shout out my organization, Our Justice. Our Justice is where I work. I’m the vision realization advisor for Our Justice. And we work to ensure that all people in community have the power and resources to make sexual and reproductive health decisions with self determination, we provide logic for folks who are coming into Minnesota, seeking abortion care. We also provide abortion funding. We also work closely with spiral, which is another local group who does transportation to run from appointments. They do aftercare kits, Viral and OJ, and some other healing justice network folks teamed up during the uprising to do some care kits. And we distributed the care kits to folks out in the communities, Black, Indigenous, people of color, just so they knew they got some loving and from us and our justice is also participating and helping with the food pantry out of “Peace Coffee” that what it started by a Spiral member Rowan. So shout out to Spirals, shout out to our justice, shout out to anybody who was doing abortion work. I see you. Thank you. 

Daniela:

I want to shout out Nadine Ashby, who is part of Our Network. And they are starting the project of “The Birth Revolution.” In writing about it. They say that our goal right now is to create a birth worker doula training, centering BIPOC, and queer experience. That is also explicitly anti-racist, and focused on decolonization of birth work. Part of this work is calling in our elders and trusted leaders in the community to collaborate on this work. And we want to ensure these folks are paid full fees for their time, dedication and labor. 

Ihotu:

Yes I have a list of folks I want to shadow because the network is over 100 people. So there are just a few folks working in reproductive justice that we wanted to shout out and right? We had Rhonda and Jen on another podcast. So shout out to both of them for doing incredible work. Roots Birth Center, Britt Jackson and Minnesota Home Birth Initiative, the Ahava Birth doulas, and Clare Sharp, Ninde Doulas, Everyday Miracles, Jasmine Buddha, and The Radical Doula, and Black Lotus Mothers. Mary our wonderful elder Mary and the Cultural Wellness Center, holding it down with Black doula work doing Black doula of Minnesota since way back. Autumn Cavender, Minnesota Prison Doula Project. Millicent’s doing work out States Minnesota and probably many more, but I think it’s important to shout our people out because you kind of meet one group and then it’s hard to kind of find who’s doing the BIPOC work in communities. So on our website, mnhealingjustice.com, we have links to folks work as well. 

Daniela:

And I just also offered that with the Ninde doulas. It’s really exciting because when I first came to the Twin Cties seven years ago, there was like one Indigenous doula that I found. And now there is like this beautiful collective of Nindes. So it’s just very, very exciting. 

Ihotu:

I forgot. I did also want to shout out the Unrestrict Minnesota Campaign, a campaign that I’m part of. We’re educating Minnesota about the abortion restrictions in our state that are not in line with the constitution. Just a friendly reminder that 76% of Minnesotans believe that people should have access to abortion care. And so, yeah, Unrestrict Minnesota if you see our billboards, if you see our signs, if you want to go on our website and support, sign a pledge so we can get folks access to safe, affordable abortion care in the state of Minnesota, please do please support. And we do within the Minnesota Human Justice Network have a solidarity network of folks who don’t have to be from Minnesota. Don’t have to be healers. I don’t have to be BIPOC. You can be of any identity and who want to support our work. 

And so you can find more information on the website, if you would like to give funds, we have a PayPal. We are gosh dreaming really big about what is the feature of our work of feature of human justice and kind of the future of healthcare? I think to be honest, I’ll having lots of questions like that and how do we be the society that we want to live in? And so, yeah, any supports that you can offer, even if that’s just like shout outs on Facebook and social media, it’s always good to know that there’s support out there. We’ve been so overwhelmed. It’s just been so overwhelming the amount of national love and attention and offerings, whether that’s donations or tons of herbs showing up on my front door for us to make more and more care products, self-care products. 

And just finding safe ways to continue to be here and it’s through COVID, we can’t necessarily touch each other or as much. And how do we still give care and make them be seen and be a part of this national conversation around human justice, around reproductive justice. We took a group of folks down to The Reproductive Justice Conferences of SisterSong last October, and got to network and build with a lot of amazing groups around the country, shout out to all my people in New York who are doing amazing work, creating a woman of color own percenters. So there’s just amazing work happening. 

And if people want to plug in is here. Evidence Based Birth® is putting all the links together. So it yea. 

Shayla:

We need a center here in Minnesota, that does birth and abortion care, and some other stuff maybe trans health or choices, shout out to Choices. I believe. I think they’re in Memphis, we need something like that here in Minnesota. 

Ihotu:

Yes. New York too, that does both birth and abortion.

Daniela:

All right. Yes birth and abortion together. They are the same. It’s all part of the same cycle. Thank you guys. This has been beautiful. I think we’re ready to wrap up. Perfect timing Rebecca. 

Ihotu:

Yeah. Thank you. 

Rebecca Dekker:

Thank you so much Ihotu, Shayla and Daniela for taking over the podcast and for letting us listen in on your conversation. We love and appreciate the work that you do. 

Ihotu:

Thank you. Likewise.

Listening to this podcast is an Australian College of Midwives CPD Recognised Activity.

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