In this episode, I interview Sabia Wade, a Black and Queer full spectrum doula, doula business coach and reproductive justice advocate. She is the founder of For The Village and Birthing Advocacy Doula Trainings. She’s also a Somatic Experience Practitioner in training. Sabia’s mission is to bring inclusive, accessible and full spectrum education and resources to all individuals and organizations dedicated to creating a world of inclusion, justice and equity to birthing people all over the world.
Sabia and I discuss health disparities and advocacy, and how both are being affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
For more information and news about Evidence Based Birth, visit www.ebbirth.com. Find us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/EvidenceBasedBirth/), Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/ebbirth/), and Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/ebbirth/). Ready to get involved? Check out our Professional membership (including scholarship options) (https://evidencebasedbirth.com/become-pro-member/) and our Instructor program. (https://evidencebasedbirth.com/become-an-evidence-based-birth-instructor/) Find an EBB Instructor here (https://evidencebasedbirth.com/find-an-instructor-parents/), and click here (https://evidencebasedbirth.com/childbirth-class/) to learn more about the Evidence Based Birth Childbirth Class.
Follow Sabia’s work:
Donate to For the Village at: www.forthevillage.org
Learn about Sabia’s Marco Polo Channel at: https://channels.marcopolo.me/-/theblackdoula
For sliding scale and/or free assistance from a doula with planning birth strategy during the pandemic, contact email@example.com .
Evidence Based Birth® Response to COVID-19
- We will continue our mission of making birth evidence freely available to public. We will continue to release new research evidence on COVID-19 each Monday to our email list as it emerges.
- We will be releasing several free resources to public! We will have a free birthing class available on YouTube: ‘Birthing in the time of COVID-19 Crash Course’ evidencebasedbirth.com/crashcourse
- Our EBB Instructors are teaching totally online during the pandemic. Our EBB Instructors are also taking distance learning students for Childbirth Class. Visit evidencebasedbirth.com/events for all workshops and seminars, and evidencebasedbirth.com/childbirthclass for childbirth classes.
- We have created a virtual doula directory made up of EBB Professional Members and Instructors who can offer virtual doula services during this time: evidencebasedbirth.com/virtualdouladirectory
- We also have a legal wavier for mothers who are infected with COVID-19 and wish to decline mother/infant separation.
- Follow Sabia’s on Instagram @theblackdoula (https://www.instagram.com/theblackdoula/) and @birthingadvocacy (https://www.instagram.com/birthingadvocacy/).
- Connect with Sabina at The Black Doula (www.theblackdoula.com) and Birthing Advocacy (www.birthingadvocacy.org).
- Donate to For the Village here (www.forthevillage.org).
- See Sabia’s Marco Polo Channel here (https://channels.marcopolo.me/-/theblackdoula).
- For sliding scale and/or free assistance from a doula, and birth strategy planning during the pandemic, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.Black Maternal Health Week is April 14-21. Visit https://blackmamasmatter.org/bmhw/ to learn about upcoming webinars, resources, and more!
- Selected news articles about health disparities and the coronavirus:
Rebecca Dekker: Hey, everyone. On today’s podcast, we’re going to talk with Sabia Wade about health equity and the COVID-19 pandemic. 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. See ebbirth.com/disclaimer for more details.
Rebecca Dekker: Hi, everyone, and welcome to today’s Evidence Based Birth Podcast, where today we’re going to talk with Sabia Wade about health equity and COVID-19 and its impact on maternal health as well. Sabia is a black and queer full spectrum doula, a doula business coach, and reproductive justice advocate. She is also a somatic experienced practitioner in training. Sabia is the founder of For The Village and Birth Advocacy Doula Trainings. Her mission is to bring inclusive, accessible and full spectrum education and resources to all individuals and organizations ready to take the next step in creating a world of inclusion, justice, and equity to birthing people all over the world. Welcome, Sabia, to the Evidence Based Birth Podcast.
Sabia Wade: Hey, Rebecca. Happy to be here.
Rebecca Dekker: Yeah, thank you so-
Sabia Wade: Kind of fan girling a little bit.
Rebecca Dekker: Well, I’m fan girling too because I think I started following your work a year ago, and I was like, “Who is this person,” on Instagram. I was just so blown away by what you were doing and how much you’ve accomplished in the last few years. We’ll get into that in a little bit. It is Black Maternal Health Week as well, and I thought it would be perfect to talk with you and the work you’ve been doing and just get some practical, real life knowledge and wisdom about how we can address these health inequities we’re seeing. Sabia, can you start off by telling us a little bit about… Just let us get to know you. How did you get into birth work?
Sabia Wade: I’ll keep this long story short, but I was… Prior to birth work, I was in the medical field. I became a nursing assistant and I was working in hospital settings. So, I was coming across people… My last actual job was in Philly on South Street. And, I was coming across people from gunshot wounds to heart replacement to traumatic crazy events and all these different things. But, I moved to a different unit actually and the unit was LTACH, long-term. It was people with ventilators and just all this different stuff. The one thing that I noticed was that they were, one, in very traumatic situations, very stressful changes, life just changing in front of their… So quickly. But, I didn’t feel like they were treated holistically.
Sabia Wade: So, I saw a lot of medication and I saw a lot of let me take your blood pressure. But then, I only saw the therapist, which I think we only had one therapist for the whole hospital or two maybe and they would get one hour a week or something like that. And I was like, “What is this?” And then, I was looking at the nutrition and I was like, “What is this on their plate? This food is not quality food.” It was these things that were making me rethink my future because I wanted to be a nurse practitioner, at one point. I was like, “I want to be a nurse practitioner, I want to do this thing.” And for me personally, I realized that I felt my presence in that system wasn’t helpful and it didn’t make me feel good. Which I feel like everyone has a place in this whole thing. In hospital care providers, out of hospital care providers, we all have a role to play. But, I felt like that wasn’t my role.
Sabia Wade: So, at the time I was living in Philly. I had heard about doulas and after some time I was like, “Okay, I’m ready to make the step.” And long story short, I moved to Massachusetts and before I moved there I was like, “I want to be a doula. I want to find something, I don’t know, with some purpose.” And I found a prison birth project so I applied to them. The first time I contacted them they said they weren’t looking for anyone, any volunteers. Me, I’m persistent. So I waited a couple of weeks and I was like, “Hey, I’m back. Do you need any volunteers?” And they were like, “Yeah, let’s do an interview.” So, I ended up being a prison birth project doula, working with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated and people in substance recovery as a full spectrum doula for two years. So that’s kind of, I went from the medical field, and kind of understanding that system, and then going out of the system to hopefully be able to provide kind of that holistic approach or those things that I felt like was missing from my medical system experience, if that makes sense.
Rebecca Dekker: Yeah. And what was that like then working with the prison project?
Sabia Wade: It was amazing. It’s the foundation of all that I do. I think that my experience with the prison birth project, it literally paved a way that I wasn’t even aware of. I went into it being a volunteer, super green, not knowing anything. And when I finished those two years, I came out feeling like I knew what I wanted to do with my life.
Sabia Wade: Even so, the person who started that is Marianne Bullock and she’s still my homie, my best friend, my mentor and my everything now. And she, it’s so crazy talking to her just a few months ago, we talk all the time, but she was like, “I knew that you were going to go beyond this.” I didn’t see it for myself, but she saw it and now I’m just forever grateful for stepping into the birth world in a way that was unconventional and being able to be aware of not just, Oh, people have a baby and it’s great and it’s rainbows and it’s picket white fences and everything’s great. Being able to see the other side of birth and now being able to use that in my work. I don’t know what my life would be if I didn’t, if I wasn’t part of the PDP.
Rebecca Dekker: Yeah, that seems like a really incredible way to start off a doula career. I would assume most people would probably get some experience first and then start volunteering. But, you just jumped right in to…
Sabia Wade: Oh, yeah. I remember being at my first birth and I was like… Because luckily I had hospital experience so I was used to that atmosphere. But, I had never worked with someone specifically for birth purposes. But, I remember just being there and being like, “What the hell am I doing here? But, also this is great, so let’s just do it.” And, I was dealing with the other complexities, like my client who I’m still close with now, she was dealing with being on methadone and they’re not having the methadone available to her and then the stigma. So, it just was an experience that is priceless. And like I said, it’s the foundation of everything that I do now.
Rebecca Dekker: So what did you go on to do next? So, you were in Massachusetts then?
Sabia Wade: Yeah. So, I was in Massachusetts for two years. During the time that I was becoming a doula, I actually had my own health experience as a black woman in a medical system as a patient where I had a fibroid that was super big, that was pushing against my bowel, my uterus, all this crazy stuff and I had to get it removed, open abdominal. And in that first week that I started to complain about it, I went to three doctors in a week and the first doctor who was a white doctor told me I probably had a kidney stone. I didn’t do a palpation on my stomach. And if you were [crosstalk 00:08:06].
Rebecca Dekker: Didn’t do an ultrasound or anything?
Sabia Wade: Nothing, and if you would touch my stomach, literally you could feel [crosstalk 00:08:12].
Rebecca Dekker: Could feel the fibroid?
Sabia Wade: The fibroid.
Rebecca Dekker: Because you held your hands up. It was about six inches long.
Sabia Wade: Yeah. Yeah.
Rebecca Dekker: Yeah.
Sabia Wade: So then I went to a second doctor. I went to him on Monday. I went to the second doctor on Wednesday. He was another white doctor. He was like, “Oh, maybe you’re having gallbladder issues.” And I was like, “Ah, I don’t think so.” And just another one didn’t, didn’t palpate, didn’t do anything. So finally I went to a third doctor, who was a person of color and he was like, “Let’s just get you an ultrasound and get you a scan.” And like if it’s nothing, then great. But if it is, let’s handle it. So thank God for him because he’s the reason why I sit here today because I could have had any type of result.
Sabia Wade: It was literally my fibroid was pushing against my bowel. So it was decreasing the size of it. It was a reckless situation. But nonetheless, I say all this to say I had two surgeries when I was [inaudible 00:09:04], and I was in Massachusetts. And finally after I healed up from that, I was like, okay, I’m ready to go, you know? I’m ready to start somewhere new. I need some sun in my life because Massachusetts is also cold for no reason. And I was like, I know I want to be a doula, but I don’t want to do it in the snow. I was tired of driving back and forth at 3:00 in the morning in the snow.
Sabia Wade: So I went to San Diego for a vacation, actually, before my first surgery. And then when I got there, I knew that I wanted to live there, and it wasn’t even like dreamy like, oh, because we have these palm trees. I had been to California before. It was just something in San Diego that was like, you need to be here. So once I got cleared from my second surgery because my bowel connected to my uterus, that was a whole nother thing. I cleared from there, and I moved to San Diego about two or three months later. I was just out, like I’m gone, I’m ready for the sun.
Sabia Wade: And I got to San Diego, started looking at different resources because I’m coming from this super charged reproductive justice, full-spectrum doula. And I was looking for my community, and I couldn’t really find anyone. So I couldn’t really find a organization or just a place where I felt like they were carrying my same type of values. So I looked into volunteer programs in San Diego. They have a couple of hospital programs. I kind of participated just to see what it was about. And I was like, I’m just going to do my own thing. And that’s when For the Village came.
Sabia Wade: So from there I created For the Village, and that started off really small. It started off with just a few doulas who were people of color who were looking for a community who were looking for the full spectrum [inaudible 00:00:02:58], who were looking for advocacy. We ended up linking up with the WIC office in San Diego. We ended up connecting doulas to about five people that requested doula services. And then from there we ended up going to WIC like every month. And so we went from like five doulas to like 20. And I was like, okay, we’re really doing this.
Sabia Wade: So I finally put us on paper, got our 501(c)3 status. And then Project Concern International contacted us about last year, and they were like, “Hey, we’re doing this new campaign or new project around black maternal death, and we want to have a doula program. We see you’re already doing it. Can we have you as our doula program and we pay you and we do these things?” And so now we’ve been working with them for I guess almost a year, and they funded us to you 90 births within a year. And so we’ve met that, and we’re in a five-year project with them. So that’s how For the Village came.
Rebecca Dekker: That’s amazing. So your doulas, do you get reimbursed for their time there?
Sabia Wade: Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Rebecca Dekker: Okay.
Sabia Wade: Yeah. So we train. So what I do is, and For the Village, I train doulas, like community members of San Diego who want to become doulas. We train them for free. It’s a three-day program. Then after that, after background checks and all this other great stuff, then they’re able to serve the community of San Diego. So they get paid for the prenatal visit, birth and the postnatal visit as well. And also it’s so beautiful because our doulas, we have about 40-plus doulas, and we have people from all different backgrounds. It gives you an actual good variety and representation of what San Diego truly is. And we have over 10 languages spoken within our doulas, so many different nationalities, so many different people. It’s just beautiful to see an actual representation, and in San Diego, you don’t get to see that. So it’s just an amazing, just-
Rebecca Dekker: So people can find a doula who looks like them.
Sabia Wade: Yes. Speaks their language, understands them, has similar experiences and can navigate the hospital system, knowing what happens in that space to help them. And we also, too, along with that, we have Darynée Blount, who’s a midwife, so she’s part of the collaboration as well. And she provides home birth. She provides prenatal and postnatal midwifery appointments and care. But also if they want to do a home birth and they qualify, she does a home birth at a discounted rate. So we’re actually making doula care more accessible, midwifery care more accessible. People are getting co-care. so if they’re working with a doctor, they still get the midwifery piece. So it’s just a beautiful combination.
Rebecca Dekker: Yeah. And how do the families access care then at For the Village?
Sabia Wade: So-
Rebecca Dekker: Do they have to pay for it or is it sliding scale or is it free?
Sabia Wade: It’s free. It’s free. So right now in our program, people that qualify for free care are low-income people, no matter what their nationality, race, or anything is. And because our focus is specifically to improve the black maternal outcomes, if you are a black and you live in San Diego, you’re already qualified for free.
Rebecca Dekker: Okay. So they don’t even have to look at income if you’re…
Sabia Wade: Yep.
Rebecca Dekker: Okay, fascinating.
Sabia Wade: Because we also know that when it comes to the black maternal disparities, it doesn’t matter if you have a lot of money…
Rebecca Dekker: Exactly.
Sabia Wade: …if you don’t have a lot of money, if you’re educated, not educated. So we use that same framework to be like, “Hey, we’re here whenever you need us.”
Rebecca Dekker: Yeah. And how many families is For the Village serving, then, every year now?
Sabia Wade: Right now, oh my gosh, we have to be… I feel like when I last looked at our tracker, which we were using our tracking system since about June or July, we have to be at least 125, around that. [crosstalk 00:15:04].
Rebecca Dekker: So in less than a year you’ve served 125 families in San Diego.
Sabia Wade: Yeah. And the way that we look at it is we take them in as clients, and of course like the birth maybe later on. But also we sometimes get last minute… Like we’ve literally had clients where they’ve called us in labor, and we’ve had to get someone out there to get them into the program during the labor process, get a doula there, and baby is out like an hour later.
Rebecca Dekker: Wow.
Sabia Wade: So it can really be expansive as to when they come to us.
Rebecca Dekker: Okay. So there’s no restrictions on you have to contact us by a certain time of pregnancy.
Sabia Wade: Nope. Nope. We try to make it as open as possible because circumstances change. Even right now, right? Obviously dealing with the coronavirus, we have people that maybe felt, “Oh, I had this team set up. I don’t need For the Village. I don’t need these services because I have this whole team set up for this ideal birth and now because of the coronavirus, things are shifting.” People are not able to have the support system that they thought they were going to have, people aren’t working. It’s a chaotic time so because of that, you may have people that are contacting you a week before they deliver.
Rebecca Dekker: And how have your services shifted with the COVID-19 pandemic? Are you able to go to people’s homes, go to any of the San Diego hospitals?
Sabia Wade: Yeah. So in San Diego right now… It’s a couple things, there’s a couple of factors. So for me personally, being the leader of my nonprofit in My Doulas. I’ve told them when I want them to make a decision about whether they want to be in a hospital or not, if they want to be present for birth or not and that’s a personal decision, right? Because we all have different factors, whether it’s our health, our children, our elders, right? So that’s the first thing that I told people. You make a personal decision on what you would like to do. From that we have a couple of people who are still wanting to do in person care, and so, so far those couple people have been allowed in hospital spaces. And then we also have other people who are like, I want to provide virtual services. So they’ve been doing virtual prenatals, virtual birth assistants as well as virtual postpartum visits.
Rebecca Dekker: Okay. So you have switched some of your services to virtual.
Sabia Wade: For sure. For sure. We just wanted to make sure that our community understood that even with different regulations, whether it’s the hospitals or even just people’s personal decisions on it’d be in person or not that we’re still available for support.
Rebecca Dekker: Okay. So in 2019 you then started another project which was birthing advocacy doula trainings. Can you tell us a little bit about your training organization and how it differs from many of the other doula trainings?
Sabia Wade: Yeah, so it’s so funny because when I hear how much I’ve done, I’m always like, “Wow, you’ve done a lot.” But birthing advocacy doula trainings was kind of born out of… Funny enough, when I moved to San Diego, there was a lot of different people from different, like different doulas from different certifying organizations who were like, “Oh, why don’t you join us? Or why don’t you join me over here,” the doula wards and join our organization. So at the time I was curious because coming from being a project, being a prison birth project doula, I wasn’t even really aware of all these doula organizations because it wasn’t even in my scare of life.
Rebecca Dekker: You were a community doula. Yeah, you were a community based doula. You were, yeah.
Sabia Wade: Yeah, exactly. I don’t really, not that I don’t care, but it just wasn’t in my world. So at the time I was like, okay, so I did a little research on this organization, and then I would do a little research on that organization and I was like, “Oh, I mean this is cute,” but I was like, it’s really talking about the things that I know exist in a birth experience or I know that exists in their communities of just people and birthing people. It wasn’t talking about queer and trans identities, it wasn’t talking about food insecurity, it wasn’t talking about abortion and loss, and it wasn’t talking about these things that were at the center of why I do this work. So for me I was like I can’t align with organizations that don’t fully represent people and definitely don’t fully or sometimes don’t even have any representation of me as a black person.
Rebecca Dekker: I was going to say aren’t most doula trainings led by white birth workers?
Sabia Wade: Oh, for sure. For sure. It’s led by white birth workers and it also talks and creates a knowledge base around whiteness, right? Like whiteness being born whiteness culture or traditions or whatever you want to say, just being the norm. So I kind of just chilled for a little bit and like I said I created for the village and when I created for the village, I started to see more people saying, “Hey, I want to learn from you. I want to train under you fully.” And I was like “Me? Okay.” So finally I finally had a conversation with my friend. So Kimberly Ann Johnson, the writer of the Fourth Trimester, she’s one of my best to use. And I was telling her like, “I want to do this thing.” And so she was like, “Okay, come over to my house, let’s hang out.” So we went to-
Rebecca Dekker: Back when we could hang out at people’s houses.
Sabia Wade: Yeah, right? I miss hanging out. And I’m an introvert and I miss other people hanging outside the house. But anyway, so we went to lunch and she said, “Okay, if you wanted to do a training, what would it look like?” And I said, “Okay, I wanted to do an online because I want it to be accessible to other people. I want to talk about all that.” I was like, “I want it to be 12 weeks.” And she was like, “Okay, well write down what you think those 12 weeks would include.” And we just started building a framework together and from there she was like, “Okay, put it out.” And I was like, “Put it out? What do you mean?” And so I finally, I was like, whatever, let me just do it.
Sabia Wade: And I put it out and people really started to latch onto it. And the first class that I did, I had about 70 or 80 people. Yeah and I was like, “Huh?” So from there, and that was June 2019, so we’re not even a year into birthing advocacy being a thing. And since then we’ve trained over, I would say in the last year. The doula program alone, I’ve trained over at least 300 people, 250 to 300 people as an organization as a whole because I also did my racism and privilege class under that. I do a doula business essentials course under that. We’re also building a childbirth education course, but I would say at least about 500 people have come through be ADT within the last year.
Rebecca Dekker: That’s amazing.
Sabia Wade: Yeah. And it’s amazing and it’s also a very, what’s the word that I want to say? It’s very confirming in that people want to do more. People want to learn more, they want to be better, they want to do better. They want to recognize that there’s disparities in birth, and there’s inequalities that there’s things happening beyond just having a baby. People want to be inclusive, people want to be knowledgeable about the good and bad sides of the birthing experience. So, and I love to do it.
Rebecca Dekker: Now I have a quick side question about the title of your training organization is birthing advocacy doula trainings. When advocacy is a controversial word in some parts of the doula world. So can you talk a little bit about why you made it part of your name? You don’t have to get in too deep into it, but I think it’s important to me it really stands out. Yeah.
Sabia Wade: Yeah, it’s super important. So of course when you’re first building a name to something, you’re like, “Okay, like what do I do? Like what do I name this thing?” And for me it was like I was like, “I have to do something that really stands true to everything that I am.” And I was like, when it comes to doula work, I’m an advocate. I am an activist, I am those things. And I know that within our world right now in the birth world is our doula advocates are we not advocates? For me, my opinion is always going to be that we’re advocates. We’re advocates. Now that doesn’t mean that I think sometimes people have a disconnection with what actually advocacy is where I feel like they think that advocacy means that you are speaking for your client, that you are speaking above your client, that you are constantly in fight mode or some type of fight response. Actually that doesn’t mean that.
Sabia Wade: When I go to my clients homes and I sit with them and educate them on how many choices they have and what they can do and what the possibilities are, that’s advocacy. I’m letting them know how to advocate for themselves, what options are available to them. And so when I was building BADC I was like, “That has to be a part of it. It has to be.” I was like, “Because anyone that’s becoming a full spectrum doula within this organization are birthing themselves as the advocate. They’re birthing that part of themselves.”
Rebecca Dekker: It’s not a dirty word. It’s actually … Yeah,
Sabia Wade: It’s their birthing that side of themselves. I’ve never had, not never, but most of the people that come to me that want to be a part of the training, aren’t coming because they want to know where babies come from. They’re not, they’re coming because they’re like, “I want to learn about the inequalities that are going on. I want to know what’s my part in this. I want to know what I can do. I want to be aware of food insecurity. I want to be aware of all these different things that are happening, these inequities that are happening because they’re birthing themselves as an advocate.” So it was just important for me to put that in name and then birthing advocacy doula trainings came and here we are.
Rebecca Dekker: Here we are. So let’s talk a little bit more about health disparities, in particular in relation to the covid-19 crisis. I’ve been cringing when I hear people saying that the pandemic is the “great equalizer” because you and I both know this is not true. Can you talk about how this pandemic affects marginalized folks, specifically brown and black families?
Sabia Wade: Yes. So yeah, the great equalizer. So one of the things that I did just before we talked, because I’ve been reading different articles about what’s going on, especially with race and the coronavirus. And so one of the headlines that popped up on my Instagram from Shishi Rose was, Bronx residents are twice as likely to die from covid-19. That’s currently. Another thing that popped up was that in Louisiana, 70% of the deaths related to coronavirus are African American and 29% are white and only 32% of that population is of African American descent. And I’m just looking at these statistics and also we’ve talked, I lost my grandfather this week who lives in Philly. I lost my uncle who also lived in Philly.
Rebecca Dekker: Both to the coronavirus.
Sabia Wade: Both to the coronavirus. And then also I have a doula colleague who lost her life and she’s also a person of color who lived in San Diego and her husband and father were also in ICU a couple of days ago, the last time I updated myself on a situation. And just my own personal experience of losing two family members in the last week and seeing what’s going on, there’s a clear connection between race and the coronavirus right now. And I think that goes into so many layers that include things like the health inequity, like access to healthcare. We hear in a lot of conversation about, well it’s because African Americans have more underlying conditions. And I’m like, well, there’s reasons for these underlying conditions that exist more in this population.
Rebecca Dekker: Yeah. And I think we have to say that it’s not related to race, but it’s the systemic racism that leads to these differences.
Sabia Wade: Exactly. Black people aren’t just more prone to diabetes because they’re black. They’re not more prone to [inaudible 00:27:42] because they’re black. It’s these systems that are in place, the systemic racism that are in place, that are not giving them the support. They’re not getting the preventative care. They’re not getting healthy food. Access to healthy food is life changing. It’s all these different things that are included in what’s presenting itself right now.
Rebecca Dekker: Also, economically because of systematic disenfranchisement for generations, black families and brown families have less income and less savings, so they’re less able to shelter in place.
Sabia Wade: Exactly. And then on top of that, and we’re talking about, when you talk about economically, we’re also talking about black and brown communities living in multi generational homes. So when you have one person get the coronavirus, now everyone’s exposed to the coronavirus and we’re seeing, unfortunately like my doula colleague where her whole family is affected.
Rebecca Dekker: Yeah, the seniors are more reliant on support from their family.
Sabia Wade: Exactly. So it’s all these different factors that are kind of putting themselves forward and it’s really irritating and I’m actually going to be out and I’ll send it when I put out there, I’m putting a thing that I wrote on medium next week, but it’s really irritating to me because we see now white people saying like, “Oh my gosh.” We see these headlines, race in the coronavirus in whatever.
Rebecca Dekker: And you and I both probably knew this was going to happen.
Sabia Wade: Yes. This has been happening. First of all, the coronavirus is not the reason why, this is not something that’s new for us. We know that any pandemic, any epidemic, anything that comes across, is going to affect black and brown communities and indigenous communities more than anyone else. And it’s like now with the coronavirus, I mean the coronavirus is upsetting because there’s not enough adequate information going around to BiPAP communities. There’s not enough access to testing. These things that are happening and you could only think about it as a black person, this is just systemic racism. It’s a lack of care for who people think are the important people in this world because there’s no reason why there’s not access to education in spaces where we see black and brown communities and indigenous communities.
Rebecca Dekker: And then you throw on top of that the unconscious bias that people experience. Like you’d gave the perfect example of having your symptoms dismissed. So if you walk in with symptoms as a black or brown person, you’re more likely to be dismissed or sent home.
Sabia Wade: Exactly. And it’s the implicit racism that’s going on. It’s the explicit racism too because people, they don’t give a damn. And that’s just how they feel. And right now I feel like it’s also … So one of the things that I talked about recently on Instagram last week was, I see a lot of people who want to call themselves white accomplices, want to call themselves white allies, who now that we’re in this state of panic and distress, are going back to that nature of only helping those that are in their immediate community. So in a sense of people that, and people that I know have done work around being a better white person for BiPAP communities, and I see that and I’m like, “Hey, this is the time where all that training that you did, all that reading that you did, all that conversation, all that, Oh, I want to be a better white person. This is the time.”
Rebecca Dekker: Yeah. You have a quote on your Instagram page from you. It says being anti-racist is always safe when everything’s fine.
Sabia Wade: Yeah. it’s always great, when we’re all just learning and everything’s cool.
Rebecca Dekker: There’s no urgency.
Sabia Wade: There’s no urgency, there’s no crisis presenting itself, it’s like, of course you can talk all that good, I’m a good white accomplice and I do this and I do that, but now it’s a time of crisis. This is a crisis. This is going to be a crisis that the black and indigenous and brown communities are going to feel for years to come, and this is when it’s time to step it up. This is the time. There is no other time and if you don’t step it up at this time then don’t introduce yourself with the conversations around equality for Black and Brown communities. Right? So for me, I’m hoping and I’m wanting to see more white people thinking about what needs to be done and then doing it. Right?
Sabia Wade: Some of the things that I’ve been seeing are people are donating to the essential workers which are, I mean God bless them. Right? Because I thought about that the other day. I was like, “Oh my God, I would’ve been in a hospital.” And I’m a vulnerable population because I have fibromyalgia and also this stuff from my surgeries. But I see people donating to essential workers, but I’m like, “We need to start talking about the grocery store workers. We need to start talking about the-“
Rebecca Dekker: The sanitation workers.
Sabia Wade: The sanitation workers. The people that are mostly going to be black and Brown, indigenous communities who are low paid, but have to show up to work regardless. And have no choice, they need to pay their bills. Right? We need to be talking about building resources and donating to those communities. Right? We need to be talking about white people calling the different systems that are in place and saying, “Hey, why are you not reporting your racial outcomes?” Because we also have issue with that right in now. Where people are… Hospitals and states are reporting gender, like male, female, whatever. But they’re not reporting racial outcomes, which is stuff that we need to know so we know what to do.
Sabia Wade: So this is the stuff that white people need to be when they’re sitting home, because most of us are sitting home now. When we’re sitting home wondering about, “Am I going to be make my summer vacation? Am I going to be able to… Are my kids going to be able to go back to school in the fall, because they’re annoying because kids are annoying right now.” We need to be thinking about the bigger issues that are going on that maybe you’re not seeing and are being affected by.
Rebecca Dekker: And I think it’s also important to bring up that whole white savior syndrome. Instead of thinking I need to start a nonprofit or I’m going to do this, would you say the one thing you could do to be anti-racist would be find the Black and Brown people doing the work and then just see what you can do to support them?
Sabia Wade: For sure.
Rebecca Dekker: Okay.
Sabia Wade: For sure. So one of the big things I talk about in my work is being a white accomplice, and I’ll break it down because I haven’t said it here. So one thing that we talk about is that there is white, there’s allies, right? So white allies are the people that say, “I stand by equality. I think that this is the right thing to do.” But they don’t either move here nor there. They still operate in their white privilege because they can. Right? But they believe in having a better world.
Sabia Wade: So what we’re trying to move people to is being a white accomplice. So what that says is, “I believe in equality. I believe in being anti-racist and doing whatever needs to be done. And I’m actually doing it and I’m doing it with the leadership of the Black, indigenous, and Brown communities that are going to lead me and tell me which way to go.” Right?
Sabia Wade: So that means I’m not going to be a white savior because white savior complex is, “I know what’s right for this community. I know that I have these resources and these skills and I can put it forward and they’re going to love it.” Right? But usually we don’t love it because we’re like, “What are you doing?” We didn’t actually do that. You’re not even doing the right thing and this is really centered around your own ego and you making yourself feel better.
Sabia Wade: But a white accomplice says, “Hey, I know what privileges I have. I know what skill sets I have. I know what I can do with my whiteness that I just happened to be born into. Tell me how to use that. Do you need me to donate funds here? Do you need me to call up this person? What do you need me to do? Or do you need me to sit down and shut up? What do you need me to do? I’m going to follow the lead of the people that are most effected, which are the marginalized communities and I’m going to listen.” So that’s what we need right now, is that type of listening. Listening then taking action.
Rebecca Dekker: Then following.
Sabia Wade: And following and being okay with being in the backseat, being okay with being back there and being used only when needed in whatever ways that we say we need you.
Rebecca Dekker: Are there any organizations that stick out at you that we should check out and people should follow, support, advocate for?
Sabia Wade: Yeah. So I always say, I mean there’s a few, right? There’s always, I mean there’s For the Village. Because that’s my organization and we are it’s crazy how much growth we’ve had. And if you know anything about nonprofits, it’s like, “Money. How does that work?” Right?
Rebecca Dekker: Right.
Sabia Wade: There’s Ancient Song in Brooklyn. There’s also Kimberly Allers, I think is how you say her name. She’s on Instagram and I’ve been following her a lot because she talks about specifically with chest feeding how this pandemic is affecting chest feeding for Black and Brown communities. The separation of babies from their parents, the access to formula, the advice that’s going out that is not applicable to Black and Brown communities. So she’s a great resource.
Rebecca Dekker: And she’s the author of The Big Letdown, a book about the cultural issues related to breastfeeding and chestfeeding.
Sabia Wade: Exactly. And I mean there’s always, there’s Sumi’s Touch. There’s a lot of people who are putting the word out there. And my thing is I have a lot of people that follow me and it’s great, but make sure that when you’re following us and that you’re getting this information from us, that you’re not just praising us, that you’re doing something. Right? And I think people have to understand that doing something doesn’t always mean that, “Oh, you have $1,000 to give someone.” That may not be what you can do. And maybe spreading the word about services and maybe providing some type of skill set that you have and maybe… Nothing is ever too small as long as you’re willing to do something because I also get really exhausted myself by people, by white people in particular, just saying how great I am but not doing anything.
Sabia Wade: And I’m like, “Well thank you, but also I need you to make impact within your communities. I need you to be educating when you’re all sitting at the dinner table amongst your white family. I need you to be having those conversations there and breaking the patterns of not talking about this.” Right? Because if we don’t talk about this with our families, with our children, with these people that are around us, we’re never going to change anything.
Sabia Wade: It can’t be just having conversation on social media, because we have that too, right? Where you see white people saying, “Oh, let me post this. This is the Black maternal deaths experience. This is what we need to do.” And I’m like, “Yeah, but are you having those conversations with your community behind closed doors?” Because doing it with social media is great, but it’s not doing anything. So make sure that when you’re actually supporting us that you’re supporting us not with just words, but with your actual action. And now we’re all sitting in the house so you might have a little time on your hands to do something.
Rebecca Dekker: Yeah. That’s great advice. I was wondering about your doula trainees, and the people who work for your organization as well For the Village, but also the many doulas you’ve been training over the last year. What are some strategies they’re using right now to meet the needs of Black, indigenous and Brown families during the pandemic that are pregnant or birthing soon?
Sabia Wade: Yeah, so we’ve had a lot of, I’ve seen a lot of discussion in our Facebook groups, in particular, because people are, one, they’re panicked, one, about their own security, their own stability. And then also, we have people who are wanting to do more but not wanting to … Sometimes in your efforts to do more, sometimes you can cause more of a crisis, if that makes sense. We have our doers who are providing virtual service as much as they can, we have doers who are doing it low cost, doing it for free, we have doers who are creating different programs for childhood education and different resources online for their clients and as you saw, probably on my Instagram, Jenna Brown, who’s Instagram is loveoverfearwellness, they put together a new collective that I’m a part of called Birth Unplanning. And so, that’s my major way of giving back right now.
Sabia Wade: In Birth Unplanning, the goal is to help people to strategize and navigate with the new normal that’s happening right now and it’s a service that was put together with the aim of helping people who are all over the world, doesn’t matter who may or may not have a doula, but just needs to strategize over how does my birth look now versus how did it look before? Collectively, with my students and with people that I am colleagues and friends with, I’m using a lot focus on how do we support people who are not going to have that birth that they thought they were going to have?
Rebecca Dekker: And it looks like you contact email@example.com if you need help and it’s community supported sliding scale so anybody can access it.
Sabia Wade: Anyone can access it. We have different levels, which you can pay, but also if you can’t pay anything, you won’t be denied. It’s a great service. I’m really excited about it, I’m really thankful, because one of my questions was when this whole coronavirus thing really started to take over, I was like, “Okay, what should I do? Should I start taking individual clients again?” Because I’ve been so focused on school that I haven’t been doing that. What is my best way of doing that? And the other part of it too is my own personal risk. I was like, I can’t be in a hospital system. I would love to but I don’t have the health to do that. This Birth Unplanning was just the most … I don’t know. It was the most amazing thing to think about being able to strategize with people in a way that is assistive to them and we actually don’t frame it as … We’re doulas who are strategizing with you but we aren’t … In a Birth Unplanning cycle, I guess you’d say we’re not working as a doula, if that makes sense. We’re doulas who are helping you strategize but if you want to hire us as your virtual doula, that’s also a possibility.
Rebecca Dekker: Okay. This is more for strategy sessions to figure out how you’re going to cope if your birth plans are changing, if you have to change providers.
Sabia Wade: Exactly, answer any questions or research for you.
Rebecca Dekker: What do you do if you’re COVID-19 positive and they’re talking about taking your baby away, that sort of thing?
Sabia Wade: Exactly. Basically, trying to prepare people for all of the possibilities with the most updated research, which obviously is really helpful, thanks to you, because we’re definitely using evidence based birth as a way of giving them accurate up to date information so I definitely have to thank you for doing that because when this all started happening, I knew that I didn’t have the capacity to do all the research. I was like, if I go into doing research, I’m going to be anxious and then, obviously with my grandfather passing and everything that’s happened to me in the last week, I’m like, I don’t have the ability to do that so I thank you for your work. And also, what I’ve been doing too, is I put together the Birth Worker Container, where we really do sematic experience practices to help people to learn, birth workers specifically, to learn what their nervous system is, to learn the knowledge behind a nervous system, so you can go through these ebbs and flows with knowledge of not being judgemental about themselves, understanding what flight is, what flight is, what freeze is, what actual-
Rebecca Dekker: And you’re doing that with your trainees and the people who work with you?
Sabia Wade: Yeah. Right now, I have the Birth Worker Container and it’s actually a free class that I put together and there’s about 200 people signed up for it.
Rebecca Dekker: And how do people access that?
Sabia Wade: If you go onto my Instagram, which is @theblackdoula.com … Not .com. @theblackdoula … That’s my website. And no type of anything, just theblackdoula, it’s MI link bio and it says The Birth Worker Container and it’s basically a space where I wanted to literally create a container for people with a field of feelings but also to know what to do with their feelings because we’re all just super charged up right now, we’re all like, oh, my gosh.
Rebecca Dekker: We’re all experiencing such a wide range of emotions, grief, anxiety, depression, loneliness, overwhelm-
Sabia Wade: In the midst of a traumatic experience for a lot of us. For some of us, it won’t be trauma, but for a lot of us, it will be trauma and it’s hard to navigate because it’s not like an incident that just happened one day. This is an ongoing thing that we don’t know when it’s going to end so I’m trying to make sure that I am giving people the knowledge and practical skills that are accessible so they can use them and spread them within their communities.
Rebecca Dekker: I saw you’re starting one other project soon, which really peaked my interest because my family, my immediate family and my extended family, are using Marco Polo to stay connected and especially for our family members who are more isolated. I have some relatives who are single, who live alone, or even they have a partner but they’re just feeling really lonely because they might be extroverted, whereas I’m the opposite. I’m introverted, I’m okay with alone time. But we just have these little videos going through Marco Polo, which is a free app and I saw that you’re going to be starting some special pilot program for Marco Polo. Can you tell us about that?
Sabia Wade: Crazy enough, long story short, I went to the Alt Summit, which was last month. It feels like forever ago, but before I went to the Alt Summit, I went to Utah for a few days. I stayed at my friends house and I went from Utah to Palm Springs. Before I got to Palm Springs, I started coughing and I was like, okay, whatever. Then the next day, I ended up being sick so I ended up quarantining. That was right at the beginning of COVID.
Rebecca Dekker: When we were just … There were a few cases.
Sabia Wade: There were just starting to … I was like, you know what? And I was sick. I had a fever, I was in a hotel by myself for a week. It was just bad, right? But I made it through, whatever. At that time, because of the Alt Summit, Marco Polo, because I was supposed to speak there-
Rebecca Dekker: What’s it called, the Alt Summit?
Sabia Wade: Yeah, the Alt Summit. It’s a woman’s entrepreneur conference. It’s huge, it’s for a week. I was supposed to speak there about how to make money in a meaningful way and I was too sick to do any of it but, anyway, because I was a speaker, Marco Polo reached out to me and told me about this pilot. I was supposed to meet them in person that week. Of course, I canceled. I’m so happy because I actually followed up with them afterwards and we talked just virtually, obviously, and they told me about this pilot of Marco Polo channels. Basically, what it is, is it’s a “channel” that you have your own community, you put your own videos, you do your own kind of program or however you want to do that and you basically do it for a low cost price every month.
Sabia Wade: I chose is $9.99 because I want to make it accessible, especially in this time of coronavirus where I’m like, people are home, they’re bored, they’re anxious or all these different things. How can I make something that is accessible that can also be helpful and can be a way of connection? Especially with Marco Polo because you get to actually see someone’s face and I feel like that was super important. So, on my Marco Polo channel, which is crazy. It was supposed to really launch this Wednesday. But, like I said, I had so much tragedy going on in my life. So, I’ll be focusing more on it next week. In my Marco Polo channel, there will be live Q&A, there will be thematic experience practices. There will be how to little trainings I’ll be doing, there will be access to like my major trainings before everyone else. And, also the one big exciting thing, which is why I have this new podcast mic, is I’m going to start my podcast.
Sabia Wade: I’m been thinking about it for the longest time, but now it feels like the right time. So, I’ll be doing my podcast and I’ll be having episodes on there exclusively, as well as episodes on their early access. Really excited and just really hoping that it can be a way for people to connect with me as well. Because, I’m like you, I’m an introvert. So sometimes I struggle with Instagram because I’m like, “I don’t know what to post today.” I don’t know what to what to do but I find it easier to go on to Marco Polo or some type of video and just say like, “Hey, this is how it is today. How’s everyone else doing?” It just feels more close knit to me, than sometimes like my Instagram posts where you’re trying to curate this beautiful profile.
Rebecca Dekker: That is not always real.
Sabia Wade: Exactly. Exactly. So, I’m really hoping with the Marco Polo channel that people are able to get to know me better and also to build community with like-minded people, because they can also chit chat with each other too.
Rebecca Dekker: Yeah. It’s kind of fascinating how the pandemic is forcing us, or making it happen faster, to create community in different ways than we are used to.
Sabia Wade: Yeah. I think it’s really interesting too, because like you said, being an introvert, it’s this weird thing happening where like the introverts and extroverts are like, “We are trying to find space for each other.” My partner Vera, she’s definitely extrovert and the first couple of weeks I was like, “Oh my God. What are we going to do?” Because you just want to talk all day and I don’t want to do that. So, I’ve been finding different ways to connect with people that is still within my capacity, if that makes sense? But also trying to give grace to the extroverts who I could understand are going crazy just being in the house. And not having that… We don’t have that connection to touch right now. We can’t just hang out with our friends. We can’t just get a hug.
Sabia Wade: And now we’re learning, especially in our nervous systems, how important it was to go somewhere and have someone pat you on the back, or give you a hug, or say hi to you, or make a connection with someone across the room. Now we’re missing that. Our nervous systems are just like, “What are you doing? Why?” So, I’m hoping that with all these new offerings that I’m putting out that it can help in some kind of way. And also help me too. Because like I said, it’s been a crazy week, a lot of death, a lot of misfortune. But, also a lot of healing because I’m seeing the community come out and be creative in the ways that they provide comfort, if that makes sense?
Rebecca Dekker: Yeah. Well, Sabia, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today and offering all your wisdom and knowledge. We really appreciate you.
Sabia Wade: Thank you.
Rebecca Dekker: Thanks everyone for listening into this conversation with Sabia Wade. You can follow Sabia on Instagram @theblackdoula and @birthingadvocacy. And her websites are theblackdoula.com, birthingadvocacy.org, and forthevillage.org. I’ll also link in the show notes to her upcoming Marco Polo channel. Since you’ve made it all the way to this end of this podcast, I’d love if you could just pause and take a moment and think about what you can do to take action in your community today. Thank you all for listening and I’ll see you all next week. Bye.
Listening to this podcast is an Australian College of Midwives CPD Recognised Activity.
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