I am convinced that part of reclaiming what has been lost, stolen, surrendered, abandoned and forgotten begins with reconnecting with the elders who are still with us to hear their stories and allow them to share the traditions that have been a part of our African American heritage. I cannot fully express how I excited I am becoming as I am receiving messages about the conversations that men and women are having with the elders about birth experiences, especially those that occurred in the southern states with Black midwives. As I receive messages about how inspired they are by hearing these women tell their stories, I instantly find myself saying, "Ask them for permission to share it on the Birth HERstory BLOG!"
I am extending that same request to you! You are invited to share birth traditions from your family on this site! It is important that we remember our African American traditions, practices, and stories. As we share the remnants of what we remember, our memories and their legacies will grow in strength. I will begin by sharing my own:
My family is from Alabama. My Dad, the oldest sibling of eight children, reminded me that all of them except one was born at home in the front room of the house I knew as my grandmother’s – Big Momma’s – house. He shared memories of his Dad (my Pa Pa) going to get the midwife “when it was time.” He told me how the women in the neighborhood (grandmothers, aunts, mothers, sisters, etc.) would assist my grandmother and care for her during her pregnancy. Then how they helped her during labor until it was time for her to give birth. He remembered these women taking long pieces of torn sheets and wrapping her stomach after she gave birth. He also said they cooked meals, cleaned for her and helped care for her children during the postpartum time.
My mother’s parents lived in a rural area that has no name except that it is in Hale County, between Greensboro and Moundville, Ala. They owned land and a farm on a red dirt road. We spent two or three months there every summer during our childhood. I never asked my Grandma about her birth experiences, however, my great aunt, my grandmother’s sister, told me about how her sisters and mother helped her when she went into labor. She said they helped her move around to help her contractions while she waited on the midwife to get there to “wait on her”. She said they always put a girdle on women after they had their babies.
My work is informed by my background – experiences, expertise, exposure, education & environment – as a woman, mother, wife, sister, educator, researcher, scholar, advocate, birth ally and legacy builder. These stories and traditions featured on this blog are shared by individuals who desire to preserve African American women's stories by sharing these women's experiences surrounding childbirth.