When Pam England wrote Birthing From Within in 1998, she changed the conversation about birth in our culture, taking the traditional approach to birth preparation and turning it on its head in a way that touched birth professionals and parents deeply, and continues to do so today.
Pam created a counter-culture legacy, pushing back against common beliefs, looking within to discover the path forward, rejecting the left-brain dominant framework of “information = power,” and recognizing birth as a rite of passage. Birthing From Within continues to acknowledge that birthing parents are not entering only into a medical event, but also a heroic journey that will leave them forever changed.
In January 2018, Pam asked Carrie Kenner, Erika Primozich, and Nikki Shaheed to carry the banner of Birthing From Within forward, and it has been our goal to honor and further Pam’s legacy. From its inception, Birthing From Within has worked to address the things that are not working in the current culture. The organization has never settled for the status quo, or held back from stepping into the murky territory of the unknown. Pam England, and Birthing From Within in general, has always been guided by the question, “What does this moment call for?”
While many people believe birth in the United States to be inherently safe, birth outcomes for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), as well as other marginalized people, are substantially worse than they are for cisgender white people. Sadly, these statistics continue to decline. Today, in 2020, Birthing From Within recognizes that what this moment calls for is a commitment to the work of anti-oppression— specifically, the work of dismantling the systems of racism and white supremacy that so clearly impact pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.
What is our responsibility as a predominantly white birth organization when Black birthing people are dying at four to five times the rate of white birthing people? What privileges will need to be dismantled and left behind? What insights will be gained? How can we step into greater accountability around the work of examining whiteness? How do we continue Pam’s legacy of pushing back against systemic beliefs and cultural norms?
Our responsibility is to look within at how this historically white organization can work to dismantle systems of white supremacy from the inside out, starting with examining and understanding the ways in which whiteness informs behavior, processes, structures, and culture, both individually and in the workplace. This issue will not be resolved by tokenizing BIPOC, or engaging in behaviors that uphold white supremacy, such as white saviorism. We commit to making Birthing From Within more accessible and relevant to BIPOC parents and birth professionals.
Together, with help from social justice consultant and trainer Aimee Brill of Village Birth International, as well as BIPOC leaders of our team, we are creating a map toward this vision of anti-racism and anti-oppression for Birthing From Within that goes beyond diversity – striving toward equity and inclusivity.
This is our commitment:
- Address inequity within our organization.
- Create programs that support people who are working directly with the communities most impacted by inequity in the healthcare system.
- Streamline our programs to enhance accessibility on multiple levels.
- Continue to offer scholarships to BIPOCwho wish bring BFW into their communities.
- Train and educate our predominantly white leadership and facilitators about how white supremacy and implicit bias operate.
- Create pathways to leadership for BIPOC within our organization to cultivate true inclusivity and equity.
- Amplify the voices of BIPOC to help ensure a culturally relevant curriculum.
We pledge to continuously explore the question – “What does this moment call for?” – with awareness, bravery, and humility. We are willing to show up, make mistakes, accept feedback, be imperfect, and forge ahead. We will take greater accountability and responsibility to achieve an equitable culture for all our members, and to hold fast to our commitment to learning more and continually growing.
As white people committed to the work of anti-racism, we cannot stand on the sidelines of this health emergency and ongoing system of injustice. Are you wondering how to be a part of the solution? If you are a white person, we invite you to lean into the discomfort that arises when we acknowledge the system of white supremacy we all live in. We invite you to answer the call to be a part of this change.
Join us in supporting seasoned and new BIPOC mentors and doulas in Birthing From Within by contributing to our Equity Fund. Contributions to this fund will go directly to:
- Scholarships for BIPOC and people from other marginalized communities.
- BIPOC leadership.
- Ongoing support and mentoring for BIPOC in our programs.
- Support of BIPOC-led birth organizations.
The time is now. Let’s work together to change birth in our culture.