Stories, Memory, Balance, Life
Updated: Feb 25, 2021
In 2020 I lost my balance. Literally.
In September, a neurologist in ER told me that I had vestibular neuritis, a severe but temporary loss of key brain functions, including balance. Brought on by a virus*, this ailment felt like someone spiked my water with LSD. (In ER they thought I was having a stroke). Over the months I regained my ability to walk on my own, but moved like I’d just had a few glasses of wine. I’m good now, but still feel light waves of vertigo as a scroll on this page.
Being shut in, on top of being shut in, was a tough way to spend the fall. But, while some parts of my brain were groggy, the parts where stories live were wide awake and soaring. I couldn’t stand up or drive a car, but my narrative spirit took a journey all its own.
Fortunately this moment coincided, perhaps divinely, with a commitment I’d made to elevating the powerful stories of Black, Indigenous, and women of color who are creating birth centers with and for their communities. For months I'd been part of one on one conversations with BIPOC birth center leaders as we gathered to form the core of a collective strategy, (Birth Center Equity (BCE)), that I was blessed to help found and grow this year.
What happened in these one on ones was all story and vision. Women shared, deeply, who they were, how they became birth leaders, what it meant to them, and how it felt to be co-creating the first ever BIPOC-led birth center network. What emerged were portraits of courage and humility, of women seeking to honor and continue the legacy of their foremothers’ wisdom, skill, and strength. A legacy known as midwifery. A legacy to which all of us owe our existence here in the present moment. A legacy on which BIPOC women have innovated, shaping models of care that all evidence shows is saving lives and growing wellness today. A legacy that can and must guide our understanding and practice of care and community into the future.
In our conversations we also heard a powerful narrative demand. Over and over we heard passionate words of hope for new stories grounded in BIPOC vision, power, and wisdom; a dream of narrative strategy to help end the problematizing of BIPOC maternity, prevent the erasure of BIPOC legacy and leadership in the field, and replace the dominant fearful view of birthing with one grounded in liberation and joy.
These conversations reminded us that stories are the essence of this network, the intangible force that defines, guides, and keeps this community together. These stories embody Birth Center Equity’s purpose and power. Like stars in the night sky, they are the coordinates by which we navigate a vast and uncertain world.
These stories collectively form a narrative constellation that illuminates the power and vision of BIPOC birth center leaders and centers this power and vision, accurately and appropriately, in any sustainable plans for the future.
It’s hard to imagine what my memories of 2020 will be, and whether I’ll even recall my temporary physical disability. But when I look back on this year, I know I will remember ...
… the story of a young Black mother helping other young mothers’ in their births, then going on to study midwifery and lead a birth center.
… the story of a midwife of color attending a birth in pandemic, asking no fees of the Latinx family who needed her services as she co-leads the founding of a birth center.
… the story of a Chicanx/Indigenous midwife honoring and sharing the healing practices of her mother as she co-creates a community birth center.
… the story of a Black midwife refusing to do unnecessary episiotomies when a hospital wanted her to “practice’; then following her dream to open a community birth center.
… the story of a Pacific Islander midwife inspired by her father midwifing the births of her brothers and sisters, and now poised to open a birth center in the heart of an immigrant community.
In 2020 I heard story after story celebrating past, present, and future.
In 2020 I lost my balance, but these stories carried me through.
*In September I tested negative for COVID-19. However my symptoms were similar to the longer term impacts some people have experienced with the 2020 coronavirus.
Click on the links below to see my most recent video stories:
Equitable Community Care (The Birthing Place, Bronx, NY)(Co-produced with Jason Walker)
Let’s Birth the Future Together (co-produced with Earth Media Creative)