Whether in a hospital or at home, assisted by a midwife, doula, or OB, Bobbie supports the birth plan that’s right for you.
Speak up for yourself. Speak up for others. Together, we can save lives.
Award-winning journalist Elaine Welteroth is a new mom and a new voice in the fight to end the maternal mortality crisis in the U.S.
Elaine Welteroth— Bobbie MotherBoard activist, NYT bestselling author, TV host, and newly minted advice columnist at The Washington Post— built her dream career mining style, beauty and culture for deeper human truths. When she became pregnant last year, Elaine knew motherhood would inform her prolific and personal storytelling. But, for the first time in her career, no amount of research could prepare her for what lay ahead.
Through a painful pregnancy and daunting experiences within the maternal healthcare system, Elaine became determined to give birth on her own terms. She found her answer outside of the hospital system: delivering safely at home, under the holistic care of her midwife.
“If something doesn’t feel right it’s not right. You’re not crazy. There are better options for you and your baby and you can seek them out.”Elaine
Elaine wasn’t alone in realizing that the United States can be a scary place to give birth. The U.S. sustains the highest maternal death rate of any high-income nation, a rate that’s climbed by 30% over the past 15 years. Our systemic crisis in pre- and post-natal care disproportionately affects Black families and mothers—who are three to four times more likely to die due to birth-related causes.
Inspired by Elaine’s story, Bobbie for Change co-presents this edition of The Scoop with 4Kira4Moms: a groundbreaking organization fighting for improved maternal outcomes and maternal policy change throughout the U.S. Here, you can read Elaine’s story, then find out how you can learn more, donate, and help us advocate.
Join our fight.
How was your pregnancy?
My first trimester was a struggle— constant exhaustion, nausea— and there was a lot happening in my life at the time that was emotionally distressing. Once the nausea was finally dying down, I found out that I had a condition that affects 1 in 5 pregnant women called SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction). It feels like your legs are dislocating from your pelvis. Everything from rolling over in bed to simply standing up was excruciating. Forget about trying to walk to the bathroom by myself. I had to rely on [my husband] Jonathan to help me get out of bed every day. It was humbling— really, really humbling.
Like anything else in life, I had good days and bad days. But I remained in absolute awe of watching my body expand to accommodate this new life growing inside of me. As isolating as it was, pregnancy gave me a deeper appreciation for my body and a new perspective on self care, which is the first step of motherhood.
People always talk about snapback culture, but we don’t hear enough about making peace with all the things never go back. Some things are just different forever. And there’s beauty in that, too!
How did the journey lead you to home birth?
I fully intended on doing a hospital birth initially. I moved across the country in a pandemic, so I didn’t have a doctor or an OB-GYN in my new city. When I found out I was pregnant, I had to scramble to find an OB-GYN through referrals and doing research on the internet.
I had these bad experiences with different doctors, back to back to back. I remember leaving each doctor’s office holding back tears. I wanted our baby’s birth to feel special and sacred and safe. And I could not seem to find that within the hospital system as it currently exists. So I just kept searching.
It started to get a bit scary when we were approaching 30 weeks and I still didn’t have a birth plan in place. But I didn’t want to settle until we found the right fit— someone who made me feel seen, heard, and truly cared about.
Giving birth is a vulnerable and transformational rite of passage. I didn’t want to settle for an experience that made me feel like a number.
Choosing a midwife over a hospital
Eventually, I was referred by a friend to Kimberly Durdin, who co-owns the only Black-owned birthing center in all of Los Angeles, called Kindred Space. From that very first phone call, everything I was searching for in all these different hospitals, I found in this one woman.
Pregnancy is like training for a marathon and I felt like I finally had the right coach by my side. Someone who spoke my language. She cared for my mind and heart as much as she cared for my body.
The differences between the midwifery model of care and my prenatal experiences within the OB-GYN system were truly night and day. When I was at my worst, Kim would insist on bedside appointments and she never let any of our questions go unanswered. Because of her support and the trust that we built, at 36 weeks I made the decision to pursue a home birth.
And it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
My birth experience was deeply meditative and my midwives protected my peace every step of the way. Going into it, I was so afraid of not having access to pain medication but the shower was my liquid epidural. I tapped into a part of me I didn’t know I possessed. There was a quiet, soft strength that carried me through and allowed me to partner with my baby in a way I didn’t know was possible.
Why is sharing your pregnancy experience so important for you?
I’ve always been a truth seeker so I was shocked by how little I knew about what it takes to bring life into this world— until it was my turn. That’s why I started an interview series on Instagram called MaterniTea where I get to talk to all different kinds of birth workers. I got to educate myself and my community in real time. During a really isolating time, it enabled me to feel more connected to something that’s so much larger than me.
It just felt like, if I’m going to participate in social media while I’m going through this tricky time, I can’t just share the pretty pictures. I have to share the real.
I feel like the whole ecosystem around birthing people needs to be educated about what the hell women go through to bring life into this world.
The more I learned through MaterniTea, the more alarmed I became about Black maternal mortality rates in this country. The data doesn’t lie. The current maternal healthcare system does not advantage Black women. I experienced it firsthand, which was humbling. But what empowered me was learning that there are other options.
Too often we only hear about this crisis through the lens of grief and loss, which can make the issue feel too overwhelming and too grim to change. I think it’s important for women of color to also share examples of successful birth stories that remind us of the kind of quality care we deserve.
We deserve to do more than just survive childbirth — we deserve to thrive.
Advocating for pregnant women
There’s this idea that if you have a certain amount of education, money; if you have a certain network or status, that maybe those stats don’t apply to you. You would be gravely mistaken.
I’m so grateful to the entire subculture of birth workers outside of the hospital system who are there to remind us that we have more options than we think.
It became really important to me to help people understand what those options look like. Because every birthing person should be aware of all their options in order to give informed consent about their birth experience.
How has activism changed for you, now that you’re a mom?
There’s a lot happening out in the world that can make any mother enraged and frightened. A double pandemic, a formula shortage, climate change, reversals on women’s rights. My baby was born into a world on fire.
I think before giving birth, I took on every problem in the world as if it was mine to fight. But now that I have something greater than myself to protect, I realize that I can’t give my energy to every battle.
The bottom line is that sometimes activism is protecting your own peace. And sometimes that might look like being the best mom to your Black child by instilling in him what he’s going to need to take on this world.
I can’t do that when I’m not present. I can’t do that when I’m so angry that I can’t find the softness within me to mother him.
I have to stay soft so I can be his soft place to fall.
We’ve talked about shaking stigmas throughout your motherhood journey. How does that relate to your feeding journey?
Like many other women and birthing people, I really wanted to breastfeed…but I had a nine pound baby whose appetite I couldn’t keep up with right away. I’m so grateful to have had an extra can of Bobbie on hand because he was born during the formula shortage. I’ve been co-feeding ever since.
I am a mom who chose to do an unmedicated home birth and then chose to co-feed my baby formula on day two, because that’s what freaking worked for us. I am not ashamed. We have to stop putting birthing people in boxes and just encourage them to explore the best choices for their own families—judgment-free.
New moms have enough pressure on our bodies, minds, and souls.
Resources for black maternal health and wellness
Kindred Space: Kindred Space LA was born in 2018 in response to the black maternity health crisis effecting black birthing people in this country. The Kindred Space LA Birthing center was born in 2020.
&Mother: &Mother partners with others to systematically remove barriers in sports, creating best practice standards and proof-points while codifying a path for other industries to create workplaces where mothers can thrive.
Every Mother Counts: A resource to help all women to find affordable (or Free!) Doula support.
IRTH: An app to help you find prenatal, birthing, postpartum and pediatric reviews of care from other Black and brown women.
Mae: Mae is culturally competent digital health platform connecting Black expectant mothers with critical resources to drive positive pregnancy outcomes
Bobbie for Change is proud to join Elaine and 4Kira4Moms in their fight for improved maternal outcomes, and to amplify their mission with you, our community of mothers, parents, and change-makers. To learn more, donate, and help us advocate for policy reform, go to 4kira4moms.com