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#64 Changing the Narrative of the Fourth Trimester & Black Maternal Health

In this episode (a continuation of Episode 63), our guest, Arlene Lammy, birth and postpartum doula, elaborates on how she would like to “change the narrative of the fourth trimester” and how postpartum is actually forever…and how we need to embrace a longer recovery and a new phase of life. We discuss how comparing our experiences to the experiences of others and comparing our baby’s development to a previous baby or someone else’s baby isn’t a good thing. We highlight how our postpartum resources should be sources of comfort instead of sources of anxiety. Arlene shares her desire for birth work to be a form of activism. She shares her curiosity about how our American culture pressures us to get our babies to sleep or our own bodies to heal faster and how these expectations aren’t helping new parents. Her work as a postpartum doula is discussed and she shares about how she teaches people how to live with a baby and teaching your baby how to be a part of your family. Her background in child development is something she brings into her postpartum care with families, to normalize the different developmental patterns of babies. She encourages her clients (and all parents) to savor the moments with their babies. We discuss a little bit about cosleeping, SIDS and misinformation. Arlene also discusses the “stigma of birth” for black birthing people related to the medical industrial complex and how birth is a disability, a problem and obstetrical violence. Black maternity mortality is higher than for white birthing people—we discuss the statistics about that and why systemic racism increases the risk of death for black birthing people but NOT race itself. Arlene shares about how her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and how the diagnosis of breast cancer in black women mirrors black maternity mortality rates and why this may be. She weaves her own stories through this episode to illustrate her points. We move into the history of midwifery—that it was led by black midwives and how white doctors silenced the voices of these grand-midwives and how Arlene integrates traditional black American practices (and what some of those practices are) into her postpartum doula services. If you are looking for some especially encouraging words, her final thoughts (the last ten minutes) are especially supportive for anyone expecting a baby or with a new baby and those who support them. To learn more about Arlene and her services, see