Jessica Diggs
birth. life. spirit.
Me Point Dume 2.jpg

graceful growth

sharing my journey as a doula, student midwife, sista-friend, educator, business woman, and believer. 

Posts in Postpartum
A Doula's Babyshower Gifts - Add Them To Your Registry

This summer, five of my dear friends, including my sister, are expecting babies. That meant five different baby showers where I actually wanted to shower both the baby and the mother with copious amounts of cute stuff. 

Of course, as a birth doula, I am offering my professional support and resources to them. However, this is soooo different thinking through baby shower gifts for 5 babies who will be in my life FOREVER. Usually, when I am invited to my clients showers or mother's blessings, I am intentional about purchasing a gift specifically for the mother. In this culture, we are not mindful of the needs of the pregnant person but instead shower the baby. As a birth worker, I like to remain mindful of the pregnant person. 

But again, this time around it is soooo different being "responsible" (I mean these kiddos will be my nephews - all boys!) for both baby and mother! Since this shopping spree has been so important, I wanted to share the practical products that I've deemed worthy of my friends - and my clients. 


BABYWEARING

First things first, I swear by babywearing! There is nothing like having that sweet babe cuddled up to your in a cozy carrier. Aside from the obvious adorbs of babywearing, there are a ton of benefits to baby and the parents. 

  • Human contact: Research shows that babies' nervous system, cogitive development, and physical growth is improved when babies have physical contact. I mean a hug or spooning does that for me too! I can only imagine how beneficial it is for a person new to this world.
  • Bonding: The closeenss to the baby facilitate bonding between the two parties. The baby is growing in trust of the person caring for them. The carrier (mom, dad, caregiver, grandparents, etc.) is growing in awareness of this little person and all their personalities, emotions, and needs. 
  •  FREEDOM!: It frees your hands! End of story! Life after a baby can be all-consuming. Wearing the baby provides it with comfort for extended periods of time, Your baby gets your physical contact (which they may demand at times) and you get to complete a task using your hands. It's awesome - you just wait! 
  • Convenience: Lugging a stroller in and out of the car, house, etc. is  A LOT. I often tell my clients to put the stretchy wraps on before getting into the car. Once you have arrived at the destination, you can put the baby directly into the carrier. Boom, DONE! (Says the person with no children!) Carriers are just so easy during the hectic season of parenthood. 

 

solly baby

ergobaby adapt

The benefits of babywearing is why I purchased a carrier for ALL of my friends. I want their babies to be worn for all the benefits to their little bodies and for all the bonding and convenience to my mom friends. The two carriers that I swear by are the Solly Baby Wrap and the ErgoBaby


SLEEP

dockAtot

 

 

Another gift and company that I love is the DockATot. This thing is amazing!! Working nights as a postpartum doula, I have seen this product be a game changer for many families. It offers baby such a snug, comfy resting place. Thus, offering parents a little more sleep...maybe! It can also be used just about anywhere as a nap spot while at a park or for tummy time on the floor at home. I purchased this for my sister who wishes to co-sleep with her sweet bub.

Recently the American Pediatrics Association recommended that babies should be in the room with the parents until 6 months because it reduced the risk of SIDS. With the knowledge of the birth disparities and infant mortality rates amongst the black community, I was a bit more invested in the postpartum period of my sister and nephew. My purchases were not only about quality products but made with deep intentions to get both of them off to a great start during the postpartum period. Co-sleeping offers the benefits I desire my sister and nephew to have. The Dockatot is a product that helps them accomplish that. Plus it's super cute!! 

 


BREASTFEEDING

haakaa pump

 

 

As a birthworker, you hear of all the new products that surface everyday. The HaaKaa Silicone Breast Pump was one of them. Many doula-mamas raved about this product for several reasons: 

  • It caught the milk from one boob as it leaked, while they nursed on the other. This happens...often! Depending on your letdown, supply, and nipple flow, you may be drenching  your baby with the opposite breast during feeds. The HaaKaa lets you collect the milk. Breastmilk is the milk you will cry over if it is spilled or wasted. Every little bit counts!
  • It helps relieve the pressure of engorgement whether during the period before the supply regulates (first few weeks) or if it has been a long time since you have nursed or pumped. 
  • Aids with oversupply. It allows the breasts to be emptied without actively stimulating them to produce more. The sucking mechanism (with a baby, manual pump, or electric pump) can add to the oversupply. The Haakaa pump is simply a suction cup. You give it a squeeze and out comes milk. 

I purchased this $20 gem for two girlfriends who will return to work. They both are in the healthcare field (a nurse-practioner and a midwife) and can not always predict when they will be able to take a pumping break. This pump allows them to collect as they go and to relieve themselves of engorgement, if need be throughout their workday. 


SWADDLING

modern-burlap-swaddle-xo.jpg

modern burlap

 

 

 

I am personally obsessed with is Modern Burlap. You may have seen their cute swaddle blankets with the awesome messages on social media. The founder of this company is fellow mom of 3 kiddos and took an idea and blew it up. I love supporting small brands, especially those ran by mothers. The intention and heart in all of her products (blankets, crib sheets, bibs, and more) is evident! I love the basic swaddle blankets so much because they are so versatile. You can use them as a swaddle, blanket, floor cover, burp cloth, nursing cover, etc. Check them out! 

 

 


SELF CARE

spa lé la

 

All of the previous items are mainly for baby with the parents in mind. Unfortunately (for them), I did not get to purchase this gift for my friends this time around. But, I have made the decision that this will be my signature baby shower or mother's blessing gift: a gift card to Spa Lé La.

Self-care is so important and so ignored during the postpartum period. At Spa Le La, not only do they offer affordable, refreshingly bomb services but they provide complimentary childcare while you get them. HOW AMAZING IS THAT!! I don't even have a kid but I want one just to take them to Spa Lé La! Every detail about this place is designed with mom and baby is mind. The atmosphere has the perfect spa vibes plus the services and products used are non-toxic and safe for pregnancy, breastfeeding, and your little ones. From here on out, I will be purchasing my pregnant friends, a NAP at Spa Lè La. Yep, there is a NAP ROOM! 


These are just a few of my favorite items to gift people or that I recommend to my clients if asked.

Feel free to share your favorite pregnancy, baby, breastfeeding-related product or service. So many parents are sure to benefit from your experiences! 

What I've Been Doing To Address Birth Disparities

Last month, two amazing birth professionals and myself put on an event entitled: Birth Disparities: The Anatomy of Prejudice. The one-day event took us several months, several meetings, and several hours of anxiety to make happen. I am damn proud of how well the event turned out and of the conversation it has started among the nonblack people within Los Angeles birth community. Let's be very clear, many of the black-identifying healthcare practitioners (midwives, doctors, doulas, etc.) have been starkly aware of this lived truth: that there are racial disparities within the US maternity care system. It wasn't news to us! And thus, the event was not put on for us.

I found it comical that one of the governing bodies of Obstetrics in this country, ACOG, made the following statement in their Committee Review entitled Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Obsterics and Gynecology, "As of 2013, nearly one half of U.S. births were to women of color (2), and projections suggest that nonwhite individuals will represent most of the U.S. population by 2050. With these changing demographics comes an awareness of previously unrecognized racial and ethnic disparities in women’s health and an urgent need to identify and address factors that can explain or contribute to these disparities." Only as we become a "majority" are the issues that have impacted our well-being for decades are worthy of urgency. These issues have been ignored. Simple as that. The fact that it has been ignored is the problem in this country.

For those who are still behind:

  • Birth disparities is the term used to describe the noticeable, unequal difference in birth outcomes among racial and ethnic groups. In this country, among various groups of racial and ethnic populations, these disparities alarmingly affect African-American women and infants.
  • Studies show that African-American women are 4 times more likely to die in pregnancy, children, or in the postpartum period than white women in this country. Our infant mortality rate is 3 times higher than for white families within the first year of life.
  • These statistics are roughly the same across all socioeconomic factors among black women in this country. Thus, making the root of the issue solely RACIAL.
  • To further support these facts, the maternal complications seen among African-Americans in this country are not seen among African immigrants (and immigrants of other ethnicities) until the second generation gives birth. Thus, the lived exposure to racism and prejudice within this country directly contributes to the embarrassing maternal and infant mortality rates.
  • The U.S. is ranked No. 42 on children's well-being and No. 61 on maternal health out of 170 surveyed countries. Among other developed, industrialized countries we are ranked at the bottom. 

Sit with this for a second.

In this country, the cause of death among pregnant African-American women and their babies is racism.

So, back to our event. Debbie, Julia, and myself wanted to make sure that this fact was understand. We did not want to just restate the statistics. They are known. We aimed to help the Los Angeles community of healthcare providers understand that these statistics affect our community and start a conversation that did not lighten the root of the inequity.

To do this, we had Jane Elliot share on the anatomy of prejudice. Her lecture highlighted the fact that people are not listening to black women as we share our stories. Whether it be because the tone of our voices are a little "too loud" or " too aggressive" for you or because the realities of our lives are too much for your privilege ears to bear. Either way, you are not able to remotely do your part in addressing the problem because you did not hear us when it was stated.

In addition to the speaker, we had an amazing panel of 6 black, local, healthcare providers who shared their personal and professional experiences with racial bias and prejudice.

 

Racha Lawler, a black midwife.

Debbie Allen, a black midwife.

Brandi Jordan, a black IBCLC.

Julia Underwood, a black doula.

Dr. Kimberly Gregory, a black OBGYN.

Dr. Kimberly Fletcher, a black ER doctor.

 

The panel was gracefully moderated by Erica Chidi Cohen, a black doula and local business owner.

 From left to right: Dr. Kimberly Fletcher, Julia Underwood, Erica Chidi Cohen, Dr. Kimberly Gregory, Brandi Jordan, Debbie Allen, and Racha Lawler.  photo by Ani at www.aniportraits.com

From left to right: Dr. Kimberly Fletcher, Julia Underwood, Erica Chidi Cohen, Dr. Kimberly Gregory, Brandi Jordan, Debbie Allen, and Racha Lawler.

photo by Ani at www.aniportraits.com

These women shared their truths. Divulging the horrific experiences their clients or patients go through merely because of the color of their skin. As well as sharing, how their clients are mistreated because their midwife, doctor, or doula is a black healthcare provider. I felt strongly about "personalizing" the inequity for our community. Meaning, making sure the other midwives, doctors, nurses, and doulas heard that this shit occurs right here in our facade of the "LA melting pot".

To say I was most excited about this part of the day is an understatement. As a black student midwife, I wanted and needed to hear the stories. I mean…I knew I would be a black midwife but the realities of being a black midwife had not dawned on me. I will not go into details about what that sparked in me. Honestly, I am still processing all of it as I type this. What I will share is what I plan to do now to aid the experiences of the clientele of current midwives and doctors of color and of my future clientele. I left from our event deeply angry, burdened, overwhelmed, tired as hell, yet full of hope and urgency to utilize my current, small platforms to make change.

Here's a few ways that I have been growing in knowledge, addressing systemic or direct racism, and making more room at the table for other people of color.

Let me preface this with: this is not a checklist that should invoke any sense of self-righteousness or cultural competency. If or when you do help address this issue, you get no pat on the back for utilizing your privileges to address injustice. You just don’t! This list is an example of how there is no excuse for you to not be doing something with your current positions, platforms, and/or resources to reduce the birth disparities among African-American women (and all women) in this country.

Many of these are pearls of wisdom that has either been learned from others, inspired by experience, podcasts, books, or you know, I sought out ways to be impactful.

Here ya go:

  1. Being unapologetically honest about the realities of being black in this country in all spaces of my life. Within professional dynamics, this is often suppressed. Not anymore!
  2. Listening to others!
  3. Reflectively and honestly addressing my own implicit biases.
  4. Continuing to educate myself on wording that can be racist, micro aggressions or triggering to others within my daily life and professional settings.
  5. Hosting an event that truly gives the local, black providers, nurses, doulas, etc. a space to share what their concerns are and what's really going on in your area.
  6. Informing myself of current practices in medicine that claim to combat the pregnancy complications that lead to the higher maternal and infant mortality rates. For example, knowing that the progesterone shot recommended to prevent premature birth is not accessible to low income women because it costs $750 WITH INSURANCE.
  7. Adding my perspective and voice on the boards, committees, or platforms I sit on.
  8. Challenging current research and initiatives to be more inclusive of people of color and associated factors. For example, I went to the March of Dimes Conference on Monday and after eager doctors shared their "intriguing" research projects, I made comments and asked the realistic questions about how most of their "groundbreaking" work was not accessible, affordable, considerate of cultural/social barriers restricting low income and/or people of color access to it, or that the fact that it was not even accurate. (My background is biology and chemistry with over 5 years of experience as one of them, (lab technician and researcher in UNC School of Medicine) so I utilize that to speak directly into their proposed objectives. It is also really fun (like amusement park fun) for me to publicly challenge people. If you know me, it all works very well with my personality. So, I'm using it for a greater good or at least that's what I tell myself.)
  9. Providing my time, experience and money to organizations that are already doing amazing, impactful work within marginalized communities. Not feeling the need to reinvent the wheel or play Savior but to give to those who are successfully doing the work. There are a number of providers putting in the work and reducing the health gaps. Not to my surprise, the initiatives are not costly and I'll argue, air on the side of basic common sense so much that embarrassing that they are not being implemented everywhere.
  10. Learning from those who are already doing the frontline work and systemic work. Listening, watching, and connecting with the many women and men serving the underserved communities. Taking their workshops, seminars, etc. to one day implement their techniques and wisdom into my practice.
  11. Adding a statistic or societal fact in my childbirth education series. The classes are typically to privileged, white folx, so seasoning the series with some social awareness. 
  12. Sitting and listening to others.
  13. My personal fav: traveling! Leaving my comfort zone and enduring the challenges and fun that comes with experiencing other cultures. If done as travel and not as explicit tourism, it can be full of enriching, life lessons and eye-opening experiences. Arguably not a real tip, but I have found that sheer exposure elevates fear, assumptions, and aids a sense of oneness even amidst the differences. (My background is also Anthropology, so learning about Others is kind of my thing.)

This is just a very short list of how I plan to continue to address birth disparities among African-American women. But, more so, a reflective approach rooted in reducing inequality and implicit bias will not only benefit African-Americans but will also set the stage to impact all people. The root that will anchor the solution is an equity-based approach that acknowledges the issue of systemic racism and bias. The branches, however, will look as vastly diverse as the women who we aim to support with the right to accessible and quality care.

childbirth education - joy in birthing foundation

It's been too long. I will post another blog updating you all on my last four months in LA. Whew! I've been in Los Angeles for almost 8 months now. So much has happened in this last year, it's crazy. That will probably be my next blog. A friend encouraged me to recall where I was a year ago and celebrate the 1 year anniversary of Graceful Growth. I will get to that I promise but now I wanted to invite my amazing support group (family and friends) to help me better serve in Los Angeles.

Many may know that I was recently trained as a International Childbirth Education Association Childbirth Educator. I am beyond excited to be living out my one of my dreams...educating and empowering women to have confidence in their capabilities during pregnancy and birth. I chose to certify with ICEA because the heart of our education philosophy is the same. 

Family-centered maternity care that is founded on freedom of choice based on knowledge of alternatives. 

My vision has been to teach classrooms full of expecting couples.; providing evidence-based care recommendations, nutritional support, and comfort techniques for all variations of childbirth. That dream always included joining with an organization or local clinic and sharing my knowledge with low-income families; making sure they too are aware of their alternatives and can make informed decisions.
 Teen, young, foster mothers have always held a place in my heart. My hope is to provide them with accurate and compassionate information that prepares them from their transition into motherhood. Since moving to Los Angeles, I have been doing that by volunteering my time as a birth doula and, now as an educator with a non-profit. The Joy In Birthing Foundation is an organization who's mission is to serve these women through the continuous support of a birth doula, free education classes, and help with the postpartum period. 

Through the organization, I am teaching my first group childbirth education class on April 25th. The following week, I will be teaching another class alongside other new educators at BINI Birth. Both classes are FREE to better serve low-income and families with reduced budgets for whatever reason. My goal is to teach a free class throughout the community every other month to better educate the under-served population. 

I am soooooo excited!! 

My dilemma (and how you can help), regards the teaching materials I will need. You'd be surprise how much a fake pelvis, uterus and baby costs. As an educator without a set teaching location, I move between facilities and it's best that I have more own materials. Majority of my training as an educator involved understanding how to teach and engage adult learners. To incorporate a variety of teaching styles and keep it fun, I will need more than just a PowerPoint presentation. In addition, the clientele I will be serving are young and may have lower literacy levels. Not to judge or stereotype, but I want to be well-prepared and able to engage all the mothers that attend my class. I have been studying and using commonsense on ways to do so. Former doulas and supportive colleagues have already given me a few posters and a breastfeeding model baby. :-D

Here's how you can help...there are other items that are out of my budget but vital for a good class. I would never want to water down my material for any of my clients, so I'm going for the good, standard stuff! You can support my class and future classes by purchasing an item and shipping it to me or by donating any amount of funds to be used for my classes (whether it be an item or the snacks I'll provide during breaks). A receipt and thank you explaining what your funds were used for will be sent out. 

You can find my gift registry created on Childbirth Graphics (yep, there's a whole website!) or email me for more information. To donate, you can send funds through my business PayPal account (jad.doula@gmail.com) and put what it is for in the memo section. 

I always brag about my support system. You're love and support is invaluable! Each and every one of you shared important pieces to the development of the women behind this blog. 
Love you lots!

Tootles, 
Jess