The journey of birth is an intimate experience that isn’t always shared, and for those that want to share their story, there isn’t always a safe space for them to express their triumphs and challenges. This is a big reason why Danielle and Laurel created the Birth Stories in Color podcast.
In their conversions, Danielle and Laurel celebrate, mourn with and support Black and Brown individuals as they share their birth stories. They hope that their guests and listeners feel that they are a part of a community no matter where they are and will find the episodes to be valuable resources as they navigate their own pregnancy.
Danielle and Laurel talk about the transformations families go through during their journey, and believe that storytelling can help equip future parents to choose the birthing option and care that is best for them. “Listening to real birth stories is one way to discover the expected and unexpected parts of the journey,” Laurel says.
Starting Birth Stories in Color
Laurel and Danielle record their podcast episodes in Columbus, Ohio where they have also provided Black families with full-spectrum doula care for years. They originally connected through social media and ended up at a baby expo together and immediately formed a bond.
They eventually went through Doulas of Color training together where they developed their idea of providing families of color with a space to share their birth stories. “That kind of just opened everything up during the training because everyone wanted to share their story and find joy in their shared experiences,” Laurel says. “So we googled how to start a podcast and that’s how we came together and began this journey.”
Taking the First Steps
It’s not always easy for people to open up about their birth experience let alone share it with many strangers, but Laurel and Danielle took the first steps. “Our first episode was actually Dani sharing her birth story,” Laurel says. “We just wanted it to feel like a conversation and allow them to speak their mind, and it was great to do that with each other to see what this is going to feel like,” Danielle says.
Many of Laurel and Danielle’s first podcast conversations were with local doulas, friends and family; and Laurel says that sharing their experiences prompted others to open up as well. “It’s amazing to think that we have so many people reaching out willing to share and it’s just beautiful to see that we’re being found and people know there’s space for that,” Laurel says. “We don’t take lightly what it is to share your story, whether it’s good or bad, it does take a lot to share that vulnerable part of yourself.”
Danielle notes that there are themes in their conversations and shared experiences. She’s noticed a shift in how people unpack their experiences. “I think in the beginning they just shared the story and how it happened, but more recently, I think the stories are unfolding more and we try to share everything—the good and bad experiences.”
In some cases, Danielle and Laurel are the first ones to hear about people’s birth experiences, even before their family and friends. “It helps open a door from some people to start their healing process,” Danielle says. She also hopes they can remind families that all of their unique stories are valuable. “We want to make sure they have the option to listen to everything from the highs and lows,” she says.
Danielle explains that she sees some guests experience a sense of relief as they share their stories and part of that may come from the comforting and open-minded approach Laurel and Danielle take. “Particularly if you have a negative experience, you’re nervous to share that with someone, or if you have a healthy baby sometimes people can devalue that something happened to you, or you’re just not sure about how people will respond,” Laurel says.
How does your background influence your conversations?
Laurel has a background in special education and Danielle in social work which translates through all of the work they do, from the doula support they provide to families to their conversations with people. Laurel says that she sees similarities in the struggles different groups in our society face and that part of their work involves empowering their voice through storytelling.
“During our doula training together, we were in a room full of black and Latino women and saw that so many spaces are not designed for us, and so this space is unique to women and families of color and we want to give them the voice they should have when entering medical spaces and especially in the birth world.”
“From my work as a special educator to hearing some of the birth experiences of families of color, you see people trying to navigate systems that aren’t built with them in mind, and it’s like ‘here’s a band aid,’ instead of providing them with care based on their specific needs,” Laurel says.
The Challenges Families of Color Face
Black women and children currently face the highest risks during birth in our medical system with more than double the mortality rates of white families and research shows that income and education fail to positively impact birthing outcomes for black mothers. “A lot of these stories open that window and you can see how this happens when you listen to the stories women are sharing– when it goes from what was supposed to be a natural experience and turns into a crisis,” Laurel says.
“Racism and lack of communication and respect leads to some of these cases. Systemic racism is real and it’s embedded in our everyday lived experiences,” she says. “They say when you’re pregnant ‘don’t be stressed. Make sure that you have good nutrition,’ but some people can’t access all of these things.”
As doulas, mothers and women who are trusted with intimate life stories, Danielle and Laurel place a significant emphasis on providing families of color with a safe space to learn about birth, life and parenthood as well as share their own experiences so more people have the courage and knowledge to pursue the birthing plan that is best for them.