Chanel Porchia-Albert is an advocate for black mothers

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Source: Courtesy of Chanel Porchia-Albert / Chanel Porchia-Albert

I entered the hospital at 39 weeks pregnant, ready to give birth naturally. My cooperative child was head down, ready to burst through the birth canal, but I was not expanding for some reason. The hospital staff examined me for two days and could not figure out the problem. Eventually a white doctor (who was on call) examined me and concluded that a fibroid had blocked my son’s exit. She then told me that the fibroid might eventually move, and that I could go home and wait for it to do so.

By this time I had been on Pitocin for two days and had a pill and balloon inserted into my cervix to help with dilation (to no avail). So imagine how surprised I was to be told that I could go home despite these conditions. Thank goodness I had a black female doctor who quickly came to the hospital and told me I wasn’t going anywhere until I had my baby. Imagine the black women who don’t have a black doctor or doula to champion their cause. I could have easily been part of that statistic, which is the problem that Doula Chanel Porchia-Albert is working tirelessly to change.

Having a doula inspired her to become one

The moving spirit of Chanel Porchia-Albert beamed through the phone. I greeted her enthusiastically. She matched my vibe and said, “I like people who come with the right energy!” She felt familiar and comfortable, two essential qualities that I imagine a doula would embody.

Porchia-Albert began her journey as a doula shortly after giving birth to her first child. She was so impressed with her birthing experience that she wanted to pass it on to other black mothers who are giving birth. “I had a great birthing experience with a black midwife and doula at home, and it totally changed the way I thought about my own health care and others. So I did doula training with a 7-week-old in tow,” Porchia-Albert said.

After diving into the work of a doula through her organization, Old Doula Song, Porchia-Albert had a front row seat to the discrimination faced by black women giving birth. Some of the women faced insurance segregation, illegal drug testing, and many of their medical issues fell on deaf ears. Porchia-Albert was determined to change that narrative. “You know, as doulas, we work interpersonally, one-on-one. But I really wanted to expand my work and look at institutional policy and reform as well as legislative policy to change the framework and structure of how black, brown and Indigenous women can bring their children into the world,” said Porchia- Albert.

A mother of six children

Chanel Porchia-Albert is no rookie when it comes to childbirth. She works tirelessly to support and advocate for black women’s birthing journeys while raising her six children. I’m amazed that she finds the time to bless other black mothers while maintaining her tribe. But as the old saying goes, it takes a village.

Porchia-Albert insisted that her other half was the reason she could show up. “My husband is amazing, and without him I wouldn’t be able to do all the work that I do,” Porchia-Albert said. She went on to talk about always having at least one of her children with her while she worked so they could see her in her element. “It is important for us as mothers to know that our lives should not be separated from our children. And our kids can also learn about our resilience and how we can show up for them as parents and also how we show up for other people,” Porchia-Albert remarked.

Being a doula is spiritual

Porchia-Albert knows without a doubt that she is doing spiritual work. Providing safe spaces for black mothers in labor is a huge responsibility. It may seem glamorous from the outside, but this profession has a high level of responsibility. “As black people, we don’t have spaces where we often feel safe. And for someone to say that I want you to enter into one of the most sacred experiences that I can have, which is to bring the world to life, that’s an honor, and I never take that lightly. Understand that as a doula, you are doing the work of our ancestors,” Porchia-Albert said. “Understand that when you take on the role of doula, you also take on a responsibility to the community and a responsibility to our collective humanity.”

Expand its territory

You can catch Chanel Porchia-Albert imparting her doula wisdom on Hulu’s replica. She also teamed up with baby dove to bring a series called “Dear Doula” to social media platforms. She can take her knowledge to an even bigger platform through this opportunity. “The ‘Dear Doula’ series provides more access and information for Black mothers and birth attendants. Being able to partner with Baby Dove provides a broader spectrum and broader audience to really have their questions answered, to get them the information they need, and to promote access to doulas,” said Porchia-Albert. Baby Dove has committed $500,000 in grants for people who want to access doula services.

In addition to the Baby Dove collaboration, Porchia-Albert will be at Black Maternal Health Conference, from September 17 to September 18, in Washington, DC (in person or virtually). Click here to follow Porchia-Albert’s sacred journey through Ancient Song Doula.

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