Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Black Family: A Doula Story

I have been meaning to blog about Loretha Weisinger for about a year now, but I could never quite put into words the way I feel about her, the work she does with poor teenage mothers in Chicago, and the excellent documentary about her, Black Family: A Doula Story. There just really aren't words to express the depth of the love Loretha has for these young women who often have no one else in their lives who even care about them and their unborn children, let alone love them.

Loretha herself was a statistic, a poor, single teenage mother, who remembers contemplating suicide after the birth of her child at 16 because she desperately needed help and couldn't find any. She provides the help for these girls that was missing from her own life. In addition to doula services, Loretha nurtures the girls throughout their pregnancies, teaching them about healthy eating, how to care for and love a baby, breastfeeding and how to manage their pain during labor. All of this is provided for free, and Loretha even provides postpartum support up to 12 weeks and even longer if the girls still need it because she doesn't want to leave them without a support system.

One of the reasons that I think breastfeeding is so important for black moms is that research has shown that moms who breastfeed are less likely to abuse their children and breastfeeding naturally lends itself to a more nurturing parenting style. I feel like I see a lot of black parents who are big on discipline but not necessarily loving touch. I really believe that a lot of the violence problems in our community start in the home, with child-rearing techniques that rely too heavily on corporal punishment. In the documentary, Loretha talks about how the girls she cares for have never been parented in a loving and nurturing way, so how can they pass that on to their babies if they've never felt it before? She says:

I’ll ask them, ‘Is it OK if I hug you’? and I’ll say 'See how that felt? I’m hugging you, not to get nothing from you, but just to have the feeling…to bring you where I am.'"
More than how to give birth, Loretha is teaching these young girls how to love. She talks to them about the importance of breastfeeding, reading to their babies, playing classical music for their babies. She tells them how when the baby cries, you need to pick her up because you need to show her you love her and that you're going to take care of her. For so many who've never known love, Loretha is the shining example of what it means to love unconditionally.

If you have about an hour, I highly recommend taking the time to watch the documentary. Have any of you heard of Loretha before? What do you think of her story?

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