Rose Hurd once looked to her great grandmother’s stories as a midwife for inspiration. From a young girl curious about childbirth, to a teenage mother, to a certified birth doula, gentle birth educator, postpartum care provider, Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) student and now grandmother, we look to Hurd for the same wisdom she found in her great grandmother.
Immersion in the birth world at a young age allowed Hurd to connect to her culture, she says, although it wasn’t always easy. As an African-American woman not knowing which of the 54 African countries her family originated from, she gleaned whatever she could about African people, she explains.
Interested in her Indigenous ancestry too, Hurd digested all of the knowledge her mother shared with her, passed down from her mother’s mother, about using plants to heal and food as medicine.
In her work today, Hurd takes this anthropological approach to serve her clients, melding clinical care with their lived experiences. She embraces holistic care which includes the whole mother, the mother baby dyad, and the family unit.
Reflecting back on her first birth experience, Hurd says that a lot of her health decisions were made for her and not with her.
“There was no Google back then,” Hurd chuckles.
Decades ago, birthing people often didn’t know about the options that they had, she explains. Today, the internet’s influx of information can mean a few things, Hurd points out. Birthing people may have access to more information, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are well-informed or that the available options fit well in the context of their lives.
With more information, more questions arise, and in our medical insurance steamed systems, birthing people are often shuffled through doctors’ offices without much time to talk about their concerns or ask their questions.
Hurd sees herself filling this need.
“I am able to sit down, weed out concerns, do the evidence-based research and help families make decisions,” she explains.
Listening and doubt
The keystone to helping clients make informed-decisions about their health, Hurd says, is listening.
As an Accessing the Milky Way scholarship recipient, she says that the Lactation Counselor Training Course (LCTC) allows her to connect even deeper with her clients.
Hurd has found that although most of her clients are part of marginalized communities, they want to know how to breastfeed their babies.
“They are willing to learn,” she says.
There is a shadow of doubt often cast over families living in marginalized communities that they can’t, won’t or don’t want to breastfeed.
Hurd’s own breastfeeding story as a teenage mother offers a porthole into that world.
Shortly after birth, her baby was in the nursery. She called up and told them that she needed to breastfeed her daughter.
“There were a few eyebrows that raised up. ‘Oh! This little, Black girl wants to breastfeed? Black people don’t breastfeed. Teenagers don’t breastfeed.’ That was the statistic,” she remembers the air in the room.
Hurd continues her story, “I was sitting up and this tiny little, Black nurse comes in with my five pound 11 ounce baby, gives her to me and I am fumbling around with my little top on and as she was leaving the room, she backed up and came to me.”
“‘Here, Baby,’” Hurd remembers her voice as she approached to help. “She helped me prop up the baby and said, ‘Try to get as much of the brown in as you can. Feed the baby whenever she is hungry.’ I was so blessed that this lady came in…”
Two weeks later, Hurd’s daughter had doubled her birth weight. She shattered any doubt or any statistic that might have otherwise discouraged her success.
The glaring racial disparities in breastfeeding initiation and duration propel Hurd to help families shatter the statistics the way she did.
Part of this mission includes providing education that extends beyond the mother baby dyad. She often works with mothers who may be the first in their generation to breastfeed, so she educates entire families on what breastfeeding might look like and how to support a breastfeeding dyad.
Especially through COVID as doulas’ access to their clients is limited, Hurd has provided instruction to family members on how to support the laboring person through real-time, virtual platforms.
She hosts monthly breastfeeding support groups, now virtual due to COVID, where she incorporates mini-lessons.
Not only an educator, Hurd considers herself a life-long learner, eager to always know more about her clients and about maternal child health in general.
“Find those people in the birth working community that will support you and be your resource,” she advises. “Iron sharpens iron.”
“I would also like to add…that self care is important,” Hurd says. “Being at your mental, physical, and spiritual best helps you to serve at your best.”
You can connect with Hurd @WithLoveBirths.