I went into the hospital at 39 weeks pregnant, prepared to deliver my son naturally. My cooperative child was head down, ready to burst through the birth canal, but I wasn’t dilating for some reason. The hospital staff checked me for two days and couldn’t figure out the issue. Finally, 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 could eventually move, and I could go home to wait for it to do so.
By this time, I had been on Pitocin for two days and had a pill and a balloon inserted in my cervix to help with dilation (to no avail). So, imagine how surprised I was being told that I could go home despite those conditions. Thank God I had a Black female doctor who swiftly 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 advocate on their behalf. I could have easily been a part of that statistic, which is the issue that Doula Chanel Porchia-Albert is working tirelessly to change.
Having A Doula Inspired Her to Become One
Chanel Porchia-Albert’s soulful spirit radiated through the phone. I excitedly greeted her. She matched my vibe and said, “I love people who come with the good energy!” She felt familiar and comfortable, two essential qualities 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 in awe of her birthing experience that she wanted to pay it forward to other Black birthing mothers. “I had a beautiful birthing experience with a Black midwife and doula at home, and it totally shifted the ways in which I thought about my own health care and others. So, I took a doula training with a 7-week-old in tow,” stated Porchia-Albert.
After taking a deep dive into the work of a doula through her organization, Ancient Song Doula, Porchia-Albert had a front-row seat to the discrimination Black birthing women experience. Some of the women encountered insurance segregation, illegal drug testing, and many of their medical concerns fell on deaf ears. Porchia-Albert was determined to shift that narrative. “You know, as a doula, 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 for how Black, Brown, and Indigenous women can bring their children into the world,” Porchia-Albert said.
A Mother of Six
Chanel Porchia-Albert is no rookie when it comes to the birthing experience. She works incessantly to support and advocate for Black women’s birthing journeys while nurturing six children of her own. I’m amazed she finds the time to bless other Black mothers while holding her tribe down. But as the old adage goes, it takes a village.
Porchia-Albert insisted that her other half was why she could show up. “My husband is amazing, and if it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be able to do any of the work I do,” Porchia-Albert stated. She continued to speak about how she always has at least one of her children with her while she’s working so that they can witness her in her element. “It’s important for us as mothers to know that our lives don’t have to be separate from our children. And our children can also learn our resiliency and how we’re able to 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 birthing mothers is a huge responsibility. It may look glamorous from the outside, but this profession has a high level of accountability. “As Black people, we don’t have spaces where we often-times feel safe. And for someone to say I want you to come into one of the most sacred experiences that I could possibly go through, which is bringing life into the world, that’s an honor, and I never take that lightly. Understand that as a doula, you’re doing our ancestors’ work,” said Porchia-Albert. “Understand that when you take on the role as a doula, you’re also taking on a responsibility to the community and a responsibility for our collective humanity.”
Expanding Her Territory
You can catch Chanel Porchia-Albert imparting her doula wisdom on Hulu’s Aftershock. She has also teamed up with Baby Dove to bring a series titled ‘Dear Doula’ to social media platforms. She can convey her knowledge to an even bigger platform through this opportunity. “The ‘Dear Doula’ series offers more access and information to Black mothers and birthing people. Being able to partner with Baby Dove offers a larger spectrum and a 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 individuals who want to access doula services.
In addition to the Baby Dove collaboration, Porchia-Albert will be at the Black Maternal Health Conference, September 17th – September 18th, in Washington, DC (in-person or virtually). Click here to follow Porchia-Albert’s sacred journey through Ancient Song Doula.