Mothering Cityblock’s mamas this Mother’s Day
Author: Dr. Pooja Mehta, Womens health lead, Cityblock Health
“We can learn to mother ourselves” — Audre Lorde
In the wake of Black Maternal Health Week and with another Mother’s Day upon us, we find ourselves inundated with the same old statistics speaking to a state of inequitable maternal care and now a leaked Supreme Court document suggesting the possibility of the overturn of Roe vs. Wade. At Cityblock Health, we face these inequities and the potential of a future environment that further enables poor outcomes for vulnerable communities, with a focused desire to act and build solutions. We honor examples of bold and unapologetic Black leadership supporting the health of all mamas, and the most pressing reality of all–our own members’ needs in this moment.
Cityblock Health was proud to sponsor and support Black Maternal Health Week and the Black Mamas Matter Alliance for the third year in a row this year. Like BMMA, we use “mamas” to include cis women, trans folks, and gender non-conforming individuals who may become pregnant. We have come a long way from our own beginnings towards redefining Medicaid-funded pregnancy support when the COVID pandemic hit Brooklyn in 2020. We are now hard at work synthesizing our learnings and actively implementing an unprecedented pregnancy support program for our Cityblock Health primary care members experiencing pregnancy in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Cityblock Health is a value-based healthcare provider–we take financial accountability for the health outcomes of historically marginalized populations. Learning directly from the scholarship of members of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, our first attempts at outreach to pregnant members are conducted by Medicaid-funded outreach specialists and community health workers with lived experience in the communities that we serve and skilled in doula support. We know that not all pregnancies end with birth, and warrant non-judgemental accompaniment regardless. Our North Carolina Perinatal Community Health Partners and outreach specialists have been trained by Tonya Daniel, an experienced Black birth worker and doula from rural North Carolina propelled by her own experiences with pregnancy, birth, loss, and parenting.
Our members are already telling us how relieved they are to have accompaniment from our outreach specialists in addition to traditional obstetric care from area prenatal practices. We work closely with these practices and birth facilities to ensure high-quality outcomes. Recognizing the historical foundations of midwifery care and nurse home visits to perinatal health at the margins, and recognizing the role of unmet behavioral health and social need in maternal mortality and morbidity, we connect members to an experienced nurse, culturally resonant behavioral health support, home visits by community paramedics, and a postpartum bridge to immediate, flexible primary care.
The stories we hear from our members are still our blueprint and will be the most important testament to our impact. We will measure our success by asking our members if they feel alone and if they trust us in addition to traditional metrics capturing utilization and outcomes. We are only able to do this work because of a precedent of scholarship, activism, and inquiry, driven by Black women seeking structural policy change–such as a recent shift that ensures our North Carolina members will not lose access to Medicaid-funded pregnancy and primary care for at least one year postpartum.
This Mother’s Day, we pledge again as we did two years ago, that we will continue to care for, collaborate with, and celebrate our birthing members through this pandemic, during and long after their pregnancies have ended. We pledge again that we trust and support the choices that our members make about the futures of their pregnancies–including the choice to have an abortion–their bodies, and their lives. We pledge to center the experiences of our Black birthing members to ensure that the strategies and solutions mean better care for all of us. With radical inclusivity that lifts up the experience of everyone who becomes pregnant, we wish you a Happy Mothers Day.