By Erickka Sy Savané
“I felt like I was hit by a mack truck,” says Kimberly Durdin, describing her disappointment over having to get a C-section with her first child some 25 years ago. She was planning to give birth with midwives at a hospital, but because her baby was breech, it meant an automatic C-section. A few years passed and when she became pregnant with her second child, she knew she didn’t want to go back to a hospital for fear of another C-section. However, midwives at birthing centers where she lived in Brooklyn, were forbidden from working with her because it posed too much of a risk. Finally, someone referred her to a home midwife named Tioma Allison because they weren’t governed by the same rules. After one interview with Tioma, Kimberly was convinced that it was the way to go. And after reading her story, you might want to consider it too.
“As soon as Tioma told me that she had her first baby in a hospital and she delivered her second at home herself, I knew I wanted her to deliver my baby,” Kimberly says, adding that Tioma’s Ivy League training–she’d been educated at Yale and Columbia–didn’t hurt either.
From there, Kimberly started in Tioma’s care, and thus began regular meetings at each other’s house. Things were going great until her seventh month of pregnancy, when she had a conversation with some friends.
“I told a married couple that I knew–the wife was a OBGYN and the husband was an ophthalmologist–that I was going to have my baby at home and the wife looked at me like I was crazy and screamed, ‘That’s a terrible idea!’”
Suddenly, Kimberly was shook, and all the wonderful feelings she had about having her baby at home were replaced with doubt. What if there was an emergency? With her confidence gone, she tried to get out of it. Eventually, she expressed her fears to Tioma, and her feelings began to change.
“Tioma explained that emergencies don’t happen in the blink-of-an-eye, and nine times out of 10, there’s plenty of time to get to a hospital, if such a complication should arise,” recalls Kimberly. “Even more rare is the need to be transported in an ambulance.”
Another unexpected boost came from the husband of the OBGYN.
One day, he pulled Kim aside and explained to her that his wife’s advice was influenced by her own experience being sued multiple times at a high-risk practice. But since Kim was healthy and low-risk, she should go ahead and birth at home like she wanted.
With renewed confidence, Kim sojourned on, and in the end everything worked out better than she planned because she delivered a health baby and she felt incredible after. It was the type of experience that she wishes more black women would consider because it’s a return to the way we used to birth- surrounded by our loved ones in a safe environment. Today, Kim has a total of 6 kids (2 born in a hospital, and 4 at home). The experience had such a profound effect on her that she got out of a career in fashion design and became an international Board Certified Lactation Consultant, doula, childbirth advocate, and currently, she’s only months away from completing her training to become a midwife.
“It’s been a beautiful journey,” Kim says of what has turned into over two decades of working with moms. What she’s most excited about now is the opportunity to be counted among the small, but growing number of black midwives, women like Jennie Joseph of Florida, Tioma Allison, her first midwife, and the many thousands of “granny” midwives who helped birth thousands of babies in this country. “We’re starting to realize that hospitals are new for black women and at one time all our babies were born at home with midwives. It’s such a powerful legacy and I’m so happy that it’s starting to come back.”
For women interested in learning more about home birth, Kimberly advises that you internet search midwives in your area, ask friends who’ve used midwives for their recommendations, and go to organizations like the International Center For Traditional Childbearing (ICTC) that have a directory of black midwives and doulas.
Would you consider a home birth?