Rebecca Polston, Roots Community Birth Center | Juneteenth Q&A
Birth justice and Black joy are central to quality, respectful and equitable maternity care. This Juneteenth, meet four incredible community leaders in maternal health and read how they conceptualize the moment.
For more than a decade, Every Mother Counts has supported leaders in the U.S. who are uplifting birth justice, which not only includes eliminating racial disparities in maternal health, but also fostering Black joy in the lives and maternity care experiences of Black mothers and birthing people in their communities. Birthmark Doula Collective, Shades of Blue Project, Uzazi Village and Roots Community Birth Center exemplify the community and human-centered approach to Black maternal health that is sorely lacking in the U.S. health care system.
Please introduce yourself, your organization, and why you’ve dedicated yourself to this work.
My name is Rebecca Polston, CPM, LM owner and founder of Roots Community Birth Center. I became a midwife to support birthing people through what is always a transformative time, good or bad it is always transformative. It really is an extension of my belief in reproductive justice from my college years and the anti-racism work of my community organizing years.
From the perspective of a Black maternal health advocate and/or care provider, what significance does Juneteenth hold to you?
Juneteenth always makes me think of how we are cut off over and over from our freedom. Systemic racism has cut us off from our freedom from bondage, our freedom from isolation, our freedom of community, our right to live our lives. This is the long arc of our history in this country.
From 2021 to future generations, how do you envision birth justice in action?
I see birth no longer locked away in institutions, guarded by those outside of us. I see birth in the community as a default. I see birth itself aligned in the spectrum of reproductive access, health care for families all taking place in community.
What does centering Black joy in all four trimesters of pregnancy look like? Why is it so important to do so in your experience?
Sometimes I invite Black pregnant people in care with us to really imagine and visualize that a full term healthy pregnancy, an empowered birth, and a supportive postpartum is a radical act in and of itself. The idea that our pregnancies, births and babies are truly celebrated, loved and seen is a triumph over all that impacts us. To have our Black joy just be—that is rapturous.
How do you and your organization’s team combat inequities in maternity care that affect Black birthing people?
To be clear. I don’t do this alone, there are amazing people who believe in this work, from the front desk, to the midwives, to the birth assistants, to the doctors. All are aligned that every journey is unique and worthy and yet also part of a tapestry of cultural experience. We invest in time, in support, and in faith in each person who walks through our door.
How can EMC’s community learn even more about your work?
Photo Credit: Gather Birth Cooperative