In part one of this episode, a culturally centered perinatal wellness project, the InTune Mother Society, shares their story and experiences connecting families with holistic approaches to wellness and eliminating barriers to accessible perinatal health care.
Part two of this episode will be released February 28th and dives into how the maternal and child health field can support birth justice work.
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Additional Resources Related to This Episode
The InTune Mother Society (TIMS) is Redesigning Birth Work For The Future.
TIMS is working hard to build capacity for our State Approved Perinatal Wellness Coach Certification program. The program is designed to prepare Central Oklahoma residents for a career as a Perinatal Wellness Coach. The program is approved by the US Department of Labor and Training Administration of Central Oklahoma Workforce Innovation Board (COWIB); our participants benefit from pioneering a job market that is focused on higher salaries that result from making Holistic Family Planning options accessible, through in-demand qualifications. Learn more about our community-based social innovation project at: https://timcenter.org/redesigning-birth-work-for-the-future/.
What is Birth Justice?
Black Maternal and Infant Health: Historical Legacies of Slavery (article)
Black History Month: The Importance of Black Midwives, Then, Now and Tomorrow (blog post)
African American Nurse-Midwives: Continuing the Legacy (article)
That's what got me into the work to help women understand that this is your story. This is your mission, and nobody can control it, but you.Maura Leahy:
Hello and thank you for tuning in to this episode of MCH bridges. I'm your host Maura Leahy program manager in child and adolescent health. And this is MCH bridges, the official podcast of the Association of Maternal and Child health programs also known as AMCHP. AMCHP hopes that MCH bridges will help our listeners create new connections to maternal and child health leaders for organizations and ideas, as well as, inspire and guide listeners towards actions that will improve the systems that impact MCH populations, MCH bridges, aims to lift up stories and people from the MCH field by centering the voices of the public health workforce, people and communities most impacted by inequities and individuals and families with lived experiences. I have been looking forward to today's episode for a while now, and I'm excited to learn from our guests from the Intune Mother Society today. In this episode that we are dedicating to black history month. Let's jump right into our discussion and have our guests introduce themselves.RaShaunda Lugrand:
Alright, my name is RaShaunda Lugrand and I'm co-founder of the Intune Mother Society and also owner of Beehive Birth Consulting, a holistic family planning and wellness service in Oklahoma and abroad. Um, I am married 15 years and we have four children who are all home birthed, and we also have three family pets. A dog named foods is our furry girl and two Guinea pigs. Um, I'm a biocultural anthropology major. And, um, I'm so excited about this opportunity.Joelisha Fairbanks:
Hello, I am Joelisha Goggins Fairbanks. I have three children of my own three hospital births. I am an affiliate of the TIMS center and the Beehive birth. I am a professional massage therapist of seven years. I just graduated master herbalist class. So I am just seeking approach, holistic approach and everything, all life things. And I just hold a space for women like me, mothers. Um, my age younger, older doesn't matter all walks of life. I have two boys and a daughter and we don't have any pets yet, but we are looking to get a cat and dog this summer, and I just love raw foods. And so I love to stretch, breathe, and that's my life. I just live my life and let anyone follow who seems to find me interesting.Maura Leahy:
Thank you both for introducing yourselves. We're so glad to have you here today. So just thank you for being here and taking the time. So we want to start today's episode with a story. Um, so I'll direct this first to Rashaunda, um, and then to, but Rashaunda with the InTune Mother Society. How did you come to do the work that you do and how has your story guided the Intune Mother Society and its values?RaShaunda Lugrand:
It began, um, after the birth of my first son in 2007. And, um, it was a great experience because we went down the traditional road and, um, we just didn't find it pleasing, you know, to work with the OB GYN that we had at the time. It was kind of chaotic for us. And I knew that I always wanted to have the home birthday experience and it just so happened at the time I was in natural beauty culture. So I was doing, um, hair and skin and all the things beauty. And one of my clients who was actually 39 weeks at the time came in and I was pregnant as well. And she came in for her hair service right before she gave birth. And she was a, um, a labor delivery nurse for the OB GYN am that I was actually, um, being cared for or tended to who was tended to my care. And she told me to run as fast as I could. And I was like, whoa, you know, because, uh, she had really, um, a lot of poor experiences with this OB. And I was like, well, you know, I wanna home birth. And she told me about this, this wonderful midwife who ended up becoming our midwife, uh, Marina Farrow in, uh, Phoenix, Arizona. And it was just an amazing experience. And I wanted to share that experience with other women, specifically, uh, women who looked like me. And when I realized that that wasn't a large audience, I was kind of shocked because I thought of it as a historical context for us, but I didn't know that we didn't, we weren't fully represented. And so, um, my husband and I were on a trip to California, because we lived in Arizona at the time and we were visiting friends and a friend of mine, we were talking about the birth and she just said, she said, oh, well you were just so in tune. And I was like, I guess, so I said the in tune mother and there, it was, it was born, um, out of that idea of just being able to follow your instincts and move through the processes. And I found that we were, uh, experiencing a lot of trauma and resistance in the black childbearing community, as it related to natural childbirth. You know, having those conversations with people about it was hard, you know, let alone, you know, talking about doing it at home. And so it drove me to dig deeper into the practice, um, not long after. And so that's the, the basic story that guided me into this work was my own journey into motherhood.Maura Leahy:
That is incredible. And to think for as big as the world is, um, just to think that that woman who came in for her, um, beauty needs that day, that she happened to be a nurse working with your OB, like what are the odds of that yeah. Makes you feel like it's kind of fated, you know,RaShaunda Lugrand:
That's beautiful. And Joleisha, I was wondering whether you would also be willing to share a little bit about your story and um, how this brought to your current involvement with the Intune Mother Society.Joelisha Fairbanks:
Okay. For sure. So for me, um, when I met RaShaunda Lugrand, I just felt like it was heaven sent. Um, I had just had my first son, I believe my son was about one and a half when we crossed paths. And, um, I was just all over the place. Like I didn't really know anything about childbirth. I didn't really know anything about my lady parts for that matter. So I never even saw myself, um, having children that young, I got pregnant at 19. Um, my partner was not really involved. And so I kind of did everything on my own. Um, no real parent parental, um, advice. Like I didn't have my grandparents, so I was the oldest of all my siblings. So I, I kind of just had to figure it out by myself. And when I met her, I just remember like my mental health not being in its best state. And so when we began to talk more and have conversations, she just became this, um, safe Haven for me, as far as just giving me the tool, I needed to put myself first for one and help me realize how important rest was, because I was just like always on go like always needing to work, always feeling like I needed money, always trying to provide for this human. And, um, I come from a single parent home. So like, it was kind of like, okay, I gotta do this, this, this, this, and this. But when she stepped in to like, and it wasn't, I, I try to tell her all the time, like when we helped each other, she's like, you know, sometimes we're not gonna be able to be there for you because I got my own life. You got your own life, but you know, it was more of a like, like a coaching thing, like, okay, are you drinking your water? Are you journaling? Are you doing things that are going to help take the load off of you? And at the time the answer was no. So I'm like, okay, let me start with the basics. Um, today is heavy for me because I actually just lost a friend from complications to childbirths and her viewing is at 2:30. So I'm like, you know, just trying to keep it all together. Um, but I got into the, because like myself, I just see a lot of young girls who are conceiving, but not really mindful of what we're doing. Like it doesn't have to be childbirth, doesn't have to be something sporadic or something that just happens. And so that's why I like following Lugrand because she was the first person that I heard talk about like conscious conception. Like you, you can plan this out. It doesn't matter if you have a partner, if you don't have a partner, like there are ways to design your life the way you want it to be. And so that just really meant a lot to me, even though I had my first kid and I felt like I really didn't know what I was doing. Um, I had my other two children, which she has also supported me through those births, um, at a higher capacity because she was there from beginning to end. And so just being able to have a voice in my ear to help me like not take over for me, but to help me realize, okay, this is what these are the things you should be thinking about. Um, I was, she helped groom me in a way that I became a stronger advocate for myself. And so that's what gave me the strength to get into the work because there were times where I did have doctors who, you know, I'm exclusively breastfeeding with my second son who I breastfed the longest. I went nine months and I'm very proud of that. Like I know people go three years, but I'm like that nine months was insane. And so with the help of my husband and you know, my, my birth team, the Beehive, um, I did have a doctor who, you know, he threatened us with DHS because my child wasn't gaining weight at the capacity he saw fit. And so stuff like that, I realized, you know, I don't have to take this, you know, no matter what insurance I have, I'm putting money in your pocket and I'm not afraid to just take it away because we're just not, we're not working. And you know, a lot of women don't understand that they have that option. They feel like, okay, this is our doctor, whatever they're saying is right. And a lot of times it's not right. And so just to be able to have that advocacy, that's what got me into the work to help women understand that this is your story. This is your mission and nobody can control it, but youMaura Leahy:
Thank you so much for sharing. I'm so sorry for your loss. Um, I can't imagine. I feel like I heard so many important things there and I feel like we all need a RaShaunda in our lives to help guide us and mentor us and coach us. Um, so we'd like to now turn to talk about the In Tune Mother Society's work today. Could you tell us, um, about TIMS a little more about what have been some of your proudest moments, um, and how your work seeks to transform our current system of providing care and support to birthing people and their families?RaShaunda Lugrand:
Yes. Um, right now, one of the proudest moments for me as a foundation and organizational leader and community liaison is to look at this work and see how far, um, I've come from just being a advocate, you know, in the community for more birth options to now being a leader in respect to this work, um, from just being a mother and that mothers can make a difference, you know, um, with the commitment and with the vision. And that vision has transformed in so many ways to where now we have partnership with the department of labor. We have partnerships with our workforce innovation programs and that's one of my most proudest moments is that we did all of this in the wake of a pandemic. And we used that pandemic to make a hard pivot, to be able to make sure that women and families, um, have access to support services, no matter what their economic profile may look like, their, you know, their background, um, the social determinants of health are very important to us to look through this lens and to be able to see the system for what it is, and not so much to fight against the machine, but to create solutions that could otherwise work outside of the machine. Right. And so when we started to do this work and really engage with women in the community that we serve, and those women were like, Hey, how can I become a part of what you're doing? It was just like me. I had my baby, the experience was what I needed and what I wanted, and I felt satisfied by it. So I wanted to create a space for satisfaction for other women and individuals to join, and participate in building capacity for community led organizations, to explore what it would look like if the community showed up for the community. And that's what I'm most proud of. And I hope that by providing education, by providing classes and workshops and trainings and certifications, that we're able to support birth and people and families abroad so that we can expand what the, the service, um, circle of services look like, especially when it comes to holistic family planning options.Maura Leahy:
Terrific. Thank you for sharing. And for me, when I was learning more about, uh, the Intune Mother Society, I was really intrigued to learn about the concept of birth justice. This was something that was new to me, uh, for our listeners that might not be familiar with this concept. Could you share a little bit about what birth justice means to you and the holistic work and social change that Tim's is working to make that happen?RaShaunda Lugrand:
Definitely. Um, for me, birth justice is a movement and a framework that makes sure that all birth and bodies have access, right access to equitable care, respectful care, um, treatment and tending to, from a lens that allows, um, space for autonomous action and, um, conscious decision making around childbirth. And when we come to a place to where we look at what is normalized becomes the standard, right? And so when we normalize trauma, when we normalize, um, maltreatment of women and babies, when we normalize the maltreatment of partners in birthing environments, then we start to see that as the standard and what our goal is, is to shift that concept through, um, a lens of healing justice, because that is what we need in order to look at birth from a framework of mind, body, spirit, you know, and so, and so when we say birth justice, we're looking at it from a lens of being able to reclaim and recover traditional ecological knowledge, and to be able to utilize those tools that are innately within us to transform the way we experience things outwardly, you know, as Joelisha mentioned, it's a mindset shift. And so until we can really shift our mindsets to be able to look at things that have happened to historically disadvantaged or excluded populations over time, over years of time, that becomes pro uh, programming. And that programming is problematic, you know, and what our focus is is that when we create space for the mechanisms and the tools to heal from a ecological perspective, that means that we are using nature-based technology. We're not interfering with the process of childbirth, we're teaching about the importance of consciousness and conception. That consciousness leads to another level of consciousness in our parenting. And then that leads to another consciousness of raising those children in a way that aligns with their own ability to reproduce with that same lineage or that same legacy. You know? And so when I look back and I see that specifically for, for black Afro indigenous populations, the historical drama and trauma of slave breeding of child slavery, we have to think about this, not mention this, you know, specifically during the month of black history, because that has become the burden is that that learned behavior is not the economic push in the same way that it was during those times. Right? So now it becomes, you know, the white man's burden to have to care for that unjust behavior of the past. So now we are hoping that we can take the, the, the processes of what has been and transformed those processes by encouraging education, by encouraging, uh, planning for pregnancy by encouraging the opportunity to learn how to care for yourself during pregnancy. You know, how to look at the postpartum period as a period of rest, you know, and not as a period of where you have to jump back into it because you never had that historical option. Right? So when we look at this we're healing not only the individual community who has been targeted for so long for these types of experiences, but the community that has also been a part of the oppression to look at it and say, Hey, you know, we wanna be able to shift and change this. How can we change this narrative? How can we have the deeper conversation to really engage what that looks like? And that looks like being able to create jobs, being able to create infrastructure, being able to create innovative programs and opportunities for individuals in these same communities, to be able to serve themselves, to serve their community, to thrive while doing it.Maura Leahy:
Thank you so much for sharing that. That is, um, gosh, I feel like that's a primer to birth justice that everyone needs to hear. Uh, Joelisha, I wanted to see whether there was anything that you wanted to add before we go on to the next question,Joelisha Fairbanks:
I would just say for me, um, my most proud moments are just sitting back and being able to be in the space to see RaShaunda do what she does. Um, I have witnessed, you know, her being turned down several times for things that she wants to, you know, progress in or people, you know, not giving us the tools that we're asking for with when they have no reason to not to do so. And then also watching her gain more than what she expected from different spaces from people who actually do believe in the work. And so just, um, her resilience to just keeping on, because she believes in the work so much. And then for me, I'm proud to just still be in the work with raising my three children, me, you know, getting through school and trades and trying to figure out what my career path is and where I, where I belong in the work, as well as, um, I would say the latest birth that we assisted. Like, I feel like I'm still on a natural high from that. Um, we were able to assist the mother and having a vaginal birth after having two cesareans. And so that was something that, you know, a lot of people doubted and just to be able to push through with that, um, no complications, no aftermath that was, you know, terrifying, nothing bad came from having a vaginal birth after two cesarean. Um, so being able to be that perinatal wellness coach for that mom was life changing for me.Maura Leahy:
Thank you for sharing. Um, I think you have both sort of cued us up for this next question. Barely. Well, starting to talk about some of those doors that have been closed or barriers, um, a lot of the unlearning that needs to happen. Could you tell us what some of those barriers are? Um, what is getting in the way of you being able to do the work that, um, we, that you need to do?RaShaunda Lugrand:
We're in a place and state where individuals in the community are blamed for their outcomes versus individuals in the, in the provider community, being able to acknowledge that they don't have the, the tools to perform, you know, in the way that they would be able to, if the education was readily and available, it's not promoted, it's not offered, you know, and so with the work that we're doing, um, part of the barriers is the finances. So imagine when you see organizations that one are not community based, and that don't look like you or represent you, but they want to target you and they wanna target your population, they wanna target your community. And they're getting millions of dollars to sit back and tell a story that doesn't represent you. It doesn't make sense. So that becomes our barrier. And one of the things that, that we're doing to attempt to alleviate that barrier is use different channels, um, to bypass the pseudo, philanthropic, you know, communities, because a lot of times they don't want to resolve and create solutions that are long term because the investment is so large. You know, we've heard plenty of times like, oh, that's, it's no silver bullet when it comes to working with, uh, the black community in reproductive health. And we're not looking for a silver bullet, you know, because we know that there's gonna be some contrast in trying to un, uh, to break down the barriers of over 500 plus years of oppression. So what our goal is is to take small bites and take those small bites and break them down into actionable plans. And so those actionable plans also have a, a dollar sign attached to them. And what we're trying to do here is show that community based organizations, you know, that do this work, they need to be able to be funded to do this work. And so we started to look into investors and, uh, you know, venture capitalists and angel investors to get the work done that we need to get done. And people that really believe in the social change movement of birth justice and, um, reproductive wellbeing. And we, we finally, you know, kind of came to this conclusion that when you start to, to change the system, as it works, and you start to do things to really bring solutions to the forefront, you start to, you start to take away money. There's research dollars, big research dollars that are targeting the childbearing population that are of historically disadvantaged, low income, you know, marginalized populations, underrepresented families, and there's big money for that. But if you start to shift that, where does the research dollars go? You know, so that becomes a part of the barrier, you know, and the dark spots that, um, we hope to shine a light on the work that we're doing now to engage the community health worker piece through our perinatal wellness coach, um, workforce innovation program is a deliberate attempt, an intentional attempt to really look at ways for us to get involved with the systems of care and to be a part of a, um, a workforce that can be identified as a viable occupation. You know, because when we think about the, the workload of a physician, the nurses, you know, the other care staff, you know, in Oklahoma, there's over 53,000 babies born a year. You know, if we were only to take on 2% of that, you know, that could be a dynamic shift of being able to show how important it is if care providers in the healthcare systems work along government systems of care, and to show that we all need to have collective care practices together. I've worked with Jenny Joseph out a Wintergreen Florida, as one of her perinatal safe spots as a part of the national perinatal task force. Our goal is to be able to bring these types of liberated experiences, not only to the community, but to providers. You talk about provider burnout, compassion, fatigue, wanting to be able to be there for everybody. You need to develop support systems and you need to develop those support systems with in, in individuals and communities that are outside of the institution. That's how you anchor support. That's how you reduce postpartum depression, because you, the nurses can't go to the houses. They can't go and be there for hours sitting with mamas and babies and families, you know, they can't be there to support that kind of infrastructure and do the internal work that's needed for them in the, in the hospitals. So we wanna be able to build a tandem network of, of systems of care that focused on what we'd like to call the four P plus. So we focused on preconception pregnancy, postpartum parenting plus mental health because mental health is such a big factor in this work because we have, have to dig through trauma. We have to dig through abuse. We have to dig through dysfunction, you know, in order for us to really even show up and present ourselves to the community as a way that really is effective and can do this work and do this work with longevity. And so, um, that's, you know what our vision and our focus is in why this work is essential.Maura Leahy:
Thank you for sharing that. Uh, Joelisha, I wanted to see whether you had anything you wanted to add around barriers before we move on.Joelisha Fairbanks:
Pretty much everything she said was just like spot on. Um, but in my own words, I would say, you know, the routine that we have now of what was just given to us, it has, from my perspective, has caused our community to be fearful, um, lazy and intimidated because even in this work, um, for my own experience, it takes more work to hold yourself accountable for your mental health. And that is RaShaunda helped me do versus, okay. Cuz I had three hospital births, so yeah, you have your birth at the hospital and then you go about your business and do whatever you know to do. Whether that's you seeing your mom or your grandpa, your grandmas or your aunties or how they got back to normal life, which is not normal. Like she helped me realize, okay, even just 40 days, the first 40 days you should be doing nothing. I can't explain. I can't tell you how much she beat that into my head. Like I would call her, I would be flustered. I would be like, oh my gosh, everything's going wrong. And she's like, what did you do today? Oh, you're cleaning your house. You're doing 10 loads of laundry. You're you know, so it, it takes more work to understand that rest is best versus trying to do a million things at one time. And that's what I like. We, as a community get lazy, we, we stop drinking our water, like doing nothing. That's, that's being lazy to me. Like we, we, we don't do small stretches. We don't do things that actually help our bodies in the long run. And so that, that's what I can say. The barriers for that. I see as far as the community and um, the, just being enabled by the healthcare system today, they don't give us enough. And for me it's like going back to the basics, meditation breathwork, um, raw foods, like we can't give birth and then go drink a whole carton of Coke, you know, like it is just back to the basic and nobody wants to have that conversation when those are the most important things to me. So fear intimidation and just lack of education. Really.Maura Leahy:
Thank you all for joining us on this MCH bridge is stay tuned for part two of this episode, to hear RaShaunda and Joelisha dive into solutions and ideas for how the maternal and child health field can support birth justice work and community rooted organizations like the Intune mother society.RaShaunda Lugrand:
We need to create space for conversations to deepen and not just conversations that touch the surface.Maura Leahy:
We kindly ask that you take a few minutes to fill out a quick feedback survey and let us know what MCH related topics you're interested in and who you want to hear from on future episodes. A link to the podcast feedback survey, as well as the transcript of this episode can be found at www.mchbridges.org. For those interested in learning more about birth justice work, we've shared several additional resources in the description of this episode. Be sure to follow AMCHP on social media. We're on Twitter and Instagram,@DC_AMCHP. We hope this episode created some new connections for you stay well. And I hope our paths crossed on the next MCH bridges This project is supported by the health resources and service administration or HRSA of the U.S. Department of Health and human services or HHS as part of an award totally$1,963,039 with 0% financed with non-governmental sources. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as official position or policy of nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the us government.