Charlottesville Collective Offers Doula Services

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Photo courtesy http://www.sisterskeeperdoulas.org Photo courtesy http://www.sisterskeeperdoulas.org
Selena Cozart Selena Cozart
Crystal Johnson Crystal Johnson
Trent and Damonia Lee with their children Trent and Damonia Lee with their children

A collective in Charlottesville is helping give women of color a stronger voice through their birthing process.

The Sisters Keeper Collective is helping strengthen pregnancy care and offering a different approach to giving birth. These doulas call themselves birth partners. They're not medical professionals, but instead there to learn what a mother wants before, during, and after birth and help make sure everyone at the birth follows the plan.

“What I love about it is being a coach, and I call myself an amplifier,” said doula Selena Cozart. “When she is in the throes of contractions, or when she doesn't feel comfortable asking a question I can help to amplify what her concerns may have been.”

The collective was started three years ago by Rachel Zaslow. She wasn't able to speak with NBC29 on camera, but she says she started the collective after she discovered a trend: “There is a huge disparity between black women and white women when it comes to birth outcome and birth rates,” said program coordinator Crystal Johnson.

Those rates include infant mortality, cesarean section, and premature births.

“Whether you make $500,000 a year, or you make $15,000 a year, if you're a woman of color living in Charlottesville you're having these issues,” Johnson said.

After a medical emergency with their first child and a whirlwind birth, the Lee family decided to use a doula for their second child.

“With Delaney we wanted to have just our time. No family, no friends, nobody around, just our time,” said Damonia Lee. “It’s like a sister at birth that's just helping you and guiding you through the whole thing, even with him so he won’t… nobody will be nervous.”

“As a dad, I wasn't too nervous with her because I knew she had her doula there,” Trent Lee said.

Sisters Keeper Collective is a free service. They rely on grants to provide doula's training and a stipend for their work with women in Charlottesville and surrounding counties.