Navigating the healthcare system as a Black woman can often feel like a load of challenges. From implicit biases to structural racism, the journey to motherhood is filled with obstacles that demand the need for advocacy. The process of speaking up for yourself becomes easier with the unwavering support of a trusted birthing team.

Tatyana Ali recently sat down on Recipe for Change with Nyesha Arrington, Lizzy Mathis, Melanie Fiona, Kyla Pratt and Kim Durdin to share her birthing team processes.

“If you look at me and you don’t see your sister or your daughter or your mother or your best friend, then you don’t get to touch me or my children,” she said.

During the conversation, the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” actress shed light on the transformative journey of Black maternal health. The dinner table became a safe space and a forum for collective wisdom, as the women shared their birthing stories.

Lizzy Mathis: Make Sure Your Team Sees You

For Mathis, the journey to motherhood was punctuated by a miscarriage. It illuminated the importance of finding a healthcare provider who sees beyond medical charts, acknowledging the humanity of their patients.

“Immediately, I was like ‘Oh wow, like you don’t care about me as a woman and as a mother.’ It was just very transactional,” she shared. “I told myself, “Okay, I need to find someone who’s going to look at me. Not as a number [or] as just another patient, … but someone who’s going to see me.”

Melanie Fiona: Make Sure You’re Not A Statistic

For Fiona, her experiences choosing the right birthing team began when she encountered a doctor whose approach to her preferred birthing method reduced her to a mere statistic.

“When he asked me my age and my ethnicity, my percentage of whether I was a good candidate for a [vaginal birth after cesarean section] changed,” she shared, explaining that she eventually decided to switch doctors. “You’re not looking at me as my health. You’re not taking me as an individual.”

Kyla Pratt: Make Sure You Advocate For Yourself

Pratt recalled her experience of advocating for herself during a dismissive encounter with a care provider. She shared that during her second childbirth when she realized she was having contractions, her nurse didn’t believe her. Insisting that the nurse went to get the doctor, she was adamant that she knew what her body was doing. Once the doctor arrived, he confirmed that she was contracting.

“When it came to the safety of my child, I was easily like, ‘Ma’am, keep your looks and keep your whatever you need to yourself, I got this,'” she said, embodying the resilience and determination that define Black motherhood.

The Future of Black Maternal Healthcare

The conversation underscored the transformative power of community. The role of a trusted birthing team was proven to be indispensable. From doulas to midwives, compassionate allies enrich the journey to motherhood. Black mothers need them in these spaces to honor aand advocate for their needs.

“My experience in this healthcare system … radicalized me,” Ali said. I don’t play.”