The Incredible Way Two Women are Changing the Way Black Women Birth

Allegra Hill & Kimberly Durdin of Kindred Space
By Ta-ning Connai

America is a leader, but when it comes to leading maternal death rates in dozens of countries, including some third world nations, it's a label we might not want to claim. For black women it fares worst because we die during birth at a rate of 3-4 times that of white women. It's stats like these that provoked two women to take action to prevent more senseless fatalities.

Kimberly Durdin and Allegra Hill are natural birth professionals and it’s been their desire for many years to extend their life-long work to women in predominantly black areas. I had the opportunity to chat with Kimberly to find out how these phenomenal women are changing the way black women birth.


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Imagined as a birth, lactation and education space that could provide birthing support groups, lactation support, new mom and dad support groups, midwifery and montrice services, Kindred Space was officially opened in March 2018, funded predominately by crowdsourcing, smack dab in Inglewood, California, aka the hood.
 
Kimberly says,
“We chose a location at the intersection of La Tijera and Centinela because it is within the same community we wanted to serve. Los Angles has three special planning areas that have been identified as having the highest rates for infant and maternal death. We didn't know at the time of beginning Kindred Space that we were in one of these areas, although we now consider it kismet."
In a short period of time, Kimberly and Allegra are making tremendous strides re-educating or as Kimberly puts it, "un-educating" African American mommies-to-be about the myths and lies surrounding pregnancy, the process of childbearing, and even breastfeeding. While giving birth is a huge moment in a woman's life, as Kimberly tells it, there's no real preparation out there.
“Everything a woman learns about birth, she picked up from friends or family. And believe it or not, film and TV play a huge role in the falsehoods that fill our psyche. Women have been so riddled with fear in regards to enduring labor pains, but what's being taught at Kindred Space is that birth is nothing to fear; that it's beautiful and with our midwifery expertise, a peaceful birth can be achieved.” 
Currently the staff at Kindred Space prepare and assist women for births at home while they are working on opening their own birthing center in South Central L.A. 

Photo of Birthing People Foundation Training by Charisse Sims

With its ethnically-inspired decor, the vibe at Kindred Space makes you feel right at home. It's the kind of place black women can let down their guard and be comfortable around others who look like them, which is extremely important. Kim says,
"Here we allow women to be themselves. Often when POC walk into medical institutions they feel like they have to be on guard, or code switch in order not to be judged or subject to discrimination. It's tiring to do this and also indicates that they aren't completely comfortable with their care providers. It's abominable to imagine that POC also have to be on-guard when they are in labor, when they give birth, and when they are just learning about their new little ones."
Ain't it the truth! That type of comfort is worth every penny, which brings us to the very important question of cost. As it stands, Kindred Space also offers postpartum support, breastfeeding classes, meditation, dance, emotional support, and their non-profit, The Birthing People Foundation, which trains and encourages more women of color to join the birthing movement. To Ms. Hill and Ms. Durdin's credit, some work is without pay. They take great pride in making women's needs the top priority. They never turn anyone away, and offer a sliding scale according to one's ability to pay. Currently, they're preparing the facility to be Medi-Cal compliant. Midwifery services are known to have a pretty hefty fee, and with Medi-Cal picking up most of the tab, low income candidates would be relieved.

Photo of Birthing People Foundation Training by Charisse Sims

That’s pretty amazing. So what does the future hold for Kindred Space? Kimberly’s plans are precise and clear.
“We want to duplicate our successful blueprint and create more spaces in LA...to provide full and partial scholarships for birthworkers, educators and midwifery candidates...and to eventually dismantle society's trust in the western approach to birth so that women will choose the safest way to perform the greatest miracle on earth.”
To learn more about Kindred Space, The Birthing People Foundation at its founders, check out their website kindredspacela.com and @kindredspacela on Instagram!

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What do you think about Kindred Space and the need for more education around black women's maternal health?
TA-NING is a former model and clothing designer who one day got the "call" to leave the fab world of fashion behind. While in Bible College, she discovered her knack for mixing her quirky style of writing with her gift to teach. TA-NING'S TELL IT TUESDAY is a weekly column that uses doses of pop culture to tear down the walls of churchy tradition, change the face of Christianity, and present it's message in a lively way. Ta-ning resides in Santa Monica (by way of BK).

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