Combating the Black Maternal Health Crisis with Birth Queen
If you’ve read the staggering statistics, you know there’s a Black maternal health crisis in our country.These statistics barely scratch the surface of the disparities, but they’re more than enough to indicate there’s work to be done—and Rachel Nicks is getting to work. The New-York-based doula, lactation counselor, fitness instructor and mom of two recently founded Birth Queen, a nonprofit established on the belief that all women and birthing people have the right to safe, supported, empowered and beautiful birth experiences. Below, we ask her more about the work of the organization, and how our community can get involved. (Looking for her Solly Wrap tutorial? Find it at the end of this post!)
Tell us in your own words about Birth Queen.
Birth Queen is my new baby girl.I birthed her to combat the Black maternal health crisis and be the solution. Birth Queen educates, supports, and empowers Black women, parents, and birthing people, enriching the Black birth experience and saving lives. Our organization funds training for doulas, midwives, and lactation consultants.
What inspired you to start the nonprofit?During this summer of 2020, I was in my third trimester with my second son. I was having anxiety attacks every evening when the sun set. I was blaming my pregnancy and my baby—and so were others—until one day I realized that it wasn’t my baby boy at all. It was racism. I was afraid to bring another Black son into this world knowing his life may not be valued by everyone. One sleepless night in September I had the vision to collect Black birth stories. The artist in me was trying to find a solution and ease my pain. That seed grew into my decision to found my nonprofit Birth Queen.
What has it been like getting Birth Queen up and running?The support I have received has been overwhelming. Family and friends and strangers near and far have gone out of their way to support me in any and all ways. It is a beautiful feeling. We just got started, but I am so proud of what we have accomplished. We have over 30 brands supporting us. Within a month of founding Birth Queen, we secured a fiscal sponsor, Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, to help support us as we fundraise and support mamas and birth workers.
What are some projects Birth Queen has in the pipeline that have you especially excited?We are working with my dear friend and jeweler Julez Bryant to create a Birth Queen collection. I am also talking to my favorite candle maker about a bespoke candle to bring peace and tranquility to mamas. I am extremely proud to announce that I will be a speaker at the annual Concordia Summit in September 2021. I will be discussing the Black maternal health crisis in America and my work with Birth Queen. The summit convenes the top movers and shakers of today's world to spark dialogue, catalyze collaboration and collectively pave the path toward a more equitable, sustainable future.
What advice or encouragement would you offer to a Black person who is expecting?Educate yourself. Advocate for yourself. Trust your gut and instinct. Claim your power. Ask questions. Change providers if you do not feel comfortable. Get a doula. Get a lactation counselor. I also highly recommend a midwife if you have the option. Do not let the knowledge of the crisis scare you or paralyze you with fear. You can have a beautiful and supported birth experience.
How can Black mothers take advantage of the resources you’re offering?
What’s the best way for those who are interested to support the work of Birth Queen?
1. Spread the word.
3. DONATE $.
4. Donate in kind product and services for our mothers and babies, such as prenatal and postnatal essentials, baby goods, mental health services, self-care services, food farm boxes or meals.
Solly Baby is honored to partner with Birth Queen in its work with BElovedBIRTH Black Centering, a program in Oakland powered by a passionate group of Black birth workers that provides midwifery-led group prenatal & postpartum care by, for, and with Black people in the Oakland-Alameda Health System. Solly Baby has pledged to donate a wrap to every person who completes the program.
If you received a wrap through BElovedBIRTH, we invite you to watch Rachel's tutorial video below to get started.
A Solly mama herself, Rachel shares her No. 1 Solly Wrap tip: Use it!! Encourage your partner to use it. It will bring ease and support to your home.
“I loved taking walks with Baldwin in my wrap and it also was super helpful to wear Baldwin while playing with his big brother or doing chores around the house. It is so soft. I loved all my different wraps to match with my outfit. All these little details help you smile on those super tired or not so happy days. Solly gives mama and daddy the gift of the soft and supported snuggles.”
—Rachel Nicks, founder of Birth Queen and mom of two