Last Updated on April 15, 2023 by BVN
Jessica, 31, and Alvin Mabson, 32, pose for a portrait with their son Ennis, 4 months, and daughter Harper, 3, in their home on April 5, 2023. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News / CatchLight Local).
April 11, 2023 through April 17, 2023 marks Black Maternal Health Week, a week-long campaign founded and organized by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance which is a Black women-led, cross-sectoral organization that centers Black mothers and birthing people.
The purpose of Black Maternal Health Week is to “build awareness, activism, and community-building to amplify the voices, perspectives and lived experiences of Black Mamas and birthing people.”
As news reports and data continue to reveal the rising rate of Black maternal mortality and inadequate treatment in hospital settings, this year’s theme for Black Maternal Health Week, “Our Bodies Belong to Us: Restoring Black Autonomy and Joy!”, seeks to shine a light on community-centered and cultural practices for maternal care delivered by Black midwives, full-spectrum doulas and other birth and maternal health workers.
In line with the theme of restoring Black autonomy and Joy and with the support of Inland Empire community-based doulas and midwives, the Black Voice News spoke with Black midwives, doulas and families in the area about the joys of parenting and serving their communities, how they hold on to joy while balancing obligations and what they hope for the future.
Meet the Mabsons
The walls of Jessica and Alvin Mabson’s house are full of framed portraits of their family. Their three-year-old daughter, Harper, smiles back in some of the photos.
Jessica is a 31-year-old midwife student, veteran, mother of two, wife and babywearing educator. As a babywearing educator, Jessica is trained in methods that help parents learn techniques for hands-free carrying and bonding with the baby.
“I am very big on reproductive justice — that is my jam,” Jessica said. “My work brings me joy, being able to bring accessibility to people of the global majority is really what does it for me; being able to educate people on options they have as far as birth and locations [for birthing] that people are not aware they have.”
Jessica encounters a lot of people who are not aware they have options, can have home births and do certain things outside of a hospital. She wants people to know that they have autonomy and they are in control of their bodies.
“I find joy in telling people to tell other people to ‘go to hell’ [and] ‘I’m going to do what I want to do with my body, and these are my choices and my options,’” she declared.
As Jessica spoke, her husband, Alvin, 32, who serves in the military, played with their nearly four-month-old son, Ennis, on a nearby couch, while Harper showed off her cartwheels.
“My biggest joy out of all of this is healing my inner child,” Alvin said, sharing how he has worked on things that affected him as a child so it doesn’t affect his children in the same way. “[Knowing] that they will have advantages and choices that I didn’t have growing up and seeing it and seeing our kids’ brains work without the trauma, is probably the best for me.”
Jessica finds joy as a parent who allows her children to be liberated by letting them be themselves, letting them be confident and allowing them to be in a space where they feel comfortable to be whoever they want.
“We consciously parent,” Jessica explained. “Parenting our children consciously and allowing them to be liberated, especially as little Black kids, heals a part of me, like my inner child, and it heals my lineage. Being able to allow them to be free and to be themselves, unapologetically, [that] just really brings me a lot of joy.”
Being in the military, Alvin shared how he finds joy in the moments with his family when he can, because those moments are not, necessarily, enjoyed often. He said he’s been fortunate to have been at both his children’s home births and able to raise them without having to do it over Face Time.
“I cherish these moments because everybody isn’t as grateful as I am for these things. My marriage brings me a lot of joy, as well. Being with the right person, in the journey of what we call life is…,” Alvin was cut off by his wife, who finished his sentence with “top tier, chef’s kiss.”
According to Alvin, having the right partner is key, especially with bringing children into the world. He said his biggest joy is watching what he’s done for himself and his family. With all the pictures in their home that capture moments in their lives, from their wedding photos to their children’s home births to family portraits, Alvin said he wasn’t really into memories until he met his wife. Now, the memories allow him to look back on where they came from and where they’ve been.
“I just enjoy seeing the fruits of my labor. It always brings a smile to my face when I’m down and out, [and] just knowing that it won’t always be bad for me,” Alvin said.
Some advice the couple offered to other parents is educating themselves on parenting styles, having a village of people for support, having a solid partner to communicate with and to remember “practice over perfection.” Jessica also explained the importance of parents not allowing other voices to take over their own inner voice on how they should raise their children.
As she watched Harper perform stunts and handstands on pillows, Jessica voiced her hopes for her children.
“I hope that Harper keeps the same fiery energy that she has. It’s a lot, but she’s going to need it for the world. I hope she knows that she has autonomy of her body and herself. She is a really confident person — I hope she keeps that,” Jessica shared.
“I hope she takes the world by storm. She has a very big personality and I hope that she doesn’t ever, ever let anybody put her light out or turn her flame down because she’s here to tear everything up.”
Alvin wants his kids to know they have a voice. He confided how he didn’t really know he had one coming up, but now, as a father, he always wants to hear what his kids have to say, even if he may not like what they say.
“I want them to keep, if nothing else, their voice. I want them to see love in our house. I want them to be able to have healthy relationships with people. I want them to learn how to communicate effectively. I just want them to be free,” Alvin said. “My biggest plan is to just make their lives a lot easier than mine was.”