For the first time in the 76 years Tutwiler has housed women in Alabama, an imprisoned mother gave birth to her newborn while her Alabama Prison Birth Project doula stood beside her, holding her hand.
Her doula massaged her legs because she was feeling contractions in her thighs. Her doula celebrated with her the miracle of life entering this world and welcomed her healthy daughter with joy. Her doula encouraged her to unwrap her swaddled baby and place her daughter skin to skin in kangaroo care. Her doula gave her the confidence to place her baby at her breast. She went on to exclusively breastfeed her baby for the next 24 hours, the first time that has happened with a Tutwiler mom in at least 7 years, according to lactation staff at the hospital.
One day later, this mother said good-bye to her daughter, as women inside Tutwiler have been doing for decades, and left the hospital with empty arms.
But this time, she did not do it alone.
This time, her doula was beside her. Mom was able to keep her baby’s hat, with that ooey-gooey newborn smell. Her daughter went to a new caregiver with a blanket that smelled exactly like mom. The doula recorded mom’s voice singing and talking to her baby, and mom knew the temporary caregiver would play this soothing sound to her daughter.
This time, she would have pictures of her baby’s birth that she could keep forever. She would be able to show them to the other women in her prison dorm and feel proud of her daughter’s chubby cheeks. She’d be able to look at them as she recovered, reminding herself that it did happen, she did have a baby, she was a new mother.
She knew that even though she was doing the hardest thing imaginable, walking away from her baby and returning to prison, she would see her doula in a few days at Birthing Care Group. She would have someone to talk to one-on-one who knew what she’d just been through. When she described her recurrent dream of waking up not knowing where she was and searching for her lost baby, her doula would grab her hand and squeeze it, validating her grief. The grief of being separated from your child is universal, and she’d be able to express it in a safe place.
Facilitating this bonding experience, holding space around a mother and baby who are going through something traumatic -- it can only be described as a privilege. We are grateful to our financial partners that allow us this opportunity. We are grateful to the Alabama Department of Corrections for creating new policies that bring dignity to this very real experience happening to women and newborns all over this country and world.
We need your spiritual, intellectual, and financial support in order to continue. Please use the "donate" button found at the top of our website or click the "support us now" button at the bottom of this post to give and allow us to continue our support of these mothers and babies.