How Chanel Porchia-Albert, Doula and Mother of Six, Is Advocating for Black Maternal Health
On a charming walk in historic Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, the New York location of Ancient Song Doula Services is perfectly tucked away. That’s where Chanel Porchia-Albert, the birthing doula and mother of six, greeted me with a hug, and I was quickly reminded just how much human interaction we’ve missed this last year; how hard it’s been to feel comfortable, safe, and invited anywhere. But I had come to the right place: Porchia-Albert has made it her life’s work to bring all those qualities into spaces for women and children.
It was Porchia-Albert’s first pregnancy that pivoted her path in life. After experiencing what she describes as a “sterile” experience within the traditional medical system, she knew that wasn’t the experience she wanted. She quickly enlisted a Black doula to support her through birthing and postpartum. “It was very fluid, I was able to do what I needed to do without any restrictions,” says Porchia-Albert. “It was like the freedom to just be free, to be in your body, to be in your emotions.”
Ancient Song got its start in 2008 in Porchia-Albert’s Brooklyn home, where she had three kids of her own. At a time when it was still normal to ask “What even is a doula?” Porchia-Albert wanted to make birthing support available and accessible to women who needed personalized care the most. (Research has found that maternal morbidity rates for Black women are more than three times higher than their white counterparts, while other statistics reveal that a saddening 60 percent of deaths among Black women during childbirth may have been avoidable.) As the center’s services expanded, Porchia-Albert moved Ancient Song to a room in the historic Stuyvesant Mansion, then owned by the family of Dr. Josephine English, the first black woman gynecologist to open a private practice in New York, and who delivered the children of Malcolm X. A fire would eventually displace the small center, but with communal support and a bit of making it work in different spaces, Ancient Song was established at its current two locations in Brooklyn and New Jersey.
Over the course of her career, Porchia-Albert’s work would reveal the inequality of the medical system, the strength it takes to advocate for women and babies, and the importance of teaching autonomy.
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