BRIDGEPORT — Local doulas held a community baby shower on Sunday for expecting Black, Indigenous, and people of color families in Bridgeport, which holds the highest infant mortality rate in Fairfield County.
Members of Doulas 4 Connecticut Coalition gave out free food, diapers, infant clothing and raffled off baby items. Danielle Dixon, a certified doula, said she organized the event to support families and make them aware of the resources available to them.
“Oftentimes, in these communities, people do not have the money or the time or the luxury of having or planning or throwing their own baby shower,” Dixon said.
She explained that Doulas 4 Connecticut wants to make doula care accessible in cities like Bridgeport with large Black and Hispanic populations where the risk of infant mortality is the highest.
According to the State Department of Public Health, Bridgeport accounted for about 34% of the total infant deaths in Fairfield County in 2019. The city’s rate of 7.3 deaths per 1,000 births is 62% higher than the whole of Connecticut’s rate. Dixon said that when doulas enter birthing spaces, that rate decreases.
“The less hands on a mom, the less chance of infections or pain or just the interventions overall,” Dixon said.
Dixon explained that statistically, Black women are three times more likely to die or walk away with injuries from birth compared to white mothers. She attributes it to systematic processes and the “lack of Black faces and spaces overall.”
Cynthia Hayes, a doula of 18 years and member of Doulas 4 Connecticut, said she pays attention to microaggressions in the medical system and how it affects birthing mothers and their pregnancies. Coalition members want to work with medical professionals in hopes of bringing equitable health care access to all.
The group recently advocated for Connecticut House Bill 5500 which aimed to establish a Doula Advisory Committee. The bill was signed by Gov. Lamont in May and Hayes is an official member of the committee. She said its main purpose is to discuss doula certification.
States such as Rhode Island and Maryland implemented coverage laws to help expecting families with doula care expenses, and Hayes is hoping Connecticut will do the same. She said that the new committee is aiming to iron out doula certification in order to get reimbursement from Medicaid.
“There is a lot of bipartisan support for improving medical systems here in the state of Connecticut to support those that are most affected by the disparities concerning racism and how it affects their pregnancy,” Hayes said.
Dixon said Black doulas often work at a discounted rate in Black communities because it is important for pregnant mothers to receive support from someone who understands them.
“When we come into these spaces, we come bearing peace, we come bearing gifts, we come bearing knowledge, we come bearing community,” she said.
At the baby shower, doulas provided expecting families with pamphlets on breastfeeding, newborn care, postpartum depression and more. Along with Bridgeport, Doulas 4 Connecticut will be hosting showers in New London, New Haven and Hartford.