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Leader: Syreeta Gordon
Project: Unshakeable Motherhood
Neighborhood: Pittsburgh’s Northside
Raised on ioby: $1,493 for Doula Scholarships and Unshakeable Motherhood Event

Public health is about more than doctors and medicine. It's also about access to healthy foods, places to play and exercise, looking out for one another, and so much more. Whatever the culture of health looks like in your community, we want to help you strengthen it! In this Q&A, Syreeta Gordon tells us about how Unshakeable Motherhood came to be to support expectant mothers in the Northside of Pittsburgh, and tackle health inequities in the neighborhood. 

The work of Unshakeable Motherhood tackles a critical issue – advocating for the health of expecting mothers, and new mothers and their babies. How did you get involved in the world of public health?

Well my journey began when I became a mother. I was a single mom at first, and I was in my early 20s and I felt like I was pushed into motherhood very quickly and I wasn't prepared. But it really taught me something about myself and it really built a resilience in me. It made me a different woman going forward.

Then I started freelancing at a nonprofit that I thought was amazing. I was teaching moms, young moms, and then I began to work in that nonprofit’s pregnancy center. In doing that, I felt like I started to see my passion come out, through sharing my own story, my journey, and my motherhood. I had a chance encounter with a particular doula, an African American doula, and on this particular day it was like, “Ah!” She explained what a doula was, and said they were hiring at the Birth Circle, and that was it. That opened the door for that, and I became a doula. 

Then I got pregnant again at 39, and that was a high risk pregnancy. I had to be on bed rest, but I also still had to work. Thank God I worked with kindergartners at the time, so I could do things like sit for reading time, and other less physically intense work. But going through that transition, that’s when I started thinking through how I would want to be supported by the people around me and my caregivers. It really made me think creatively about others’ pregnancy and delivery experiences too, like “How would I want to be treated? What support would I want and need?” At other doula agencies, I would come in as a doula at the point of labor. But what if I was able to build a relationship? A before, during, and after relationship? That got me excited, and it led me to starting my business, Kangaroo Birthing & Maternity.

 

Your ioby project page talks about building a community of diverse women in Pittsburgh's Northside to encourage one another along the journey to motherhood. Tell us about this particular need. 

I received a grant to do educational workshops. So I went into the community, and libraries, and other pregnancy care centers, and talked to pregnant women about what a doula is, because a lot of people didn’t know what a doula was, even though doulas can be a powerful resource to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Having that support, working with them to create a birth plan and a plan for after the birth, can make a huge difference for mothers and their infants. 

All you have to do is Google 'Black maternal health,' and you’ll see that a lot of Black women are dying in childbirth. It’s a big problem, and it’s an important public health problem. But there just aren’t enough African American, or women of color, doulas in the market. That’s just not right. Something is missing, there’s a healthcare gap.

Often, pregnant women in our community are lacking hope, are lacking direction, are stressed and scared. They feel alone, and fall into bad habits simply because of a lack of knowledge or a lack of support. There’s a high risk of postpartum depression.

Once women, especially low income women, heard about this it became clear that a doula was something they wanted. But many said they couldn’t afford it, and I had to educate them on how they would be able to afford it. 

How are you tackling that gap with Unshakeable Motherhood? 

After getting that grant and going out and hearing from the community, ioby came around and said, “Hey, would you like to fundraise on top of that?” And I was like, “Why not?!”

So I thought, let’s try and crowdfund tuition to educate local doulas and give them intensive prenatal, labor and postpartum doula training. On top of that, I thought, let’s have events where we bring in different speakers, different vendors, to give expectant moms resources and things like that and a space to connect with one another. And I thought, let's have this happen year-round to create genuine relationships with mothers, and create a community of mothers so that they can feel confident about navigating pregnancy, labor and delivery, life with their infant, combined with financial strategies and the overall transition to motherhood. So that’s Unshakeable Motherhood.
 
A lot of it is about community. When I went out in the community, I saw a lot of women that are lonely, that don’t have a tribe already set up. A lot of times we don’t have the relationships that we need to support us. So, I believe that as a doula we mother the mother, we’re the friend that that person needs in the most critical time of their life. You have no idea what you’re getting into or what to expect when you transition into motherhood. We’re there to help navigate that. 

 

What advice would you have for someone looking to crowdfund and create a culture of health in their community?

Building your team is critical. That was the first thing that I thought to do on this journey–reaching out to aspiring doulas. I reached out to Healthy Start [a maternal and child health nonprofit in Allegheny County] and I said, "Hey, do you know anybody that would be interested in becoming a doula?" And that's when the flood gates started opening, and then when put it out on social media, I got even more people responding. I was like, "Wow, there is a need for this." ioby gives you a helpful toolkit to break down your campaign, and giving that toolkit to everybody on the team so they’re in charge of fundraising was great. It let us break down the bigger number you’re trying to get to into smaller pieces and makes it more attainable.
 
Getting the word out and telling stories was important too. Storytelling is powerful and I wish we had done more video. You don’t even have to have a big budget–if you know how to work an iPhone, you can tell your story and edit it yourself. So use what you have to tell your story. The more you can get your face out there, in front of people, sharing your mission, the more they’ll be able to get behind it and feel passionate about it too. 
 

More about Syreeta

Syreeta Gordon is the founder of Kangaroo Birthing & Maternity Concierge, author, certified healthy relationship speaker and creator of Pecan Momma Tales mommy blog. She is also a trained DONA international birth doula ,experienced in the support of expectant and new mothers in providing compassion, love and trust. She has helped mothers emotionally, educationally and physically through their beautiful births. Mrs. Gordon continues to keep up to date on current research and prepare new and expectant mothers and fathers for their journey into parenthood. She continues to build an amazing team to help support, guide, educate and empower families.

Mrs. Gordon is also the author of Un Veiled Mother: Uncovering the secret of getting out of your own way as you identify your most authentic self, and led the Unshakeable Motherhood ioby project. 

 

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