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‘This is spiritual’: Community supports Richmond doula studying to be a midwife

Nikiya Ellis has spent five years supporting families, helping welcome 100 children into the world as a doula. She is now training to be a midwife in the next p
Published: Feb. 23, 2022 at 3:31 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 23, 2022 at 4:43 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Nikiya Ellis has spent five years supporting families, helping welcome 100 children into the world as a doula. She is now training to be a midwife in the next part of her journey as a birth worker.

“I know that I can only be a drop in the ocean, but my goal is to offer a different perspective to birth,” said Ellis. “We know that home birth can be safe; I would be a CPM - a certified practicing midwife. So, it would be in-home or a birthing center.”

Ellis is the founder of The Diverse Doula Pregnancy Services and helps train other doulas in Central Virginia. As a midwife, she will perform the duties of an OB, such as prenatal visits, monitoring the parent, postpartum care, wellness exams, and prescribing contraceptives. She is focusing solely on home births and will not perform surgery or receive babies, as it is known in midwifery, in a hospital.

“Midwives take a lot of time with their families; it is more about a holistic approach,” she said. “We want to know what she ate, who is coming over, who is going to be there, who is the support team.”

There is a long history of midwifery and home births in the Black community, especially when hospitals refused to help Black patients. Midwifery was passed down through generations, and Ellis is walking a path once traveled by grand midwives like Anna B. Turner of Waverly, Virginia.

“To walk in the footsteps of people like [Anna B. Turner], knowing that they paved the way, and they worked so hard, and they were pushed out of the space, and that’s why I say it is spiritual. I want to make sure I make the ancestors proud as well,” said Ellis.

Finishing school and becoming a midwife will allow Ellis to open the door for other aspiring midwives.

“There are no homebirth midwives who are women of color here in Richmond, Virginia,” she said.

Ellis says there are barriers for women of color who want to become midwives, such as the cost and time it takes to go back to school and finding a teacher known as a preceptor who will invest in ensuring a student meets all requirements certification.

“It is a huge disparity, and there are probably a thousand reasons I could state that has caused it, but racism is one of the biggest ones. There is not a lack of women who want to be midwives, but there is a lack of midwives who will train these Black midwives.”

Ellis is thankful for her mentor and preceptor in Richmond and hopes to make a change. She has been attending births as a student midwife, helping her get ahead as she continues school.

“It feels good to be on this journey and to know I will be able to provide this care, but I know I can’t do this alone. So, I am hoping that other Black students who want to become midwives will get into this space. Once I get in this, and I am working, maybe I can precept [teach] a woman of color who wants to get into this space.”

Ellis is enrolled in a self-paced program, hoping to complete school in two years. The community has been standing behind Ellis as she raises more than $30,000 needed for tuition and other fees.

“Some people are rooting [for me] to the point where it is like, you are doing this for all of us. You are doing this for me, so I feel a connection to the work you’re trying to do. That is major; that is so powerful,” she explained.

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