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By Sarah Conway

The Cord team (clockwise from top left): Janaya Greene, Camille Powell, Sarah Conway, Caroline Olsen and Emeline Posner [Photo: Max Herman]

The Cord team (clockwise from top left): Janaya Greene, Camille Powell, Sarah Conway, Caroline Olsen and Emeline Posner [Photo: Max Herman]

UPDATE 7/13/19 — In July, City Bureau transitioned ownership of The Cord to Chicago Birthworks Collective, a birth and postpartum collective made up entirely of professionals of color whose strongest desire is to see other expecting people of color thrive through every stage of reproduction. This page includes information and all messages sent by City Bureau before that transfer.

The Cord ( is a free resource via SMS text for pregnant women, mothers and anyone looking for resources on pregnancy and motherhood in Chicago. Anybody can subscribe and ask City Bureau reporters about maternal health and share story tips and ideas. Subscribers will receive articles, links to resources and other information that help with pregnancy and motherhood, straight to their phones.

So far in our reporting, we have heard from women on Chicago’s West Side who know about the stark disparities in maternal health but aren’t totally sure where to get information on local options geared toward women of color. This spring, City Bureau, a civic journalism lab based on Chicago’s South Side, wants to produce impactful news stories, share resources on maternal health and build a digital community around this critical issue.

There’s a maternal health crisis in the United States. We are one of only 13 countries in the world where the rate of maternal mortality — the death of a woman related to pregnancy or childbirth up to a year after the end of pregnancy — is now worse than it was 25 years ago.

Black women are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as their white counterparts, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Illinois, disparities are even starker: Black women are six times more likely to die than white women from pregnancy-related causes.

That’s where The Cord, a free resource, comes in. (Standard text-messaging costs apply depending on each individual’s plan.) The Cord is a news and information service provided by City Bureau. This spring, City Bureau reporting fellows Camille Powell, Janaya Greene, Emeline Posner, Caroline Olsen and Sarah Conway are taking a deep look at maternal and infant health in Chicago. We want to tell stories about the huge racial inequities in maternal mortality and health, as well as community-oriented solutions.

How The Cord works

  1. Subscribe to “The Cord” by entering your phone number on Project Text’s platform:

  2. We’ll send you resources on healthy pregnancies, tips on what to do after the birth, maternal and baby news, updates and thoughts on pregnancy and motherhood in Chicago.

  3. Reply directly to us on your phone via text to weigh in on topics, share your story and contribute ideas on how we can better serve moms in Chicago through our reporting. Let’s make a modern mama community together.

Signed up? You’ll receive a welcome message and all the new broadcasts that we put out. But if you want to know what you missed, check out all previous The Cord text messages here.

74-We are SO proud to announce that the amazing birthworkers at Chicago Birthworks Collective are taking over The Cord. Yall are in good hands! Chicago Birthworks Collective is a birth and postpartum collective made up entirely of professionals of color whose strongest desire is to see other expecting people of color thrive through every stage of reproduction! We are here for you! We are #Blessed to have walked this journey with you all these past few months.

Sending you love and lots of light, 
Camille, Caroline, Emeline, Janaya and Sarah

73-In our reporting in this past few months, City Bureau spoke with countless folks. Here are a few of our best Q&As: 
* One Chatham couple battling stigma and staying informed
* This midwife is fighting for legal recognition from Illinois
* This Hyde Park couple weathered a scary, traumatic birth and the postpartum fallout

72-Into Twitter? One of The Cord’s fam sent in these recommendations for accounts to follow (*signal boost*): @KemiDoll, @doccrearperry, @mclemoremr, @IVAPhD, @doczo1, @RJWarrior, @BlkMamasMatter, @AncientSong7, @jessicaroach01, @BirthingJustice.

71-We had so much fun with y’all at the City Bureau public newsroom where we connected moms with birth workers that we made a comic about that special day. Check out what our “open book” maternal health public newsroom was all about here:

70-Knowledge drop → Here’s what you need to know about birth. City Bureau sat down with Black women who do birth work for the best advice they could give. Check it out here:

69-Trying to beat the baby blues? We have got you covered. Here’s where moms can find mental health support in Chicago from support groups to psychologists to meditation experts:'s-where-moms-can-find-mental-health-support/

68-Black women disproportionately suffer complications of pregnancy, childbirth and violence in Chicago. Simply put, the health care system and the city need to put a priority on Black women’s health and lives. City Bureau analyzed Chicago data on maternal mortality and found that Black women on the South and West Sides of the city are hit the hardest by the maternal health crisis. Read the full story here:

67-Studies show moms with doulas have far better health outcomes than those without doulas — but only three states allow Medicaid (which pays for nearly half of all U.S. births) to cover doula care. Illinois just missed its chance to become the fourth. But the state’s new budget does expand Medicaid coverage for postpartum checkups. Read more about what went down:

66-“To me this work is about bringing the power of birthing back into the community, collaborating with providers as needed and when they are wanted, but really placing the birthing person at the center of any experience.” Have a look at this BEAUTIFUL photo essay celebrating women of color in the birth industry who work to support moms in their own communities.

65-Happy Fourth of July! As you prep for your cookouts this week, want to know how to stay healthy during pregnancy and post-partum? City Bureau has ya back! Check out these tips and tricks from maternal health experts in Chicago on nutrition and natural care:

64-Nationwide 40 percent of women don’t make it to their standard six-week postpartum checkup and it means these women don’t get the essential information they need to care for themselves after childbirth. That’s why public health and maternal health experts across the country are advocating for home visits. Read City Bureau’s article about Chicago’s plan to expand home visits to 5,000 families by 2020..

63-“This new life is different and challenging in a way I could never have imagined. At the same time, there really aren’t adequate words for this type of love — it’s kind of just a phenomenon.” Read this special note from our Cover Mama Dorothy Bowser on the power of motherhood:

62-City Bureau published a special Maternal Health Issue with Austin Weekly News. Inside, readers can find 10 stories that tackled issues of racial inequity in maternal health by focusing on community solutions and resilience. We’ll share out all our stories from the issue this week on The Cord before a, shhhh, super SPECIAL *secret* announcement on Friday! You can catch a full link to all the stories here on our website:

61-Are you passionate about early childhood education? The Chicago-produced documentary, “No Small Matter”, which chronicles the awe-inspiring wonder and critical importance of young brain development between the ages of one and six, has screenings and Q&A panels over the next week. More info here:

60-Good morning lovelies! It’s been a bit but we are still here. :) What’s your favorite essential oil? Ours: lavender! Myriam Borrayo, aka The Oil Lady, is hosting a workshop where moms can gain confidence in using essential oil blends and aromatherapy to support a healthy mind and body on June 21 at 6:30 p.m. Event details here:

59-If you are interested in staying up-to-date on Illinois’ work on maternal mortality, the Illinois Department of Public Health is holding a Maternal Mortality Review Committee meeting from 9:00 a.m. — 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 12 in Chicago. More details here on City Bureau’s Documenters website, which shares public meeting schedules:

58-We love you Black mamas! Happy Friday — 
The Cord

57-Tonight → This event is gonna be 100! You can’t go wrong when you have Chicago Birth Stories, Chicago Birthworks Collective and Chicago Volunteer Doulas all in one room at the Haji Healing Salon in Chatham for the May Birthstory Circle. Friday goals: turn up, share your birth story, build community! You got this. Details here:

56-Postpartum womb steaming is an ancient healing tradition that originated in African indigenous culture and is still a vital part of postpartum recovery today, says Flatbush Doulas’ Yael B. Yisrael. She says it is one way for Black women of the diaspora to reclaim a birth rite for your healing benefit through ancient roots. “When you have a baby there are certain herbs you are to bathe in, to drink and to steam with. The purpose is to heal the uterus and heal the womb,” says Yisrael of womb steaming. Check out this cool YouTube video by Yisrael which breaks it all down:

55-Chicago Birthworks Collective and Chicago Birth Stories are holding a circle to share birth stories this Friday, May 31 at 6 pm at the Haji Healing Salon. Link to register for May’s Birthstory Circle via Instagram post here:

54-“Instead of people understanding their bodies, they rely solely upon a white supremacist healthcare system that breaks their pockets and often doesn’t include the needs of those who are marginalized. Most times, natural ways of curing one’s health are put off as taboo, superstitious, unsanitary and ineffective, common rhetoric that made it illegal for Black midwives to service their communities, especially in the 1900s.” Read more on how Black women are finding freedom in herbal medicine via BYP100:

53-How do you navigate trauma and work towards healing? Some researchers believe one way is on your plate. Good nutrition during pregnancy is one way to curb the passage of trauma from parents to baby as your food can act as literally your medicine. You can read more about inherited trauma here:

52-Want to share your birth story? A group of dope designers and researchers, faculty and students want to hear your birth story so they can better understand birth in Chicago at Chicago Birth Stories. Their goal is to bring awareness to the diversity of birth experiences by building an interactive map to share these stories and to ultimately improve maternal health in Chicagoland through storytelling and empathy. Check them out and sign up on their website:

51-Feeling itchy? 1 cup shea butter, 1/2 cup cocoa butter, 1/4 cup coconut oil, a squeeze of avocado oil mix it all up, nice, blend and whip it up for some baby bump belly balm. Check out this recipe video by Crystallinity Xo:

50-Today is the last day of our #CoverMama photo contest! To enter is easy: 1-Choose your photo of you or your favorite Black mama! 2-Post it on social media and tag City Bureau and #CoverMama 3-That’s it! You are entered to win a totally free and awesome photoshoot

49-Are you a black midwife, doula, or other womb wellness practitioner looking to join a national directory for Black birth workers OR are you expecting and looking for a Black birth worker? Check out Sista Midwife Productions to join or search their national database of birth workers, which includes doulas, midwives, lactation consultants and wellness practitioners, like herbalists.

48-Via Black Mama’s Matter Alliance: “This image speaks volumes on the layers of maternal mental health. We need providers, community members, advocates, birth workers, doulas, midwives, family members, spouses, partners, mental health providers, and most importantly equitable health and social policies for our Black Mamas to thrive physically and emotionally before, during & after pregnancy.” Does this image resonate with you?

47-Tomorrow is the day! (dancing) Come out and meet Camille, Emeline, Janaya, Caroline and Sarah in person and a BUNCH of awesome birth workers doing the work at our open book, Ask a Maternal Health Expert Anything! Public Newsroom. City Bureau can’t wait to meet ya!

46-Mental Health Month is still going strong. Sista Afya will be having a Mental Wellness Mixer Saturday May 18, 2019 5–7pm. Sista Afya is A black Women’s Mental Wellness Center on the south side of Chicago. “We fulfill this through our mission of sustaining the mental wellness of Black women through building community, sharing information, and connecting Black women to quality mental wellness services. We believe that by making mental wellness simple, accessible, affordable, and centered around Black women’s experiences, more people will get what they need to have a full, whole life.” Check them out!

45-you trying to conceive or in the early stages of pregnancy? Most healthcare providers recommend you start taking a daily 400mg folic acid supplement, which helps reduce the likelihood of baby developing neural tube defects, as soon as you can. But did you know that you can also build the important B Vitamin into your diet? Okra, asparagus, peas, beans, broccoli, and papaya are all rich in folate. 
You can read more here:

44-What position did you give birth in, or would you like to give birth in? Did you know, ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics included birthing positions like squatting? In ancient times, African women used a wide variety of traditional birthing positions, that is, to date, believed to give women less pain and facilitate labor. Check out this fun article on the topic here:

43-Black Mamas Matter Alliance teamed up with MTV to create the #SaveOurMoms campaign to raise awareness in disparities in #blackmaternalhealth and create an understanding in how Black moms can get the care, support, and services they need during pregnancy and birth? The commercial is emotional and has been controversial for some. What do you think of the #SaveOurMoms campaign? Text us your thoughts! *Trigger warning shows dramatized maternal death* Watch here:

42-City Bureau is doing a special Austin Weekly News issue devoted entirely to Black Maternal Health in June. We are looking for a mom to be on our cover! All you have to do is tag @city_bureau with the hashtag #CoverMama in your photo of a Black mama or mama-to-be between 5/7 to 5/16 for a chance to win a free photo shoot and to be our cover mom. City Bureau is on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Learn more about our reporting here:

41-Heather Dobbs, creator of Mama Black & Blue, a blog on postpartum mental health suggests these podcasts: Birth Kweens The Birth Hour The Harshe Podcast Therapy for Black Girls (This one doesn’t focus specifically on postpartum mental health, but it does cover topics like fertility and body shame.

40-Into policy and politics? WE have a live stream for you! Catch up on how Congress is taking on issues that disproportionately impact Black mothers such as maternal mortality, the continuum of care (paid leave) and affordable childcare. Mothering Justice for Mama’s March D.C. discussion event includes Congressional Representatives Lauren Underwood, Kamala Harris, Deb Haaland, Rashida Tlaib and others. Watch the whole video on Mothering Justice’s Facebook account:

39-Want to share your birth story? Chicago Birth Stories, a collective run by women researches at DePaul, would love to have 500 birth stories by Mother’s Day. Did you recently give birth or attend a birth as a supporter or a health care worker? Hit them up with your tale via their Twitter account: Happy Monday and Ramadan Mubarak for anyone on The Cord who is celebrating!

38-Happy International Day of the Midwife! For all the midwives out there, we see you and appreciate you! Here is some Sunday reading on the critical, heroic role midwives and doulas played in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria where they provided free resources and care for any mom in need. Read here via Bustle:

37-About 85% of women experience some kind of mood disturbance postpartum. Talking openly about your postpartum experiences with others going through the same thing can combat feelings of isolation and shame. Going to a La Leche League meeting is a great place to find other moms. If you are worried about your mood, speak to your healthcare provider. You do not need to deal with them on your own. These organizations provide support and info on postpartum mental health: La Leche League of Illinois: :-))

36-The Cord is going live! On Thursday, May 16 from 6–8 PM we will host a real-life meet-up where we bring birth workers like doulas, midwives and others as open books — you can sit down and ask them any questions you have or use a question guide to get the conversation started. We want to use this ‘open book’ exchange to highlight community-generated, Black-led solutions to the maternal health crisis. Are you an expert and you want to participate? Reply to this text! Are you a mama or mama-to-be and you want to talk to a specific maternal health worker, let us know! RSVP here:

35-“Like an estimated 80% of African American women in their childbearing years, my uterus had been beset by bulbous benign growths known as uterine fibroids.”~Joy Notoma. It’s a rainy Thursday so we wanted to share a lunchtime read with you: In “At Risk At Home and Abroad,” essayist and journalist Joy Notoma grapples with uterine fibroids, harmful biases in the medical establishment, and a move from Brooklyn to West Africa she wonders where, as a black woman, she can find safety.

You can read her story here:

34-April Showers bring May Flowers, Happy Maternal Mental Health Day! 
A Subscriber expressed difficulty finding HMO-covered maternal mental health care in Chicago. According to the link that was shared last Wednesday, these are the locations that offer free services:

What would you say is the greatest barrier to accessing perinatal or postpartum mental health services?

33-Black Mamas Matter Alliance will host a live chat on their Instagram page today from 12–12:30PM CT. They’ll discuss the unique challenges Black mamas face when it comes to maternal mental health and wellness. Kay Matthews, Founder and CEO of Shades of Blue Project (@shadesofblueprj) will share the work she’s leading to expand maternal mental health resources and support for Black Mamas! To join, simply follow them on Instagram at @BlackMamasMatter and check into their live stories starting today at 12:00 PM CT. The Cord would love to hear major takeaways from this chat if you join the conversation! How can we relate to this in Chi?

32-In your first trimester and feeling queasy? Have some ginger, lemon, peppermint or peach tea, or nibble on a handful of fresh mint. Here’s is a list of natural tips, tricks, and remedies for beating nausea from Chicago Family Doulas in Oak Park. Is this helpful? What recipes and resources helped you most during your pregnancy? Text back and LMK!

31-Chicago Birthworks Collective, a prenatal and postpartum collective for families of color, is hosting a FREE class at The Black Mall on Thursday, May 2 at 6 pm. This class is for people looking for everything from finding a Black doula to figuring out how to pay for them. Organizers say they will be sharing their knowledge on how to have an informed, empowered and enjoyable birthing experiences! For more info & RSVP visit:

30-It’s almost the weekend! Before you head out for some much-deserved relaxation, check out our latest story: “What’s the State of Maternal Care on Chicago’s West Side? Here’s what people in North Lawndale and Garfield Park have to say” See ya on Monday!

29-When we take care of moms, we take care of families. When we take care of families, we take care of communities. Always prioritize MATERNAL & WOMEN’S HEALTH & WELLNESS. Here’s a resource that explains how and why with plentiful resources and information. Does this help? With Love, The Cord

28-Last week we shared that U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood wrote her undergraduate thesis on how to fix maternal mortality disparities by expanding Medicaid reimbursement rates to midwives. Did you know that Illinois Senator Cristina Castro is sponsoring the Improving Healthcare for Pregnant and Postpartum Individuals Act, a bill that contains a series of measures that intend to combat Illinois’ maternal mortality rate? The bill would expand postpartum care to a year, cover doula care and perinatal depression screenings under Medicaid and more. Take a look at the bill and let us know what you think:

27-Living in the Chicagoland area and in need of mental health care or counseling geared towards pregnant women and new moms? This site is a goldmine for resources around prenatal and postpartum depression and infant loss. You can filter by zip code, adults, teens, and type of payment. OR for general Chicago resources for before, during, and after pregnancy care go here to take care of yourself and family: We would love to know if this helps. With Love, The Cord

26-What’s one big reason African women traditionally carry babies on their backs? It creates a strong bond between baby and mama and comforts baby. Check out this BEAUTIFUL explanation on some of the benefits African baby wrapping via YouTube blogger, Ïssa Kaba:

25-Struggling with achy joints, headaches or dry skin during pregnancy? Niki started Naturally Refreshed Oil Kreations, an Oak Park–based, mom-run business, after struggling to find natural remedies for her headaches when pregnant with her first child. Follow Niki on Instagram at @naturallyrefreshedpln for tidbits about the uses of different herbs and natural skin care:

24-The Cord will host a meetup on maternal wellness & health on Thursday, May 16 from 6–8 pm on Chicago’s West Side. It will be a safe space to share your thoughts, hopes and desires around pregnancy and motherhood! Help us design this meet-up: What would you want to get out of a free community event with us?

23-“I’m creating my own homecoming, and it’s hard. There are days, I thought I would never be the same.” We LOVE that Beyoncé shared her birth journey with the world in her Netflix documentary, Homecoming. Along with footage of rehearsals, intimate moments with her children and reflections on her 2018 monumental Coachella performance, Beyoncé opened up about a very personal aspect of her health: preeclampsia during her last pregnancy. You can read more about preeclampsia (which disproportionately impacts Black women) here and Beyonce’s journey:

22-Are you still unsure why drastic racial disparities in the United States’ maternal healthcare persist? Check out this article by City Bureau fellow Caroline Olsen and let us know if you have questions. Can you relate to the article? Respond to this message; we’re all ears.

21-Happy Friday mamas, people with mamas, friends of mamas and pregnant persons! While childbirth can be a beautiful experience, costs can be a major concern for expecting parents. Want to know the average cost of hospital births in your state? Check out this graph by Scientific American:

20-Yesterday marked the end of #BlackMaternalHealthWeek, The Glow Up shares advice on how to move forward: 1. Trust Black women 2. Pay attention to legislation in your state 3. Learn what the risk factors are 4. Find a way to be part of the solution 5. Donate to black women-led organizations Check out the full list here:

19-Traditionally, women in Morocco always have another woman by their side for 40 days after the birth of a child to share joy, honor motherhood and provide care. Community and recovery are intertwined. What does community-driven postpartum healing look like to you? Check out this video on Moroccan post-partum care via Layla B and tell us what you think.

18-We are SO pumped to build The Cord with you. Respond to this message so we can learn how to serve you better! — How many times a day do you want to hear from The Cord? — What kind of content do you want from The Cord (natural birth options, doulas and midwives, mental health and wellness, news and statistics, health tips, stories about moms like you, etc.)? Sending you love from the team behind The Cord (Camille, Janaya, Emeline and Sarah)

17-Watch Dr. Doula’s “10 Things Every African American Women Should Know About Birth” (She has the most relaxing vibe and voice). Simply amazing!

16-DID YOU KNOW: In 2008 U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) wrote her undergraduate honors thesis on how to fix maternal mortality disparities by expanding Medicaid reimbursement rates to midwives? Today, Rep. Underwood is not only the youngest black women to serve in Congress, she’s also the only black woman of reproductive age in Congress. What do you know about midwives? Read the full story in ELLE

15-“It’s never been that Black people don’t want to take care of themselves; it’s about not being able to afford to.” Check out this article in ReWire: “For Black Undocumented Immigrants, Cost May Be Major Barrier to Maternal Care” #BlackMaternalHealthWeek. Respond to this message with your thoughts on this piece!

14-ICYMI: Serena Williams on motherhood and maternal health on February’s Vogue cover!

13-Check out this Huff Post article on why culturally-competent, accessible and affordable doulas who are there for your pregnancy, birth and postpartum can improve health outcomes for Black moms.

12-Hey mamas, people with mamas, friends of mamas, etc.! Did you know that having a doula on your birth team decreases the likelihood of needing a c-section by 50% (according to the American Pregnancy Association)? People who use doulas during their pregnancies also require less medical interventions. Check out the American Pregnancy Association’s rundown of what a doula is and what a doula isn’t. Still have questions? Reply to this text and let us know. 🤰🏾

11-The Cord is here to research maternal health for you! Tell us what you want to know by responding to this text message, or even just say, hi. :)

10-Good morning! Are you or someone you know looking for a birth worker of color Chicago? Chicago Birth Workers of Color can hook you up. Check out their online directory where you can find a health worker, birth worker, midwife, reproductive justice fighter, doula, healer or bruja in Chicago. Check out their database on Facebook here.

9-It’s #BlackMaternalHealthWeek and we LOVE Black Mamas Matter Alliance’s Instagram. Check it out for some beautiful and informative grams. ❤

8-Did you know the first rhythm we are exposed to is our mother’s heartbeat? A baby synchronizes its own pulse and breathing rate with its mother’s heartbeat while in the womb? Dancing and music promote healing, wellness and a healthy heart and body while pregnant. Learn more here

7-“Muhammad sees being a midwife and unmedicated birthing as an alternative to traditional hospitals. Black women, in particular, have higher rates of birth complications at hospitals. Many black women say they have the experience of their doctors not believing their pain.” Check out this beautiful profile on Asasiya Muhammad, a Black Midwife at Inner Circle Midwifery in Germantown, PA, who’s breaking barriers for Black women to access better maternal care.

6-Watch and learn → The first time most women in the U.S. witness childbirth is when they’re actually giving birth themselves. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Romper’s video series, 6-Doula Diaries, is focused on the women who help other women give birth. #BlackMaternalHealthWeek #BlackMamasMatter Romper’s Doula Diaries on Facebook.

5-Our team reporter Janaya Greene spoke w/ IL Rep. Robin Kelly about how a new piece of legislation, the MOMMA’s Act, could improve health outcomes for Black women. The bill intends to standardize data collection on maternal mortality rates nationwide (it’s not being tracked well); expand Medicaid coverage for postpartum care to a year instead of the current two months (AMAZING); ensure collaborative best practices between hospital systems and physicians, and more! Check out our story in Austin Weekly News. READ HERE.

4-It’s #BlackMaternalHealthWeek (April 11 –17) yall. What information or stories do you want to read about maternal health and wellness?

3-What’s a doula? These *modern day* birth heroes are a pregnant woman’s advocate at home and during delivery. Check out this resource guide on doulas via Black Mamas Matter.

2-Who is behind The Cord📣 This spring, City Bureau reporting fellows Camille, Janaya, Emeline and Sarah are taking a deep look at maternal health in Chicago. We want to tell stories about the huge racial inequities in maternal mortality and health, as well as community-oriented solutions. We want to HEAR from you! Text us emojis, story ideas and feedback on The Cord. 💕 We will do the research for you! You can learn more about City Bureau’s reporting fellowship here.

1-Welcome to The Cord, a free resource via text for pregnant women, mothers and any other person looking to gain resources on🤰🏾 pregnancy and motherhood. It’s also where you can ask us what you’d like to know and tell us what you think those expecting should know.💅🏾 Spread the word! ✨Share this link with your friends and family to sign up:

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