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How This Dallas Mom is Helping Protect Black Mothers and their Babies

Cessilye Smith is helping address Black maternal and infant mortality through Abide Women’s Health Services.

Cessilye Smith
Cessilye Smith // Photo Credit: Desiree Chapman

Black women and their babies continue to face disparities in maternal and infant mortality rates. According to the CDC, the national rate for pregnancy-related deaths for Black women is four to five times higher than their White counterparts. In Texas, the CDC found that infants born to Black mothers die at rates twice as high as White babies in recent years.

[SEE ALSO: Pandemic Leads to Drop of Maternal Health Care in Africa]

Cessilye Smith, founder of Abide Women’s Health Services in South Dallas, is working to help beat those odds. Smith started Abide to help improve birth outcomes in communities with the lowest quality of care by offering healthcare and complimentary services that are easily accessible, holistic, evidence based and free from judgment.

“To be honest, I wish Abide didn’t have to exist,” says Smith about her work. “If it weren’t for the rate of Black maternal death in this country, it wouldn’t. Abide is important because it provides a place of refuge. A place of safety for Black mothers. A place where they can feel free to be themselves, a place where they are heard and their lived experiences matter. A place that address biases that in the end kill Black women. Abide is necessary in every city.”

Credit: www.heyblackmom.com

The organization’s services include pre- and post-natal care, free pregnancy testing, postpartum doula support, and material goods such as hygiene products, diapers, and formula. During the pandemic, Smith has pivoted the work to provide on demand deliveries to mothers who needed resources, including dropping off diapers at homes in the Dallas area. Dedicated to changing the dismal statistics for Black mothers, Smith and her team of midwives are motivated to make a difference.

Smith credits her own experiences as a mother for her continued dedication and inspiration.

“Waking up and building Abide from the ground up wasn’t for me,” she explains. “It’s for my children and my children’s children. I want the future of Black maternal health to change for them and many more. The biggest success for me is birthing my babies at home and building a legacy for them through Abide. Seeing clearly the world around me and deciding that I can be part of the solution to the disparities I see or I can ignore them.”

As COVID-19 has highlighted the existing disparities in healthcare for the Black community, some progress is being made to address this issue on a federal level. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Representatives Alma Adams (D-NC) and Lauren Underwood (D-IL) introduced The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021. This legislation includes 12 bills to address the maternal health crisis and its disproportionate impact on Black women.

Smith is hopeful and despite the odds that Black women face as mothers and as nonprofit leaders, she offers some sage advice: “Rest. Resist. Restore. You don’t have to do everything. It’s ok to say no. You matter and your health is more important than any deadline. Don’t underestimate the power you have to influence people, policy and the culture around you. Don’t be afraid to create the life you want and the life you desire for your team to have. Take time to reimagine a life where the whole of your being is restored through a bold act of rest and resistance. And don’t forget to celebrate.”

As we celebrate women like Cessilye Smith for their tireless efforts and advocacy, there is still more needed to care for and protect Black women and babies.

To support Abide or learn more about this South Dallas clinic, visit https://www.abidewomen.org/

Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew is the host of the Tapestry Podcast and the author of three books for women. She is also the Vice President of Community Affairs for the State Fair of Texas. To learn more, visit drfroswa.com.

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Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew is the host of the Tapestry Podcast and the author of three books for women. She is also the Vice President of Community Affairs for the State Fair of Texas. Visit her online at visitdrfroswa.com.

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