Abide Women’s Health Services is helping to bring a new approach to care and support for pregnant people in South Dallas.
The Abide Women’s Health Services got its start when Cecily Smith, the founder, and CEO, had a dream to have a birth center in the hood. According to Abide’s site, the maternal mortality rate for Black women is 80-100/100,000 live births with Latina women coming in second 20-40/100,000, much higher than that of white women. South Dallas women have a high rate of low birth weight as well, with Black women holding a rate of 13.3/1000. Smith started her career off as a doula and childbirth educator, servicing families and eventually had an “awakening ” upon meeting Jennie Joseph, a British trained midwife who was visiting Texas for a keynote conference. Joseph spoke about the maternal mortality rate that Black and Brown women experience, ultimately pushing Smith into action.
As for Abide’s Director of Operations Paige Jackson, what ultimately brought her into the loop was her own respective history with midwifery. Her great, great grandmother was a midwife in Little Rock and delivered several children. It (midwifery) was always a part of her life. Jacksons’ own experience with a premature birth that resulted in the loss of her child 12 years ago also pushed her into working for Abide Women’s Health Services.
“That kind of helped to jolt me into purpose as well to help provide those services and comfort measures that I didn’t have during that time,” she said.
When Abide first opened its doors in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is also when Jackson moved to Dallas. When they initially opened they had temperature checks at the door, screening patients and masks. With the outbreak of the recent variant, they have had to run on a skeleton crew and cut back their hours.
“While we were typically open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 am to 6 pm, we’re now open from 10 am to 2 pm with the administrative assistant, or the front desk person and the provider, the only two people in clinic,” she said. All the other services are being provided virtually to clients or education, they may need referrals for support services. All of that has happened virtually for the time being.”
For her, the change that she has seen in the South Dallas area where the health services are located, is how comfortable and at home people tend to feel in the clinic. They offered low-cost services. The clinic also has a staff of primarily black and brown women, with an emphasis on judgment-free care.
“To come in and receive care- loving care, nonjudgmental care from providers who look like you has been a game-changer for a lot of our clients and has helped to reduce the stress that they feel surrounding childbirth, right because childbirth itself is stressful,” she said.
Abide’s Health Services have also been able to have a much lower mortality rate in comparison to other clinics. They have yet to lose a mother, and have only lost one child with birth success rates higher than clinics on the local and national level.
“We haven’t seen the disparities on the level that it is in Dallas County and the nation as a whole because our our care that we provide is so culturally competent, but it’s also non judgmental,” she said.
They operate on the JJ Way model, a holistic pre and post-natal care option that focuses on offering a sense of community, according to Common Sense child care.
“That (the JJ Way model) allows for the clients to be able to connect with whoever they need to connect with, will be able to be able to receive all of the services and the encouragement and the support that they need across the team,” she said. “And so not only is that beneficial for the clients, but it’s beneficial for us as a provider, as staff over by so that it’s not so heavy on us, because this work is is heavy.”
Among Abide Women’s Health Services, their programs include lactation support, childbirth education classes (which discuss birth planning, stages of labor, nutrition and new born care) and a material goods program (which offers diapers, wipes and baby formula free of charge). Their lactation support program started as a baby café done in partnership with the Mother Milk Bank of North Texas. The Baby Café program is a support group for people who are breastfeeding and people who are expecting, which, according to Jackson, can increase the rate of breastfeeding. Another aspect to their programs is ensuring their value of anti-racism is followed for the betterment of everyone involved.
“Implicit bias training, every staff member, every volunteer goes through the same training process. And it’s not just for the benefit of our clients, but it’s for the benefit of ourselves and our families in the community as a whole,” she said.
As for what they have planned for the following year, Jackson stated that they have big goals coming up. Smith is looking to open up a full birthing center. At the moment, they do pre and postnatal support to patients. Jackson stated that the goal is to offer a community environment for patients. They also want to extend into general care for women, offering discounted and reduced services to allow women to get started on annual exams.
They also want to open a Spanish speaking clinic as well. Many of the people who participate in their material goods program are primarily Hispanic and they wanted to hone into that demographic and offer services for those who are undocumented. Overall, to her, the aim would be providing services that help to build a sanctuary for their patients.
“Providing a safe place for people just to receive the support that they need, without judgment and without fear of us reporting them just coming alongside them and meeting them where they are. So that’s a couple of things that we have, you know, in the work, you may not be 2022 but sometime within the near future,” she said.
Abide Women’s Health Services is located at 2612 Martin Luther King Jr. BLVD and is open 10-2 pm Tuesday and Thursday. To learn more about Abide, you can go to their site here.