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CLEVELAND (WJW) — Thanks in part to a recent award of $1 million dollars, the non-profit organization Birthing Beautiful Communities said they will be able to continue making an impact in the lives of women and babies at greater risk of health care disparities.

“There are so many compounded factors that then create this reality of black infant mortality and so I thought that Hough would be the perfect place to begin,” said Birthing Beautiful Communities Founder Christin Farmer. 

Farmer says she plans to break ground next spring on what she believes to be the first free-standing birthing center in the state. They received their largest contribution towards that goal from the George Gund Foundation.

The organization helps to decrease mortality rates in mothers and infants by provided care before during and after birth.

“We spend up to 80 weeks with the pregnant family from as early as 12 weeks pregnant,” said Farmer. “We attend the labor and delivery, and we are with the family until the baby is a year old.”

Former client, Brianna Dennis of Richmond Heights, battled a difficult pregnancy. She was diagnosed with gestational diabetes at 28, the experience with the non-profit was life changing.

“It made me feel so much more relaxed because I knew I had somebody that has been through the process,” said Dennis.

Now a trained doula with a 19-month-old son, Dennis says she is eager to get to work at the birth center next year and ease the fear of other worried expectant mothers. 

“I just remember having this big breakdown with him like I don’t want to die in childbirth,” said Dennis about a conversation with her partner.

“I told him if it’s me or the baby please save me because I have another son to live for and as I look back on that, I feel like we should never have to make that choice for something that’s as common as pregnancy,” she said. “We should live through pregnancy. There’s no reason we should be dying as much.”

First Year Cleveland, a group with a mission of creating a strategy to help reduce racial disparities and infant deaths, reported of the more than 13,000 babies born in 2019, 120 died before turning 1-year-old. According to their preliminary data, 73 percent of those babies were African-American from all socio-economic levels. 

First Year Cleveland also reports on their website the inequity rate between Black and white infant deaths is 4.17 compared to 4.12 in 2018 and 6.71 in 2017. The group says African-American babies die four times more often than white infants in Greater Cleveland.

“The overall infant mortality rate has dropped, but the disparity still persists and so that’s what we are really looking at because again it’s Black babies that are driving the numbers,” said Farmer.

Cleveland declared racism a public health crisis earlier this year. Farmer who is from the Hough neighborhood said she hopes to bring more services to the families there.

“We are the women that we serve and so if a woman is saying ‘Hey I don’t feel well,’ we are taking that seriously the first time she says that,” Farmer said.

Birthing Beautiful Communities serves 100 to 200 families per year. Farmer said the center will cost $2.5 to $3 million dollars to construct.

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