Cleo Guide Natasha Sobers has found her calling as a Birth and Postpartum Doula. Now she’s using her expertise to improve health outcomes for BIPOC families across the country.
The decision to become a Birth and Postpartum Doula is not one to be made lightly. The role of a birth doula is to be present throughout labor and delivery (and often after) as a familiar source of support. The schedule is brutal. It’s emotionally intense and physically demanding. But for Cleo Guide Natasha Sobers, it’s also a calling. “I was trying to find my place in the world, and I found it.”
Through her work as a doula, prenatal massage therapist, certified yoga instructor, and Cleo Guide, Natasha has dedicated her career to caring for birthing people and changing the health trajectory for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) parents.
Maternal and infant mortality statistics for Black birthing parents are startling. They’re about 4x more likely to die in childbirth than white birth parents. As an Afro-Latina, Natasha admits that even she didn’t fully understand the severity of the mental and physical health challenges around Black birthing until several years into her practice as a doula.
“As I got more involved in the work I’m doing locally in San Antonio, I really started to look at what the birthing experience is like for marginalized communities and did more training. Even though I have lived experience, I have family members with lived experiences, it’s different being a service provider to marginalized populations.”
Natasha’s actively working to turn around the statistics for marginalized birth parents in San Antonio and across the country as a Cleo Guide. In 2020, she started a collective of Black doulas who work to educate and empower Black and Hispanic birthing parents while working to repair longstanding distrust in the medical establishment. “We all thought we were the only Black doula in San Antonio and it turns out there were 18 of us,” Natasha says.
As a Cleo Guide, Natasha serves not only as a resource to working parents, but as a trusted ally to BIPOC birthing people seeking culturally-competent care and support while navigating a system that too often works against them. “Every birthing person and every partner needs the type of support Cleo provides.” To effectively care for BIPOC folks, Natasha says we have to actively consider questions like: “Are we speaking their language to get them to trust us?” ”Are we providing support in both Spanish and English for families from pregnancy to parenting toddlers?”
Natasha is speaking families’ language both literally and culturally. “Being multicultural myself, I think the amazing thing about being a Cleo Guide is being able to support people across the nation and people with so many different cultures.”
In the last year, Natasha took her passion for birth equity even further, working with Cleo Co-founder Chief Medical Officer Chitra Akileswaran and the rest of Cleo executive team to commit to birth equity and continually improve how Cleo cares for BIPOC families.
“If you’re caring for the most vulnerable in your society, then everybody else benefits from there. This is why diversity, equity, and inclusion is such an integral part of Cleo’s mission. If marginalized families can be supported, then everybody’s getting what they need. We’re not only looking at the Guides, but how we partner with organizations that are working with marginalized communities and then how Cleo can help support those organizations.”
Cleo Guides speak 13 languages, are of all different races, and bring different specialties, training, and experiences to their work. Cleo connects members with the Guides who can best serve them. Natasha is also introducing welcome phone calls with members specifically on diversity, equity, and inclusion in order to better identify their specific needs. As part of their regular training, Cleo Guides receive implicit bias and trauma informed care training.
Natasha is committed to preventing the members she supports from becoming a statistic. Through Cleo’s Best Birth Initiative, she can help BIPOC and other expecting parents identify the hospitals in their area with the best outcomes, so they can seek and receive the best care possible. About half of all Cleo birth parents change their birth plan based on the information provided through the program.
Home base: San Antonio, TX
Certifications: Birth and Postpartum Doula, prenatal massage therapist, certified yoga instructor
Languages: English & Spanish
Years in birth work: 5
Pre-birth hype song: It’s On Again by Alicia Keys featuring Kendrick Lamar