Mercedes Snyder is a community-based midwife and the owner of Something Beautiful Midwifery. Drawn to midwifery when she was 9 years old, Mercedes is a community-based midwife in Washington state. She has also served as a doula and birth assistant, and she estimates she has supported more than 300 families.
Mercedes gets to support more families and parents as an advisor to Designing Motherhood: The Things That Make and Break Our Births. In this Q&A, she talks about curiosity, empowering parents who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color, and how parenthood is a “team” activity.
Discovery Center: What do you hope people take away from Designing Motherhood?
Mercedes Snyder: A lot of times when people are going to have a baby, they walk in almost blindsided by all the information that they receive. And so, I’m hoping that with this [exhibition] it opens up more curiosity — whether someone has children, whether someone doesn’t, whether it’s an aunt or an uncle, a cousin, a sister.
DC: You work to support the birthing process for communities of color and for BIPOC folks. Why is that important?
MS: I think the primary thing is just normalizing good care for families and people of color, of all different tones and shades, because so many have unfortunately heard all the different statistics and have had experiences growing up as children, as teens in the medical establishment of not being listened to, of feeling dismissed and just not feeling humanized. So, for me, when I am talking with people that look like me or are different shades, it’s really important to me that they feel welcome, feel held, feel empowered in all of the decisions that they’re making.
DC: If you could tell a pregnant parent one thing, what would it be?
MS: I think above anything else, they gotta find the right team, because if you can set in stone the right team and they can at least get you started with the things that you need, all the rest can follow.
And so what I mean by team: Just everybody that’s gonna be in that process with you, holding hands with you, making sure you have sips of water, making sure that you have someone that you can call in the middle of the night and [say]: “Hey, I am having a rough go right now, and I really need to chat.” That you’re gonna have a person that, even though they’re half-sleep, they’ll be like, “Mm-hmm. Yeah, go ahead.”
DC: Have you seen pieces from the exhibit?
MS: I’m still stuck on the birth stool. It’s just been around for ages, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
(The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)