The Portsmouth Department of Social Services and the local Delta Sigma Theta Sorority hosted a community-wide baby shower on Saturday for expecting mothers.

According to WTKR, a sorority’s South Atlantic region provided a $3,000 grant to aid families during the prenatal and postnatal period in response to Portsmouth’s high infant and black maternal mortality rates. At Saturday’s event, mothers received resources from vendors and maternal health experts. With 19 years of experience, Nichole Wardlaw has been involved in over 1,000 births.

“Many of my clients come to me because they don’t feel seen or heard,” she told the publication. “There is implicit bias in our medical system; clients are talked to instead of spoken with. There is not enough informed decision-making and joint decision-making, and there is no conversation with the clients.”

During the event, the sorority hosts provided a range of resources specifically designed to empower mothers. The event’s main goal was to ensure that mothers received all the support they needed during pregnancy and childbirth, with a particular emphasis on preventing any harm and welcoming new life.

To achieve this goal, the sorority offered various services to mothers in attendance, including connecting them with doulas who could accompany them to appointments. If a doula was unavailable, the sorority stepped up to help women find their voice during doctors’ appointments and advocate for their needs and preferences. The event was a huge success and provided much-needed support to mothers in the community.

“We want to help them get to a better state where they understand how to advocate for themselves who they should be talking to, what are the questions they should be asking, what services they should be asking for or even demanding,” Nikkia Gray, a member of the organization, said.

According to Black Enterprise, a 2022 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the state of Virginia, the governor set a goal in 2019 to eliminate the racial disparity in the maternal mortality rate. The report highlighted that the maternal mortality rate in Virginia between 2015 and 2019 was 18.5 per 100,000 live births. Moreover, the report noted that the mortality rate among Black women was 38.2 per 100,000 live births, while white women had a rate of 14.1 per 100,000 live births.