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Life and Work with Demetra Seriki

Today we’d like to introduce you to Demetra Seriki.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Demetra. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Born at Fort Carson Evans Army Hospital in Colorado Springs.

Raised on the Southside of town, it should be of no surprise that I come from humble beginnings. I oftentimes like to joke and say I was the classic 80’s child, my parents had some struggles so my grandparents helped rear me. As such, that meant my older sisters were my babysitters. This was very common in my neighborhood. In fact, many of my friends were being raised by their grandparents so it was normal to have two generations of parents.

When I was a freshman in high school, I became pregnant with my first son, I was only 14. In my high school, there was only five of us and as you could imagine, no one had anything positive to say. There was no “teen mom” show to follow us around and capture our daily struggles. With the help of my mom, I was able to complete my freshmen year, however, that wasn’t the case for my sophomore year. As such, I decided to switch school that would better accommodate my needs of working, going to school, and caring for my son.

Unbeknownst to me, that is where the seeds would be sowed into midwifery. My new high school was small. The majority of the students were like me, teenage moms. The teachers were not conventional at all and they supported us by creating community and opportunities to work in places and spaces that was free of barriers, stereotype, or judgment.

Because we were teen moms, most of us didn’t have the support of our families let alone soon to be fathers. This type of kinship created a very intimate space for us.

I will never forget the first time a schoolmate asked me to be her “Lamaze” coach. Keep in mind, I had no training my only experience was giving birth myself but I wanted to support my friend. Sure enough, when her labor started she called me. I was only 16 and I will never forget that feeling of knowing, “I want to be here, this is what I want to do.” I could not name what I wanted to be though. That still fascinates me till this day. I knew I didn’t want to be an OBGYN but being a nurse wasn’t it either. Then, one day, I was talking to my OBGYN and (he was very old school) and said to me, “you would make a great a midwife.” I had no idea what that was but it sounded really important in relation to pregnancy and birth. Needless, to say he was the OBGYN for about half the births I attended.

By the time I was 18, I had assisted 22 of friends and family bring babies into the world using nothing more than my hands and words of encouragement. When I reflect back, I think about all the things I saw both good and bad but more importantly, I recognize this is/was my foundation.

As I got older, had more children of my own, got married, I continued to attend births for friends and family but I was no longer satisfied. When I turned 25, I wrote my one year, five years, and 10-year goals down. Low and behold, Midwifery school was on my list and owning a birthing center. It would be another nine years before I would make the transition from owning a very successful medical billing service to leaving my family and traveling to multiple states in pursuit of fulfilling my dream of becoming a midwife. In short, it was a 22-year journey from start to finish.

Has it been a smooth road?
As a teenage mom, I learned very quickly that being young, Black and female would almost always work against me. The road was not easily traveled at all. Along the way, I endured homelessness, an abusive relationship, depression, isolation, a child suffering from mental illness, broken family relationships, employment discrimination (both racism and ageism), obstetrical violence, medical malpractice, the loss of my grandfathers, the loss of parents in the last 10 years, and a 12 year battle of breast disease.

My advice to women (specifically Black women) would be to recognize the need for self-love, self-care, healthy boundaries, and community. It is not OK to do what has always been done in our community, which is to put your head down, grind through life, and die exhausted, depleted, and never know our worth.

Self-love is a direct reflection of your inner voice. The voice that tells you how you see yourself or what you think your worth is. That same voice that whispers your truth to you. We all know that voice, don’t eat that, you can’t wear that, you sound like this, nobody cares, I’m all alone, yeah that voice. It isn’t easy to unprogram what you have been told all your life by someone else. Reading a book isn’t the magic medicine either, you have to get real honest with HEALING yourself and don’t do it alone. seek help from a professional. Invest in your emotional, physical, and spiritual life as the rewards are greater than any dollar you could ever earn.

Healthy boundaries is HUGE. Remember NO is a complete sentence and you do not owe anyone an explanation. It’s ok to be selfish and think of yourself or your needs first. If you do not feed your body, your soul, your spirit, you cannot live a purpose-driven life. There is no joy in living an obligatory life.

Find your tribe. As you have grown into your new normal you may feel misunderstood by some, as such, understand its not your responsibility to make someone understand your journey. You will find that new relationships will flourish organically if you are invested in being with like-minded people both socially and professionally. You will find that this will come naturally because we tend to gravitate towards like-minded people. More importantly, work toward recognizing toxic relationships and toxic people and create healthy boundaries.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with A Mothers Choice Midwifery – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
I am an urban midwife. A midwife who specializes in caring for pregnant people, specifically, people of color. I am the only registered Black Home Birth Midwife in the state of Colorado.

I am known for speaking truth and bringing awareness to Black Maternal & Infant Mortality and institutionalized racism that I have experienced personally as a practicing midwife. I hold both these topics with high regard however neither of these topics makes feel proud. In fact, there is almost a constant level of stress associated with me being a Black midwife. What I mean by that is, the direct association of the Black midwife, not Demetra Seriki BSM, RM, CPM.

Birth Professionals in the state know of me for exposing the depths of racism in the Home Birth Community (professionally) and the push for restorative justice. As a result, the Home Birth Community remains fractured here in Colorado. Some birth workers have sought out to engage in learning about their implicit bias, horizontal violence dipped in microaggressions, and reproductive injustice, While others remain steadfast in their racism and fragility. Although evidence supports the impact of reproductive racism Colorado, in general, is resistant to changing reproductive culture.

I am very proud to say I am the owner and operator of the only Prenatal Open Access Clinic and National Perinatal Safe Spot in the state. Because Home Birth is NOT covered by Medicaid for my credential Certified Professional Midwife (CPM). Many families that desire a Home Birth cannot afford it, some families are seeking a provider that looks like them, while others are seeking the care of a Midwife but desire a hospital birth. Therefore, I created a model of care that meets the needs of the voices I heard in my community.

Moreover, I brought attention to El Paso County Health Department regarding the increasing numbers of infant mortality. Despite it taking nearly two years for EPCHD to review vital statistic causes of death, there is finally a stakeholder group to address the issue. Sadly, I had to walk away as a stakeholder due to racist comments and unchecked implicit bias. This poses significant ethical questions to which EPCHD is not invested in correcting nor its partners.

Twice a year, I host two events which are free and open to the public that focus on equity, birthrights, perinatal access, and culturally competent care. The first is our annual diaper drive. We supply free diapers and wipes to any family that walks in our doors. No questions asked, no documentation required. The second is our annual pregnancy celebration (also known Take 3 to Thrive) which focuses on educating families that live in an obstetrical desert on prenatal care and terminology, breast/chest feeding support, safe sleep, and early literacy all while celebrating families, their pregnancy, and babies. Both events primarily utilize birth workers of color in an attempt to normalize our presence in communities of color because representation matters!

Lastly, this year, I am co-sponsoring the first Black Breastfeeding Celebration in Colorado Springs. This event also focuses on normalizing Black Breastfeeding in communities and displays beautiful imagines capturing Black people nourishing their babies. I have one word to describe this event… HISTORICAL.

It is very difficult for me to associate pride for any of the work I have done because I feel there should not be a place or space for deconstructing racism, bigotry, oppression, or perinatal health inequities.

What sets me apart is my organization and the events I host are a first to be introduced to a community by a provider of color with the emphasis of the impact of race and birth outcomes. Every time I feel overwhelmed, I have to remind myself, “if not me then who?”

There’s a wealth of academic research that suggests that a lack of mentors and networking opportunities for women has materially affected the number of women in leadership roles. Smart organizations and industry leaders are working to change this, but in the meantime, do you have any advice for finding a mentor and building a network?
Being in Colorado there are few midwives of color specifically in leadership. Midwifery is known as a marginalized profession, that alone presents its own challenges outside of race. As such, I have had to lean into mentors from other states. Virtual communities by way of the utilization of zoom, google meet up, and go to meeting is essential. When I am faced with challenges, I seek mentorship from National midwifery leadership. Not only to receive guidance but there is a kinship of lived experience that only another Black midwife could understand.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Shay Middleton Photography – Shay Middleton, Love is Photographer – Breanna Merryman http://loveisaphoto.com/, Briana Janel Photography

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