An advocate for mothers by choice – and chance

Rose Archer and her children.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Last year, Bread for the World members were instrumental in ensuring that Congress expanded for one year the Child Tax Credit as part of the American Rescue Plan – helping families – especially those headed by single mothers.

But our advocacy is never complete without the hard work of our faithful and diligent members – like Rose Archer.

Rose has many titles – mother, wife, minister, doula, chaplain, and advocate. But it’s the role of advocate – especially for mothers – that may become her enduring legacy.

Either by choice or chance, Rose has become a champion for those who struggle. It was her fraught introduction to motherhood that turned her into a Black maternal health expert and influenced her decision to become a doula.

At her first ultrasound appointment, Rose and her husband, Rev. Andrew Archer, pastor of St. Mary Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Mount Pleasant, FL, were told by the doctor that their daughter had fluid around her head and would most likely not live beyond her first birthday. The news was devastating for the young couple.

“[We were] completely heartbroken, stunned, shocked, and not fully understanding why that was happening,” Rose said. “[But] we also recognized that we were still people of faith, so we began to pray.”

As time passed, the baby’s condition improved. “Week by week, as we prayed and prayed, the fluid began to diminish around her head,” said Rose, a hospital chaplain with a Master of Divinity from Duke Divinity School.

Rose eventually gave birth to a healthy daughter named Anyah. “She is truly a testament to God’s miraculous power,” Rose said.

But Anyah was not the only one dealing with health issues. Rose had her own. During her pregnancy, she had been monitored for preeclampsia and developed postpartum preeclampsia – a rare life-threatening condition. She spent several days at the hospital – away from her newborn – to treat the dangerous hypertension.

“There is a good chance I could have had a stroke, or even worse, I could have died,” Rose said.

Helping Other Mothers

Her journey to becoming a doula was an outgrowth of those traumatic experiences with her first pregnancy and her work as a hospital chaplain.

Rose said that being pregnant with her second child – a son – “brought back a lot of those memories [from the first pregnancy], and I wanted to channel that energy into a positive way.”

She added that as a hospital chaplain, “I was also witnessing a lot of different families walk through that pregnancy journey and some of them didn’t come out with the hopes that they wanted. Some of them were directly experiencing those statistics we talk about, Black women being three or four times more likely to experience maternal morbidity or mortality. I saw that up-close and personal at the hospital.”

Rose started her own network of doulas, who together, provide support to birthing families who can’t afford that type of service. “That’s been really rewarding for me,” she said.

WIC Filling in the Gap

Bread for the World advocates on numerous domestic nutrition programs that help mothers and children. One of those is The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

Rose said that like most new mothers, she had a lot of questions after she gave birth. But just when she needed answers – she didn’t have anyone to turn to.

“The good thing about WIC is that it fills that gap,” she said. “It provides mothers with those resources regarding breastfeeding. It provides mothers with actual nutritious meals that they need, not only to heal their postpartum body, but to also provide those nutritious meals for their baby and any other children in the family.”

She added that the breastfeeding education provided by WIC is especially helpful for Black mothers.

“We see a lot of low birth weights and a lot of very low birth weights in African American communities,” she said. “With WIC, we are mitigating some of those disparities by providing access to breastfeeding education, as well as providing those nutritious meals that we may not generally see.”

“I think nutrition is often overlooked when we think about the postpartum journey,” Rose added.

Making Noise in Congress

“When we think about the life of Jesus, what [was] Jesus doing?” she said. “He was advocating.”

Food pantries are all well and good but it “only goes so far,” Rose said. “We have to be willing to make a loud noise, not just in the church but make a louder noise in Congress, in our public spaces so that our church members and even those who are outside of our church can really begin to experience God right where they are.”

When she advocates before lawmakers, she makes it clear why she is there. She tells them that those who are struggling are “people of God” and that “they deserve access to every single resource that can create a better life for them.”

Rose said she’s proud to be associated with Bread because of its mission “to make sure that everyone is well.”

“It’s a call to notice the people who may not be in our initial view of concern, it’s a call to be that voice that brings those resources to communities all around the world,” she said.

Jennifer Gonzalez is managing editor at Bread for the World.

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