Ashlee Johnson is the creator of Birth Class in a Box, which provides expectant mothers with extensive resources and information about pregnancy and labor.

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer,
Report for America Corps Member,
msayles@afro.com

When Ashlee Johnson found out she was pregnant with her first child, she was excited, but, like many other mothers, she had a great deal of apprehension. 

On top of her dislike of hospitals and fear of needles, Johnson had heard stories from her sisters and cousin about how awful their labor experience was, and she didn’t want that for herself or her baby. 

After viewing the documentary, “The Business of Being Born,” she turned to a birthing center to help ease her worries and gain more information about pregnancy and childbirth. 

When it came time to have her son, she had a waterbirth that she regarded as, “breathtaking and beautiful.” 

Because her labor drastically differed from the other women in her life, Johnson decided to become a childbirth educator so she could ensure more mothers have an enjoyable birthing experience.  

As a licensed childbirth educator, Johnson teaches expectant parents about the labor and birth process, interventions and alternatives and helps them better understand the physical and emotional changes they will undergo. She also shares her expertise and resources with doulas so they can better impact maternal health outcomes. 

Still, Johnson wanted to do more to extend her reach with Black mothers, so in 2019, she launched her own company, Mother Conscious, and released the Birth Class in a Box, an Afro-centric, affordable and evidence-based approach to prepare women for labor. 

“I think birth is one of those things that we just don’t know a lot about so people are defaulting to what doctors and nurses are saying, and they are just going along with it because they don’t know,” said Johnson. “By having information about what to expect, what your options are, what [birth] could look like and what it should look like, I think that really empowers us to be able to be active participants in the decision-making process.” 

The Birth Class In a Box was designed around Johnson’s distinctive E.N.T.E.R. method for having a breathtaking birth, which stands for, “engage in the process; nurture yourself and baby; take control of the process; exercise and practice; and relaxation and reduced stress.” 

The box contains a 48-page info booklet with guides on important topics, like breastfeeding and pain management, 6 educational games to reinforce the information and a pregnancy journal so mothers can record their appointments, birth plans and birth story. 

It also typically includes a few special gifts from Black-woman owned businesses and a copy of an “Everyday Birth Magazine,” and Johnson makes a point to use African fabric instead of tissue paper to wrap the Birth Class in a Box’s goodies to appeal to Black mothers. 

For Johnson, entrepreneurship has served as a form of civil disobedience. Rather than conform to society’s standard of hospital births, Johnson is showing women that they have more options and providing them with the necessary resources to create a birth plan that works for them. 

“I can take back my power and build a business that serves my family but also serves people who look like me in a way that someone served me and helped me out [in the past],” said Johnson. “To give back in this way is really powerful.”

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