I rise today to recognize an outstanding member of our community, Olivia Samples, by nominating her as our Iowan of the week. Olivia is a certified doula and small business owner, focused on providing quality services to families as they prepare for prenatal, childbirth and postnatal care. Three years ago, Olivia read an article about the maternal health crisis and felt a deep calling to put her skills to good use. While Iowa has amongst some of the lowest stillbirth rates in the country, Black people are twice as likely to experience stillbirth than the general population. To put that into perspective, 1 in 121 Black people will experience a stillbirth as compared to the 1 out of 234 white people. The mortality rate is unfortunately just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to birthing and new parenting issues that face Iowa’s Black community. These stats along with the lower quality prenatal care that was being provided to Black women in the community inspired Olivia to become Iowa’s first Black doula.
Olivia leads her business, Kismet Doula Services, with the mission to cultivate collective care and liberation to her clients through providing them a safe, loving environment to ensure they can become and remain healthy and well. Her services include prenatal, childbirth, lactation consultation and postnatal support for her clients. However, Olivia goes above and beyond for her clients, going as far as to help with laundry, prepare meals for them and secure funds for those who need assistance purchasing necessary items for postnatal care and parenthood. She strives to make sure her services are accessible to all by providing mutual aid options, free services through certain organizations and will even barter or trade with her clients.
Beyond providing direct support to her clients, Olivia also organizes workshops and partners with several community organizations. In her first few years as a doula, she realized that the voices of new parents were missing when it came time to discuss legislation that would affect their well-being. As a result, Olivia organized the Celebration of Black Kin Conference for this April focusing on Black maternal well-being in our community. Olivia also gives back to the community by partnering with the Young Women’s Resource Center to provide free doula services as well as the Iowa Queer Communities of Color Coalition to ensure all types of families are able to receive the quality pre and postnatal services they deserve.
Olivia jumps in headfirst to solve the problem and gives it her all. The success of her business and the high praise from her community reflect the significant impact she has had on the lives of pregnant people in Iowa. That’s why I would like my colleagues to rise with me and recognize this exemplary woman, Olivia Samples, as Iowan of the Week.