Long before Layo George founded Wolomi — an app for pregnant people of color to find community and maternal health education — she watched her mother help deliver babies as a midwife in Nigeria.
But after growing up in the United States, becoming a maternal nurse, and witnessing the morbidity and mortality crisis first-hand, she stepped into entrepreneurship to assist mothers in reclaiming their birth experiences.
Wolomi, which means “hands in water” in Yoruba, focuses on making birth a communal experience for Black and brown mothers in America. This is an aspect of birth George witnessed often in Nigeria, but as she became a mother and healthcare worker, she noticed it wasn’t as common in the States.
Launched in 2019, Wolomi has served birthing people throughout the pandemic — a time when over 50% of women use pregnancy apps before giving birth.
We sat down with George for a one-on-one conversation about Wolomi’s offerings for mothers of color and her experiences as a maternal health nurse that inspired the app.
WORD IN BLACK: As a maternal nurse in the U.S., what did you find concerning about the birth experience for people of color?
Layo George: Number one, the way that we come into the healthcare system. I think that a lot of times when we come into the healthcare system, it’s like we allow the healthcare system to just take over.
Versus, sometimes, when you see white moms, they’re very likely to find that one service that allows them to have choices. They’re very savvy in that way. Of course, the system is built for them, so they have a good grasp of how to find good care. And so when they come into the healthcare system, they come with an expectation of some things, like how they’re handled. How they navigate it is very different.
…Those are some of the differences that I saw that I felt like we, as Black and brown moms, could change that’s in our hands to change.
Then the other part is like the systemic stuff, right? The systemic racism of it all. There are people working to change that, and we are hoping they’ll change. In the meantime, we have the power of the purse, right? We see some of the things that these women are doing — white women themselves are doing to try to get the kind of outcomes. And it’s not just about outcomes. How are we experiencing that journey? These women are creating an experience for themselves on this journey so that they’re not so stressed out.
WIB: Let’s talk about African birth culture. Can you share more about the concept of “Wolomi” in Nigeria?
LG: When you have a child, there’s a greeting that happens. They say, “happy dipping hands in water.” So, because it’s such a community event, somebody’s helping you with cleaning. Somebody’s helping you wash diapers and all of those things. And so, it’s really a time for the mom to rest and go through this journey of new birth in a joyful way.
And I felt like we’ve kind of stripped away the joyful and the community part of birthing in America. It’s become this thing that we’re so scared of. Like I said, when I was pregnant, it’s like, “I don’t wanna die.”
And so, bringing that back into the community, being joyful, helping one another into it as much as we can.
WIB: So, what does community look like on the Wolomi app?
LG: You can ask any question on the community platform. There’s that aspect.
Where we shine a lot are the events that are moderated by a culturally competent expert of some sort. A bunch of moms come together, and they really get an opportunity to ask the things they’re afraid to ask elsewhere for the fear of being judged and not being listened to, or like being called the government on — things that we really deal with as a community.
…Those community events, they’re mostly digital. We have something called “Pregnancy Circle.” We have the “Feeding Lounge.” We have all of those things where you can ask your questions and also still find support and friendship.
…When you go to your provider, you are now bold to ask these kind of questions. You know what to expect. You know what should be given to you. You know the language to use to ask the questions, because, as much as we are a community, also, we want moms having better outcomes, not dying or not getting near-death experiences. So, how do you do that? Making sure that you’re able to access questions.
WIB: What type of experts are available to answer questions?
LG: We have doulas. We have OBs. We have midwives. Therapists, because that’s very important to us. Our mental health is a big thing for us.
So, we don’t yet provide consultation. By consultation, I mean, you’re not going to talk to our therapist and be like, “oh, I got therapy.” No, it’s just demystifying a lot of this. We are there to educate.
WIB: What do you hope for birthing people to receive from Wolomi?
LG: I want them to — in their own personal journey — experience joy, to experience a community, to experience support, and to experience a community of people that are rooting for you.
And that’s what you get when you come to the events and things like that. Just knowing that there are people there for you that are just cheering you on and giving you the right tools to be successful so that it’s not such a struggle. Now, you know, pregnancy and all that, it comes with its own things, but we want you not to add an additional stress if you don’t need to.
WIB: How can people access the app?
LG: You can access the app by going to the website or on the App store. If you have an Android or iOS Apple product, you can go to the app store and download the app.
It’s free to download the app, but some of the features are members-only. Many of the events are for members only, but the weekly moments that’s written by the midwife are free.
Get Word In Black directly in your inbox. Subscribe today.