ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) —When Senator Samra Brouk returns to Albany she’ll have a special constituent in mind. Her name is Leah.

Brouk, the first black woman to represent New York’s 55th district in the State Senate is a new mom. She wants other moms to have access to the positive birthing experience she had earlier this year.

“Phyllis is my doula, my birth doula,” the Senator smiles and explains her relationship to the woman sitting next to her during our interview. Senator Brouk explains, “She was there to give emotional, physical and informational support during the pre-birth process, the planning, the birth process and even post-partum.”

When I ask how they met, they paused for a moment and Phyllis Sharp, a licensed birth doula and educator says, “Her husband tracked me down actually.” They both chuckle. Then Brouk adds, “We relied on Phyllis a lot,” she explains. “We had a four-hour Zoom class where my husband and I sat on the couch and really listened to Phyllis walk us through all this terminology that most people don’t know in their normal vernacular like (birthing terms) Apgar score or Episiotomy.”

Senator Brouk said once when she was in Albany and at the end stages of her pregnancy, she called Phyllis at 10:00 p.m. and told her she was experiencing some pain.

“Hearing someone I knew that I could trust and hearing you’re okay, just drink some water, relax, you don’t need to go to the hospital, those kinds of things for those moments, it’s really good to have that support,” Brouk recalls.

Sharp has helped moms deliver hundreds of healthy babies in the Rochester area. She’s a trusted resource, a mentor and an advocate for pregnant people and their partners.

“They make their own plan. I call it birth wishes instead of birth planning because we wish for things, but we don’t know what’s going to happen,” Sharp said.

In New York, black women are four times more likely to die in childbirth than their white counterparts. For that reason, Brouk says she’s one of the biggest advocates for doulas in the state.

“In addition to anecdotal evidence I have the data that shows having a doula by your side in this process is one of the top ways we address the discrepancies we see in maternal mortality rates,” Brouk said.

The Senator is championing legislation that would first establish a work group to study the impact doulas have on decreasing infant and maternal mortality rates. The end goal, she says, is to set reimbursement rates for doulas in the state Medicaid program so all women have access to this type of care.

“If we don’t set up a system where finances and paying for a doula is no longer a barrier then we are never going to reach the people who need it the most,” Brouk said.

In New York, doula services can cost between $500 to $5000.