Birth Story

DEANDRA AND ALEX

Your Doula Cares Birth Story - DeAndra and Alex

After working in maternity care overseas, DeAndra and Alex came back to Montgomery and began to prepare for the arrival of their first child. Needing to build their birth team, DeAndra and Alex sought doula support and asked me to join their team only a few months before the pandemic altered everyone's plans and experiences.

 

Learn more from DeAndra's wisdom as she shares about her journey of preparation and the value she found in having family centered doula care.

LISTEN TO DEANDRA AND ALEX'S STORY

DeAndra and AlexYour Doula Cares Birth Story
00:00 / 19:28

Quotes | DeAndra, on benefits of doula support

"I believe the things that were most appreciated were that you were really concerned about the whole family unit. I knew you would be there assisting me, but you were also, again, concerned about the entire family unit and how that process would look for us."

READ DEANDRA AND ALEX'S STORY

Gabrielle

Awesome, thank you so much for joining me today. I'm really excited to hear just your reflections and some of the things that stand out to you and were meaningful to you during your birth journey and our time working together. And, again, I just so appreciated it that I got to be part of you all's birth team, for you and for Alex. And so thank you again for choosing me as your doula.

 

Our first question would just be, what interested you in having a doula? What were some of the thoughts you had about wanting to have a doula on your team?

 

DeAndra

I wanted a doula because I was already really familiar with the services that doulas offer and how you all will walk beside the birthing mom. So with my husband and I being in such transition, I knew that would be a benefit to our family; it would be a good investment. And so even in our situation, I sought that out because I needed someone to walk alongside with me. Regardless, if I had it, I needed someone to be there for me to be an advocate, to be an education resource, because I don't know it all. No one knows it all. And just for general wellness, to talk through those things, having the education in the background, to give me really good feedback and good [answers] -- to be like a sound -- someone to bounce ideas off about what was happening. To have my midwife, to have my doula, and my husband to build that team.

Gabrielle

Yeah, I really appreciate all of those reasons and the things that you named. I think some of those specific things, too, just about your team focus and how you really wanted to have the village that you were choosing to be around you. And so I really, I did also value the way that you were really intentional about that. And you also mentioned that you went through some transitions as well as you were building your birth team. And could you just share a little bit more about what those transitions were like for you during that time period?

 

DeAndra

Well, as you know, we moved here, and we were not planning to stay. So it was like putting in roots from the bottom, from the ground up. I didn't have insurance. I hadn't -- we had nothing but the clothes we brought here. And so I enrolled in Medicaid. And so I was really concerned about the outcome with patients who are on Medicaid only. So that's why I sought out if a midwife was covered through Medicaid; they were. And so I knew I needed a doula. So those were the transitions. I came here, I didn't have insurance, and I was really afraid of what could happen here in Montgomery, birthing within this system, where I know a lot of the updated things, they just don't practice. They're kind of stuck in their ways, for lack of better words. They want you to birth a certain way. And this isn't all the time, but I know especially low income moms, we know what those birthing and maternal child health outcomes are. And I did not want to be a statistic because of my circumstances. Yeah.

 

Gabrielle

Yeah, you know, sharing that you 'didn't want to become a statistic,' I just think that's really powerful. And even the, that framework of not wanting to become a statistic, it just think is really important to name because, of course, families, when we go into the healthcare system, we want to have positive outcomes, and we want to have positive experiences. But you know, it's true, if we're not really preparing ourselves for what we might encounter or what we might face, our journeys can look different from what we wanted. And so I'm really grateful to hear that you were thinking about how to maximize the outcomes that you wanted to have and to achieve. And so I find that really, really valuable.

So I know after you and Alex decided to welcome me onto your birth team and to have me as your doula, we started working together, getting ready and getting prepared. And I just wonder if you could share the benefits that you found in having that doula support in the time when we were working together? And if there were any unexpected benefits that you found in our time working together?

DeAndra

I believe the things that were most appreciated were that you were really concerned about the whole family unit. I knew you would be there assisting me, but you were also, again, concerned about the entire family unit and how that process would look for us. You were always involving to say, 'Well, who else will be a part of this team? Will it just be Alex? Will it be your mom? How will this look?' And during labor, you continued to do that same thing. I don't know all that was going on, but I do know the story you told me about my mom. Like, 'Come see her,' and I really need her. I'm glad you mentioned that to her. So yeah, I really appreciate that.

 

Some of the unexpected... Well, one of the main unexpected benefits in doing so and having a whole family wellness was that you would bring about questions that I had not thought of. That I didn't consider to say, 'Yeah, well how is he feeling? I don't know.' Haha, I hadn't thought about that at all! And you did that all the time. You would raise questions that I had not thought about. It just really made me think a little more outside of -- outside of myself. Of course, I was the one who was pregnant and gonna deliver this baby, etc. But it really brought me outside of myself to think about what was going on around me because these are my teammates. So if I'm building a team, my team members got to be in a good place, too, so we can all win!

 

Gabrielle

I just love that! Oh, I love that I'm so glad that you really experienced that it as family centered doula care. Because that's a really important value to me: is wanting to include couples and working together, getting them ready together, including the other members of their village that they want to be in their birth journey. And so I'm so, so glad to hear that. That is really something that I find is just a meaningful reflection when I hear families say that they felt that that was a part of their support. So thank you for sharing that. And we can also talk a little bit about your postpartum transition just even before we began this conversation. And I wonder if there's anything that you'd want to share, particularly, about your postpartum transition and what that was like for you and for Alex?

 

DeAndra

[You were] just asking me how they went, and you were concerned with what things were happening with Alex. And anyway, I was just saying I think that he processed -- that he was much better than I was, or quicker, faster. And especially with caring for her because there were things that, not that I didn't know, but he caught on quicker than me. And I think it maybe has a lot to do with his upbringing and the fact that they're taught to read very small cues. Whereas my personality [is], 'Well, you didn't say. I didn't know.' And he's like, 'No, this person -- they wiggled their nose and that means XYZ.' Haha! Like what? Wiggled their nose? Haha!

Gabrielle

Yep! I can very much appreciate that, haha.

DeAndra

Yeah. So there were things where he was really helpful because, because my birth was natural and I felt really good, I think I moved too fast. And so later on, that kind of didn't help me. You know, that didn't help me. So he was able to step in, in those times I was really tired or something was happening with Jolie, and I didn't understand. He could say, 'Well, I think she's this.' Yeah, so he was like my brain when I was in a real fog. He became my brain.

 

Gabrielle

Yeah. Wow, that is awesome. I'm so glad because like, not all dads know how to be in that space. In those situations where it's like, not only do I not totally know how to pick up on the cues that are coming from mom, but I also don't totally know how to pick up the cues coming from baby. And so I really need a lot of instruction and feedback. And so that's wonderful. I'm so glad to hear that. That's awesome.

 

DeAndra

There's another thing I want to add, if I would, that I would tell someone else, but that you were very flexible. Because, you know, during my pregnancy, it was in the middle of this switch with the pandemic. So everything was fine and everything. And then suddenly, everything that we thought would happen did not happen. And you were able to set my mind at ease, tell me how you will still be available for our family, what you could do, your limitations -- you didn't really even say your limitations. You just let me know what you would still be able to do through the process. And that you were available. You came here, you wore your mask, you labored with me, all of that. So it really helped to keep me grounded, keep my family grounded, during that time when nobody knew what was happening. And even still, I know for new moms, everything has changed for everyone. So going through that process with you and you being flexible and resilient. Well, that just showed me your resilience, and you kept my family grounded. Yeah.

Gabrielle

I'm so glad to hear that. That's -- Yes, actually, I would love to hear a little bit more, if you would be willing to talk about what that process was like for you. Because I remember having to, you know, when that happened, it was just like, Okay. We need to see what adjustments need to be made. But I know that, that was something where -- you know, because it's one thing to like, be deviating from a birth plan when you're in labor. It's another thing for something as big as what did happen to happen, and then it's like, 'Okay, what is my birth plan, and I haven't even like made it to my birth date yet.' Because all this is changing. So if you would be open to kind of talking about what that transition was like for you and just -- oh, the virtual sessions -- kind of like how that was for you, too, since we had to make that transition [to virtual sessions].

 

DeAndra

Everything...everything was in the air. Not just for you and I, but for in the birthing world, within hospital administration, within the government, everything was just in the air. So for me being pregnant with all I had going on, like I mentioned before, it was scary. It was scary. It was enraging that people were making decisions that were not based on evidence, just fear-based decisions, that would be affecting me and my daughter's health. So it was -- I was really afraid. It was -- I was angry. I didn't know what was going to happen. But the one thing, like I said before, that I was sure of was that, however it went, that you would still be my doula. Because I was saying, 'What's gonna happen? Are people not taking clients? Are they kind of hands off?' You know, how would that look. But that was just a constant for me: 'We're still gonna go through these lessons. I'm still gonna prep you' -- you know, you were still going to prep me as best as you could.

 

And I don't really see where there was anything missing. Or it could be because I'm so accustomed to Zoom now like, yeah, it was kind of normal, haha. And you labored with me, and I felt because you involved the whole family, it helped prepare him [Alex], also. And you were open to that, to say, 'Okay, well, let me get dad ready as best as possible,' which was also helpful. And even through that [labor after the hospital transition], you checked on me. Like, I don't know if Alex was messaging you; I was kind of out of it. And I wasn't texting, because I felt okay. But I knew if I needed something, I was like well, you know, I can follow up or call Gaby or text you.

 

Gabrielle

Yeah, for sure. Yeah, I was gonna ask you about that. Just like how you all felt after the transition to the hospital, when you and Alex went in -- like how that transition felt when it was going to be you two working together in the hospital setting?

 

DeAndra

I felt prepared. It felt normal for me. Yeah. Maybe because it was my first experience. And I knew that okay, I'm gonna labor; she's gonna drop us off; Alex is with me. All of that was fine.

 

Gabrielle

That's awesome. That's awesome. Yeah, yeah, you know, I, I really admire yours and Alex's resiliency during that time period. And I think really, you know, you all -- your resiliency was a key part of the experience that we had together. And, you know, because there was a lot that was happening, that was disorienting. You know, families were having to really, really make some difficult decisions during that time period. But I, from my observation, you and Alex chose to stay focused, and you were resolved. And it just, it was really wonderful to watch you two work together. And it was really an honor to be able to support you both during that time period.

And I know, you know, just thinking about preparing during a season like that, and just the value that it played in your experience, especially when you actually went into labor and then transitioned to the hospital. And I just wonder what advice you would give to other families who are thinking about how to prepare or just the value of preparation? And I think especially for you, because you had a vision, a birth vision, to have a natural birth. I'd love to just hear what kept you motivated to continue to pursue that vision, even despite the pandemic and the uncertainties it created.

 

DeAndra

The preparation? Yeah, I think the prenatal courses and the preparation is a big component, too. Of course, it's the education piece. But when you get that information, it really builds self efficacy. You know what's happening; you feel empowered; and it lessens fears. And so -- first of all, it answers a lot of questions. That's the knowledge portion. So some things that you may not have known, you can understand what's happening with your body. When you know what's happening with your body, it's less, you know -- you just have less fear. You know what's happening. You have someone to walk through all of those things with you to let you know how the hormones will go; this is what's happening. No, your body is not out of whack. It's doing exactly what it should be doing.

 

And so, unfortunately, in life, women -- we don't always get that information. And maybe your mother, your grandmother, whatever women in your life, don't know it -- the biology piece -- to really give it to you, and your doctors don't have the time to give it to you. But when you have it, you know it, and you have more of a voice in how your birthing process will go. So, 'No, this is normal,' or 'No, I don't need this,' or 'Yes, I do need this,' because now you know what's normal. Yeah, it's not such a mystery. I think it's divine, but it's not a mystery. Yeah. So it takes the guesswork out of it.

 

I believe understanding the pros and cons of natural birth is what prompted me, with the only con being the pain. But I knew that if I practiced my breathing techniques that I could at least manage it, which I did, I was able to do that. I understood the benefits of quicker recovery times, bonding with the baby, not having outside hormonal influences -- that my body would do these things itself; that I didn't need that. Also, I was concerned with hormones postpartum, how that would look for me, because I know my own, like, anxiety and mental health concerns I've had in the past, and for me, I just said, 'Well, why introduce something that's gonna have me up and down, up and down.' Maybe it won't, but maybe it will. And if the only con is pain, I can manage that. So, I didn't want that surgery. Yeah, that was just -- it just made sense for me. Now someone else could say, you know, that they don't want to deal with the pain. For me, I felt like I could manage it.

 

I had seen so many -- this was another key thing. I had seen so many other women do it. That was the biggest piece. I had already seen so many other women do it. And a lot of times when they [women], say, 'No, I can't do it,' it's based in fear and it's also experience and exposure. Because if you see 10 other women who survived, it's like, 'Well I'll be fine.' You know? Like, 'Okay, I can do this.' That's my personality. If I see it, I'm like, 'Yeah, I know I can.' So I'm gearing up, haha. And if I get in it, you know, I'm not so prideful to go through something and I'm dying. I can say, 'No, I need to back off.' But for me that's a -- it's motivating to say, 'Well, but if God did it for that one, and I'm so closely connected to this person, this person, this person,' then I'm in the area, I'm in the room, and they can support me. I saw it. I believe. I know He'll help me also if this is the desire.

 

Gabrielle

Wow, I'm just -- I love that. There is just so much wisdom in all that you shared. And yeah, I think that connection you were sharing about, the power of preparation and the way that that can alleviate fear, is just a really valuable connection to make. And so I appreciate you sharing that. And I hope other families will be encouraged and will be inspired about that when they're also thinking about how they would want to prepare and what they think would be best for their family. So I really appreciate that from all that you offered.

 

And then I guess just as we close, you know, are there any other particular memories you'd want to share? Or if someone else was considering my services and my support, what would you want them to know about the opportunity to work with me as a doula? You know, I just wonder what your recommendation would be to them.

 

DeAndra

Yes, absolutely. I love that you came to my baby shower. Yes, haha. That was such a personal touch that went beyond what you had to do. So that they really mean a lot. Yeah.

 

Gabrielle

It was an honor to come. I was really grateful. And your baby naming ceremony?

 

DeAndra

Oh, yeah, yeah! You came to that also, haha! Personal touch. Whole family just getting doula care.

 

Gabrielle

Yes, I just really -- those experiences were both just really precious experiences for me, because it was both the opportunity to celebrate you and Alex. But it was also so special to me to see your village coming around you and supporting and celebrating you all, as well. So I am really grateful that I got to be a part of both of those experiences.

 

DeAndra

If I was going to recommend someone to you, which I absolutely would, I would let them know that Gaby is someone who will be really, again, concerned and involved with you as a person and not just ensuring that they received the information. But you go above and beyond. If I just say something random, Gaby remembers, and she'll come back and send you an email about that random pregnancy thought you had, haha. You know, to kind of find the answer. You were emotionally available. So I would say you are someone who would be emotionally available for you. Maybe right now you don't think you'll need that. But that will be essential. And she will allow you to lead. She's going to be open to hear what you need. So be ready and prepared to tell Gaby what you need. And she's going to support you in that and walk besides you. She won't be leading, necessarily, anything; she'll be walking beside you. And if need be -- Gaby's really sweet -- but if need be, she can step in. That when it's time to advocate, you are unapologetic, and you are not afraid to step in if the mom desires. So, I'll say that, haha.

 

Gabrielle

Yayyy! That is so encouraging. Well that, that blesses me. I again, I'm so grateful that I had the opportunity to work with you and with Alex. I took so much away from how you all were willing to sow into and invest in your own vision for your birth. And I just, I loved our conversations and the sessions that we had together, and I'm so grateful, you know, that you found that the support was what you all needed as a family. And again, thank you so much for your time and for just sharing these wonderful reflections for your birth story with me.