Interview with Everyday Miracles: A Childbirth Education Center for Woman In Need
If you’re wondering how low-income moms can have doulas, childbirth education, breastfeeding support, yoga, and acupuncture, look no further. Everyday Miracles provides this and more to their moms, truly facilitating miracles everyday. Breastfeeding rate of 97% for over 8.5 months? Babywearing and carrying? Empowered births? I was blown away by talking with Debby and Mary. Please share with others about their important work and contribute slings, strollers, pack & plays, cloth diapers, maternity clothing, baby clothing, and good old fashioned monetary donations to keep these moms supported and loved.
Tell me about how you, Debby, met you, Mary, and how Everyday Miracles began.
We were working at Unity Hospital, both doing doula work as newly trained doulas. We saw there was such a need beyond the hospital, beyond the county lines, beyond the insurance. We sat at a bagel shop one day and said How hard would it be to start your own nonprofit? Good thing we didn’t know! Because we didn’t know, we had such lofty ideals and people helped us along the way. We took it one step at a time, and it’s just been exploding ever since.
When did you first find the space? How did you build it up?
We got our nonprofit status in June of 2003. We’ve been in existence 10 years now. We worked out of our homes for the first seven. We knew it was time for something more, and looked at spaces. We looked and looked until we found this space. You just go by feeling, and I was working part-time for an architect firm. Tanek Architects designed it. It will be four years in November that we’ve been in this space, and we acquired this back half of it a year later.
What do you primarily offer to familes on their birth journies?
We focus our efforts on prenatal education, specifically through the doula connection. All of our prenatal educators are doulas! Most of the time they’re the mom’s doula who is sitting in their class. We try to incorporate the centering idea, only with doulas. The doulas that are working with a group of moms can invite them all on Tuesday, then they all get to meet each other and talk about that section of prenatal education. They reinfoce their connection with that doula and the moms in the class.
Because we can’t pay what private doulas are paid, we just wanted to make it easier for the doulas to not have to run around so much. The moms get free transportation here through the insurance company, as it’s part of their prenatal health insurance coverage.
One thing we’ve noticed is that when the moms come here, they want to get involved with Everyday Miracles, healing touch, yoga, belly cast, and we receive tons of free food donations from Costco that we can share with them as well.
Besides the prenatal classes, we offer yoga too. The moms can earn a “bundle” from Bundles of Love of their own choosing if they come to all their prenatal classes. There are five in each sessions. Bundles of Love are beautiful handmade bundles with either pink, blue, or white ribbons. They contain seven days of clothing for a newborn. An afghan, a diaper bag, and more! The moms will say, put my name on that bag! It’s a great motivation for her. It might be the only new stuff the mom gets, or at least the only handmade items.
We offer acupuncture on Tuesdays at 9, 10, and 11am. Fifth year students from the Chinese School of Medicine in Roseville come over to donate their time. They are excellent! Moms who want to get induced but aren’t our clients can come on in!
How do moms generally find you guys and how do doulas get involved?
Midwives, clinics, schools, public health nurses, insurance companies all refer us. The insurance company we’re contracted with gives us a list of newly identified moms that are Somali or Hmong that we connect with because we have Somali or Hmong doulas that will call them, which is so helpful for the moms if they don’t speak English. They call us up, or contact us online, and then we pair them with a doula. On occasion, they will connect with the doula first.
It’s mostly a doula-driven model so that even moms who come without a doula initially to take the class, by the end of the first class, they want to have one too. Our doulas speak over 17 languages. Some moms absolutely cannot come in so the doula will go to them. The doulas contact us and want to be part of our program–we have a waiting list! The doulas want to do it! One of our doulas said she’d give up three private clients for one of ours–she just got so much back from working with our moms.
One of our doulas, here I am, a white middle class woman from Maple Grove, and I get to meet this mom from Uganda with her third child! I would never get to meet her otherwise! It’s an opportunity to expand her world. You do meet people from all over the world.
You’re really focusing on women who may not have the support.
Yes, they all have to be on Minnesota Care to qualify. We do have paying moms, too, but we’re really meeting the needs for moms who otherwise couldn’t afford the childbirth education classes, doulas, or our other surfaces.
Another shift is that all the prenatal classes have been shifted out of the hospital into a private education center, which is not necessarily easily accessible via transportation, or their comfort level, language barriers.
We’re here with no judgment, just here to love those moms up. We try to do well-rounded so that all our moms are educated and feel empowered to believe it’s their birth.
Tell me about the changes you see in the moms throughout their time here.
We see a huge transformation in these women by the time they’re done with their prenatal classes. They’re the ones who are going to go in and question what’s being done to them, or at least have a plan in their head, I don’t want that.
We had a woman in yesterday who had her first two babies via caesarian. The first baby’s head was out and he had a shoulder distosia, her doc told her I can break your baby’s arm or we can go in for a C-section. The second birth was just an assumed C-section with no talk about other options. This time, she’s got a doula, she’s hooked up with a midwife who’s very supportive of her VBAC. She said no one’s ever given her choices before until I met up, and found out that you guys could offer this to me–a sense that this is MY body and MY baby. She felt like she was not ever empowered and her birth was controlled by someone else. We can’t wait to talk to her after her successful VBAC.
Do you feel like what you’re contributing to the community is without measure?
We don’t really have time to think about it! When we had our open house here, it was like What Happened? We had 350 people here. You go through the daily process and just work hard. It’s when the women come in and share their stories like that mom who’s going to have her VBAC that we get the realization of the impact of the organization.
A special story: we had a mom one of our first years here. She’d come in when she was pregnant and we’d look out from our offices and see she was sleeping on the couch. We’d just ignore it. One day she said to me, “I know you guys don’t care that I’m here. This is my safe place.” She’d walk here, a couple miles, to take a nap. She was 18 when she had that baby. She was the only female in her family that had breastfeed. A year later, Debby and I were at a breastfeeding seminar for African American women to address the issue that they’re not breastfeeding. She got up and talked about the support she’d received from our organization. She was breastfeeding the baby while she was talking, the baby’s straight up and down with her breast out over her shirt. I think she ended up breastfeeding 16 months.
You have unusually great success with helping your moms breastfeed. Can you share how you’ve done this?
97% of our moms breastfeed over eight months, eight and a half to be exact, which is across the board for all ethnicities! We’ve had a professor at the University of Minnesota do our statistics so we know that these are the real numbers.
Key for us to have that high breastfeeding rate is that our doulas give them the breast pumps. They open it up, explain it, and show her how to use it. If that mom hasn’t opened that breastpump and learned how to use it before having the baby, that learning curve is gone! She’s very busy falling in love with her baby. A lot of people that don’t get their breastpumps from us will get it UPS delivered–it’s just a box that’s confusing and doesn’t get used right. We give only the Hygia pump, we know it’s an amazing pump. Our moms only get a pump every three years, so it better be a good one.
We’ve had moms get dropped off at school the day after coming home from the hospital, they may be a single woman supporting their family and having to make rent so they’re back at work 2 weeks out, they may be home. Often they can’t wait until the six week checkup to use their pump, as some careproviders would like for them to do. To know there’s a variety of situations out there and to be empathetic to that, we don’t always see that with careproviders. It’s getting better, though.
Consider moms who’ve been abused. They may not want to talk about it, but for them to able to pump and feed transcends that abuse and they can still provide breastmilk to their child through a bottle. There’s so much judgment around that.
We also offer a breastfeeding and babywearing class once a month through Enlightened Mama. It’s a really fun class and the moms love it! We collect wraps and raffle them off at the end.
The carseats we get are the convertible kind for the moms, meaning they need to know how to carry their babies because they don’t have the cute little carrier car seat. More than ever, it’s so important for our moms to know how to carry their babies as it can decrease flathead syndrome, create stimulus for the baby, and lessen crying (and frustration for moms) of babies.
What can the greater birth community do to support you in your very important work here? Donations? Donations of time?
Monetary donations are always gratefully accepted. Come to our fundraisers! Come to our birthday party July 11! Used slings/carriers would be huge. They come in, and they’re gone in like five minutes. Strollers is another one that moms need desperately. Pack & plays would be great too! Used cloth diapers are another item our moms would really like. Maternity cloths, newborn-12 month clothing for the babies.
What should we look for in the future from you guys?
We’re expanding to Duluth! We’ll be in the Morning Star House with them in September. We’re in the process of meeting doulas up there; there’s a huge need up there. Then, who knows? We feel like we will have to expand further because there need to be more Everyday Miracles out there! This model of care works so well. 34,000 births occur with Medicaid per year in Minnesota. We support 500+ a year. All those other moms deserve the opportunity to have doula support and education. There is quite the need. We have to turn people away if their insurance doesn’t cover us, so we’re working on expanding our insurance coverage as well.
You really are changing the world. I’m speechless. I’m going to go through my house and garage and bring my extra strollers and carriers. Ladies in the Metro, PLEASE do so as well!!