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Daily Inspiration: Meet Carrie Stephens

Today we’d like to introduce you to Carrie Stephens. 

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
Hi, I’m Carrie Stephens! I’m the owner of Ginger Blossom Doula Services where I provide birth & postpartum services, as well as placenta encapsulation for those in Grand Rapids and the West Michigan area. Birth is an incredibly exciting time but can also leave one feeling overwhelmed and vulnerable. As a doula, I get to walk with my clients throughout their journey and help them navigate things as they come along. My role is to provide evidence-based education, and physical and emotional support for individuals throughout their pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. This helps families to make informed and confident decisions when it comes to the health and wellbeing of their pregnancy and delivery. Unfortunately, our healthcare system is not built to allow providers to properly educate clients, and doulas have a great opportunity to bridge that gap… it’s one of the things I love most about my job. 

Like many doulas and birth workers, we develop a passion or drive for this work because of past experiences. For myself, being a mother is something I’ve always known that I wanted to be. Little did I know that the road to motherhood was going to be more of a rollercoaster…we struggled with infertility for several years, were able to have a great pregnancy (finally!) but a challenging delivery, and an intense struggle with severe postpartum depression and anxiety. I was overwhelmed with the amount of knowledge available to me and struggled with where to start, which was best, everybody’s opinion on every aspect of my pregnancy and baby’s care, and so much more. 

Fast forward several years, relocation back to Michigan a second pregnancy resulting in twins and I found my heart pulled towards supporting those in the birth & postpartum world. From talking with so many new parents, it was apparent where the gaps were, and I wanted to be a part of the solution. So, with the love and support of my husband, I left my job to pursue my doula certification … 135 births, 50+ postpartum families, and 100+ placentas later and I’ve never looked back once! This is where I belong, this is where I can make a difference…my heart is full when I do doula work. 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
With any new adventure, there are bumps and growing pains. It was scary to leave a secure, full-time job for the unknown. However, what I do have is passion, drive, and commitment to bettering the birth & postpartum community in West Michigan. The team that up with unwavering support from my husband, family and friends, and a strong doula/peer network… I know that I can attain all my dreams. One of the most common struggles I encounter is people understanding what my role is as a doula and that it’s not a fad. In fact, doulas have been around for centuries. We’re not some new-wave, crunchy, “screw modern medicine” thing. In fact, as a doula I support all types of birth, whether it be home/hospital, unmedicated/medicated, or surgical. My role is to help my clients make educated decisions (based on facts, not fear), to learn how to physically & mentally prepare for birth, to birth with more confidence and less pain, and to have an added voice and support in moments when it can be crazy and vulnerable. Plus, the facts speak for themselves, studies have proven that Doula support lowers the chances of interventions as well as: 

• C-section risk is reduced by up to 35%

• Labor is typically shorter by 41 minutes

• 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin

• Higher rates breastfeeding

• 10% decrease in the use of pain medication

I feel fortunate to be in a community where the midwives readily encourage and recommend their clients incorporate doula support into their birth plans. And I’ve seen more and more OBGYNs embracing doulas and welcoming them as part of the care team. This can only help improve birth experiences and better outcomes. 

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I love and support all birth, but two areas that I’ve become particularly passionate about are plus-size/size-inclusive birth and VBACs (vaginal birth after a cesarean). 

As a plus-size woman, I know intimately the phobias, biases, and limitations first-hand that can be put on plus-size birthers, and how frustrating and embarrassing it is to be treated solely as a BMI number. Birth is not a one-size-fits-all experience and every individual should have the right to feel heard by their provider, treated with dignity & respect, and given the autonomy to create their own unique and beautiful birth experience. Being a size-friendly birth professional means that I am someone who provides evidence-based, compassionate care or services and is comfortable and competent in supporting people with a BMI over 30. 

VBACs are something I’ve been drawn to since day one of my birth work! Some of it is personal given my own birth history, the other is professionally driven. There is so much bad advice or misinformation given about VBACs that it can make it very challenging for individuals to fully understand the risks/benefits of a VBAC, how to decide if one is right for you, possible barriers, provider preferences, how to prepare physically & mentally and more. This passion drove me to pursue additional advanced certifications in supporting VBAC births, starting a podcast named VBACed with a fellow doula, and soon I will be providing educational classes for the community on the evidence-based facts behind VBACs and how to pursue one with knowledge and confidence. 

As for what I’m most proud of, that’s easy… my clients! They are all so unique and it’s just an honor to get to join them on their journey and see them grow and develop throughout their pregnancy into parenthood. After that would be my GR Kids awards for having been voted a Top Provider in the Birth & Postpartum Doula categories for the last 4 years. Lastly, for my role on the board of the Maternal Wellness Program where we provide free support groups for those pregnant and postpartum who may be struggling with depression, anxiety, OCD, etc., and link them up with resources in the community to help with their recovery. 

Who else deserves credit in your story?
There are too many people I can think of who have loved me, supported me, and pushed me not to give up on my dreams or goals. And I thank all of them for being there for me! But to name a few, I’d have to start with my husband, Cartwright, who has never doubted my ability to be the best doula and educator. 

Next, would be my mom, who was the ultimate role model for a kind, compassionate, and giving heart. I know she would be so proud of everything I have achieved. 

My children, but specifically my daughter, Jocelyn, who already shows an interest in birth and for whom all the work I and my peers do now in hopes that will help provide a better and safer birthing environment for her and others in the future. 

Lastly, God and how my journey has not always been what I planned, but I know that he has a plan for me. It has led me here and it has made my heart whole and a life filled with purpose. 

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Carrie Stephens

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