Shalaeha's Experience with EveryStep's Care & Support Services: "Everystep helped me and my baby so much!"

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When Shalaeha found out she was pregnant, she felt angry and depressed. She didn’t want to talk to anyone or attend her prenatal appointments. After missing three appointments, Shalaeha’s doctor suggested she have a nurse come to her home, and gave her information about EveryStep.

Shalaeha reluctantly agreed and when EveryStep community home visitation nurse Amanda Redhead called her to set up a meeting, Shalaeha didn’t answer. When Amanda texted her, she ignored it. “A couple days later I decided to call her back,” says Shalaeha. “The day she came, it was a bad day. I was mad and miserable. But she just listened to me and said, ‘we can work through that, I can help you with that.’ I felt like she was listening. I was pregnant and emotional, and she just talked to me and listened to me. I felt like somebody cared about me.”

Amanda remembers that day, too. “She was very emotional, but I could immediately tell what a strong woman Shalaeha was. I could tell what a good mother she already was to her first daughter and she knew what she wanted for this baby that was coming.” So, Amanda and Shalaeha forged a partnership.

“With Amanda we could talk about things I needed for my baby and concerns I had about the baby, and how I was feeling. She helped me with everything!” says Shalaeha. “I never felt like she was trying to get in my business. She just wanted to help me.”

With her mother living two hours away in Cedar Rapids, Shalaeha was concerned she’d be alone when it came time to give birth. So, Amanda arranged for her to have a doula through the Iowa Title V Doula Project, a collaboration between EveryStep and the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services. The project pairs Black-identified community members with community-based doulas.

“I had never heard of a doula before,” says Shalaeha. “But I would recommend one to everyone. [Sydney] is great. I love her. When I had my daughter, she was there. During my pregnancy, she was my best friend and was a lot of help. She was meant to be a doula. It’s her calling. She was born to do this.”

Shalaeha’s doula, Sydney, went with her to prenatal appointments and was there when an ultrasound gave Shalaeha the first glimpse of her baby daughter’s face. Sydney also went with Shalaeha to EveryStep’s Baby Bloom event, held in June.

“At first I didn’t want to go because of all the people there. But Amanda convinced me to go and I’m so glad I did! I got so many things and learned so much — like how to install a car seat the right way. Did you know [most] people don’t install car seats right? I didn’t know that! There was music and people and kids. It was like a movie, you know, when it’s a movie with a family or family reunion? That’s what it really seemed like.”

Amanda signed Shalaeha up for EveryStep’s Black and Birthy classes, which Shalaeha loved. “We learned about positions for birth — did you know you’re not supposed to lay flat? I didn’t know that! I also learned about the statistics about being Black and having a baby — what can happen, like blood clots.” Although she had given birth before, to her now 9-year-old daughter, Shalaeha says she was much more prepared for delivery this time. “It was almost exactly how we talked about it in that class. I learned so much.” Shalaeha began taking her EveryStep folder of information with her to her prenatal appointments, and asking questions based on what she had learned in EveryStep’s Black and Birthy classes.

In July, Shalaeha gave birth to a healthy girl. And EveryStep is still there for her and her newborn. “Now when Amanda comes, she weighs the baby and brings whatever I need. She’s brought clothes, diapers, wipes — she never forgets what I need. It makes me so happy!”

Amanda will continue to check in and assist Shalaeha every other week until the baby is 4 to 6 months old, but as a voluntary program, Shalaeha can decide if she wants to extend the visitation period or shorten it.

“I feel like she has come into herself. She’s feeling like an empowered mother,” says Amanda. “She’s reaching out to me a little less between visits and I think that’s a wonderful thing. She knows she can reach out to me at any time, but it’s a good sign that she’s doing what she needs to do as a mother.”

“When I first got pregnant, I was so scared,” remembers Shalaeha. “EveryStep helped me and my baby so much. I never knew there was so much support from one [organization]. It makes you feel like there are a lot of opportunities you never knew about.”

“One of the best things about my job is to see my clients thriving,” says Amanda. “That’s what I’m here as a nurse for and that’s why I do this job. When people congratulate me on my client’s successes, the truth is we’re doing very little of the work. We’re empowering our clients. Shalaeha has done the work.”

Amanda, an EveryStep nurse for 12 years, has been doing home visits for the last 10 years. “I’ve done many different jobs in my nursing career, and I feel like this is the job I can make the most difference in. We’re giving people the tools to change their own lives.”

EveryStep’s Care & Support Services are free and confidential and bilingual services are available. EveryStep provides medical and social services for women, children and families, adults and seniors, and communities across Iowa. EveryStep Care & Support Services include home visits, family support, parent education and much more.

If you or someone you know is struggling to find the support they need, please contact EveryStep at 515-558-9946 or complete the commitment-free, confidential “Find Care” form on EveryStep’s website at www.everystep.org/find-care. EveryStep staff will follow up with a phone call to answer your questions and provide assistance.