Part III

May 29, 2022

Eve After Eden: Woman's Work

By Jemi Lassiter

Eve Akins, founder of Eve Birth Services in Texas, is a certified birth educator and doula. Akins launched her business after having two very different childbirth experiences of her own. She has been helping mothers deliver healthy babies since 2019. She's pictured here congratulating a mother following a vaginal birth after c-section.

Photo Credit: Eve Birth Services

Yvette “Eve” Akins, founder of Eve Birth Services,  is the doula who had to find her voice to access her power. A mother of two and bonus mom to one, the labor and delivery of her children drastically varied. 

 

Her oldest, 11-year-old Maya, was born in a hospital surrounded by well-trained medical professionals, the way so many of us were and are expected to continue. 

 

Her youngest, three-year-old Ellis Wendell, was born in the comfort of Akins’ home with her husband, mother, godmother and midwife team present.

 

The determining factor on why one was born in the hospital and the other at home: What Akins knew for sure.

 

“Now, I know that doctors have a different model of care than midwives have but my doctor at the time [I was pregnant with Maya] told me that, ‘Oh, you’re a small woman. Your baby’s going to be big and so we just need to schedule a c-section so that we don’t have to break your baby’s clavicle’,” said Akins.

 

Concerned for her daughter’s well being, she consented to a cesarean delivery (c-section).

 

A c-section is a surgical procedure used to deliver a baby through incisions in the abdomen and uterus. Although the procedure is performed to prevent or reduce risks in births, they present a unique set of risks to both the baby and the mother. However, the risk is greater for the mother. 

 

Infections of the wound, postpartum hemorrhaging, blood clots and a higher risk of complications with future births are just a few of the risks c-sections present. Recovery takes an estimated six weeks

 

“I have since learned that maybe some of that information was small in it actually happening but I did what the doctor told me to do. I didn’t have to do that but I didn’t know. I didn’t know any different,” said Akins. 

 

The recovery from her c-section was difficult. While she never wanted to experience the pain of a c-section let alone birth again, she could be helpful to her friends who were pregnant. The new mom began doing her own research on how to manage pregnancy symptoms, common discomforts, and handling pain. She started learning information based on her experiences and grew her knowledge from there.

 

Then, to her surprise, Akins became pregnant eight years after her c-section.

 

“We had a loss. We got pregnant again. When I had my son I was like, ‘I’m not going through that again’,” said Akins of her c-section and recovery.

 

This is when Akins made the conscious decision to choose better for herself. This time she wanted a vaginal birth.

 

“When I got pregnant again, I went actually to the same doctor. Pretty much in the beginning we started talking through our desires and I realized we were not in the right alignment. I realized that if I wanted to have a vaginal birth after having a c-section, I probably needed a different care provider. [A vaginal birth after a c-section] was not something they were fully supportive of,” said Akins.

 

She confided in friends about the challenges and pushback she received from her obstetrician but continued her care under them until they strongly advised against her babymoon. 

 

Akins and her husband were going on a Caribbean cruise before welcoming their son. Her obstetrician was concerned about Akins contracting the Zika virus from a mosquito bite and transmitting it to her baby.

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Zika virus can result in Congenital Zika syndrome or the most common birth defect associated with the virus, microcephaly. Babies with microcephaly are born with a smaller than expected head and potentially an underdeveloped brain.

 

“All I was looking forward to was getting on that cruise. I mean you can’t have any wine. You can’t have sushi. Everything that you feel like you want that can calm you down in pregnancy is restricted. All I wanted to do was get on the cruise boat, see some ocean water,” laughed Akins as she remembered the days surrounding that prenatal appointment.

 

Concerned about the well being of his wife and unborn son, her husband canceled their cruise and Akins was livid. That is when she was told about the experience of using a midwife, doula, birthing tubs and a home birth.

 

According to TheBump.com, a midwife is a health care provider, while a doula is more of a childbirth coach. You might choose to have a midwife instead of an obstetrician for prenatal care and to deliver your baby—midwives can deliver babies in hospitals, birthing centers or even in your home. A doula, on the other hand, doesn’t replace your healthcare practitioner but rather can add extra services, such as helping you with techniques to manage pain during labor and even providing support and help during baby’s early days. 

 

It all sounded foreign to Akins but, with her friend’s urging, she hired the same midwife-doula team. 

 

“As I watched [my doula] support me [in my pregnancy] , I felt like I was watching myself,” said Akins.

 

Her doula not only supported Akins decisions, she provided resources for Akins to learn more about the birthing plan she was creating. Information on doctors Akins could speak to about one topic or another. Reading materials on vaginal births after c-sections. Statistics about home births. Anything Akins needed or wanted to know more about she could speak to her midwife and doula who would also provide a list of resources for Akins to reference.

 

“All the things I felt like I had helped my friends with when they were pregnant, she was doing for me. But, she had knowledge that I didn’t have,” said Akins.

 

She understood now the role of a doula. They provided access to a number of resources, knew experts in various medical fields, provided emotional and spiritual support, and supported effective communication between partners.

 

“I was like, ‘This is me.’”

Pictured from left to right: (Left) Birth Photographer Carmen Bridgewater and Midwife Teree Fruga with Birth Educator and Doula Eve Akins in Dallas, TX. (Middle) Akins and one of her mothers climb the stairs and lunge through contractions at Fort Worth Birthing & Wellness Center. (Right) Akins celebrates the beginning of labor with a mother and midwife.

Photo Credit: Carmen Bridgewater, Eve Birth Services, and Evelyn Vali Birth

Getting Down to Business

Akins had been in a similar role as the director of childcare centers less than a decade before she had her first encounter with a doula. She connected families to resources beyond the reach of her centers. She used her connections to empower and support families with growing children and now it was Akins turn to receive the same support… just at the beginning of her child’s life. 

 

Although, Akins was interested in becoming a doula, she doubted her ability to become one. Instead, she focused on her pregnancy, finding the right care team, and learning about vaginal births after c-sections.

 

It all worked out. Akins welcomed a healthy baby boy in a home birth.

 

“That was the most glorious, empowering, life changing experience of my life, ever,” said Akins of her home birth.

 

While the pain was great, Akins doubted herself. She felt like giving birth at home was too much for her and, at some point, her care team or husband would take her to the hospital. That point never came in the 92 hours of labor.

 

“The enemy was in my head saying, ‘Girl, there is no way you can do this’,” said Akins of her long labor. “Even now as a doula when I look back, I’ve never had a mother in labor as long as I was in labor. I know now from my training, it was all that was in my head that was stopping my body from performing. Once I surrendered and was like, ‘Have Your way, God. I know I’m not in control of this.’ [It happened.]”

 

Akins remembers giving up control. She sat on her toilet in the throne position and experienced less than a handful of contractions before Ellis Wendell was born. 

 

Now, she felt powerful and ready to shout her experience from the rooftop.

 

“I told my husband one or two days postpartum what if I was a doula. I opened my mouth,” said Akins.

 

She went to BEST (Business, Ethics, Sustainability, Together) Doula Training using their scholarship for Women of Color. During her postpartum, she earned her birth educator and doula certifications. She launched her business as a limited liability company and started a social media page to promote it on Facebook. That is when she stalled.

 

“You know you can start a Facebook page and add posts to it but not publish it? Now, it sounds strange but I was so afraid,” explained Akins. “That validation or that impostor that you’re feeling is so true.”

 

Akins went back to work with a nonprofit organization but soon learned she and the organization were no longer a good fit for each other.  It was time for her to become the doula she trained to become.

 

“In June 2019, I pushed my business. I pushed my Facebook page. I invited all my friends to like it.”

 

Akins did a considerable amount of outreach once she and the non-profit split ways. In the first six months of taking her business seriously, she had 12 clients.

 

She studied even more, opting to take courses to enhance her knowledge in between clients, networking, and marketing.

 

“I was taking classes in midwifery, African midwifery practices, crystals,” said Akins who admits she considered crystals and believing in their use to be witchcraft.

 

“I learned these rocks are developed in the Earth. There are some questions about sourcing and where people might get them from but, essentially, our ancestors used everything in the Earth. Everything that God created was used to help us, to further us, to heal us, to bring us together,” said Akins.

 

By the end of 2020, Akins nearly doubled her customers and by the end of 2021 she serviced more than 30 mothers. At the time of our interview in the Spring of 2022, she was well over 20 mothers.

 

“It was not that I didn’t work hard. It was like my work never felt like work,” Akins said of her success. “It just felt like I’m spreading God's word. I’m helping change a narrative, sharing with Black women, with all women, that we are first. We love our men. We serve our men but we are first.”

Here is where I lost it! Writing Eve After Eden does not feel like work! It feels like YES. It feels like what’s right with the world and I get to write what’s right.

 

“I love the space in birth. I love the sacredness in birth but my work is not necessarily birth. My work is generational change,” said Akins.

 

“My story starts and ends in victory. I’m going to empower other women to find their victory. We can heal from the things in our past. We can heal from it now and we can help other women to heal from it now. You just have to educate yourself. If I were more educated in the birth of my daughter I would have said I’m not a small framed woman,” she said.

 

Had Akins said that to her obstetrician, we may not have a doula in the suburbs of Dallas caring for mothers through their pregnancies, supporting them in their labor, and guiding them in their postpartum.