By Kayla Sosa

A local woman is one of the recent winners of the Michigan Veteran Entrepreneur-Lab Showcase and Pitch Competition at Grand Valley State University. Ellie Dragstra wanted to become a doula – or maternal support practitioner – for a while, but started to turn it into a reality through the entrepreneur program.

“Born Blessing started because I realized that there are so many more options for pregnancy, labor, and birth than are talked about in a doctor office or hospital,” Dragstra said. “My heart was also heavily burdened when a friend adopted a newborn and their birth mom labored and delivered without any friends or family there for support.”

Dragstra also has her own unique experience as a mother that has fueled her motivation to help others. She first experienced infertility before having her son, who was born through a C-section and had trouble nursing and food allergies. After two miscarriages, Dragstra is now pregnant with her second child, due in November.

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Dragstra and her son, who is now four years old.

“The traumatic birth, trouble nursing, and general lack of sleep led to postpartum depression and anxiety,” Dragstra said. “This was followed by another three years of infertility and two miscarriages. I am launching Born Blessing because I don’t want to see any other family or individual to walk this journey into parenthood feeling alone, isolated, or scared. I want to see them feel strong, confident, validated, and empowered.”

Through Born Blessing, Dragstra not only offers pregnancy and birth support for mothers, but also fertility and postpartum support.

That means she can help women trying to get pregnant track their cycle and attend fertility appointments when needed, provide prenatal consulting, help mothers create a custom birth plan, provide birth education, labor and birth support, and in-home postpartum support.

She has attended two births so far as a doula.

“It was incredible to see the moms believe in themselves and trust their bodies,” she said. “It was also incredible to see their husbands step up and make sure that their desires for their birth and that space was respected.”

Dragstra’s husband is a veteran, so she was able to join the MVE-Lab as a veteran spouse. It was there that she gained more momentum on getting her business off the ground.

I learned how to market my business, set my prices, and the basics of business accounting,” she said. “I really began to see the direction. I had the vision, but not a great plan for how to get there.”

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Dragstra and her son, who is now four years old.

At the April showcase and pitch competition, Dragstra took third place. She took home $1,000 for winning third place, and plans to use the money to purchase a business kickstarter (business cards, pamphlets, handouts and contracts) and register her business as an LLC. Dragstra said she also plans to get her Childbirth Education Certification to teach birth education at hospitals and independently.

Born Blessings will be open for new clients at the end of this month.

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