While she appreciates the thought, Stormi Steele isn’t accepting gifts for her baby on the way.
The entrepreneur and hairstylist, CEO of the successful Canvas Beauty Brand, is expecting her first child soon, a baby boy. She and husband Courtney Steele are asking that the generosity people have offered to show them, be shown to other expectant mothers, specifically those in need.
“From the very beginning, I knew I didn’t want to accept gifts,” she tells ESSENCE. “People were writing to say, ‘Hey, you have a registry? I want to do this, I want to give you this.’ And I was like, ‘No, let’s not give it to me, let’s figure out a way to gift it to other women.’”
She started a non-profit organization titled For Mamas, and her current goal is to provide more than $50,000 worth of gifts and supplies for other first-time mothers who need assistance. Her drive to give these gifts, forgoing items for herself, not only came from a desire to be of service, but also to be able to fully celebrate her miracle baby in a special way.
“I wanted the experience of just sitting there buying everything because I didn’t think I would be able to do it,” she says of getting pregnant. “So that was bringing me a lot of joy.”
Stormi and her husband Courtney, though married in 2015, have been together for 12 years. In that time, she says they didn’t attempt to keep conception from happening, but it never occurred. As the years passed and they achieved great things following Canvas Beauty’s launch in 2018, something was missing. They still yearned to have a family and decided to take the steps to make that happen. After visiting with her OBGYN, she found out that she had endometriosis and that a lot of damage had been done to her fallopian tube. She was advised soon after to try in vitro fertilization to have the best chances to get pregnant. They started the long process in October and right before New Year’s of 2021, found out they were expecting.
“Something about going through the journey just made me feel something I didn’t realize I would even feel. Because for me, I was one of the people who was secretive about the challenges that I was facing, or I was trying to mask it,” she says. “People would be like, ‘Oh, y’all going to have kids?’ I was like, ‘I don’t even like kids.’”
She added, “It was my coping mechanism so that I could actually face the reality of, Hey, maybe this won’t be for me. So I was that person, but going through the experience, it made me want to share more. And being that I’m in the position, it made me want to help more women.”
And she immediately started. While Stormi went through IVF, she found a woman in Huntsville, Alabama, where she operates, who had gone through the same process. While Stormi was waiting to have fertilized eggs transferred, the woman was six weeks pregnant. She ended up miscarrying.
“So I’m watching her story unfold, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I hope that’s not me.’ And I was telling people, ‘When I pick my first person to do IVF for, I would want it to be her,’” she says. “I had never really talked to her before. And she reached out to my inbox one day just congratulating me and telling me about her story, and from there, she actually ended up becoming our first person that we were able to donate and give to. So we’re doing her IFV round two now. It’s really exciting.”
It was that experience, her own and of this stranger she embraced, that was the catalyst for creating For Mamas and allowed for her to use her baby shower, which occurred in July, to start raising $50,000 in gifts and monetary contributions to help others. It’s just the beginning. She’s hoping to start helping 10 women a year to cover the costs of their IVF treatments with the goal of supporting as many women as possible to have successful live births. She’s also helping women outside of her organization by just speaking up about her struggles to have a baby, encouraging and inspiring them as well. Two women who told her they considered IVF because of her story are currently pregnant. Others have let her know that she allowed them to feel less alone in their own journey. In whatever means she can, Stormi, who feels immensely blessed, is glad to be a blessing to others.
“I get messages every day from women who felt like they had no one to talk to about it, or they had no one who looked like them, who they could reach out to. So I’m really happy to be the advocate for that, because I also didn’t have that,” she says. “Even though I wasn’t really looking for it, I see now how important it is to just have that push when you need it.”
She adds, “It was truly just me going through the journey, feeling all of the pain from it, and just being able to resonate with their struggles, to the point where I wanted to be able to create something that could give back to them.”