Category Archives: Birth Activism

Help Launch the Sycamore Family Resource Center

I don’t often post requests for funding, but sometimes there are projects that just scream for support.  This project, the Sycamore Family Resource Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, is one of them.

On a personal level, the Sycamore Center so closely resembles one of my own frequent daydreams–a grassroots community space for folks to learn about and engage in the full spectrum of their reproductive health.  My fantasy is becoming a reality, and even though it’s hundreds of miles away in a city I’ve never been to, I’m psyched to help it grow from afar.

On a support-your-community level, one of the core organizers, Stephanie Dank, is (a) a badass and (b) one seriously energetic mama and reproductive rights advocate, who I trust to make the Sycamore Center everything it can be.

So, based on those two thoughts, I busted out a debit card today and supported their Indiegogo campaign.  I hope you will, too.

Here are some of the down-n-dirty details about the project:

Our goal is to create an inclusive space that offers a wide variety of resources to help empower our community in making choices along the full spectrum of their reproductive health.

Our goal is to create access to resources that support informed consent in every stage of life.

Our ultimate goal is to restore an age-old model of care- one where community family support is rewarded and sustained by that community.

Sycamore Center is founded on these ethics:

  • inclusivity
  • diversity
  • accessibility
  • sustainability

We are advocates of:

  • peaceful parenting & fearless birth
  • healthcare for all
  • evidence-based medicine & traditional healing
  • sex-positivity

We have some real opportunities to provide education to low-income and minority childbearing families (eventually adapting a program designed by the Nebraska Dept. of Health and Human Services to provide prenatal and postnatal education and advocacy based on the doula model of care).  We are currently expanding on our events to include support groups for fathers and people with postpartum depression, childbirth education classes, women’s health workshops, and more.

We’re starting the campaign to raise enough funds to incorporate with the State of Nebraska as well as file for tax exemption with the IRS (as a 501(c)3).  We’ve met with attorneys from MEEM Consultants for Creative Endeavors and they have generously agreed to donate half of the required services for us to file.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • $400 flat fee
  • $300 filing fe

It’s been recommended to us that it would be wise to have a bit of a cushion financially, which is why our fundraising goal exceeds our legal fees.  Our goal is to raise enough money to file by January 1, 2013.

In addition to achieving tax exemption, our fundraising goals will help support the growth of our lending library, the purchase of teaching aids, and the ever-present costs of printing materials such as flyers and brochures.

We are completely volunteer driven but are working toward a future in which we can create nonprofit sector jobs for birth workers and other professioals who are dedicated to creating safer and stronger communities.

Please join us.



Why was I afraid of a C-Section?

As a doula, I knew what I was up against when my homebirth turned into a hospital transfer.  To make things even worse, the on-call OB happened to be a Resident who had sent three of my birth doula clients to “emergency” c-sections that were absolutely not emergencies.

This photo and caption ran in the LA Times in April, and reminded me of why I'm so scared of ending up with a c-section.

When she walked in, we both recognized each other, and I was terrified.

Sometimes I look back and wonder why her presence made me so scared.  I am a powerful woman with a strong will and a lot of information.  So why be scared?

Because of articles like this one:  C-Sections are a Major Factor in Pregnancy-Related Deaths, Report Finds, published last month by the LA Times.

And because of pictures like the one here, which ran with the LA Times article.  I have a daughter just as young, innocent and beautiful as Matt Logelin’s, and I don’t want her to end up without a mother.

No, I’ve never known anyone who’s died from having a caesarean, or from any pregnancy-related complication, for that matter.  But the fear and the increased likelihood of something scary is still there, whether or not maternal mortality has ever touched my life.

So when that knife-happy, on-call OB walked into my room, it wasn’t her or her reputation or her bedside manner that scared me.  It was her judgment.  Her judgment that had resulted in at least three unnecessary c-sections in my presence.  Her judgment that thought that 12 hours was too long to be in labor and was dangerous for the baby.  Her judgment that placed moms under general anesthesia because they were emotionally distraught over their ’emergency’ caesarean.

What terrified me was knowing that this OB didn’t take seriously that C-Sections are a Major Factor in Pregnancy-Related Deaths.

71% C-Section Rate at Hospital in Miami

When I spoke with Barbara Harper last week, she casually mentioned that one hospital in Miami-Dade County has a 73% overall caesaerean rate.  Uhmm, excuse me?

71% of Births are C-Sections at Kendall Regional Medical Center in Miami - Photo by Grendellion

I’m originally from Miami, and my partner and I flirt with the idea of moving our family back there one day.  So when I imagine being pregnant again, back home in the tropical circus that is South Florida, I keep getting a visual image of 73% flashing across my daydreams.  So I called Kendall Regional Medical Center.

The first nurse I spoke with was sincerely confused by my question about their caesarean rate.  She tried to explain to me what a c-section was, and eventually referred me to another nurse.

This second nurse explained that the hospital doesn’t actually have a caesarean rate, but rather the individual doctors do.  Absurd.  She also made sure to point out that, “Anywhere you go in Miami is going to be a high c-section rate.”  Awesome.

After persisting a bit about the hospital’s percentage of c-sections, nurse #2 admitted, “We know our doctors here who are quick to cut, and some who aren’t.”  She stated that some care providers at the hospital have individual rates of 5%, whereas some are 20%.  While I appreciated her effort to give me an answer, it didn’t jive at all with Barbara Harper’s mention of 73% or The Unnecessarean‘s published 2008 statistic of 71%. Continue reading

FDA Returns Birth Pools, Warns ‘We’ll be back’

The seized birthing tubs have now theoretically been returned to their owners, but this fight is far from over.  Barbara Harper, author of Gentle Birth Choices and founder of Waterbirth International, outlined the situation to me this morning.

Is this birth tub a piece of medical equipment? Photo by BirtherSage

Two of the four major U.S. distributors of birth tubs have recently received warning letters from the FDA, thus halting their sales and shipments.  A shipping container of birth tubs was temporarily held at U.S. Customs in Portland, OR earlier this week, and underwent FDA inspection before being released to the distributors.

But Barbara says the FDA made it clear that even though the distributors were allowed to take their shipments to their own warehouses, the FDA is still in control of the property.  She says their attitude was, ‘We own it.  You can’t sell it, you can’t ship it.’  They came in, inspected and counted the birth tubs, and left with a ‘We’ll be back.’

An Attack on Birth Choices?

The public response to this story seems to have been either along the lines of ‘This is one more battle in the government’s war on water birth and birth choices in general,’ or ‘The FDA is just doing their jobs trying to protect birthing women from harm.’  Perhaps the reality is somewhere in the middle.

“If there is an effort to take away water birth,” Barbara explains, “We have to enlist the hospital midwives and obstetricians.  It’s not just about home birth,” since many hospitals are allowing water births these days, with some even using portable, inflatable birthing tubs such as the ones seized in this FDA fiasco.

If this situation truly turns out to be about eliminating water birth as a choice for pregnant women, Barbara adds, “How long do you think it’s going to be before they put yellow caution tape on every hospital bathtub?” Continue reading

Birth Pools Seized by FDA in Portland, OR

According to Barbara Harper, author of Gentle Birth Choices and founder of Waterbirth International, the FDA has seized a shipping container of AquaBorn birthing pools at a dock in Portland, Oregon, and have ordered agents to “inspect and destroy.”

“They claim they are unregistered medical equipment, but they are not providing a way or means to get them registered. In other words, if the medical authorities can’t stop waterbirth, then just have the FDA take away the birth pools,” she explains in a lengthy discussion that began yesterday.

While birth pools are imported to Canada under the category “paddling pools” and some are imported here in the U.S. under the category “sitz baths,” they have no legal standing as medical equipment at this time.

Is this birth tub a piece of medical equipment?

But why would they?  They are often purchased or rented for personal use in private homes.  Barbara’s conversation with an FDA official may shed some light on this as a clash of perspectives.  She explains that she was told, “Pregnancy is an illness and birth is a medical event. Therefore, a pool that a woman gives birth in should be classified as medical equipment.”   So what about our toilets, our bathtubs, our showers?  Kiddie pools, horse troughs, hot tubs?  Oh, and what about the fact that pregnancy is *not* an illness?

What the FDA Wants

Martha Blackmore Althouse, owner and manager of Waterbirth Solutions in Beaverton, Oregon, has been interacting with attorneys and the FDA on the issue.  She explains:

The FDA is requiring a 510(k) – PreMarket Authorization – to be turned in for each Inflatable Birth Pool. The problem is that there is no Pre-existing Medical Device – “Predicate” – already approved by the FDA. Hence, potential of years of clinical trials and legal fees that can cost up to a million or more. Continue reading

Call for Research Participants: Full Spectrum & Radical Doulas

Below is my call for participants for an ethnographic research project on full spectrum doulas and radical doulas.  For more info or to participate, contact or (970) 210-7156.  Please distribute!


Dear Doulas,

My name is Laurel Ripple Carpenter, and I am conducting research on doulas who are expanding their identity and practice to encompass pregnancy outcomes other than birth, including abortion, stillbirth, miscarriage, and adoption. 

I am looking to interview people involved in this movement, often called ‘full spectrum doulas’ or ‘radical doulas.’  Participants should be doulas who are either currently practicing, have practiced in the past, or are in training, and who identify as radical, pro-choice, or as a part of the full spectrum doula community.  Certification status, geographical location and other characteristics are not of particular concern.

I am asking participants to join me for a one hour interview via Skype video chat.  The interview will be recorded and used as data for a short ethnography in Spring 2011, and then expanded into a thesis length ethnography in 2012-2013.  The work may be published in various forms in the future.  If material from your interview is used in the ethnography, you will be given a pseudonym.

This research is part of my work for a degree in the Anthropology of Reproduction at Burlington College, in consortium with faculty at Mesa State College.  You can learn more about me here, and contact me directly at or (970) 210-7156 to participate.

I look forward to meeting you!

Laurel Ripple Carpenter, CD(DONA), PES

The ‘Placenta Liberation Front’…an Army of Egalitarian Placenta Crafters

In this world of price tags and dollar signs, the Placenta Liberation Front is a creative, refreshing perspective on the age old practice of placenta medicine–or what Phoenix midwife Shell Walker refers to as “placenta crafting.”

So what’s so liberating about placenta crafting?

First of all, Shell offers FREE placenta encapsulation training.  That’s a radical departure from the online training courses in the US and UK that charge hundreds of dollars, or the hard-to-find, real live training workshops that charge the big bucks, too.

Second of all, Shell views placenta knowledge as a commonly shared resource that should be accessible to everyone, rather than copyrighted, trademarked and patented.

In fact, the only thing she asks of her placenta students is that they pay it forward.  In exchange for receiving her free training, she asks students to commit to providing 5 free placenta encapsulations over the next year, take a refresher class after a year, and subsequently train at least one other person in placenta encapsulation within a years time.

Shell’s intentions and the way that she frames placenta work seem to come from a deeply wholistic perspective.  She advocates for a method of placenta work “that speaks to the subtle essence of placenta crafting.”

When are the hands better than a knife?
When are bare hands better than gloves?
When is mortar and pestle better than an electric grinder?
And what of our intentions, our thoughts, our connections, our sacred breath and their contribution to the process?
For these reasons and more, I would love to see the art and soul of placenta crafting preserved and passed from hand to hand.  Live and in person.
This is my contribution to that end
100 newly trained placenta crafters by the end of 2012
Free of commerce
Free of discrimination
Free of territories
Free of market control
Free of price setting
Full  of knowledge
Full  of care
Full  of consideration
Full  of love

Imagine an army of egalitarian placenta crafters, armed with a mortar & pestle and size 00 gel caps!  Marching forward into the birth world, spreading placenta knowledge wherever they go.

I look forward to keeping track of the Placenta Liberation Front, and this new direction for the lineage of placenta knowledge.