Born Into This

A conference for birth workers and leaders interested in the intersection of social justice, technology and creativity.

July 12-13, 2018


This is an invitation to engage in a public conversation among birthworkers, a call to accountability, to make contact across our differences in service of the past, present and future possibilities of both the field itself and of our lives, asking the fundamental question: What were we born into?

Shed all your ideas of a conventional birth conference and join us anew as we explore entrepreneurship, social justice, technology, and intersectionality.

This conference is for all birth workers, holistic health professionals, thoughtful leaders and creators to gather and ignite the birth justice movement.

We will learn, create and organize together to better serve our professional development and collective wisdom.

Curated by DTI.


SoCo 2

South Congress Hotel
1603 S Congress Ave
Austin, TX


Carmen Lane

M. Carmen Lane, MSOD (African-American, Mohawk, Tuscarora) is a two:spirit birthworker, writer, organizational consultant and personal development coach living in Cleveland, Ohio. Their poetry has been published in numerous journals and is a contributor to the Lambda Literary nominated anthology Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two Spirit Literature.  Carmen’s first collection of poetry, Calling Out After Slaughter (GTK Press) was published in 2015. They are the founder and director of ATNSC: Center for Healing & Creative Leadership, an urban retreat center and experiment in holistic health, leadership development, life-long learning, intergenerational community building and indigenous arts & culture.

Katie Vigos

Katie Vigos is a registered nurse, doula, and mother of three sons in Los Angeles, California. She created Empowered Birth Project in 2014, an online platform that reminds birthing people of their power, encourages healing through storytelling, and shares information and education. In 2017 she launched #IGallowuncensoredbirth, a petition to Instagram to declassify physiological birth as offensive material and end birth censorship. The petition currently has over 19,000 signatures and is being internally reviewed by Instagram. Katie envisions a world in which all birthing people and their families feel supported and empowered in their choices.

Dr. Alicia D. Bonaparte

Dr. Alicia D. Bonaparte is currently Associate Professor of Sociology at Pitzer College and trained as a medical sociologist with a specialization in reproductive health, health disparities, and female crime and deviance.  Her research interests include the gendered social hierarchy within American medicine as well as the intersection of race and gender in healthcare practices and racial disparities. She is also co-editor of the anthology Birthing Justice: Black Women, Pregnancy, and Childbirth. This book places black women’s voices at the center of the debate on what should be done to fix the broken maternity system and foregrounds black women’s agency in the emerging birth justice movement. Mixing scholarly, activist, and personal perspectives, the book shows readers how they too can change lives, one birth at a time.

Sera Bonds

Sera Bonds is CEO and founder of Circle of Health International, a humanitarian organization providing reproductive, maternal, and newborn health care in crisis settings around the world. She has worked with teenage and minority mothers in rural areas of the Western U.S.; with refugee communities in Boston; with commercial sex workers on issues of HIV/AIDS in Vietnam; with female evacuees from hurricanes Rita and Katrina in Louisiana; with survivors of natural disasters in Oklahoma; with the social service and healthcare provider community in Central Texas to stop human trafficking; with refugees arriving in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, traveling from Latin America, and with midwives in Northern India, Guatemala, Tibet, Palestine, tsunami-affected Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tanzania, Jordan, Haiti, Afghanistan, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, and Israel.

Dawn Thompson

Dawn is a self-proclaimed Healthy Birth Warrior. She worked for 14 years as a birth professional experiencing firsthand the challenges of the “standard of care” in hospitals before moving headlong into advocacy and activism. In late 2011, she organized the first Rally to Improve Birth and established a 501c3 organization, ImprovingBirth. ImprovingBirth, Inc has gone on to become the largest consumer advocacy organization for childbirth in the US. Dawn is willing to have the tough conversations about how we can no longer continue doing things the same way and how we can work together to make things Better.

Surabhi Kukke

Surabhi Kukke has worked in the field of women’s health and human rights for 20 years. Currently, she serves as a Senior Health Programs Consultant to Futures Without Violence, focusing on capacity building and resource development for health care workers on assessment and response to IPV and the intersections between IPV and HIV. She is based in Austin, Texas where she serves on the Board of Mama Sana Vibrant Woman, a grassroots organization working to improve birth outcomes for Black and Latina women in the city. She has also provided technical and research support to international agencies including UNDP, UNIFEM, RTI and Action Aid. Kukke has a master’s degree in public health from Harvard University.



Dr. Jessica Shepherd

Dr. Jessica Shepherd is an engaging, outgoing and with a well-established practice in Dallas that is attracting attention across the U.S. and internationally on television, radio, print and social media. She founded Her Viewpoint and has appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show, Dr. Oz, the Steve Harvey Show, CBS Up To The Minute, FOX NY/Dallas/LA, Good Day New York, Good Day Dallas, CBS news, and is a regular on local news stations in Dallas and Chicago 

She robustly discusses health issues and has contributed to multiple magazines as a medical expert in Women’s Day, Women’s Health, Self,, Heart and Soul, Best Health,,, Glamour, Essence Magazine, and WebMD. She has been a main stage event speaker for BlogHer in LA and was also a keynote speaker as well as one of the advisory board members for the inaugural BlogHer Health in 2018.



Jane Hervey

Jane Hervey is a creative producer, community organizer and performance artist. Originally from South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, Hervey moved to Austin to study at the University of Texas in 2011. After earning her Bachelor’s of Science in Journalism and pursuing a career in freelance writing, she began searching for resources and a space to ask professional questions. Inspired by the creative communities she took refuge in while on fellowship in New York City, she hosted her first #bossbabesATX meet in 2015, hoping to foster community and connection between Texan women in creative industry. Quickly, the meet-up series grew into festivals, markets and dialogues, and she now runs the nonprofit and its programs year-round. She also manages her own content creation and messaging studio, Group Work, and maintaining a column on creative entrepreneurship and lifestyle design at Forbes. Her personal and professional life are dedicated to improving community infrastructure, retooling systems of collaboration and changing cultural economies to create equal opportunity for women and girls.

Estrella Jaramillo

Cofounder Bwom app. Originally from Spain, Estrella leads the US/America expansion of B-wom, a platform that offers personalized programs for women’s health with exercises, educational articles, habits and a tracking tool. Her mission is to break taboos around female intimate health and to raise awareness about the importance of building habits to increase your wellbeing and sexual experience. When we asked her about the best part of her job, she said “Having the honor of saying the word “vagina” in front of a room full of men -usually investors- almost on a daily basis”.

Francie Webb

Francie Webb  lives in Harlem, NYC. With 14 years as a middle school teacher behind her, she discovered a new calling after her two transformative births.. She is a birth and postpartum doula and is currently training to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). As founder and CEO of TheMilkinMama, and the author of the highly-reviewed book Go Milk Yourself: You Have Power. Express It! She is dedicated to helping parents have more power, more freedom, and less stress. A native of Virginia who somehow still says “you guys”* instead of “y’all,” Francie graduated from Duke University and earned Masters Degrees from Pace University and Bank Street College of Education. Among other aspirations, she hopes to become a midwife one day.



Barbara Verneus

Barbara Verneus is the founder of Tiny & Brave Holistic Services; a blogger; maternal life coach, while being a single mother of one. Barbara has been a trained Birth Companion (doula) since 2004. In 2006, Barbara went overseas through the African Birth Collective to Senegal, West Africa assisting midwives in labor and delivery. In 2008, she obtained a Graduate certificate from Boston University in Maternal and Infant Care in Public Health. Barbara received her Master’s in Counseling with a concentration in Marriage and Family in 2016. She has written for Mater Mea; Mothering Naturally, Black Women Birthing Justice; MadameNoire and #NoPrivateParts. Barbara is a strong advocate in being an instrument of healing to women, mothers and mothers-to-be who have experienced trauma; while inspiring more Black and Brown women to enter the birth work field. She is also advocate/activist on the issue of the infant and maternal disparities happening within Black communities.

Miriam Zoila Pérez

Miriam Zoila Pérez is a queer Cuban-American writer and activist whose work focuses on race, health and gender. In 2016, she gave a TED Talk: How Racism is Harming Pregnant Women–and What Can Help, which has been viewed over 850,000 times. Pérez is the founder of Radical Doula, a blog started 11 years ago to cover the intersections of birth activism and social justice from a full-spectrum doulas perspective. She is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in publications like the New York Times, Colorlines, Splinter, The American Prospect, Rewire and Talking Points Memo. Pérez is the author of the self-published Radical Doula Guide: A Political Primer for Full-Spectrum Pregnancy and Childbirth Support, which has sold over 2500 copies.



Ash Spivak is a birth doula and reproductive health educator based in NYC. She is the co-founder of Cycles + Sex a platform to learn about your body via massive events and digital content. Her work has been featured on multiple outlets including Teen Vogue, Newsweek, Refinery29 and Business Insider.  She is passionate about helping people take control of their bodies and thereby overall wellbeing. 

Heather Gallagher is an international award-winning, published and exhibited family photojournalist. An advocate for social justice and maternal health, Heather documents birth thru death with dignity and the focus of her images is the universality of the human condition regardless of age, sex, race or socioeconomic status. 
Heather’s work has been featured in Texas Monthly, Huffington Post, Spin Magazine, Origins Magazine, Peach Fuzz Magazine, Hello My Tribe, Love Child Mag and her clients span the globe. Heather is based in Austin, TX and is a mother and wife. 


Lindsay Askins

Lindsay Askins is a mother to two little women, a photographer, doula, and both an activist and advocate for women’s rights in pregnancy and childbirth. Upon graduation and earning a B.S. in Animal Science, Lindsay worked as a veterinary tech for almost a decade before teaching high school science. After three years of teaching, Lindsay launched her photography business, Spot of Serendipity. After the birth of her first daughter, Lindsay’s work organically shifted toward photographing births and she began doula certification with Childbirth International. Working as a doula led Lindsay to get involved with Improving Birth and host a local ‘Rally to Improve Birth’ in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, she co-created an ongoing photography project bringing awareness to obstetric violence and birth trauma in America called ‘Exposing the Silence Project’ with Cristen Pascucci of Birth Monopoly. Lindsay believes the majority of maternal mental health issues and perinatal mood disorders can be improved by educating both families and care providers on the effects of obstetric violence and birth trauma.

Sarah Tucker

Sarah Yahr Tucker is a writer, journalist, producer, and mom based in Los Angeles, California. Her journalism work focuses on pregnancy, parenting, and women’s narratives, and has appeared in VICE, Good Housekeeping, and ELLE among other publications. Sarah’s recent article, There Is a Hidden Epidemic of Doctors Abusing Women in Labor for Broadly reached hundreds of thousands of readers and sparked a social media conversation around obstetric violence.
An advocate for maternal mental health and the rights of all birthing people, Sarah is committed to raising awareness through media about the issues that impact women and families. Sarah holds a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from the University of London, UK. 

Chitra Akileswaran

Chitra Akileswaran, MD, MBA is the Chief Medical Officer of CLEO, a platform which supports working parents with prenatal and postpartum care to grow their families and their careers, on their own terms. She an Attending Obstetrician/Gynecologist in the Alameda County Medical System and holds a Lecturer appointment at Harvard Medical School. Prior to CLEO, Dr. Akileswaran was Medical Director at Kyruus, Inc. She trained in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco, where she was honored for her collaborative approach with midwives She received her undergraduate degree from Brown University, an MD from Harvard Medical School, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Jada Shapiro

Jada Shapiro is the founder of boober, where new parents go for expert, same-day, in-person lactation support and Birth Day Presence, NYC’s most trusted source for doulas and childbirth classes which has supported over 10,000 families, since 2002. She is a birth and postpartum doula, childbirth educator, lactation counselor, birth photographer, and mother. Jada has assisted hundreds of births for first-time parents, A-list celebrities, and everyone in between. She has also worked with thousands of families in the classroom and advises leading actors about childbirth and breastfeeding for major films. A media expert on childbirth, lactation, and newborn parenting, Jada is regularly sought out for insight and information by major media outlets.

Allison Bravo

Allison Bravo is a public educator, administrator, doula, childbirth educator, and midwife assistant. Allison has over 10 years of experience in public education in both the classroom and in administration. She is the founder and founding director of Empower Generations, a public school that serves pregnant and parenting youth through a trauma-informed, resiliency-based lens that honors emergent curriculum and a whole-child approach to education.

Allison is passionate about helping young parents find their own confidence and voice. She knows that given confidence, support, and information, all parents, regardless of age, ethnicity, or socio-economic status, will provide positive, healthy, and thriving environments for their families.

Rachel Yellin

Yes To Birth! with Rachel Yellin has been providing women and their families with hypnosis based childbirth education and birth techniques classes for over 15 years. With an expertise in, and an awareness of the multiple layers of the transformation that takes place around giving birth and becoming a parent, Rachel incorporates her Depth Hypnosis Therapy practice, extensive yoga training and teaching, 8 year doula practice (ended 2010), and her soothing voice with her Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond Audio Relaxation Program to create the most positive, healing pregnancy and birth, as well as have the skills to manage and enjoy the changes that occur in the postpartum period. Rachel shares her passion for birth in person in San Francisco, California and Charleston, South Carolina, and teaches classes and sees therapy clients live on-line from anywhere in the world. Her audio program is available at

Eleanore (Nora) Frank-Cisneros

Nora is a full-spectrum doula, artist and mother of two young daughters, living and working in Austin, TX.

A former teacher in many capacities for more than 12 years, Austin resident of 15 years, lifelong volunteer and activist, she is usually found knee deep in a project, long-form conversation, or proposal.  

Nora has blurred the line of what it is to fully integrate mediums. Working with universal human emotions in every facet of her work, she creates overlays and intersections  that reflect and enhance each one in turn.  She finds ways to collaborate, care for, and cultivate connections within a broader community context.

An advocate for self-directed learning and alternative teaching modalities, Nora recently entered the complementary educational realm from her vehemently autodidactic past, beginning the academic journey to become an integrative health nurse practitioner.

She aims to be a resource for birth and reproductive health professionals and to deepen the collective awareness of emotional/spiritual/physical health as a holistic, multi-modal system—- each one dependent on the next for optimal well-being.


July 12 : Pre-conference Gatherings

3 to 4:30 PM — Birthworker of Color Gathering in the Central Standard Private Dining Room
  For birthworkers of color attending the conference

5 to 7 PM — Mastermind with the founders of DTI in the South Congress Hotel Library
   VIP ticket only

7 to 9 PM — VIP Cocktail Party in the South Congress Hotel Library
   VIP ticket only **dress in whatever makes you feel like you…cocktail or casual**

July 13 : Conference


9 to 10 AM — Registration and breakfast in the South Congress Hotel Events Space


9:30 to 9:40 AM — Welcome by DTI founders Tara Brooke and Gina Giordano 

9:40 to 10:00 AM — Morning Introduction by #bossbabesATX founder Jane Hervey


10 to 10:45 AM — Decolonizing at the Root: Settler Colonialism, Granny Midwives & the Mayhem of Intersectionality within Birthwork (In Loving Memory of Erica Garner)

As a discussion between M. Carmen Lane, MSOD and Dr. Alicia Bonaparte, this is an invitation to engage in a public conversation among birthworkers, a call to accountability, to make contact across our differences in service of the past, present and future possibilities of both the field itself and of our lives, asking the fundamental question: What were we born into?

While we are aware of the myriad benefits that midwives and doulas bring during labor and postpartum, there is a paradox within the field of birthwork. We all too often ignore the structural dynamics (including race, class, gender, sexual orientation, nation status, etc.) that deeply impact how we all enter the world (or don’t). In this talk, we will seriously consider the intergenerational inheritance of racism and the dilemma of giving birth on stolen land—and how these intersectional issues affect mortality rates among birthing persons and newborns.

11 to 11:45 AM — Social Media as a Change Maker

This panel will be moderated by Sera Bond of Circle of Health and consist of Katie Vigos of Empowered Birth Project, Heather Gallagher of Heather Gallagher Photography, Sarah Tucker, journalist and author of There Is a Hidden Epidemic of Doctors Abusing Women in Labor.

There is no denying that social media can be a useful tool for storytelling, networking, and ultimately shifting the status quo within the birth world. A viral hashtag can hold the power of catalyzing a movement for justice; it can be a conversation shifter, a comforting and empowering reminder of “Me Too” or “Black Lives Matter”

Sometimes, though, it is frustrating. Learning how to communicate clearly and authentically with people online about your practice or a call to action can be tough. Whichever stage of effectiveness you’re in, our panelists will share their own stories about approaching the birth world via social media. Their experience and insight will help us all be better storytellers — with purpose and mission on many different platforms.

 11:45 AM to 1:00 PM — Lunch

 1 to 1:45 PM — Birth World Meets Innovation

Moderated by Jada Shapiro of Boober and Birth Day Presence, this panel will consist of Estrella Jaramillo of Bwom and Elvie Chitra Akileswaran of Cleo. Technology has had a profound impact on the birth world. Community and healthcare can now be found online via apps, websites, forums, and social media. Consumers’ expectations of what maternity and paternity leave looks like are also shifting. In Birth World Meets Innovation, our panelists will discuss these shifts and tap into a conversation from founders leading the way.

 2 to 2:45 PM — The 5 Year Itch: What’s Next?

This panel consists of Lindsay Askins of ‘Exposing the Silence Project’, Francie Webb of TheMilkinMama, and Ash Spivak of Cycles + Sex. It will be moderated by Rachel Yellin of Yes! To Birth.

Work—BIG work, with activism at its core—has high rates of burnout and can be very hard to sustain. For those of us in the Birth World who have managed to keep it going, what has made the difference? How can we continue to evolve, create, and feel inspired when the work can be so taxing? In this panel, we will highlight birth workers who have sustained their careers and evolved in creative and inspiring ways. Together, we’ll explore their career paths, journeys, and the projects they are working on now.

3 to 3:15 PM — Stories of the Doula

In this unique session, M. Carmen Lane of Doula Trainings International will read “PAIA/Call: Stories From The Edge of Life & Death”. In November of 2015, Carmen lost their grandfather, Paul O’Neill Murphy after five years of being his caregiver. This moment reignited a long held desire to become a birth and postpartum doula. Using poetic prose and family stories, Carmen will weave together their journey in becoming both a birth and end-of-life doula—a two:spirit living at the edge of life and death.

Following M. Carmen Lane’s reading, Nora Frank-Cisneros (DTI doula) and her client/friend Macy Morrow lead the audience through a descriptive narrative that recounts a birth through both the words and view of the client and the doula, as well as the contrasting words of the providers. Some extemporaneous processing and re-telling, this piece invites meditation on the power we all have to guide and shape each other’s stories, and the power we have to transform and transcend using connection, specific language and reflection.

This session will close with a word, “Dope Moms Need Dope Moms,” from Barbara Vernéus, the founder of Tiny and Brave Holistic Services. In every culture the community comes together to help the mother and her healing after childbirth. This remark from Vernéus is an ode to “mothering the mother” (doula); helping others enter and re-enter motherhood and ensuring that each mother’s well-being is balanced.

 3:15 to 4 PM —Advocates and Activists for Change

Moderated by Surabhi Kukke of Futures Without Violence, this panel will consist of Miriam Zoila Perez of The Radical Doula, Dawn Thompson of Improving Birth, Allison Bravo of Empower Generations. Activism means many things to many people. Some of us shy away from the label because we think our work is not radical enough—while some of us see practitioners of activism as angry or disrupting. Currently, the role of activism in the birth world is up for debate. At Born Into This, we believe birth work, at its core, is a form of activism. We see anyone working toward providing more options and care for maternal and infant health as an activist. During this conversation we will talk with those who are doing the work in big ways. They will also share their struggles, their vision and the collaborative efforts that can unite our shared purpose and ignite momentum.

 4:15 to 5 PM — Leading with Language 

This discussion will be led by members of the DTI team (M. Carmen Lane, Tara Brooke, Gina Giordano, Malika Hook Muhammad and Jenny Bennett) and moderated by Becky Alford, Lead Educator, Doula Trainings International.

The language we choose to use in and around birth greatly affects the health of our clients and the inclusivity of birth culture. Using more inclusive language is the difference between a birthing person feeling seen and supported or mismanaged and misunderstood. It’s possible for doulas to facilitate an element of sacredness for a person when it has been disrupted. In this conversation, the DTI team will discuss the purpose of inclusive terms in the birth world and how this provides better services and care to all birthing people.

5 to 6:30 PM — Conference After-party and Happy Hour in the South Congress Hotel Events Lounge 

All-day Happenings

Conversations and Stories

DTI pop-up shop

 Chain Stitching by Ft. Lonesome

 Stick and Poke Tattoos by Dope Toast

⟩⟩  A special add on ⟩⟩

DTI’s EDU Childbirth Educator Training – July 11 & 12 

This is a  2-day in person Childbirth EDU Training with Jenny Bennett. This add-on is available for both conference attendees and those only seeking Childbirth Education Teacher Certification. Head here for more information and registration*

*Register for the conference and receive a $100 discount on this training. Discount code will sent in the confirmation email

*More info coming soon! Head here for our live updates…




More to come!

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