Of the many births that I have witnessed and assisted over the past 25 years, some of the most memorable were waterbirths.  I frequently recall one early morning, in a dark and quiet hospital room, sitting with a dad and a nurse while the mother labored quietly in a pool of water.  All of a sudden we saw a bubble of clear fluid emerge from between her legs, filled with specks of vernix that sparkled like thousands of tiny stars reflected from
the light in the bottom of the pool.  As the bubble grew larger, we saw the baby within it, first the head, then the
body.  The bubble with the baby floated into the pool, attached to the mother by its cord. 

My fascination with this incredible sight must have lasted only momentarily, but it seemed a lot longer before I shook myself, reached into the pool, broke the bubble, and caught the baby, bringing her to the surface and
into her mother’s waiting arms.  They sat there nestled together for a few minutes more; no one in the room wanted to break this enchanted spell by speaking or moving.

For 24 years, Barbara Harper, the founder and director of Waterbirth International , has worked determinedly and tirelessly to promote normal childbirth and particularly the use of water to endow the laboring woman and her baby with a calm, gentle, safe, and almost sacred environment.  Without her efforts, scenes like the one I describe above would almost certainly not have taken place in the United States, except as rare, exotic, experiences considered by the obstetric mainstream to be fraught with danger and foolishness.  Today, waterbirth is available in many hospitals and birthing centers, as well as at home births, and its safety and beneficial effects on the laboring mother and the newborn are well appreciated, particularly in the midwifery community.

Barbara is asking for help to keep Waterbirth International going – click on the title of this entry to see her message and find out what you can do to help with this effort.  She has helped all of us so much in the past; now it is our turn to help her.


 Barbara Harper confirms the challenges facing Waterbirth International

GBWC Called “Life Changing”

The Gentle Birth World Congress (GBWC)
was an amazing gathering of midwives, nurses, doulas, childbirth educators, interested parents and
doctors. ACOG even co-sponsored the event! Professionals and parents came from all around
the world.  Over 4000 visitors walked
through our exhibit hall, viewed the Birth Art Photography displays, and attended free public lectures and the Mother/Baby Film Festival.  We arranged for Ricki Lake herself to show the film, The Business of Being Born.  It was a fabulous life-changing conference.  Many miracles happened there. Some attendees have written about their experiences. A
n email I received just last week from Dr. Maria Elvisa Casals in the Philippines stated: “Many things shared in the Congress articulated what I already ‘knew’ was right for my patients but was contrary to my conventional training.    

Waterbirth in the Media

There is much good news about all the accomplishments, media coverage and positive press that waterbirth in general has been having.  At this moment we are on the eve of the theatrical release of Ricki Lake’s film, The Business of Being Born, reviewed today in the New York Times, and the completion of Debra Pascali Bonero’s groundbreaking movie, Orgasmic Birth.  Just last week, ABC’s “Good Morning America” featured a segment on unassisted birth at home in water.  So waterbirth is currently getting extensive exposure.

Code Blue: “We Have A Critical Situation Here”

This is all happening at the same time that Waterbirth International (WBI), our not-for-profit organization, is in a very critical situation. Unanticipated costs and challenges in producing the Gentle Birth World Congress have resulted in a debt of $200,000. We are now facing the prospect of closing our doors and, thus, ending our educational and charitable work in the world. Those who know me personally recognize that only dire circumstances could bring this about. I have already mortgaged my house and maxed out both the business and personal credit cards in an attempt to cover a small part of this debt.

Our Plea Circles the Globe 

There are times in our lives when we stop and wonder: What does it all mean; why do things happen the way they do?  Perhaps it is a good thing that Waterbirth International is in such a precarious financial position, because it  is forcing us to reach out to the broader community.

A letter I wrote on January 8th, asking for help, went to one person who posted it online, and it is now circulating on the Internet through grass-roots organizations, midwifery and doula groups. The show of
support in response to this letter has been wonderful and generous.  It made me feel down to the depths of my soul how appreciated and loved I am and how much everyone wants Waterbirth International to continue. I am so very grateful for this confirmation of our importance to the community. However, I can’t do this alone. I don’t want to do this alone. I am humbled to have been
leading the way for waterbirth for the past  24 years. It is obvious now that many people want to join

with us and take on the responsibility of co-creating a way for WBI to survive
and to prosper in the years to come, so we can witness waterbirth becoming an
everyday event in the lives of birthing families.


How You Can Help 

I am now entrusting the destiny of Waterbirth International to all of you.  We need to raise at least $200,000
in immediate funding and also to create a plan for sustainability and growth. We have created a donation page on our website, and we welcome any level of financial support.  Here are some ideas:

We are creating a special page on the website where we will be
listing all members and contributors. And volunteers have already come forward
to create a quarterly online PDF newsletter, starting next month.  The letters of support keep coming in.  I know that no matter what happens, I’ll
continue to do the work that God called me to do – to make birth easier and
more fulfilling for mothers, fathers and babies.  I am trusting that the birth community will
join with me to save Waterbirth International.

The mission statement of Waterbirth International is:  We ensure that waterbirth is an available
option for all women.

What part will you play in fulfilling
this mission?

For our many supporters and for having had the opportunity to serve
thousands of women and their families, I am deeply grateful. I will be
holding the vision of working together with you for the next 20 years.


Barbara Harper, Director Waterbirth International