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Hello Friends!
I am excited to send you this update on our work towards developing a freestanding birth center in Boston! A freestanding birth center is a home-like place outside of the hospital, staffed by midwives, that provides care and programs for healthy people before, during, and after pregnancy, labor, and birth. Studies have shown that birth centers are a safe alternative to hospital birth for low risk individuals. Our vision is of a sacred, warm, inviting place that provides comprehensive care, special programming, and allows for individuals and families to help design their optimal labor and birth experience. Shout out to those of you who first joined us in the winter of 2014/15 for our first meetings! It's been a busy year and a half since then! We spent last fall and winter developing the business plan and meeting with neighbors, advisors, and allies to think about how a birth center would fit into the rich health care landscape of Boston. We are sorting through data and developing our case for how #bostonneedsabirthcenter! This summer and fall we are hoping to engage many more stakeholders to share the idea, gather feedback, and explore partnership. Keep reading for some exciting highlights and ways to get involved! I am moved by your excitement and encouragement! 
With deep gratitude, Nashira 
We are thrilled to have found a future home for the birth center in the Urban Guild Project, at 260 Washington Street in Dorchester's rich Four Corners neighborhood. A vision of Sustainability Guild International, this 120,000 square foot green project will include social enterprise and capacity building, health and wellness services, healthy food, arts and culture, events and education. The existing building has been beautifully renovated and there is exciting programming happening in the space. Below is the architects' rendering of the future space! Follow the Guild on Facebook for events and updates on all the exciting things happening at 260 and in their other locations. 
I'm excited to introduce a new member of our team! Sanam Roder-Dewan, a Dorchester resident, is a doctoral student from Harvard School of Public Health, a family medicine doctor at Codman Square Health Center, and a mother of two. As if all that doesn't keep her busy enough, she is working on our needs assessment this summer! Sanam brings so much to this project and I can't wait for folks to meet her! 
We want to hear from as many people as possible as we design and build this birth center! We are excited to have Sanam's leadership as we launch our 3-pronged needs assessment.
  1. The survey! At long last we finished the survey and are counting on you to help us get it out far and wide! Someone suggested we aim for 200 responses and I laughed. I know we can get 500! But we need your help! The survey is designed to gather information about people’s experiences with past pregnancies and births and hoping to gauge interest in the area for a freestanding birth center. The survey is designed for people 18 and older living in metro Boston who have given birth. Please take it and share it! (and share even if you don't take it!) Special thanks to our research advisors and friendly testers who helped so much along the way!
  2. Talking circles: One of the goals of the birth center is to advance racial equity in birth outcomes and experiences. Meaning, we want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity and conditions for a healthy pregnancy, birth, and a positive experience overall. In order to do that, we need to pay particular attention to the experiences of people of color because the data show that some people of color tend to have worse outcomes and experiences. We plan to do this through talking circles and interviews. If you identify as a woman of color, are over 18years old, and have given birth, please join Sanam or I for an intimate circle about your experiences. We are also looking for circle hosts! This means you get to invite your circle of friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors to join us. You can host at your home or we can host you in the space at the Guild. We’ll provide light refreshments and expect each group to last about an hour and a half. Let us know if you are interested in joining a circle or being a host!
  3. Interviews: Sanam will be conducting in-depth interviews with women of color in the Boston Metro area to dive deeper into the experience of birth and maternity care. These interviews can be done over the phone, at your home (if local) or at the Guild and should take about an hour. 
If you are interested in participating in the circles or interviews, or have any questions, call (857) 301-6479 or email us at You can participate in more than one part of the needs assessment!  Please pass this along to folks who might be interested. Of course, there are other ways to get involved including future surveys, community events, and volunteer opportunities. Stay tuned!  
In November 2015, Jo-Anna Rorie and I hit the road to Swanzey, NH to visit the Monadnock Birth Center and learned a great deal from midwife and owner Mary Lawlor. She is very excited for us to open a birth center in Boston! 
That same month, Stephanie Mitchell and I attended the American Association of Birth Centers 2-day workshop called "How to Start a Birth Center" in Annapolis, MD. We now have a robust toolkit (complete with sample business plans and floor plans!) and great connections with other birth center leaders around the country. AABC leadership are excited about our vision and have been very supportive! 
One of our beloved advisors, Gene DeClerq, offered up his class of doctoral students at Boston University School of Public Health to work on the birth center as their semester-long project. Jo-Anna Rorie and I went to the class regularly and met with the students as they crunched numbers, compared practices, and unearthed some very good (and very hard!) questions. Pictured here, at a meeting with some of our advisors in May, they presented us with two draft grant proposals, one for a planning grant and one for implementation! I’ll be working on finalizing them and getting them out to some funders for planning support soon! 
We are planning a special event in the late afternoon of October 1st, 2016! Come enjoy food and wine with us at 260 Washington Street to hear more about the birth center plans, share your ideas, see the space, and connect with others who share a commitment to birth equity and reproductive justice! We’ll use this list and our Facebook page to share more details about this gathering so make sure you "Like" us and you have this email address saved in your contacts! 
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Birth Sanctuary Boston · PO Box 000 · Dorchester, MA 02122 · USA

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