"My introduction to waterbirth was an article in the National Enquirer of all places! Can you imagine basing two and a half decades of work for mothers and babies on that sensational news rag?? Well, the story of Russian women birthing in clear glass tanks changed my thinking about how to use water for labor and birth. My son, Sam, was born just past midnight in my candle lit bedroom with only my husband and midwife present. Right then I made a solemn promise to spread the good news about the miracle of water for labor and birth. Fast forward 23 years and here we are helping millions of families discover the empowering effects of laboring and giving birth in water. No wonder I love my job so much. Just read all the comments from mothers about their experiences in water and you will see what I am talking about. Thank you for spending some time on our site. Drop me an email and let me know what you think about birth and waterbirth."
- Barbara Harper
The Oregonian newspaper referred to Barbara Harper as "the Billy Graham of waterbirth" when they described her "missionary" style of promoting waterbirth around the world. She prefers to think of herself more as the "Mother Theresa" of waterbirth, having put all of her personal and professional resources into making waterbirth an available option for all women.
Her expertise in waterbirth and gentle, undisturbed birth is widely sought in all areas of the globe. She has lectured in 35 countries, including many medical schools, nursing schools, midwifery programs and university women’s studies departments. Barbara has been interviewed by hundreds of newspapers and magazines and has appeared on dozens of radio and TV shows to talk about her work with waterbirth and gentle birth.
Barbara started her career in maternity as an RN, but not your regular run-of-the mill-nurse. She was always passionate about mothers and babies, even in nursing school. Her maternal grandmother, Estella Ethel Harper Lemonyon, was a nurse and midwife and worked in rural Mercer Country, Ohio, where Barbara learned from an early age what service, sacrifice and hard work were all about. She founded Waterbirth International in 1987 after visiting Russia for the first time and sitting down with Igor Charkovsky, where she was influenced by his complete faith in birthing women and their babies. She also worked extensively with Binnie Dansby, in the early 1980’s learning to respect the cognitive, but repressed experiences and memories of birth in all our lives.
Her research and experiences resulted in the publication of Gentle Birth Choices, book and DVD. She also produced Birth Into Being: The Russian Waterbirth Experience in cooperation with Alexi and Tatiana Sargunas in 2000, after traveling many times back to Russia. Midwives and parents alike have called her video programs "the most inspiring birth videos ever produced."
Single with three children, Barbara has dedicated her life to helping heal the way we welcome babies into the world. Her two youngest sons were born at home in water. Her daughter, Beth, the oldest, was born in a typical 1970s style hospital birth. Barbara and her children have lived in Wilsonville, Oregon, a suburb of Portland, for the past 15 years. There she is active in her church and community.
The most important part of Barbara's work is her close family:
* Beth - 28 - Now a post-partum doula, mom and community volunteer
* Samuel - 22 - Studying Electrical Engineering at USC in Los Angeles
* Abraham - 20 - Studying Mechanical Engineering & Graphic Arts at USC
* And her grandson, Alex - 9 - A third grader and all around great kid!