Midwives and Birth Companions: Improving Outcomes in our Community

Workshop by Barbara Vernéus (Birth Companion) and Melek Speros (Midwife)

About the Presenters


Barbara Vernéus 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. Barbara has also written for Mater Mea; Mothering Naturally, Black Women Birthing Justice; MadameNoire and #NoPrivateParts.

But her biggest accomplishment is having her daughter Glorious-Zoëlle on June 17th, 2014. This was the pinnacle event in her life that confirmed why she should finally study and train to become a midwife, now or never. She relocated to Austin, TX from the east coast to follow her dream of being a Certified Professional Midwife. She is currently enrolled in Mercy In Action’s online Midwifery program while apprenticing as a student midwife at MotherBloom Midwifery & Holistic Health Services. 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. Barbara Verneus is also the founder of Tiny & Brave Holistic Services; a blogger; maternal life coach, while being mother of one.


Melek Speros is a licensed midwife living in South Austin, Texas with her husband and three rambunctious boys.  She moved to Austin in 2001 to attend the University of Texas where she completed both her undergraduate studies and law school before discovering her calling to serve birthing families.

Melek started attending births as a doula in 2012, and studying midwifery and apprenticeship in 2014.  During her clinical training, she had the privilege of serving many clients and their families in several home birth practices and birth centers in both Texas and Utah.

Having experienced both cesarean births and a peaceful home birth after two cesareans herself, Melek has a special passion for cesarean prevention as well as supporting clients seeking VBACs (vaginal births after cesarean).   She has been very involved with the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) since the birth of her first baby, having served as the blogger for the national organization as well as formerly acting as a leader of the local Austin chapter.  In a popular blog post, she also coined the now widely utilized terms “VBAC friendly/VBAC tolerant” many use to describe providers supporting mothers seeking VBAC.  Melek is also committed to midwifery as social justice and reducing the great disparity in outcomes for women of color and our babies by increasing access to the midwifery model of care for all.  ​

About the Workshop

The midwifery model of care differs from a traditional medical model of care in that it is uniquely individualized to the person receiving care.  Midwives view pregnancy and childbirth as normal life events in a person’s life, while also recognizing that every person has unique factors that may affect the outcome of their pregnancy.  Throughout the childbearing year (and sometimes beyond!), the midwife works to create a close and nurturing relationship with her client, so that these factors may be addressed and resolved, if necessary, so that every person has the opportunity to have the healthiest possible pregnancy, birth and postpartum period.  When we focus on the whole person—the social, psychological, physical self—we can produce better outcomes.  

Birth companions provide physical, emotional and informational support for birthing people prenatally, during labor and birth and throughout the postpartum period.  The relationship developed during pregnancy often goes beyond a formal relationship, which in turn, helps to build a communal bond within the black community.

With the staggering disparities in outcomes for black birthing people and our babies, it is more important than ever that we ensure that black people not only have access to the care a midwife can provide, but that they have access to midwives and other birth support workers from similar cultural backgrounds.  These professionals can provide appropriate education and counseling relevant to one’s cultural identity, making for a more positive and empowering experience throughout the birthing and child rearing years.