Born To Serve
Nonprofit provides support for births and beyond
By Jessica Laskey
Wendy Bruns has attended a lot of births. So many that she’s become a hot commodity for friends and family giving birth who want a supportive person in the room.
“Birthwork is definitely a calling,” says Bruns, a Sonoma County native who earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology at UC Santa Cruz. “I had a friend who got pregnant at 19 and the dad wasn’t in the picture, so I went to every prenatal appointment with her and was there when she gave birth to my godson. I hadn’t seen anything about birth except on TV, so I watched birth videos and learned everything I could. Then I attended my nephew’s birth and other friends’ and family’s births and people started saying, ‘You should do this as a career.’”
Bruns was skeptical about becoming a doctor, but when she learned about becoming a doula—a professional who provides support during pregnancy, birthing and postpartum—she saw a path.
After moving to East Sacramento eight years ago to be near her brother and sister-in-law, Bruns applied for a job at the California Birth Center in Rocklin. When center director and president Trisha Wimbs saw the application, she called Bruns and told her she was way overqualified. Bruns persisted, telling Wimbs, “I really want to be part of this world.”
Her wish was granted, but not in the way she expected. Given Bruns’ extensive background in nonprofit work, Wimbs asked if she’d be interested in helping get an idea off the ground: a nonprofit that provides funds and fee assistance for families for out-of-hospital birth, individualized postpartum support and bereavement assistance.
“It was serendipitous magic,” Bruns says. “We were both the missing puzzle piece to doing what we wanted to do.”
Nurture Birth Cooperative was founded in 2021 with Bruns at the helm, first as manager and now executive director. As the only staff member, she relies on a volunteer board of directors who help raise funds from private donors, businesses and grants, and allocate that money to applicants.
“Nurture Birth Cooperative is really unique in design. There’s nothing like it anywhere else in the U.S.,” Bruns says. “We provide funding and fee assistance for out-of-hospital births with a midwife at home or at a birth center in Sacramento and Placer counties.
“There are so many more resources available at a birth center, like access to lactation consultants, chiropractors, etc. You don’t get that type of care at a hospital. We also offer postpartum care that’s pretty all-encompassing. How ever you need support, we want to get it for you. We also offer bereavement care for families experiencing miscarriage or stillbirth. Every community needs services like this, but there’s often no way to pay for it.”
Bruns, Wimbs and the rest of Nurture Birth Cooperative have big plans for the future, which include growing the staff and increasing community outreach. They’re keen to continue Birth Expo, an event with 40 vendors attended by 400 families. A second expo is planned this fall.
“We want to create a birth community where everyone feels welcome, whatever stage or walk of life they’re in,” Bruns says. “The rate of maternal postpartum depression and anxiety is huge in the U.S. compared to other countries. We want to be on the forefront of ‘It doesn’t have to look like that.’”
For information, visit nurturebirth.org.
Jessica Laskey can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.