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About Us

Our Approach

Creating meaningful conversation and community throughout pregnancy and parenting.

The experience of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood stays with us well beyond the vulnerable perinatal period. We believe that prioritizing parents’ deep need for community and perspective in early parenthood creates the conditions for families to flourish. Children and their parents emerge from these early days more resilient, confident and connected.

We are a non-profit providing community based education and support focused on pregnancy through the early years of parenting. Our classes and events emphasize instinct and intuition, while addressing the social, emotional and non-clinical needs of new parents.


Birth Roots creates a culture of support for parents, beginning in pregnancy and throughout the critical window of early childhood development.

Investing in families.

Our Vision

We envision a world where all community members invest in new families during pregnancy, birth, and their early years of parenting. Every community member understands that such support is a critical investment in the long term health and well-being of both individuals and the entire community.

Guiding Principles
  • We balance inclusivity with authenticity.
  • We value introspection-based work over prescriptive methods.
  • We encourage continued engagement and involvement in the promotion of our vision and mission.

Our Team.


Leah Deragon

Co-founder/Program Director

As the co-founder of Birth Roots, Leah Deragon has been developing and delivering prenatal and postnatal classes and groups since 2003. Together, she and Emily Murray pioneered the Community Supported Parenting mission and the Facilitating Community model. As the creative mind behind the Pollinator Parade, the Little Monsters Ball and the Little Gnomes Winter Garden, Leah daydreamed about a permanent installation of all of these features in the form of a Nature Camp for toddlers, and today Baby Roots is one of Birth Roots most popular programs. She lives with her husband, son and daughter and their chickens just a hop, skip and a jump away from Birth Roots. Leah, her parents, her grandparents and her great-grandparents are all Mainers through and through.

Emily Murray

Co-founder/Program Director

After working as a birth and postpartum doula for several years, Emily decided to create a new kind of support for families. Together with Leah Deragon, she has infused the programming at Birth Roots with a special kind of non-judgmental, compassionate, respectful approach to supporting new parents called Community Supported Parenting. She and Leah now train facilitators in the Facilitating Community method that is the foundation of Community Supported Parenting.
Trained as a Hand in Hand Parenting Instructor, Emily has expanded the Birth Roots programming over the past several years to include more support for parents as they navigate the leap from infancy to toddlerhood. Emily weaves her deep belief in the goodness and capability of parents and children into all of the programming at Birth Roots to support strong and healthy beginnings for new families.

Kate McCarthy

Executive Director

Kate has been working in the non-profit sector for the past fifteen years, most recently as the Executive Director of the World Affairs Council of Maine. She's a graduate of Colby College and the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine, and has held positions at Limitless Child International, Council for International Educational Exchange, MAPS Worldwide, and the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement. The Birth Roots community was a lifeline to her as a new parent and she is thrilled to have joined the crew in March 2021. She spends her free time trying to keep up with her two sons, reading, running, and visiting family on Chebeague Island.

Nina Emlen

Operations Manager + Facilitator

Since 2017 Nina has been passionately committed to supporting new and expecting parents as a writer, podcaster, support group facilitator, childbirth educator, doula, and Certified Lactation Counselor. Nina's energy for supporting new families is matched by her interest in supporting business operations. She is thrilled to be part of the Birth Roots' team as Operations Manager and in her free time enjoys walking, reading, playing the ukulele, listening to podcasts, and spending time with the people she loves.


Tiffany Carter Skillings, LM, CPM, IBCLC


Tiffany teaches our Baby Feeding class. She is a Certified Professional Midwife and is the founder and owner of Two Rivers Lactation and Midwifery Clinic. Alongside her midwifery work, she provides both in-home and office care as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant to the community. When she is not working in the field or the classroom, she can be found curled up in a corner with a good book, hiking or swimming with her husband and son.

Tucker Daniels


Tucker is a musician, educator and stay at home father of three. His major in Alternative and Experiential Education serves as a foundation in his belief that we all learn in different and unique ways. Tucker strives to make his classes a fun and inviting space for children of all ages.

Lisa Kourakos


Lisa is a mom to two young kiddos and owner of Steady Birth as a certified birth doula and childbirth educator. She is passionate about ensuring parents are aware of all of their options, and a champion of supporting individualized decision-making and evidence-based care. When not at Birth Roots (or at a birth), you can find Lisa exploring the outdoors, eating good food, and spending time with family.

Shannon Mackey


Shannon, beloved Birth Roots facilitator and mum of two firecrackers, is owner of Little Fish Birth Services, providing pregnancy, birth, adoption and postpartum support, as well as pregnancy loss and abortion guidance. Little Fish is a queer-owned and reproductive justice-aligned doula services for all families. Shannon has been facilitating Birth Roots' prenatal and postnatal classes since 2014.

Paula Norcott, IBCLC


Paula is a lactation consultant with over 22 years experience serving breastfeeding parents. She has been a CLC for over 15 years and holds her IBCLC certification after completing over 120 didactic hours through the University of California San Diego Extension program. She is owner and founder of Maine Mother + Company in Brunswick, ME.

Lauren Peer


Lauren grew up in Ellsworth, Maine and spent much of her early years playing in the forests and beaches near her childhood home. After graduating from the University of Maine with an undergraduate degree in speech and language pathology, she moved to Portland to begin working with children as a behavioral health professional in homes and in schools. That career lead her to fall in love with occupational therapy and earn a masters degree from the University of Southern Maine and become a licensed occupational therapist. Through her career endeavors and education, Lauren witnessed the value of play-specifically nature-based play-in children’s learning and development. After having her first child in December 2021, Lauren experienced the value of having the community and support that Birth Roots provides and is now a Baby Roots Nature Camp Guide.

Abby Pitts


Abby has been facilitating both prenatal and postnatal classes at Birth Roots since 2020. Outside of Birth Roots she serves the perinatal community through her postpartum doula practice, Peacefulsong Doula & Education. In addition to being a facilitator, postpartum doula, and Certified Lactation Specialist, Abby is currently working towards becoming an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Abby lives with her husband and three daughters on their small farm in Limington.

Jessica Ruscetta


Jessica loves to work with folks during one of the most wonderful, crazy, life-changing times in their lives, when they are expecting a new baby! She serves clients as a doula, childbirth educator, lactation counselor, and placenta encapsulation specialist in and around Portland through her practice Rooted In Birth. Jessica came to birth work after having radically different experiences with her first two children. She is passionate about helping people have positive experiences whichever way birth goes. Jessica lives with her husband, three children, and a growing animal menagerie in Poland.

Board Members

Rachel Gallo

Board Co-Chair

Rachel is a public health researcher at the University of Southern Maine and a mom of two boys. She has a Masters in Public Health and a keen interest in working with community organizations. Rachel has found comfort and support while sharing the ups and downs of parenting with her 2018 Birth Roots flock. She is passionate about the mission of Birth Roots and hopes one day all parents will feel support in the early years of parenting. In her moments of free time, Rachel enjoys gardening, cooking, and adventuring with her family.

Jenny Lupica

Board Co-Chair

Jenny Lupica is a born and bred Midwesterner who spent a decade working in textbook publishing and sales in Boston before moving to Maine 34-weeks pregnant with her first child. Jenny had heard that being in a new state, with a new job and a new baby for the fourth trimester was going to be difficult, and she felt lucky to find a Birth Roots flock to fly with during that tumultuous time. Fast forward four and a half years and Jenny now stays home with her three children, and still finds time to squeeze in some of her favorite pastimes like reading, playing tennis and cooking. As a member of the Birth Roots development committee she is grateful for the opportunity to connect with people and businesses around Maine about the importance of supporting Birth Roots and Community Based Parenting.

Scott Mazuzan


Scott, a Maine native, lives in greater Portland with his spouse (also a Maine native) and their two children. Over the years, their family has found great value in a variety of Birth Roots programming and the meaningful community it creates. Scott is a financial planner and Client Advisor at F.L.Putnam in Portland, and recently finished a 3-year term as Co-Treasurer of the local school Parents Association. A running enthusiast, Scott can often be found logging miles on local roads. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family along the coastline, gardening, enjoying music, reading, walking, swimming, practicing yoga, and spending time outdoors.

Brette Turner


Brette and her husband moved to Maine in 2016 after spending several years in Brooklyn and Detroit. Having grown up in smaller towns, they were both delighted to find a welcoming community here in Portland. Professionally, Brette has spent several years in corporate finance and business development. In her free time, Brette enjoys exploring the endless wonders of her new state with her little family and discovering all kinds of toddler friendly activities with her flock.

Julia Bailin

Board Member

Julia Bailin joined the board in 2018, after having extremely positive and rewarding experiences with Birth Roots programming and events. In her professional life, Julia advocates for stronger parental leave, breastfeeding, and parenting-related policies, benefits and experiences at her own company and at companies around the country. Julia is mommy to 8-year old and 5-year old girls. Julia holds a B.A. degree in Anthropology from Dartmouth College. Julia's favorite hobbies include: messing around with her tool box, growing more tomatoes than she can eat, baking challah for Shabbat, and toodling around town on her bike. Julia and her family live with their corgi, Cleveland, in Yarmouth.

Julia Edwards

Board Member

Born in Denver, my parents moved here when I was 3. No matter where I’ve gone, Maine has always been home and I’m so grateful to be able to put down roots here. My academic and professional life has taken me various places, from working on Capital Hill in DC, and for a Portland-based market research firm, to following a full assistantship opportunity at Seton Hall for graduate school and a Fulbright teaching fellowship in Norway. I returned to the US (and luckily Maine) after my Fulbright year to teach international relations and political science and Serve as Executive Director for the Maine Model UN Program at USM for four years. I worked in Academic Advising at a Maine community college, spent time working for a UN-based NGO in New York, and have been working in local Real Estate full time for the past 6 years. I believe strongly in the mission of Birth Roots, and have personally grown from its unparalleled value and support model as I’ve navigated having two children as an older mom in the midst of the pandemic with my glorious partner Joel. We call a little place in South Portland home, and enjoy endless outdoor adventures with our son Trygve (2), daughter Olina (9 months), and rescue pup Obi (7).

Jessica Gildea

Board Member

Jess Gildea is the Director of Community Engagement at Wild Seed Project. She brings over ten years of experience designing high impact, community-led programs and partnerships in nonprofit spaces, most recently as the Youth & Family Initiatives Manager at Good Shepherd Food Bank, where she worked alongside over 400 schools and colleges statewide to increase food access for Maine families. In 2020, she created the Community Redistribution Fund at GSFB, a community-led grantmaking program focused on increasing access to culturally important foods through grassroots efforts. Prior to moving to Maine, she served as the Curator of Education for the Neuberger Museum of Art at SUNY Purchase College, and has worked in a range of programmatic capacities in nonprofit art spaces in the greater New York City area. She lives in South Portland with her wife and their young child, where they spend as much time as possible outdoors, in all seasons, hiking and exploring the coast.

Amanda Hatfield

Board Member

Amanda Hatfield is a financial services professional specializing in client service and regulatory-driven aspects of hedge fund operations. Originally from Boston, Amanda now calls the West End of Portland home and enjoys sampling the culinary delights of the city with her husband and daughter in tow. Amanda boasts a history of commitment to volunteerism and is incredibly passionate about Birth Roots since the organization played such a crucial role in her transition to motherhood. She is very thankful for the amazing community Birth Roots has given her and her family and is honored to serve the organization’s mission.

William Lee

Board Member

Will is currently taking a career break to prioritize raising his two sons. He has a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master's in Business Administration, both from George Washington University. In his diverse work experience, he has worked at a small boat shop doing a wide variety of repair and design projects and most recently as a financial analyst for a human rights and democracy focused non-profit in Washington, DC. He and his wife moved to Portland in 2019 after a one year position in Alaska where they adopted a rambunctious mutt and skied and hiked as much as possible. You can find him most days enjoying the many parks and playgrounds in Portland with his kids. In his free time, Will enjoys running, cooking, and doing small projects around the house.

Mackenzie Maher-Coville

Board Member

Mackenzie is a fundraising consultant firmly rooted in Portland. She has been working in communications and fundraising for nearly 15 years and has a passion for helping facilitate growth and resilience in organizations and institutions that have a positive impact on our communities. Mackenzie found Birth Roots when pregnant with her first child, and has benefitted (along with her family) from the wisdom, insight, connection, and “safe space” facilitated by Birth Roots. She is constantly reminded that the value offered by Birth Roots to this community is rare and irreplaceable, and is committed to helping ensure Birth Roots is accessible to all families who want this support. Originally from NH and ME, respectively, Mackenzie and her husband moved from Boston to Portland in 2016, a homecoming of sorts. They live in the Oakdale neighborhood with their three-year-old son, lively dog, precocious cat, and are expecting their second child at the end of 2023. Typically, you can find her reveling in the changing beauty of Back Cove, walking around the neighborhoods, or getting over-caffeinated at one of the many small coffee shops our little city has on offer.

Miriam Markowitz

Board Member

Miriam has worked for over a decade in nonprofit management and program development covering various populations ranging from foster youth, food security, to storytelling with Holocaust survivors. She received an undergraduate degree from the University of Vermont and her Masters in Social Work from San Francisco State University. After living in the Bay Area for a decade, Miriam moved back home to Maine in 2020 and had her first child. The pandemic pregnancy made her quickly realize how important it was to form a new community. She found Birth Roots (thank goodness!) and quickly formed a flock for pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum support. Even over zoom, her group bonded and became good friends. Miriam, her husband Ben, their wild child Bodhi, and retired dog Moose reside in Yarmouth where they love spending time romping around outdoors and finding time to travel the world.

Marites Petropolous

Board Member

Marites is a born and raised Mainer. She attended Fairfield University for her bachelors in nursing and returned home to start her nursing career in Portland. She ventured back to school to get her master of science in nursing to become a family nurse practitioner from Husson University. She came to Birth Roots after the arrival of her first daughter in the fall of 2018. It was then she realized how crucial it is to support new families from the start and the impact of developing meaningful camaraderie in a family focused "flock". She has woven this learning experience into her patient care, focusing on the overall health and well-being of not only the patient but also of the community. She enjoys spending time outdoors soaking in the beaches, lakes, hiking trails, and camping with her family.

Our Outdoor Classroom.

The Birth Roots Outdoor Classroom, located in our backyard at 16 Vannah Ave, was thoughtfully designed to provide open-ended, elemental features for child-led, nature-sourced exploration. Each spring, summer and fall, you’ll find a gathering of Gnome-sized scientists and adventurers assembling for our Baby Roots Nature Camp. Here, the freedom to be messy and get dirty fosters independence, problem solving, sensory integration, social skills, and nature literacy.

We are forever grateful to the Quimby Family Foundation that has generously supported our Outdoor Classroom since its beginnings in 2019.