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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.

Our Vision

We live in a world where families emerge from the early parent and childhood experience confident, adaptable, and resilient.

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

Staff & Founders

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 + Facilitator

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.

Abby Pitts

Program Manager + Facilitator

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.


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.

Ophelia Hu Kinney


Ophelia lives with her wife and daughter at the edge of the woods in Scarborough. She first waded into the Birth Roots community through a Buds Newborn Class. Ophelia is an experienced small-group facilitator and the Communications Director at an organization dedicated to LGBTQ+ justice and inclusion in religious spaces. She is the proud daughter of immigrants.

Rick LaFrenaye


Rick has extensive experience supporting community members across the lifespan, including a decade of eldercare/hospice, 2+ years of Child Protective Services experience, and 3+ years of clinical experience serving children and their families. Rick earned his MSW from the University of New England in 2020 with certificates in Aging and Diversity and Trauma Informed Practice. Outside of work, Rick enjoys adventures with his 6 year old daughter, Uma, thrift stores, hiking, woodworking and hosting yard sales. He is founder of The Dad Collaborative in Portland, ME.

Astride Jeannot


Astride Jeannot is a facilitator at Birth Roots, where she leads the Black Moms Group. She is also the Senior Manager of DEI at a mental health company and has helped pioneer diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging strategies for various organizations across different sectors. Astride is the author of a guidebook called "Knowing How to Discuss Race in The Classroom," which provides valuable insights for white educators navigating complex racial conversations. When Astride is not working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter and binge-watching reality TV shows.

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.

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 Fisher Mackey (she/her) is the owner of Little Fish Doula, a full-spectrum doula practice dedicated to maintaining equity, equality, and autonomy in pregnancy. Shannon is a skilled facilitator and educator with a deep appreciation for laughter and fun. Shannon is the mother of two small folks and feels so lucky to get to be their parent. Shannon is a Queer Femme identified person and is always amazed by the magic Queer folks make when we are in community.

Mark Priceman


Mark (he/him) is the Training Institute Program Manager at Maine Boys to Men, where he also provides administrative support for the Boot Camp for New Dads program. Mark's previous experiences as a participant in Birth Roots and Maine Boys to Men programming had a major impact on him and have driven his passion to create spaces for parents to be able to have meaningful conversations with one another. Mark resides in Yarmouth with his wife and two daughters.

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

Julia Edwards

Board Co-Chair

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).

William Lee

Board Co-Chair

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.

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.

Elly Pepper


Originally from Mount Desert Island, Elly lives in Cape Elizabeth with her husband, Jay, and three living children: Jack, Pepper, and Sunny. They are also parents to Bella, who was stillborn in 2017.

Elly Pepper is the director of forest policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an international environmental non-profit. She received her BA from Bowdoin College and her JD from the University of Richmond.

In her free time, Elly loves swimming in the ocean, boating in Casco Bay, skiing, traveling, and visiting family on MDI. Elly and Jay also endeavor to help others navigating stillbirth, miscarriage and infant loss by sharing their experience with fellow parents and the media and through Sad Dads Club, an online support group Jay co-founded.

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.

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.

Eliza Warren Giberson

Board Member

Eliza is a Portland native and mother to three year old Evelyn with her partner Jim. Eliza has 15 years in nonprofit experience in the arts, human services, and health care with a focus on major gifts and planned giving. She currently works for Conquer Cancer, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) raising funds for national and international cancer research and clinical trials initiatives. She has previously held roles with the MaineHealth Cancer Care Network and Maine Medical Center, the Center for Grieving Children, and Classical Music Chicago/Make Music Chicago. Her previous Board service includes serving as President of the Junior League of Portland, ME and Vice President of Miss Di’s Closet, an organization founded in memory of her mother operating at the East End Community School in Portland.

Outside of professional life, Eliza and her family enjoy spending time with their dog Huck, attending concerts around Portland, traveling, and attempting recipes from the New York Times cooking app.

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.

Our Community Classroom:

The Treetop

In early 2023, we broadened our commitment to bolstering perinatal resources by creating the Treetop, a community classroom at our Portland location.

Since its launch, the Treetop has been used by community partners for: birth classes, perinatal provider professional development, pregnancy support groups for Spanish-speakers, fatherhood preparation classes, mental health provider trainings, and as in-kind office space for a nonprofit serving fathers who have experienced infant loss. Some of our community partners include: Maine Boys to Men, Community Doulas of Portland, Presente Maine, Maine Doulas, and Sad Dads Club.