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Catching Babies

Celebrating the Power of Birth, Mothers and Midwives

“I was ready for a film about midwives and mothers, but Catching Babies surprised me in its utter beauty and thoughtfulness.”

― Sarah Tarver-Wahlquist from SQUAT Birth Journal

What if we could change the world by changing the way babies are born? Catching Babies is a 60 minute documentary film that weaves the stories of mothers and midwives on the journey to bring life into the world. Filmed along the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, Catching Babies follows four young women as they study midwifery at Maternidad La Luz. As the women juggle their rigorous academic struggles, they must also provide quality health care to mothers and babies. Watch the sister-midwives as they live and learn in this transformative space, which gives birth to babies, mothers and midwives.

In 2011, Catching Babies premiered with the Maternidad la Luz community at the University of Texas at El Paso. Catching Babies was selected to be a part of the White Sands International Film Festival 2012, Chagrin Falls Documentary Film Festival 2012, and the 2013 Women in Media Film Festival at Rutger’s University for Women’s History Month. Catching Babies was invited to the Midwives Alliance of North America Western Regional Conference in Phoenix, Arizona 2012 and the Black Midwives Conference in Miami, Florida in 2012. Catching Babies has screened at the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, University of Washington at Bothell and the University of Illinois at Chicago’s African American Cultural Center. Catching Babies received an “Excellence in Documenting Women’s Health” award from Puente al la Salud, a community based women’s health collective in Phoenix, Arizona.

Art Work by Andrea Ruizquez of Oakland Partera Midwifery, Graphic Design by Chandra Narcia, Soundtrack by Ras K’dee & Teao Sense of Audiopharmacy and Marcus Shelby of the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra

Image from Catching Babies screening with Somali community in Seattle
Faisa Farole and Hawa Mohamud of Open Arms Perinatal Services invited me for a small community screening. The Somali community in the Seattle, WA area has the highest cesarian rate in the nation. During the discussion after the screening the women decided to create a Somali birth education group. Global Perinatal Services is still going strong today!

“Catching Babies is a beautiful and important film. It serves not only to educate and inspire an audience about midwifery and natural childbirth but also to encourage a discussion about questions of inequality and privilege relevant to childbearing practices today.”

― Heather Sinclair, Licensed Midwife & PhD Student: Medicalization of Childbirth in El Paso


image of Jessica and Kennasha


“I just love being with women.” Jessica Kirkwood-Weaver was raised in rural Washington state and Wisconsin. Her first experience assisting birth was with the cows on her family’s farm. Jessica traveled the country in search of a midwifery school and found herself in El Paso, Texas at one of the most demanding midwifery schools in the country.  Jessica dedicates herself to her clients to ensure they have a positive and memorable experience. After graduating, Jessica stayed at Maternidad la Luz to work in the clinic.


In the midst of applying to nursing schools and getting her bachelor’s degree, Kennasha Roberson decided to study midwifery. “My idea is to be able to work with other women in my community, African-American women, to educate them about natural birth,” she says. Kennasha is now a midwife at Gentle Beginnings Birth Center in Fort Worth, TX. “I love working with women. I still love touching bellies. Every heart tone that I hear, I take the time and thank God that I have the ears to hear with and the skills to know what I’m listening to. I love being a midwife.”

image of Diana


Diana Zanelli recalls when she began her journey to become a midwife: “I decided to be a midwife when my daughter was born. I always say that when she was born, she brought me two gifts: The gift of her and the gift of discovering my passion for midwifery.” Diana graduated from Maternidad la Luz in 2010 and is now in Spain with her daughter practicing midwifery.

image of Sandra


“I felt like it was time for more women from this community to start taking care of the women here,” Sandra Iturbe explains. Born and raised in El Paso, Sandra also studied the traditional Mexica beliefs and ceremonies around pregnancy and childbirth. “These two different schools, different ways of looking at birth—this is the type of midwifery that I want to do.” Sandra graduated in 2010 and continues to serve the women of her community.

image of Kaley


Deborah Kaley, Director of Maternidad La Luz, has been practicing midwifery since 1981.  She has worked with a diverse bicultural clientele in many settings, from busy birth centers to a rural home birth practice.  Over the years she has attracted a dedicated and skilled staff of midwives and academic instructors.  They bring their enthusiasm, life experience, expertise and skills to enrich the learning experience of the students.

School of Midwifery

Maternidad la Luz Birth Center and School is the premiere school of midwifery in North America because it offers integrated academic and clinical training. Since 1987 Maternidad la Luz has been rooted in the community of El Paso / Juárez, by providing safe natural birth options for women in this border community.

Catching Babies does not simply show what is wrong with the maternal healthcare system but celebrates an alternative that is led by the women who are most impacted.

“Catching Babies uplifts the voices of Xicana women and its an inspiration for building and strengthening community-based health.”

― Diana Pérez-Ramírez, Puente al la Salud


Catching Babies inspired a public discourse connecting anti-immigrant legislation and women’s health. After a private screening at the Arizona State University, Valeria Fernández wrote an article for New American Media called, In Az., Push to Revive Mexican Midwifery, which explored how undocumented women are pushed out of the health care system and embraced by independent practitioners. Spanish language television in Phoenix also picked up the topic and interviewed Marinah Valenzuela Farrell, an Indigenous/ latina midwife and Midwives Alliance of North America representative.

We were invited to screen Catching Babies with Puente a la Salúd, a collective of community-based health workers who bring culturally relevant health practices directly to immigrant communities. (One of their programs brings pop-up health screenings to jonaleros/day laborers in front of Home Depot.) Marinah and Fatima Muhammad Roque of Moms, Dads, and Babies, a doula and trainer in the Black community, attended the screening spoke directly to Puente a la Salúd promatoras .

screenshots from Catching Babies

“Catching Babies is a beautiful and important film. It serves not only to educate and inspire an audience about midwifery and natural childbirth but also to encourage a discussion about questions of inequality and privilege relevant to childbearing practices today.”

― Heather Sinclair, Licensed Midwife & PhD Student: Medicalization of Childbirth in El Paso


In the U.S. the use of midwives and home births has doubled since 2000. Midwives are state-certified healthcare professionals who also draw from an age-old wisdom. In this birthing experience, the mother’s body leads the process while the midwife supports. Families can create the loving, non-clinical environment that is right for them and enjoy a birth option that is statistically safer than hospital births.

Amnesty International’s 2011 report, Deadly Deliveries, documents a crisis in the delivery of pre and ante natal care in the USA maternal health system. The USA has the highest infant mortality rate for developed nations; the cesarean birth rate has skyrocketed to 30 percent; and the use medical and pharmaceutical interventions have become commonplace in hospital births. The infant mortality rate for Native American families is 75 percent higher, and the rate for African American families is 350 percent higher than that of non-Hispanic whites. These startling statistics are true across income levels.

image of Barni Axmed Qaasim

Barni Axmed Qaasim, Director / Producer

Barni Axmed Qaasim is a documentary filmmaker and multimedia artist. Her work ranges from documentary film to music videos to video and photo journalism. She is dedicated to capturing images and sounds that shine a light on the efficacy and strength of communities that are ignored or misrepresented by mainstream media.  She constructs vibrant environments and likes to juxtapose diverse images to build meaning. She draws inspiration from Ida B. Wells, who pioneered investigative journalism to demand justice for her people. Barni’s work focuses on telling stories that evoke emotion and build connections between people because art can bring people together in a way that politics cannot.

Barni is the founder and director of Culture Is Life, a company that provides video production services to social justice organizations. Barni is Associate Producer for Under Arpaio, a documentary film and winner of the 2012 Best of Arizona at the Arizona International Film Festival; the film was selected for the Sundance Institute’s Creative Change Artists’ Retreat. Barni was an Assistant Editor for the documentary, Into the Current, which was selected for the Lucerne International Film Festival and One World International Human Rights Film Festival. Barni holds a BA in Political Science with a minor in Interdisciplinary Arts and a Masters of Arts in Broadcasting.

image of Jennifer Lucero

Jennifer Lucero Producer

Growing up, Jennifer Lucero developed her passion to capture people’s stories and experiences. Now she fuels her passion by producing documentary films that provide unique and diverse perspectives of people’s lives.

When she began her studies at the university, she envisioned writing stories to empower and educate people but also wanted to incorporate her desire to make films.  She began to think about the type of journalism she wanted to pursue when she graduated. While in school, she directed and produced Under a Cloudless Sky, a short documentary that sought to decriminalize women living in transition. In 2008, she graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso with a BA in Communication and a minor in Women’s Studies. In 2010, prompted by the recent violence in the Mexican border town Juárez, she directed and produced Juárez en Movimiento (Juárez in Movement). This film examined how Mexico’s struggle with the drug war affected people living and working in El Paso’s sister city, Juárez.

Recently, Lucero continues to work on socially conscious projects. In conjunction with New Mexico State University, she is the post-production supervisor for a new documentary about women agricultural scientists who are breaking through the gender barriers in Africa.


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Los Angeles, CA
barni at barni.me

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