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  • Writer's pictureSophie Mbongo

Meet the Creators

Updated: May 19, 2023

Dr. Melanie Martin

I am an Assistant Professor in Biological Anthropology at the University of Washington. My research examines how biocultural influences, particularly nutrition and microbial exposures, influence growth and development. In collaboration with Claudia Valeggia and the Chaco Area Reproductive Ecology Program, my most recent research examines anthropometric and hormonal changes during pubertal development in Toba/Qom girls. I completed my Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of California Santa Barbara in 2015. My dissertation research, conducted with Tsimane mothers and infants in the Bolivian Amazon, examined maternal and infant factors associated with the duration of exclusive breastfeeding. I am also collaborating on several projects examining variations in maternal milk composition and human microbiomes.

I became interested in birth stories over the course of my conversations with Tsimane women and, subsequently, my own first pregnancy. I wrote my own birth story in 2013, shortly after my daughter Arya was born. You can read it here. I wrote it to share with other parents from the birth classes my husband and I attended. It reads like an overly detailed and technical recollection of a first-time U.S. mom who has just taken a series of "natural" birth classes.

In the time since we first conceived of and organized this project, I have also had a son, Jack, born in 2017. I have not yet gotten around to writing his birth story. Sorry, second child.

Dr. Amanda Veile

I am an Associate Professor of Biological Anthropology, Director of LABOR (Laboratory for Behavior, Ontogeny and Reproduction), and courtesy faculty in the Department of Public Health at Purdue University. I am also an Assistant Editor at an obstetrics and gynecology journal, Birth. I specialize in human evolutionary ecology and biological anthropology, emphasizing birth and breastfeeding practices, mother-child health and interactions, infant and child immuno-nutrition, and Latin American indigenous health.

I earned my Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico in 2011 and have conducted field research in communities of small-scale foragers and farmers in Bolivia, Venezuela and Mexico, and Peru. You can read more about me and my research on my website here. In 2014 with my brilliant collaborator Karen Kramer, I launched a project examining the demographic and child health outcomes associated with rising cesarean birth rates in Yucatec Maya subsistence farmers. I have since interviewed a number of Maya mothers about their birth experiences. My favorite is the woman who gave birth to her 11th child in a pickup truck on an isolated road in the midst of Hurricane Isidore.

I was delivered in 1978 in my parent's home under the capable care of Dr. Fred Duhart, a U.S. homebirth pioneer. I gave birth to Simone in 2009 (pictured) and to Nicolás in 2020 (yay, pandemic baby). While I'm bashful about sharing my birth stories, I will say it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

Sophie Mbongo

I am a sophomore at Purdue from West Lafayette, majoring in Medical Anthropology and Professional Writing and minoring in Women's and Gender Studies. I am interested in the full spectrum of women's reproductive health and everything from birth to menstruation and menopause. My recent projects include organizing meal trains for postpartum people in my community, collecting birth stories of indigenous BaAka women in the Central African Republic during the summer of 2022 (for Global Birth Stories), working at a preschool on campus, and studying abroad in Brazil during summer 2023. Working with Dr. Martin and Dr. Veile on Global Birth Stories has been an amazing experience that has equipped me with many skills for my future career goals.

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