Birth centers grow in popularity, but owners say it’s difficult to qualify for state license

When Racha Tahani Lawler opened the Community Birth Center in South Los Angeles 10 years ago, she wanted her clients to see that she was there to stay.


Midwife Racha Tahani Lawler sits in the space in her garden on Tuesday, July 6, 2021 where she meets with women. She once owned a community birth center but without insurance covering midwifery found it to be difficult to sustain and now does home births. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Lawler, then a single mother of three children, transformed an old building she found on Craigslist into a welcoming space with two birth rooms, a kitchen and garden. Her 80-year-old grandmother, who lived a few blocks away, could walk to the center to support women in labor.

Lawler offered generous discounts to families who couldn’t afford to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket for an out-of-hospital birth. Some clients, she said, “were putting all their little pennies together to have a birth” at her center.

Many of Lawler’s clients were eligible for MediCal coverage, but since her center was unlicensed, the state would not reimburse her services. Lawyer tried for months to obtain a license for the center, but eventually gave up because she couldn’t afford the $5,000 cost.


A building on W. Florence Avenue was midwife Racha Tahani Lawler’s first birth center down the street from her grandmother’s home. Her grandmother, a nurse, also assisted women at the center. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

“I was using my food stamps to provide snacks in the birth center and growing a garden to make sure my clients were eating,” she said.

Running the center without insurance reimbursements proved to be unsustainable and burdensome. Stressed and burned out, Lawler closed the birth center in 2016.

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Licenses difficult to obtain

As a licensed midwife, it is not is not against the law to operate an unlicensed birth center. But to bill MediCal for its services, midwives are required to license their facilities. Experts, however, say stringent state laws are hurting birth center operators and the low-income families they serve.

“There are a lot of regulations and licensing for birth centers, which make it very difficult to become licensed,” said Kathleen Belzer, president of the California Nurse-Midwives Foundation.

The process is so convoluted, Belzer added, that it might take up to three years for some midwives to license their facilities. One example of the bureaucratic nightmare they face involves the Comprehensive Prenatal Service Providers program, or CPSP, designed to increase services available to women and boost reimbursement available to birth centers. To get a license, birth centers are required to be part of the program. But to become a CPSP provider, birth centers have to have a license.

A spokesperson for the California Department of Public Health wrote in an email that “alternative birthing centers must meet a set of requirements in order to receive a license. These requirements are designed per state legislation to ensure every mother and child receive safe, high-quality care while in the facility.”

Why birth centers?

Women opt for giving birth at birth centers because they offer a home-like setting where patients are allowed to move around during labor and bring family members and children. Giving birth at the birth centers typically saves up to $2,000 per family, although the amount depends on insurance coverage.

While operating independently, birth centers that meet the standards of the American Association of Birth Centers, or AABC, are integrated within the health care system so they can transfer clients to a hospital in case of emergency. Midwives who have hospital privileges can continue caring for their clients in such instances.

Nationwide, about 0.3% of births take place in birth centers, according to AABC. Only healthy and low-risk women are eligible for delivery at birth centers.

A 2013 study of about 22,400 women who planned to give birth in a birth center accredited by the Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers found that 94% of women who entered labor achieved a vaginal birth and only 6% were transferred to a hospital for a C-section.

In contrast, about 26% of healthy, low-risk pregnancies in hospitals end up with C-sections, according to a 2017 Consumer Report study.

Another study conducted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from 2013 to 2017 discovered that birth centers, coupled with a midwifery model of care, resulted in lower rates of preterm birth, lower rates of low birth weight and lower rates of C-sections.

Neither the California Department of Public Health nor the Medical Board of California tracks the number of birth centers in Southern California. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health also doesn’t collect that data.

Exasperation at state regulations

Across the state, midwives say they have grown weary of the roadblocks they face in California to license their birth centers.

When Bethany Sasaki opened her Midtown Nurse Midwives birth center in Sacramento, she tried to do everything by the book. She received national accreditation, but her California licensing application was still rejected by the state because the building that housed her center was too old.

“There are systems in place in California that make it almost impossible to have a birth center,” Sasaki said. “It’s like a never-ending cycle.”

The California Department of Public Health, which handles the licensure process, recently changed the building code criteria for birth centers, she added, requiring the same rigid standards for them as hospitals.

“No one is going to get a license until we change it,” she said. “It’s just a nightmare.”

When Sasaki was launching the California chapter of AABC, she reached out to birth centers to join the organization and discovered that out of 45 centers across the state, only nine had a license.

Sasaki, who is now president of the California chapter, said the difficult licensing process is hurting MediCal recipients.

“We have a big problem in the state of California with birth center licenses,” she said. “We need to be able to license birth centers so they can be medical providers, so they can serve underserved communities.”

Accreditation ensures safety

Still, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said accredited birth centers and hospitals are the safest places to give birth.


Obstetrics Service Chief Dr. Mya Zapata says the birth center at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood supports all births from hypnotic to high-risk births. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Dr. Mya Zapata, an obstetrician and gynecologist and the chief of the obstetrics service at Ronald Reagan Medical Center at UCLA, said she wouldn’t recommend attending an unlicensed birth center.

“Licenses mean oversight,” she said, “And that the individuals that are running that center are going to follow standards to keep that family safe. … And in the event of an emergency, they have the means to get that patient to a higher level of care in an expedited manner.”

She recommended asking birth center owners how they handle emergencies.

“In the case that there was something unexpected, an emergency such as bleeding or something happening with the baby,” she said, “how would you handle it? What are your tools and what is your plan when you need assistance to help with a complex situation?”

‘Sacrificing everything’

Lawler felt proud that she was able to open a birth center that predominantly served Black women, who are about four times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than White women.

As she talks about the center closure, Lawler tries not to be bitter.

“The whole entire time it was open, it was there to serve the community,” she said. “It was to fill in where there wasn’t a place for so many people that were wanting out-of-hospital birth. It made out-of-hospital birth accessible for a lot of people, but I literally was sacrificing everything in order for it to exist.”


A painted yard sign sits outside a building on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles which was once Midwife Racha Tahani Lawler’s dream, a birth center for the black community. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Belzer, of the California Nurse-Midwives Foundation, said she was putting together a group of midwives to push for easing the licensing process for birth centers.

The hurdles to obtain a license impact not just low-income women who want to give birth, she said, but also midwives who are willing to help them. Belzer’s foundation also advocates for sustainable MediCal reimbursement rates for birth centers.

“They lose money or break even on most MediCal patients so they do it because they know it’s the right thing to do,” she said. “But it often will put birth centers in jeopardy and often birth centers were closing because of that.

“We need to create quality within the birth center community without creating barriers that are unattainable. Traditionally, people think they are creating safety for people by making it impossible to even open your doors or stay open. These things have to change.”

Olga Grigoryants’ reporting on pregnancy during the pandemic was undertaken as a project for the USC Center for Health Journalism’s 2021 California Fellowship.   

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Pregnant during pandemic: Programs, midwives step up to support Black mothers

| FIRST IN A SERIES: Pregnant during Pandemic | Coming Monday: Black midwives have been in high demand during pandemic. But is it enough of them to handle influx of clients? |

Aysha-Samon Stokes’ Mother’s Day went just as planned.

She arrived at Kindred Space LA birth center around 10 p.m. on May 9, stepped into a bathtub and shortly before midnight pushed her newborn son, Nikko, into the arms of her boyfriend, Dennis Richmond.

Minutes later, she climbed into a bed, wrapped her arms around the baby and breastfed him as “Heartbreak Anniversary” by Giveon played in the background and Richmond massaged her feet.

She felt relieved and happy, surrounded by her niece, boyfriend, sister and two midwives, who carefully guided her through labor. There was something else giving her peace of mind: Her childbirth bill was covered by the Victoria Project, a nonprofit that helps women in Los Angeles County pay their childbirth-related expenses.

Stokes found out about the Victoria Project during her last trimester from midwives Allegra Hill and Kimberly Durdin, who run Kindred Space LA.


Pregnant with her third child Aysha-Samon Stokes, 26, plays with her children Nyla Richmond, 6, and Wyatt Richmond, 17 months, at a Culver City park close to her daughter’s school on Thursday, April 8, 2021. Looking for a better birthing experience Stokes found a midwife to deliver her baby. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

It was not a single event that made her consider home birth, she said, but rather a series of memories from her previous two pregnancies: An obstetrician-gynecologist who couldn’t remember her name, a nurse who ignored her plea for an epidural when her pain became intolerable and a C-section with her first pregnancy that she felt was unnecessary.

Something else was at stake once she began learning about the high mortality rate among women like herself.

“A lot of Black women die in the hospital and that does concern me,” said Stokes, 26.

The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on many women’s birth plans, forcing them to adjust to quickly changing hospital policies, and in some cases labor in isolation and even opt for home birth. The pandemic has been especially hard on mothers like Stokes, who even before the pandemic had been part of terrifying statistics that show Black women in the U.S. have more than a three times higher risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth than White women.

Black mothers and infants have been disproportionately affected by pregnancy- and birth-related complications. Nearly 700 women die each year in the U.S. as a result of pregnancy-related complications.

In Southern California…

  • In Los Angeles County, mortality rates among Black mothers from perinatal complications are four times higher compared to White women. Black infants are three times more likely to die before reaching their first birthday.
  • In Riverside County, Black newborns are three times more likely to die than their white counterparts.
  • Officials in Orange County reported in 2020 the death of one Black infant out of 392 African American births. So far in 2021, no infant or maternal deaths have been reported among Black infants or mothers, according to the Orange County Care Agency’s preliminary report.
  • San Bernardino County, meanwhile, reported 11.3 deaths for every 1,000 Black infants born, the 2011-15 data show.

In 2018, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health pledged to work on reversing the trend and reducing the county’s gap in Black and White infant mortality rates by 30% by 2023.

Dr. Deborah Allen, deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said “midwives are a very important voice but they are a very small group of people. They’re all wonderful, but they have to be part of something bigger. It has to go way beyond that. It has to include medical professionals.”

There needs to be a movement, Allen said, that would involve systematic changes on the part of hospitals, medical professionals, and federal and state government agencies to make sure Black women feel safe to deliver their babies, whether at home or at hospitals.

“When we really want to have equality in birth outcomes, we need more than equal health care — we need equal lives,” she said.

  • Dennis bathes Wyatt and Nyla on Thursday, April 28, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Aysha, who played basketball in high school, plays ball with her kids at home in downtown LA on Thursday, April 28, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Wyatt watches his mom make healthy snacks at home in downtown LA on Thursday, April 28, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Aysha keeps her eye on Wyatt as she makes healthy snacks at home in downtown LA on Thursday, April 28, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Aysha makes Wyatt a carrot snack at home in downtown LA on Thursday, April 28, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Aysha helps Nyla with her homework while feeding Wyatt and her lunch at home in downtown LA on Thursday, April 19, 2021. Nyla is in a dual language Spanish immersion program. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Aysha plays with Wyatt at home in downtown LA on Thursday, April 19, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Wyatt and Nyla jump in their father’s arms as he comes to their downtown LA apartment to have dinner and bath them after work on Thursday, April 28, 2021. Dennis Richmond is Aysha’s fiancé. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dennis bathes Wyatt and Nyla on Thursday, April 28, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dennis and his children Nyla and Wyatt have dinner while Aysha takes time for herself in her room on Thursday, April 28, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Aysha plays with Wyatt at home in downtown LA on Thursday, April 19, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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Many of the county’s programs, Allen added, focus on addressing the consequences of intergenerational racism on the health of Black women.

The Los Angeles County African American Infant and Maternal Mortality Initiative, launched by the Los Angeles Department of Public Health and First 5 LA along with community partners, is offering no-cost doula care to Black pregnant people in Antelope Valley, San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley and South L.A.

Doulas work with pregnant and birthing mothers before, during and after the delivery to provide emotional and physical support and guidance. Studies show that doula care proved to be effective with reductions in the use of C-sections and medications during labor along with promotion of breastfeeding.

“Having a well-informed, articulate, supportive person by your side, who knows the health care system and can be a buffer and a bridge when you’re dealing with medical providers and so on,” Allen said, “can really make the experience much more positive, much less stressful and, therefore, healthier for Black women.”


Aysha craves ice which she learned from her midwife was a sign of anemia. Her doula gave her a plant based iron supplement for her iron deficiency since she was not tolerating prescription iron from her obstetrician. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

The program, which just finished its first year of operations, has served 363 clients while supporting 199 births, and health officials say it can potentially become one of many aimed at reversing trends in high mortality rates among Black mothers.

“It’s time for Black women to stop feeling guilty when they have an adverse outcome and recognize it as a social phenomenon rather than a personal failing,” Allen said.

When the pandemic hit, Victoria Project co-founder Janelle Green couldn’t stop thinking about women who were afraid to go to the hospital to give birth and lacked the means to hire a midwife or doula to deliver their babies at home. As a trained midwife, she also knew that out-of-pocket expenses could easily become a financial burden for many families because insurance reimburses only a fraction of the costs.

She wanted to help women to have other options, she said.

Green reached out to a friend, Deja Rabb, and together they launched the nonprofit to finance midwifery and doula care, breastfeeding support, childbirth education services for pregnant women. The Victoria Project was born in September 2020.

“We named it after a victorious pregnancy that I hoped to one day have,” she said.

Green and Rabb connected with doulas and midwives in Los Angeles, offering assistance to their clients.

Currently, the nonprofit enrolls about 200 people and is close to its capacity, Green said. But as more families are hearing about the program, Green added, the goal is to start sponsoring more people, including those from Santa Barbara, where Green and Rabb now live.

Clients mostly learn about the nonprofit through word of mouth. Its funding comes from private donations and fundraising and is open to anyone who considers giving birth at home or a birth center, regardless of their income. The program, though, prioritizes requests from marginalized communities.

“We are trusting that they will put forward what they can and then they’ll ask for what it is that they need support with, so sometimes it’s a hundred percent and sometimes it’s the remaining balance,” Green said.

The Victoria Project covers birth center midwifery care, doula care, acupuncture, home birth and chiropractic care, lactation support, and doula care for pregnancy loss and miscarriage. In some circumstances, the nonprofit may cover therapy, especially in the postpartum period.

Some families reach out seeking not just emotional and physical support but food assistance and medication, Green said. And those types of requests are something the nonprofit will try to fulfill in the future.

“I imagine as we grow it might be one of the things we hope to do is connect with other organizations who are providing some support in other areas so that we have a good referral system in place,” she said.

During her third trimester, the pandemic was still raging, forcing hospitals to alter their visitation protocols, and Stokes worried about whether her sister and boyfriend would be allowed to be by her side at the hospital and whether she would be allowed to move freely during labor.

“I had a C-section with my daughter, vaginal with my son and I feel like in order to have a successful labor, I need to be able to roam around and move around and I’m not going to be able to do that at the hospital so then what are my chances of having the successful” vaginal birth after cesarean? she said. “Probably slim to none.”

In the spring, Stokes made up her mind to find a midwife who would help her deliver her baby at home.

“I told my partner if I can’t find what I want, to be prepared to deliver this baby at home with just me, him and our kids,” she said.

In April, as she was waiting for a response from The Victoria Project, Stokes, who has Medi-Cal, prepared to dig into her savings if her application wasn’t approved.

It was very important for her to find a Black midwife, she said, someone who would understand her and be “aware of the battles I face without me having to mention it.”

Beginning with her first visit to Kindred Space LA, Stokes noticed the difference between the care she received at obstetrician-gynecologist appointments during her first two pregnancies and what the midwives provided.


With her children Wyatt and Nyla in tow, Aysha has her first prenatal appointment with midwife Kimberly Durdin at Kindred Space LA, a birthing center Durdin opened during the pandemic with another midwife in South LA, on Thursday, April 9, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Meetings with Durdin and Hill sometimes stretched to more than an hour as Stokes’ 18-months-old son and 7-year-old daughter played on a patio. Midwives offered homemade lentil soup and asked whether she felt weepy, took her vitamins and consumed enough water. After each appointment, she received a bag filled with fresh produce grown at the center’s garden.

When she started having pain in her lower back, the midwives offered her free-of-charge acupuncture. A woman who volunteered with the center stopped by her apartment to bring a warm homemade meal. When the midwives offered to deliver the baby at the center, she agreed.

Those appointments with the midwives met all of her expectations, Stokes said.

“They listen and they care and it is everything I wanted,” she said. “They got my name right and the hospital couldn’t even do it.”

  • Wyatt jumps up on his mother as midwife Kimberly Durdin begins to check Aysha’s baby at Kindred Space LA, a birthing center Durdin opened during the pandemic with another midwife in South LA, on Thursday, April 9, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Aysha has a prenatal appointment at Kindred Space LA in South LA on Thursday, April 9, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Midwife Kimberly Durdin picks greens for Aysha and Nyla to take home after her prenatal visit at Kindred Space LA on Thursday, April 9, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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On the evening of Mother’s Day, Stokes began feeling her contractions grow intense. She asked her sisters to pick up her kids at her apartment and headed to the birth center in South L.A. When she arrived around 10 p.m., her pain grew so intense that she began crying.

“Each breath and each push brings you closer to the baby,” her sister, Lauri Powell, kept saying, taking turns with Richmond to massage Stokes’ back and shoulders.

When Nikko’s face finally emerged from the water as Stokes was sitting in a bathtub, she said could feel a wave of happiness and relief. “He was here and all my worries have gone out of the window,” she said.

  • Guided by her midwife Dennis catches the baby under water as Aysha delivers at Kindred Space LA’s South LA birthing center on Mother’s Day night, May 9, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dennis massages Aysha as she labors at Kindred Space LA’s South LA birthing center on Mother’s Day night, May 9, 2021. Aysha’s sister Lauri Powell, right, and her 13-year-old daughter Leena were also there for the birth. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Dennis touches their son as Aysha rests in the birthing bath at Kindred Space LA’s South LA birthing center on Mother’s Day night, May 9, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Midwifes Kimberly Durdin and Allegra Hill help Aysha out of the birthing bath at Kindred Space LA’s South LA birthing center on Mother’s Day night, May 9, 2021. The two opened the center during the pandemic. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Aysha’s sister Lauri Powell and her 13-year-old daughter, Aysha’s niece, and Dennis watch over Aysha after she delivered her son at Kindred Space LA’s South LA birthing center on Mother’s Day night, May 9, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Midwife Kimberly Durdin gives Aysha a tincture after she delivered her son at Kindred Space LA’s South LA birthing center on Mother’s Day night, May 9, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Student midwife Maryam Karim takes the heartbeat of Aysha’s baby during a postpartum visit to the South LA birthing center on Wednesday, May 26, 2021 where he was born on Mother’s Day night. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Midwife Allegra Hill checks Aysha during a postpartum visit to the South LA birthing center on Wednesday, May 26, 2021 where her son Nikko was born on Mother’s Day night. Student midwife Maryam Karim holds Nikko. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Nikko is weighed by midwife Allegra Hill as Aysha and her children Wyatt and Nyla join her for the postpartum visit at the South LA birthing center on Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Student midwife Maryam Karim is left. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Aysha and Nyla watch midwife Allegra Hill and student midwife Maryam Karim take the heartbeat of two-week-old Nikko during a postpartum visit to the South LA birthing center on Wednesday, May 26, 2021 where he was born on Mother’s Day night. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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Her entire $6,000 birth-related bill was covered by the Victoria Project.

Holly Smith, a health policy chair at California Nurse-Midwives Association, said it’s crucial to have a package of legislation that would contribute to systemic changes to support parents of color.

The so-called California Momnibus Act, authored by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, seeks to establish doula care for all pregnant and postpartum people enrolled in Medi-Cal. The bill, SB 65, will require medical investigations into maternal and child death, collecting data on socioeconomic factors that contribute to negative birth outcomes, expanding postpartum health care and offering options for doulas and midwives.

The bill would allow expecting mothers to have at least four appointments with a doula during the prenatal period and delivery, and at least eight appointments during the postpartum period. Doula care, which can cost from several hundred dollars to $2,000, also would also be available during miscarriage, stillbirth and abortion.

In addition, the bill would establish an advisory board to standardize competency requirements and certification for doulas.

The Legislature also would expand coverage for a postpartum period for people on Medi-Cal from two months to one year, invest in midwifery care and create a maternal mortality board, which would advise on how to close racial disparities in maternal health.

SB 65 has been passed by the state Senate and will head to the Assembly.

Earlier this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom said three pieces of the legislation will be part of his budget proposal, including Medi-Cal coverage for doulas, Medi-Cal postpartum coverage and a guaranteed minimum income pilot program for low-income families.

“Racial disparities are preventable and we can turn back the clock on that if we really want,” Smith said. “We have to have all hands on deck and we have to have multiple strategies.”


Aysha nurses three-month-old Nikko after he wakes from a nap at their home in downtown LA on Tuesday, August 10, 2021. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Olga Grigoryant’s reporting on pregnancy during the pandemic was undertaken as a project for the USC Center for Health Journalism’s 2021 California Fellowship.   

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My OC: Environmental engineer Anoosh Oskouian makes fresh air her business

Coast.MyOCAnoosheh.01

Anoosheh Oskouian is trying to commit to getting at least six hours of sleep a night instead of four because it’s healthier – not necessarily because she’s tired.

As the rare female CEO in the environmental engineering industry, she thrives on her hectic schedule. During the 18-20 hours she is awake, Oskouian is busy running Ship & Shore Environmental Inc., hitting the gym, spending time with her 13-year-old son, Rod, and her husband, Alan, preparing family dinners, organizing and attending charity events, reading poetry, and going to the symphony.

People often ask her where she finds the time. “Whenever you want to get anything done, give it to a busy person,” she says with a laugh.

As if to illustrate that point, she describes how she spends her free time, which includes co-founding Children’s Hope International Literacy & Development, a nonprofit that helps children further their education and provides basic necessities. Oskouian is a board member of the Pacific Symphony and has fundraising, committee and board positions in several other nonprofits.

Born in Iran, Oskouian founded the engineers and architects division of the Network of Iranian American Professionals of Orange County and participates in Orange County’s Strategic Business Group, a networking group of Iranian American professionals. What’s more, she helped develop the Iranian Cultural Center of Orange County and is a trustee of the Farhang Foundation, whose mission is to promote Iranian art and culture for the benefit of the community.

If there is a moment to spare, you can find Oskouian relaxing in her coastal backyard.

My neighborhood: Newport Coast.

Why I live here: We moved to the neighborhood almost 10 years ago because we wanted our son to go to school with the kids from the neighborhood and living on the coast was a preference.

Where I’m from: I came alone from Iran to Colorado for school when I was 14, for the dream of living in a country where freedom was of the utmost importance.

What I do: I am president and CEO of Ship & Shore Environmental Inc., which does engineering, consulting and manufacturing of anti-pollution control systems. My field of study was chemical engineering, and I wanted to do something that I could feel the impact of.

What I am passionate about: I truly enjoy knowing that I have made a difference in the air we all breathe. I also love cultural activities and philanthropic causes that involve children; my heart aches to be able to make a difference in a child’s life.

How I personally reduce my carbon footprint: We try to live a conscious life. We are proud owners of a Tesla and another hybrid. We’re also in discussions to get solar panels on the house. We recycle, and we conserve water by changing our landscaping.

My perfect day: I’d love for my day to start with a great workout, then I’d like to have a lot of time to spend with my husband and my son, and after that I would tend to business. If I am in town, I love to be at home cooking and spending time with my family. And, if I am not having dinner at home, another perfect way I can spend the evening is to attend a charity or music-related dinner.

My sanctuary: One of the places I truly love is Sedona, Arizona. There is a resort there called Sanctuary. It’s a beautiful spot; I absolutely love the hiking.

Red or white: I love them both. At cocktail parties I start with a white and hopefully get a red after that.

On my nightstand: A Bose clock radio and a few books that I flip through. Some never leave my nightstand, including “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle and two Persian poetry/philosophy books. I usually pick one and read some verses. “The Power of Now” is almost like a little Bible. I pick it up and, whatever page I open to, I feel like it must have been calling me to get me aligned with the universe again.

Favorite place to shop that is not a chain: Atelier 7918 boutique in Crystal Cove

Pet peeve: I can’t stand laziness and incompetence.

How I relax: Driving relaxes me because I get to be in my own head and my own thoughts. I try to make the best of the time I have in the car. There are certain things you have to do in life – like drive – in Southern California. There is nothing you can do about it. You might as well try to make the best of it. I have classical music on when I am driving, which is really comforting.

What surprises people about me: I am in an extremely male-dominated field, and I fit in quite well, so when I tell people I am also domestic, they just can’t believe I can cook, sew and knit. My mom was very particular, and she said, “What makes a young lady totally complete is being able to take care of all of her own needs and not necessarily be dependent on anyone else.”

My values: In the ancient days, Iranians were Zoroastrian. It is a form of religion, but more than that it is a philosophy to live by. The most important thing is that, at all times, you try to have a truthful mind. When I was very young my father used to tell me, “As long as you live your life that way, you will never go wrong.”

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