Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Forgiveness... Is That What They're Calling It These Days?

In a shameless promotion of Brio Birth's latest scam, Naomi sent out an email pleading for funding to a very large list of addresses - and forgot to use the BCC: function. For those of you who know the ancient Brio history, this is not the first time this has happened.  The first time, it caused a storm of angry reply-all messages and the creation of an alternate identity for Kyle named "Jeff Smith."  This time, the recipients seem quieter, but in an exciting double whammy, the email address of at least one childbirth educator Brio has severely alienated was on that list.  This person replied:

Dear Naomi,
I am sure that you sent this to me by mistake.  As you know, two years ago the Denver Police told your husband to never contact me.  I am asking you to never include my email in any of your correspondance with others.  Please take my address out of your contacts.  I do not and will never support any of your projects.

In an apparent misunderstanding of the phrase "never contact me," Naomi RESPONDED TO THE EMAIL with this mind-blowing bit of drivel:


So sorry for the mixup. I have chosen to live in a way where I forgive like I have amnesia and apparently it has worked! Thank you for helping me to see that. I wish you the best I all of your endeavors. As we are successful in our individual endeavors we will only encourage everyone else to be successful. 

With respect,
Naomi Thomas

Sent from my iPad

What, no "warmly?"  Somewhere, I think Cher Horowitz is shaking her head.

She wants to forgive like she has amnesia?  Really? Maybe she wants people to get amnesia and forgive her.  Of course, with her long history of syrupy cons and burnt bridges, that's a pretty tall order.  Let's break this down, shall we?  Who requires forgiveness here:

1) the childbirth educator who was so frightened by Kyle that she felt the need to involve the police, and insisted that she never be contacted again, or

2) the money-grubbing privacy invader who ignored that completely appropriate insistence and barged back into that childbirth educator's life?

To anyone who lives outside the Brio Bubble, the answer is obvious, as is the identity behind door number 2.  Our alienated childbirth educator sent quite possible the only civil response:

Whatever Naomi.  Do not email me again.

In the real world, Naomi, I think the word you're looking for is "delusion", not "forgiveness".

Monday, November 26, 2012

Brio's Latest Scam, Part II: The Money and the Tech, and the People, and the Money

UPDATE: The Indiegogo campaign has apparently been removed, and it seems that some or all contributors' money may have been refunded.  Curious!  Apparently Brio's story is that an "admin account" was hacked and the hacker removed the campaign.  The mother's story is that she believes the Brio Bunch, and the event is still on.  Thanks to an anonymous commenter for the tip!

With about a week and a half left of Brio's groveling campaign, let's examine some other angles.  The concept of the project itself was addressed in our previous post here.

Apparently, Brio has scheduled this birth for a month out and publicized it heavily without doing a single thing to make it happen.  They have no skin in this game (gee, there's a surprise), unless you count the $5 contributed by "Denver Doula," the undisclosed amount (thought to be around $10 based on an analysis of early contributions) contributed by Karl Clinger, and a couple of other contributions by known cronies as viewable here.


This campaign is a "flexible funding" campaign, which means that when they don't meet their funding goal (or even come close, unless those investors Kyle promised back in the beginning come through, maybe), the contributions will not be refunded.  Brio will get to keep what was contributed, minus a 9% service fee to Indiegogo.  In other words, they make grand promises, take other people's money, and show nothing for it.  Deja vu, anyone?  I wonder if the people who jumped on the bandwagon - especially those who bought "perks" like advertising or a month-long replay - understand how the funding for this campaign actually works.  I wonder if Brio will still try to make a shoestring broadcast of the birth happen, with some cheap and/or borrowed webcams, or if they will simply do nothing, except blame the "haters" and have Naomi send some sugary non-apology emails to the people who gave money for nothing.  

So let's look at "The Tech and The Money."

The Tech: The fancy cameras that they want to buy look pretty nice, but the battery life on the setup is only a couple of hours.  Granted, precipitous births do happen, but they probably want to be prepared for a long birth.  This is going to mean hooking up to a power source and hindering the movement of the POV cameras, or having a back-up battery for each camera, switching them out, and constantly re-charging.  So there will definitely be feed interruptions if the birth is not precipitous.  Also, who is going to be the battery doula?  Then there are the Mac Minis supposedly required to process the feed.  My guess is, somebody wants new toys.

The Money: Again, this whole scheme might have a little more credibility if Brio were putting in any money to buy the toys.  Also, for a group that claims to have so much technical and networking savvy, they appear to either have a blind spot or be purposefully inflating the prices.  A relatively quick search turns up the equipment they have put out that they intend to use for lower prices than what they show on their little infographic, sometimes to the tune of hundreds of dollars per setup, and that is from somebody not putting in a great deal of time.  If they were to dedicate a bit of time and effort to shopping, they could likely realize some pretty heavy savings.  And they claim that they are putting in the money for personnel, travel, etc - I would love to know where they are getting that money, particularly when they have well over a quarter million dollars in judgments and debts that they haven't paid a dime towards, and they have a history of not even being able to pay their own rent.  For greater amusement, look at what would be done with any money exceeding their goal (not that that's going to happen).  It would be evenly divided five ways between:

  • Brio Birth - of course!  Fancy dinners and toys aren't cheap.
  • The birthing family - makes sense.  If she's going to display her birth to the world and deal with the invasion of privacy and the disturbance of the birthing process, she ought to be compensated.
  • "The PR/Advertising & Tech team" - so, by all appearances, the Brio Bunch.  Hey!  That ups their share to 40% of the extra money that's not going to be there!  Surely they couldn't be playing a shell game for additional personal gain...
  • The mother's maternity and wellness center - now that's a good cause, especially in Texas, which is not known for its friendliness to birthing mothers.
  • A fund for another family to do THIS SAME THING!  And I'm sure Brio will be there, cap in hand, asking for more money.  Of course, I'm sure Brio will be holding this fund, which means it's in the hands of their excellent stewardship.
Then, of course, there's that other element - the People.  I don't know this mother, except by all the information she's been putting all over the internet in connection with this project (and I think she protests a bit too much about not wanting to show off).  I don't know the midwife, or the doulas.  But I do know the Brio Bunch, and that gives me a bit of a sick sense about the entire project.   

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Brio's Latest Scam, Part I: You Paid $25,000 for a Used WHAT?

UPDATE: The Indiegogo campaign has apparently been removed, and it seems that some or all contributors' money may have been refunded.  Curious!  Apparently Brio's story is that an "admin account" was hacked and the hacker removed the campaign.  The mother's story is that she believes the Brio Bunch, and the event is still on.  Thanks to an anonymous commenter for the tip!

Brio Birth is now groveling for money to stream a live birth on both Indiegogo and as part of a FedEx small business grant contest.  For the moment, let's ignore the scammers behind the effort and look at the project itself, shall we?

The idea is to show the birth from six angles: the birth partner's point of view (Daddycam?  Give me a break.  Let's infantilize it a little bit more, shall we?), the midwife's point of view, the doula's point of view, overhead, wide-angle, and under water.  This will stream live over the internet - yet, for some reason, they will need $7500 worth of equipment to "process" the video feed - for the whole world to watch.  But that's enough about "the money and the tech" for now - I'll address that in another post.  Now, I see that they appear to have amped up the birth team to include two doulas (so which one will wear the "Doulacam"?), but really, who is caring for mom while everybody's showboating with these fancy cameras?  What if the other kids need a parent - will the "Daddycam" pass off to Doula #2?  What if the planned waterbirth becomes a land birth?  That actually happens quite often, for various reasons, including baby comes precipitously, mom doesn't want to be in the water, baby needs a bit more of a gravity assist, mom and baby need a bit more hands-on help from the midwife... Just because a mother thinks she wants to give birth in the water, even if she's done it before, doesn't mean that it will absolutely happen.  Of course, they want to do a DOCUMENTARY, so the camera won't necessarily be wasted!  

All these eyes on this birth are surely going to disturb the process as the birth team becomes a theatrical team, and birth as performance art generally doesn't end with a satisfied mother and baby, even if there is a good outcome.  Carla Hartley of Ancient Art Midwifery Institute, a strong proponent of undisturbed birth, had this to say when people solicited her support on Facebook:

The next person who posts on my wall anything having to do with raising funds for anything having to do with the live broadcast of a birth will be blocked .... Really I am the last person on earth who will support such an atrocity. It is so wrong to screw with a baby's birth in order to make money for anyone .... And the folks behind this should be ashamed of themselves.

The "folks behind this", Brio Birth, say that they want to "normalize" birth.  Putting aside for the moment that watching a birth from all these different angles is anything but normal, even for those of us who have attended hundreds or thousands of births, what no one is saying is that this is not a "normal" situation.  This mother is planning a homebirth after cesarean (HBAC).  Yes, she has already had two vaginal births since her cesarean, and thus has a "proven scar".  This does not mean that her situation is normal.  Aside from the admittedly small risk of rupture,which happens on mothers with proven scars as well as mothers with no scars at all, yes, even in the absence of Pitocin or other such interventions, there is also an increased risk of hemorrhage, among other things.   Birth is natural, but nature is not always kind.  Does this mean that the mother should not give birth at home?  Absolutely not.  She has every right to make the informed choice to give birth where she chooses, with the care provider she chooses.  However, this may not be the ONE BIRTH to choose to show how NORMAL birth is.  If anything goes wrong, which, granted, could happen in any birth, those six cameras are going to contain all kinds of ammunition - not just for any lawsuit that might result, but also for the "birth is a medical event" crowd to pick apart EVERY SINGLE ASPECT of this "non-normal" birth.  Aside from the fact that everyone's actions will be scrutinized, even if nothing goes wrong, this will definitely be on the mind of the midwife, and probably the rest of the birth team as well, and it will definitely impact their actions.  This birth will not be normal.  It will not be representative of normal birth. It will be less safe, and it will be less sacred.