Baby on the way?
Then you've got decisions to make. From choosing a name to planning for child care, you have a million and one issues to settle. Not least among them is the question of birth support.
Who will help you have your baby? And who will help you have the birth you want?
Families in the Fort Wayne area soon will have a new option for answering that question. Auburn Birthing Center is under construction and expected to open in December. This freestanding facility will offer northeast Indiana families a secure, homelike birthing place in which the full midwifery model of care will be used.
Midwifery care differs from standard obstetric practice in that conventional Western medicine is based on the study of disease. In contrast, midwives practice from a wellness perspective. They recognize pregnancy and birth as normal events and know healthy women experiencing low-risk pregnancies are capable of giving birth with minimal intervention.
The care provided is relational, responding to individual circumstance, rather than institutional standardizations. Mothers are referred to obstetric care when needed.
The 1,800-square-foot birthing center has been planned in meticulous detail to promote the relational aspect between mother and midwife. A broad front porch, complete with rocking chairs, will welcome visitors. Windows framing views of open fields contribute to the serene atmosphere.
Inside, a living room with fireplace will provide a comfortable place for siblings and kin to gather. A warming kitchen will permit families to enjoy their favorite foods as they celebrate the arrival of a new family member.
Three birthing rooms are planned, each with a distinctive atmosphere. One will feature a rustic look. A second will have a more contemporary feel. The third room will present Biblical themes, reflecting the shared faith of the founding partners and many of their patients. The laboring mother may choose the area where she's most comfortable. All birthing rooms have private baths with walk-in showers, as well as garden tubs for those who choose to labor or birth in water.
Entry through an attached garage will permit the new family to arrive and depart in security and privacy, protected from the weather. A separate entrance leads to the midwives' office. This space incorporates a place for the attending midwife to rest when a patient's labor runs into many hours.
Energy-efficient details, including geothermal heating and cooling, are incorporated throughout.
Costs for delivering in the birthing center are substantially less than current hospital costs, sometimes lower by 50 percent or more, said Certified Nurse Midwife Stephanie VanderHorst, one of three partners in the birthing center. Many insurance companies also will work with the midwives.
The birthing center is the brainchild of VanderHorst, Certified Nurse Midwife Michelle Hileman, and Dr. Thaddeus Weghorst. The three currently are associated with Auburn OB-GYN, and are providers at DeKalb Memorial Hospital.
VanderHorst has been offering gentle, low-intervention care at the hospital since 2003. That year, she attended 22 births. Three years later, Hileman joined the partnership. In 2009, the midwives assisted at 270 births.
The influence of the midwives' practice on hospital procedures is clear. Routine episiotomies have declined. Indiana State Department of Health statistics for 2008 reveal DeKalb Memorial recorded the third-lowest cesarean delivery rates in the state.
Even so, the partners' desire to offer care more fully informed by the midwifery model remained constant, leading to the plan for the birthing center.
The partners divided the project into parts, each taking the lead in one area. Weghorst supervised construction matters, VanderHorst dealt with decisions concerning the interior, and Hileman developed policy and procedures.
The project has been planned over several years. The partners toured birth centers in other locations, learning from each one. In Washington, D.C., they saw a birthing center built in a converted shopping mall that also housed a community center and a day care. “At that one, you could drop your kids at one end of the building, and have your baby at the other,” VanderHorst said.
Initially, they sought an existing building to convert to a birth center. After rejecting nine locations, they decided to undertake new construction.
The site is within a quarter mile of DeKalb Memorial Hospital. While no connection exists between the birthing center and the hospital, the hospital EMTs have been invited to tour the birthing center, and even to drill there, to prepare for the most efficient transport possible if a patient ever requires it.
When the building is finished, Auburn Birthing Center will pursue accreditation from the American Association of Birth Centers. This professional organization endorses those centers meeting “gold standard” qualifications, exceeding the minimums set by the Indiana Department of Health.
In the past, Fort Wayne mothers seeking a birth-center experience endured the long drive to Goshen or Muncie. Both communities are home to AABC-endorsed birthing centers.
The opening of the Auburn Birthing Center brings that option much closer to home. VanderHorst reports that, historically, up to10 percent of her patients are from Fort Wayne — a number that may rise dramatically after the center's opening.