My first birth took place in the same place most births do. Hospital room, surrounded by my awesome husband, very sweet nurses and a competent, caring doctor who delivered my baby with expert hands. Alice and I were both healthy and happy, and I got to spend the next two days being cared for by some of the most wonderful caregivers on the planet (seriously Baptist South. Your nurses are the bomb. Da bomb? Do people say that anymore?)
When we learned we were expecting a second child, my husband and I really felt that we didn’t want to go back to the hospital. As great as my doctors were, it was always hard not to feel like one patient in a herd of hundreds. The requirements of hospital birth, like being strapped to a monitor, a HepLock, and the constant cervical checks, just weren’t for me. Being at the hospital made me anxious, and it was hard not to feel like I was more a passive observer than the one actually delivering the baby.
After a lot of thought and prayer, we made a decision. Our second baby would be delivered by…DUN DUN DUN OMINOUS MUSIC…a midwife.
With so many women leaving the hospital for the birth center, what’s a Jacksonville mom to do? Guess what? I’m gonna tell ya!
Jacksonville and St. Augustine are home to three freestanding birth centers, which is huge, considering that the American Association of Birth Centers only counts 248 freestanding centers in the entire country.
Birthing Centers in Jacksonville & St Augustine
Fruitful Vine was here first, and is celebrating its fifteenth year catching babies. They boast a staff of four midwives, one of them, Cindy Williams, with delivery privileges at Shands Hospital. So, if you love the idea of the individualized care of a midwife, but aren’t sold on the idea of out-of-hospital birth, this may be your place. It’s especially good for mamas who have had a previous cesarean and aren’t comfortable giving birth at home (VBACs aren’t allowed at birth centers in Florida).
Birth Center of Jacksonville hangs out in the middle of Riverside, and has been there since January of this year. Their midwives, Hope and Shea, have been catching babies for years and their front desk assistant, Cecilia, is one of the most passionate birth advocates in the Jacksonville area. I had the privilege of being a student of hers when I was pregnant with my first child, and there is no one I know that knows how to empower an expectant mother quite the way Cee does. For the mama who likes to get up and move through her labor, this is a perfect spot. Their Facebook page showcases pictures of moms laboring in Riverside Park, just across the street, or standing on the front sidewalk, hoola-hooping through contractions.
Ok, so I saved my personal favorite for last. These are the women who delivered my second daughter, so I’m a little biased. Or a lot biased. Super biased.
Growing Families Birth Center is in St. Augustine, but services the entire Jacksonville area. They have two midwives, Misti and Zoey, as well as a chiropractor who visits the center weekly to adjust the women under their care. The atmosphere in the office is warm and comforting, and the care feels less like sitting in a medical office and more like chatting with your really, really well informed best friend. I had great doctors the first time, but I’ll tell you now, I never had a forty five minute appointment with them, and certainly not as much laughter.
My midwife attended birth was the most empowering, amazing thing I have ever done, and the care I received was so compassionate and loving. I was able to labor without fear of intervention, with women who trusted that my body knew what it was doing.
The way in which a woman births is a choice only she can make, and the right choice is different for every woman, and it’s important to note that midwives only take on low-risk patients. But if you are expecting, and the idea of hospital birth makes you cringe a little in anxiety or fear or just in plain old “don’t wanna,” give some of these ladies a call.
Have you delivered at any of these birthing centers? Please share your experience!
Rhyannon Yates is a transplant to Jacksonville from the sunny shores of California. She’s lived and taught in Jacksonville since 2003. These days she’s a stay at home wife and mom, trying to balance marriage and motherhood with a writing career and home-preschool. When she’s not busy wife-ing and mom-ing, you can find her at her blog, Grilled Cheese and Applesauce.