Nancy Myrick, one of the founding midwives of the San Francisco Birth Center, took some time out of her busy baby-catching schedule to chat with us about the birth center, the importance of providing birthing options to every mother, and some updates on the birth center.
How will the San Francisco Birth Center be different from current available birthing options in San Francisco?
NM: San Francisco Birth Center will offer personalized, intimate, midwifery care in a safe, homelike setting surrounded by providers that you have worked with throughout your pregnancy.
We will offer the option of laboring and giving birth in water. The birthing rooms will be comfortable, private with a home-like feel. We will use our midwifery skills, rather than technology, are the core of our care. We will offer extensive postpartum care in your home. We know that the first weeks of parenting are challenging and will be there to support you through this transition.
While there are 5 hospital-based labor and delivery units, and a number of excellent home birth midwives in San Francisco, there is no birth center. Hospital births are primarily managed my MDs, and most are large practices with many physicians or small practices that are a part of a large call group. This means that you are unlikely to have the provider you work with through your pregnancy actually be with you at your birth. In addition, during much of your labor you are cared for by a nurse that you have never meet before. No hospitals in San Francisco will allow you to give birth in water. And after you are discharged from the hospital you don’t see your provider again until your 6 week postpartum appointment.
While homebirth midwifery offers care similar care to us, San Francisco Birth Center, will be a place where families can come and be a part of a community which supports natural childbirth. It will have a team of midwives available for care, support and education, and will be a beautiful and comfortable place for women who don’t feel comfortable giving birth at home.
What excites you most about opening up the Birth Center?
NM: I look forward to helping create a community of women who will come together at San Francisco Birth Center. When you chose to be involved in the decisions around your birth, and you take an active role in decision-making and then you take charge of your birth, this all allows you to come into parenting in a very powerful way. At San Francisco Birth Center we want to build strong moms, thereby building strong families.
I am also excited to offer midwifery care and supported natural childbirth to more women from a greater range of socio-economic backgrounds than I have been able to in my home birth practice.
Why is it important to you and the Birth Center to provide care to women of all socio-economic backgrounds?
NM: I believe that choices in childbirth shouldn’t solely be an option for women of means. I spent many years as a volunteer doula to low-income women and watched how empowered they we when given support in childbirth to take their power and use it to birth their babies. Birth is transformational and if women have the chance to determine their own path in birth, they will come out the other end as stronger, prouder mothers.
I think this is particularly important to women who haven’t had a lot of choices available to them in their lives. I hope that being able to support their right to make choices around their birth, and help them realize they have strength within themselves, will help empower them in their daily lives.
What do you think will be the biggest hurdle to overcome in order to provide care to women from lower income households?
NM: Quality midwifery care cost money. While we are committed to serving these women, we are equally committed to creating a financially sustainable birth center. Government reimbursement does not come close to covering the costs of the care we want to offer. We will discount our fee to low income women, but will also need some additional support to care for these families.
Why do you feel it’s important for all women and families to have options around childbirth?
NM: So much of our culture separates women by the opportunities conferred by wealth and privilege. I am a firm believer in equal opportunity and hope that if this begins at birth, it could lead to a more balance and egalitarian world. (My goals are small and attainable, right?)
Logistics update: Any news or potential timelines on where and when the Birth Center will open?
NM: We are looking for a location that will be accessible to families from a variety of neighborhoods and a place that any mother would be comfortable coming to. We also hope to be within 10 minutes of a hospital for quick transport as needed. We have our eyes on several locations including spots in the inner Richmond, mid-Market, SOMA and Potroro Hill. We hope to be accepting clients by summer and catching or first babies by fall!