Alexandria Jennifer Argueta has first call for 24 hours beginning Saturday at 10 p.m. "First call almost always means a baby," Argueta said. She is a midwife at BirthCare & Women's Health on King Street in Alexandria. Argueta is a registered nurse with a Master's Degree specializing in midwifery. She says about 70 percent of the mothers have home births and 30 percent in the Birth Center.
She adds that some people feel more comfortable at home while some dads like the idea of an institution and also they anticipate a mess at home. "But there isn't much of a mess."
She walks into a room upstairs and points to the red room-size tub which gets filled with water. "We monitor the water carefully at 99-100 degrees. Moms really like the tub when they are in active labor. It helps to relax them between contractions." But she explained they don't do water births at the Birth Center but about 50 percent of the mothers elect a water birth at home. "People wonder why the baby doesn't drown during delivery. But babies are not stimulated to breathe until they reach air." She remembers one water birth where the baby came out quickly and suddenly they noticed he had started swimming.
Having babies with a midwife is a family process. Every woman needs a support person, and usually it is the husband. "But we have broad demographics with some conservative and others liberal. In some cultures, the husband doesn't participate. Most fathers are really involved and a lot of dads like to catch the baby." She recalls one really good dad who was "all about it. But what he didn't tell is was that he had a thing about blood. He said ‘I can't do it’ and we had to help him out." But he coached her from the floor outside the door. "You can do it.” She had to take the newborn baby out to him.
Argueta says the process at the birth center relies on building a relationship of trust and allowing the woman to have confidence in her pregnancy. There is a lot of education, and it can involve as many or few of the family as they wish. "We all have a lot of toys in our offices."
She sits on the couch. The first consultation and all follow up appointments "are held right here. We do a lot of talking." She says many women come to a midwife out of fear of the interventions in a hospital or an unwanted C-section. Argueta says she gives guidance but wants the woman to feel she is the decision maker and to understand that birth is a natural process. She also believes there is a strong relationship between mental and physical and that's why education is so important.
"I also let a woman know what to expect, that a natural birth could take take up to 36 hours — although everyone is happy when they go fast,” she said.
The birth center has a kitchen so the husband can keep his wife eating soup and drinking Gatorade during labor as well as keep up his strength for his own coaching ability.
Argueta walks down the hall past the door decorated with recent pictures of mothers and their babies to a comfortable bedroom with a patterned copper-and-gold comforter draped over the bed. "Some women have the baby in the bed but," she says with a wide arm motion. I've had babies come all over this room, literally.” And she added, "Although it is an old wives' tale about more babies coming during a full moon, it is actually true and we get prepared. Also big thunderstorms. Maybe it is the barometric pressure or gravitational pull. My first home birth was during El Nino.”
It is time for the center to open. Veronica Greenwell has brought in two-week old Gianna Magdalene for her first postpartum visit. Argueta takes the baby carefully and holds her for a moment while checking on how well she is eating and sleeping. Gianna is hungry and her mother breastfeeds her from the couch. "All of our mothers breast feed here. We want the baby to be healthy." This is the third child in the Greenwell family who has been born in the birth center. "We tend to have repeat customers and we have been here so long now that sometimes we have some grandchildren. "It is so spectacular. There is something very magical. We become family members."