A ribbon cutting will be held for West Virginia’s only nationally certified birthing center Thursday, but one new mother has already experienced what it’s like to receive care at the facility.
Grace Walkup gave birth to her son, Jedidiah David Walkup, at the FamilyCare center on Charleston’s West Side on Sept. 14. Before that, though, she’d met with the four midwives who would help her bring her son into the world, getting to know them and relaying to them her wishes for when she went into labor.
“They were supportive of everything I said I wanted and was interested in,” Walkup said. “I don’t think I could have asked for a better team or a better experience.”
Walkup knew she wanted a natural delivery, something FamilyCare was able to deliver. Also, because it’s just a few blocks from Charleston Area Medical Center, Walkup had peace of mind when delivering, knowing that, if something went wrong, the hospital was close by.
“I wanted a more homelike delivery and feel, but still wanted access to medical care, just knowing what could happen and wanting to be prepared,” Walkup said.
Craig Glover, executive director of FamilyCare Health Centers, said this was part of the reason the company settled on moving its birthing center to Charleston from its previous Teays Valley location. Glover said that, when CAMC Teays Valley cut its birthing unit, women were a bit nervous about using FamilyCare, in case something happened and they needed to be transferred to the hospital.
FamilyCare does have licensed, certified doctors on site, but it’s not equipped with the same resources as a hospital.
“In Charleston now, we find that the women can be more comfortable,” Glover said. “If there is a complication or something, the hospital is right down the road. It gives peace of mind.”
Walkup was one of the patients who needed to be transferred to CAMC after giving birth. She said the midwives who helped with her delivery knew right away that she need to be transferred due to the amount of bleeding.
“It’s kind of a better-safe-than-sorry thing, and it was complications that, you know, they would have happened whether I gave birth there or at the hospital,” Walkup said.
From the time she gave birth, she said it took 10 minutes to get admitted to CAMC. Even while she was there, though, the midwives stayed with her, ensuring the doctors at the hospital knew what Walkup wanted based on the plan she’d formed at FamilyCare.
Walkup, a West Virginia University medical student who is doing her residency at CAMC, is no stranger to the birthing process. She’s seen several women give birth and knows many doctors responsible for aiding them.
Based on that knowledge, though, she said she knew she wanted something a bit different from the traditional hospital birth. A friend at church told her about FamilyCare, and when she looked into it, she saw they’d be opening the Charleston facility just five minutes from her house, and right around her expected delivery date.
“It was kind of perfect, so I called and they let me come in and tour the facility and get to know the staff,” Walkup said.
The facility was homey, and the staff — comprised of four midwives and three doctors specializing in obstetrics and gynecology — were kind and personable, she said. That was exactly what Walkup was looking for.
She worked on a birthing plan with the midwives, who she said were completely supportive of anything she decided. When it was time for her to give birth, she showed up at FamilyCare and everything was already set up and ready in the birthing room.
“It was really quick for me. We showed up, then, after just 40 minutes of labor, I was holding my son,” Walkup said.
Jedidiah was born at 4:08 a.m., weighing 6 pounds, 9 ounces. Walkup said she wouldn’t hesitate to use FamilyCare’s birthing center for her next child; she’s even looking forward to it.
“The one thing I would change is getting there earlier, so I could spend more time in labor there, instead of at home,” Walkup said.
She encouraged women who might want to use FamilyCare’s facility to come in educated on their options for birth, with questions and a plan in mind.
Glover said that, if there are questions, people should contact the center and ask for a tour.
“We can show them around and give them some options for care, or things to think about whether they’re already pregnant, or maybe looking at family planning,” Glover said.
There is also the process, if a woman is pregnant, on ensuring that giving birth at FamilyCare would be the best and safest option for her and the baby.
“The reason I was able to have a birth-center birth was because I had a normal and healthy pregnancy, which is a requirement,” Walkup said. “If it is safer for her to deliver at the hospital, they’ll plan for that.”
Walkup said that, before delivery, a patient will meet with all the midwives, as well as an obstetrician, to review medical records and flag potential complications. If a hospital birth is the better option, the midwives will join at the hospital and ensure that whatever other parts of the birth plan that are possible will be followed.
“They’re like your advocates when you’re in labor,” Walkup said. “I had my husband there, and he was very good at communicating what I wanted, but I had them too, and that helped.”
FamilyCare opened its first facility in 1989, Glover said. After women gave birth there, employees would often hear them say they wished there were other services available so they could bring their children in and receive primary care. So, services expanded to exactly that.
Glover said the main mission for FamilyCare is to offer health services, including dental and behavioral services, to everyone.
“We want anyone to walk into one of our facilities and know they’ll get the help they need. We have tailored our model to serve low-income individuals, as well as anyone who wants to receive our care,” Glover said. “We will take all insurances, and will work with those with no insurance. That’s what I want people to understand: We are here for everyone, no matter the circumstances.”
Thursday’s ribbon cutting for the new FamilyCare facility will begin at 3:30 p.m. at 108 Washington St. W., Suite 201. There will be several speeches and a dedication service, followed by a small reception and public tours of the facility.