Columbia Birth Center pulled up roots this spring.
The hospital and home birth alternative for those seeking more holistic health care services moved to an updated and more spacious location in Richland next door to the Kadlec Regional Medical Center campus.
The birth center’s new home at 948 Stevens Drive was formerly occupied by Washington Urology.
The building was completely gutted and rebuilt over two years by CI Construction & Consulting of Kennewick to feature three birthing rooms, support facilities, exam rooms, a living room-like reception area and dedicated teaching space where the center will be able to hold child birth education classes, continuing education for midwives and more.
The reimagined spaced was designed by Scott Schell of DraftCo Designs of Kennewick.
Previously located at 424 S. Washington St. in Kennewick, Columbia Birth Center opened its doors in 1998. It moved in April.
A new joining of forces made the move possible – Cynthia Flynn, certified nurse midwife, advanced registered nurse practitioner; Lisa Garcia, certified nurse midwife, advanced registered nurse practitioner; Angela Reynolds, certified nurse midwife; Gloria Garcia, birth assistant; Jennifer Garcia, administrative director; and Kristin Eggleston, licensed midwife.
“After Covid … I decided I was going to do whatever I had to do to make it happen … The community needs it. I feel women are entitled to a choice,” Flynn said.
Flynn originally came to Tri-Cities in 1996 with experience attending births in both hospital and home settings.
After sharing an office with another midwife, Flynn struck off on her own to establish Columbia Birth Center’s original location, which featured two small birth rooms, a lobby and a fence featuring 167 hearts commemorating each baby born there, decorated by their dads.
Flynn headed the center for eight years before moving on to work all over the country as a midwife.
“Then I supposedly retired. But I failed at retirement.”
She decided to return to Tri-Cities.
She began holding an annual dinner with an open invitation to all midwives working in Eastern Washington, along with their students and assistants.
“Every year I would ask who was going to do the birth center,” she recalled.
Flynn described home birth as the gold standard. However, she chased it with the caveat that it’s inefficient and, speaking from experience, hard on the midwives who spend a lot of their time traveling between clients.
Compared to Spokane and other population centers, there are few midwives serving the Tri-City region and surrounding communities and even fewer home birth midwives among those.
Flynn also pointed out that most people don’t have rooms in their homes like a birth center does – rooms specifically designed with birthing in mind.
Columbia Birth Center offers expectant parents their choice of three rooms: the River Suite, the largest, which is bright and features pops of warm color; the Mountain Suite, a smaller, cozier room in darker tones; and the Bridge Suite, located at the end of the hall, offering an overall feel somewhere in between the other two.
Each room features a real bed with regular bedding, a jacuzzi tub, bathroom and homey furniture and amenities where friends and family can take up vigil.
Clients attend all their well-woman visits, prenatal appointments and birth at the center and all aspects of delivery and postpartum care occur within the chosen birth room – the baby never leaves.
Most clients are able to go home within just a few hours of delivering their baby. Postpartum care up to six weeks, including two weeks of postnatal care for the baby, are performed at the client’s home.
In the event of complications requiring hospitalization, Columbia Birth Center has a cooperative relationship with the staff at neighboring Kadlec to receive patients.
The difference between giving birth in a birth center versus a hospital is it’s “a place where birth is celebrated as a major life transition rather than a medical event,” Flynn said. “You don’t have to fight for natural.”
After 167 deliveries, Flynn and her team boast a 98% vaginal birth rate, with 2% transferred during labor and delivered by Caesarean section.
Options during labor include massage, counter pressure, hydrotherapy, personal music selection, freedom to move and change positions, birthing balls, hot and cold therapy, time outside, nutrition as desired, nitrous oxide, one’s own choice of clothing and support for one’s cultural customs.
Columbia Birth Center’s labor and delivery practices are free from routine or unnecessary procedures common in hospitals that not everyone needs and can carry some risks for healthy women.
“It’s a whole model of care that’s about prevention,” Flynn said. “We want people to have a healthy pregnancy and be able to birth the way they want to birth.”
Two past clients, Lili Blanco who gave birth to her third child, and Erin Zeleny who transferred to Columbia Birth Center at 26 weeks with her first child, shared the sentiment that they wanted more control over their birthing experience.
“I really value informed consent,” Zeleny said.
Blanco, after having two children in the hospital setting, said there was a lot she still didn’t know about her body and felt she hadn’t been given a lot of choices in her care.
In contrast, at Columbia Birth Center, “Every single appointment I learned something new about my body, the baby and everything. I felt empowered to know I can give birth on my own,” she said.
Longer prenatal appointments and an eagerness to share information and answer questions helped Zeleny feel comfortable and build trust in her care team.
“If anything came up, I had the confidence that they would have my best interest in mind,” she said. “It took all the fear out for me; I just felt so comfortable and empowered.”
Both women also cited Columbia Birth Center’s being contracted with most major medical insurance providers as a decisive factor in opting for an alternative to conventional care.
Zeleny was impressed by the team’s commitment to its clients. At 12:30 a.m. the first night, while at home with her baby, she was experiencing difficulties getting a good breastfeeding latch.
“They said, ‘Call no matter what time it is.’ So, I did. I texted Cynthia and she came over and got into the bed with me and helped me get a good latch with my baby and she stayed with me to make sure everything got off to a good start,” she said. “Truly everything they value and care about they will actually do.”
For the Columbia Birth Center team, the move has been the culmination of dreams, determination and a lot of hard work.
“We have a lot of very fond memories of the old birth center. We actually have two clients currently in care who I delivered and who are now pregnant,” Flynn said.
It seems all that’s left is to figure out where to hang up all the new hearts.
Columbia Birth Center: 948 Stevens Drive, Suite C, Richland; 509-905-9000, columbiabirthcenter.com. Hours: 9 a.m.-noon, 1-5 p.m. Monday-Friday; closed Saturdays and S
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