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A new community birth center opens in Springfield

To celebrate the opening of the new Community Birth Center in Springfield, participants held a cord-cutting, instead of a ribbon-cutting.
Tiffany Eckert
To celebrate the opening of the new Community Birth Center in Springfield, participants held a cord-cutting, instead of a ribbon-cutting.

A torrential downpour in Springfield Sunday didn’t stop nurse midwives, expectant parents and community supporters from gathering to celebrate the grand opening of a new, free-standing Birth Center.

Scores of people stood outside under pop-up tents -- waiting for tours of the new birth center space. A gust of wind blew the rain in-- prompting a pun from Eugene family physician, Tom Ewing.

“The water has broken!” he said, as laughter broke out in the crowd.

Instead of the traditional ribbon cutting, this event kicked off by cutting the cord.

Executive Director and Certified Nurse Midwife AlexAnn Westlake and many others have labored for two years to start Our Community Birth Center.

“And now it’s finally time and we’re opening,” she said, as cheers and clapping erupted.

The new birth center is located in a remodeled clinic space on B Street in Springfield, near Island Park along the Willamette River. It’s intentionally homey with a central kitchen and two birthing rooms with big wooden beds saved from the former birth center. On the tour, Westlake described features of the primary birthing room.

“We have a large tub. We do have people who want to labor in the tub as well as give birth in the tub,” Westlake said. “And this room does have its own private bathroom as well.”

Abby Rotholx just found out she’s pregnant. She and her partner Sheen Hua are glad to have this kind of birthing option. “It all sounded very welcoming and non-clinical and so I thought I would sign up to be part of it,” she said.

Randy Lewis is here to celebrate the opening. He’s a recently retired obstetrician who has supported the work of midwives for 40 years.

“I learned a lot from midwives even in my residency with midwives at my side,” he said, “and taking care of patients and the value of hands on and comforting and non-traditional approaches to obstetrical care.”

Two years ago, PeaceHealth closed its Nurse Midwifery Birth Center, leaving a dearth of birthing options in the Willamette Valley.

Nurse midwife Chris Heritage delivered her baby in a birth center in Eugene, 35 years ago. She now serves as vice president on the board of the new birth center.

“It’s so exciting to be at this moment, in this place, ready to start again,” said Heritage.

Our Community Birth Center staff have begun scheduling initial prenatal visits and they’re on track to start attending births in January.

Copyright 2021 KLCC.

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and worked in a variety of media including television, technical writing, photography and daily print news before moving to the Pacific Northwest.