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As a labor and delivery nurse, Patty Kandiko attended women having babies in both small, and large hospitals, before landing a job at a birthing center – the best option for most women, she decided. So, she went back to school for additional education and training to become a certified nurse-midwife.

Kandiko founded Bloomin’ Babies Birth Center in Grand Junction in October 2013, giving women an alternative to a hospital or homebirth – a place where mothers give birth without drugs or other medical interventions while being attended by certified nurse-midwives experienced in natural childbirth. Since its opening, midwives at Bloomin’ Babies have delivered 177 babies – some families traveling from as far as New Castle, Parachute, Telluride, Carbondale, Paonia, Steamboat Springs, Naturita, and the Utah towns of Moab and Bullfrog.

Shandice Churchill has traveled from Rifle, twice, to give birth at Bloomin’ Babies, because she appreciates the “natural approach” to childbirth – where, instead of pain medication or anesthesia, the nurse-midwives use other time-tested methods for relieving the discomfort of uterine contractions – such as walking, changing positions, and slow, deep, breathing to promote relaxation.

“You develop a more personal relationship with the staff,” Churchill says. In part, that’s because Kandiko allows for an hour for each prenatal appointment, which helps establish a strong bond between mother and midwife – key to building trust that is so important during childbirth, she says. “It gives us an opportunity to really get to know our clients – and them, us,” Kandiko says. Clients meet with each of the three certified nurse midwives at different times during the course of their pregnancies. So, when the mother goes into labor, she’ll have a relationship with whoever is on call. Typically, prenatal appointments with an obstetrician last about 15 minutes, and if your obstetrician is not on call the day you go into labor you can end up with a physician you’ve never met before.

Churchill also liked the fact that she was free to invite whoever she wanted present during the birth. We’re a big family; we were allowed to bring as many people as we liked to the birth,” she says.

The American College of Nurse Midwives designated Bloomin’ Babies a “Triple Aim” Best Practice in 2017, for reaching goals set by the Institute for Health Improvement – the birth center is noted for its low rates of cesarean and preterm birth, high breastfeeding rates, and affordability of services. A birth center birth costs less than a hospital birth, and is covered by insurance, including Medicaid.

Bloomin’ Babies’ two designated birthing rooms are roomy, each with a queen-sized bed, a large birthing tub, a comfortable rocking chair, and a hammock hanging from the ceiling for the laboring mother to lean into if she wants, to maintain an upright supported squatting position.

And while drugs are not an option at the birthing center, nitrous oxide is available for relieving anxiety if needed. “It’s another tool in the toolkit to get women over the hump,” Kandiko says. The midwives are trained in neonatal resuscitation and CPR and can administer medications to stop postpartum hemorrhage.

“Giving birth naturally is something women are meant to do,” Kandiko says. “If you keep medical interventions out of the picture, you have more of a chance to have a normal vaginal delivery.” Bloomin’ Babies’ cesarean rate is low – 4.5 percent, compared to the national average of 30 percent; in some areas the cesarean rate is as high as 50 percent. “People forget that women have been having babies naturally forever,” Kandiko says.

Birth is unpredictable, however, and occasionally complications can arise. The midwives at Bloomin’ Babies received hospital privileges at St. Mary’s Hospital a year and a half ago, which means if a laboring mother needs to be transported, her midwife can continue to care for her – unless a cesarean is required, which only a physician can perform. “Even then, we stay and attend the C-section,” Kandiko says. While they could accompany their clients prior to being granted hospital privileges, they could not deliver the babies once the mother was transported.

“We’ve developed relationships with our clients,” so hospital privileges are important for continuity of care, Kandiko says. The birth center, located at 2241 N. 7th St., is a block and a half from St. Mary’s, and only minutes away from the hospital.

Low risk women, who do not have diabetes or hypertension, and who are willing to drink and eat healthily, and participate in their own care are eligible to give birth at Bloomin’ Babies. There’s an “education” room at the birth center, with a lending library and a huge bulletin board with various business cards and flyers with information regarding childbirth classes, doula services and other pregnancy- and parenting-related services.

Women often report how much they appreciate the care they receive at Bloomin’ Babies after the baby is born. A mother is discharged within four hours after she’s met certain health goals and breastfeeding has been established. Twenty-four hours later, after mother and child have settled back home, families receive a follow- up phone call. Mother and baby return to the birth center 48 hours after the delivery for a check-up, and again two weeks later. “It gives us a chance to see how a mom is doing emotionally, being a mom,” Kandiko says. A contraception discussion takes place at a six-week checkup.

Kandiko, a youthful 65, knows what it’s like to give birth – with three children of her own, plus seven grandkids. “I’ve always been fascinated with birth,” she says. “I’m a granny midwife.”

Kandiko is joined by certified nurse-midwives Jeana Smith and Karin Vandervelde, and husband Dick Kandiko who does bookkeeping for the business.