Alma Midwifery History
In January 2005 the first cry of a newborn was heard at Alma Birth Center, and this old house on Ankeny Street has been the landing place for over a thousand newborns since. The creative spark came from longtime midwife Laura Erickson, who brought her experience from a fourteen-year rural homebirth practice, combined with her work as the director of the birth center formerly housed within Birthingway College of Midwifery.
First, we needed to find the best site for Alma. The day we found this big Victorian Era house on Ankeny Street was a joyful one! It is smack in the middle of Portland, making it accessible to women from all over the Portland/Vancouver metro areas.
Once all the financial support, zoning, permitting, pre-licensure hoops were jumped through, it was all hammers and nails. Lucky for Alma, the owner’s partner Todd is a skilled carpenter. Family and friends gathered to make work parties. The landlord, Richard Harrison immediately saw our vision and worked along side us much of the time. Gifts of hidden hardwood floors, interesting tile and coved ceilings above the funky faux ceilings, made the grueling metamorphosis sweeter.
With all the regional art, scrumptious color, fabric, furniture and design; an inviting comfortable calm began to take residence in each room. Using her understanding of how to best support women in labor and of the needs of newborns in their tender first moments, each room was supplied with it’s own birth tub and soft lighting.
Our attention was turned to staffing. Aristotle said, “A midwife ought to have a lady’s hand, the eye of a hawk and a lion’s heart”. How could we find such mythological creatures? Shiny new Alma drew in and continues to draw, talented Certified Professional Midwives and Certified Nurse Midwives who share Alma’s vision. Besides all the midwives, Alma employs twenty plus other individuals to care for our clients, from behind the scenes, like cleaning, maintenance, bookkeeping, billing etc. Yay for job creation! We are now a community of people dedicated to caring for Moms and Babies.
Like salmon returning, often women who birthed in our center for one child return for others. They told their friends and sisters. This is how we grew. Our roster has continued to fill with women each month who wish to birth in an environment specifically designed to allow the birth hormones to flow; uninterrupted by superfluous intervention. The rooms each have their own stories of women’s courage, strength and the great lessons that birth has to teach.
When the naturopathic clinic next door moved to the Pearl, we were able to house our clinic there and make more room for birth in the center. The clinic is belly to belly most days. Newborns are seen at our clinic for the first weeks. The pregnant mothers observe the newborns interact with their parents in the clinic…making their desire for their own baby sharper. Alma is stocked with all the supplies (ultrasound machine, laboratory equipment and baby heart beat monitors) needed to provide complete prenatal and newborn care. All the care is given in inviting rooms deliberately decorated to create ease.
Our last acquisition is across the street from the new Revolution Hall. The Alma Education and Movement Space is dedicated to education in the childbearing year, and is located within a few blocks of Alma proper. This space is open to all clients regardless of if they give birth at Alma or elsewhere. On any given day you may find childbirth education, yoga and movement, baby sign language, vaccine education classes, natural parenting groups, and so much more.