When Kaye Kanne had her first child in a hospital 28 years ago, she was unable to see her son until four hours after his birth. When she was pregnant with her second child, she wanted a more personal approach, so she sought a midwife's help and had her baby at home.
"I wasn't separated from my baby for a moment," said Kanne, 48. "I didn't use any medication. It was very empowering."
Kanne felt so positive about her experience that she eventually became a midwife.
Kanne worked as a midwife in Juneau for 20 years and assisted in 20 to 25 births a year until she established the nonprofit Juneau Family Birth Center in 1998. The center's three midwives assist in about 80 births a year - 20 percent of Juneau's births. Through its childbirth and pregnancy classes, the center serves about 120 families a year.
"A lot of people think most of our clients are hippies. That is just a small percentage of our clientele," Kanne said. "We have clients who are doctors and lawyers and people working at Fred Meyer."
Now the facility is ready for expansion to meet its growing needs.
The birth center, now at 3,600 square feet, is striving to raise $2.7 million to erect a building near Salmon Creek. The new facility, which will be about 8,600 square feet, will have three birth rooms, a library, a family room, an exercise room and a classroom.
According to Kanne, the center has raised $236,000 from the city, the state and individuals. It is now at the final stage of raising funds locally before applying for grants from foundations.
"The birth center is for all pregnant women in Juneau," Kanne said. "You don't need to have your baby at the birth center to come to our pregnancy and childbirth classes. We have free information available for all pregnant women who want to know about nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices during pregnancy."
Like the old facility, the new center will function as a birth center and a school for midwives and doulas.
A doula is a woman who provides support and education to a pregnant woman throughout and after her pregnancy. She meets with her client at least monthly until the client is 40 weeks pregnant, and then meets with her weekly after that. A doula also accompanies a woman in labor and stays with her for hours after birth until the woman feels comfortable.
The birth center has three midwives, two doulas and a pregnancy massage therapist. Kanne plans to add a pediatrician, a counselor and some social workers.
Giving birth at the center, including all the prenatal and postpartum care, costs $5,000 while a hospital birth costs at least $10,000, Kanne said.
"Some of our clients come to us because it is cheaper. But I want to win them with our philosophy," Kanne said. "We believe that pregnancy and births are normal life processes for which a woman's body is well designed."
Christine Bryson, 31, had her first two babies at home with a midwife's assistance. The second child was born in Juneau with help from the Juneau Family Birth Center. She will deliver her third baby in September at home with help of a midwife from the birth center.
"It's nice to be at home," Bryson said. "I don't have to get up and go. I can move around and do things at my own pace."
Jasmine James, 21, is expecting her first child on Aug. 22. She will have her baby at the birth center.
"My mom had me at a birth center," James said. "The midwives are very helpful. I feel I can talk to them."
I-Chun Che can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.