Birth center celebrates 25 years; midwives receive honors

BirthCare and Women’s Health’s marks 25th anniversary with big birthday bash

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia, November 9, 2012 – They came with baby slings and carriers, with toddlers and with teenagers. Clients of BirthCare and Women’s Health turned out en masse last Saturday to celebrate 25 years of the Alexandria, Virginia center’s service to women and families.

The first year after Certified Nurse-Midwives Alice Bailes and Marsha Jackson founded BirthCare in 1987, they attended 4-12 births per month. Having ushered some 4500 babies into the world at the freestanding birth center and in mothers’ homes since then, the collective of six midwives now attends upwards of 250 births per year. The center also provides well-woman care out of a t

At the celebration, held in a light-filled atrium at the U.S. Patent and Trade Organization, BirthCare and its founders were honored with the Strong Woman award from the DC affiliate of the American College of Nurse-Midwives and with the a Gold Commendation of the With Women, for a Lifetime “to celebrate over 20 years of innovative and compassionate midwifery care” from the American College of Nurse-Midwives.

Certified Nurse-Midwives and BirthCare founders Marsha Jackson and Alice Bailes and their families celebrate their award from the American College of Nurse-Midwives.

The BirthCare midwives also did some honoring of their own. They recognized the newest BirthCare baby in attendance (two weeks), the oldest BirthCare baby in attendance (25 years), and the mother who’d birthed the most babies with BirthCare midwives (eight).

Over 22 years ago, Lisa Wheeler of Springfield, Virginia discovered BirthCare after her doctor rejected her birth plan that specified she wanted a natural birth. Since then, she’s had eight children at home at the hands of BirthCare midwives.

New mother Shannon Pacheco had a similar story. She sought out alternatives for her first birth earlier this year after the Ob/Gyns she interviewed all said they would support her desire for a natural birth “up until” she needed intervention. When she countered that she really did want a natural birth, she heard, “We’ll see.” That led Pacheco to feel like BirthCare was the only option where there was “an appreciation that this is a natural experience.”

Just two weeks earlier, Amanda Lee of Alexandria welcomed her fourth child, Imogen, the third of her babies born at BirthCare and the youngest BirthCare baby at the celebration. “I loved the philosophy of women first, of caring for us inpidually with our best interest in mind.” Her husband, Garrett Lee, concurred. “We were never pushed,” he said echoing a theme expressed by many clients: they appreciated the midwives respect of their wishes. “We couldn’t be happier,” he said of their experiences.

Amanda Lee, smiling at center, is recognized for bringing the youngest baby to BirthCare’s anniversary celebration, two-week-old Imogen.

Bailes attributed the busyness of BirthCare’s practice in part to an increase interest in women being aware of their choices due to films like The Business of Being Born, which described the mainstream medical system and shed light on the increasing rate of cesarean births.  “A lot of women seek our services because that is a concern. They are having their first baby and want to decrease the chance of having a cesarean birth if it’s not necessary. We have a very low cesarean rate – 5-9%” compared to around 33% in the greater DC area, Bailes said.

“I wanted to have choices,” said Rajae Nami, mother of two. It wasn’t just a cesarean birth that Nami wanted to avoid; she didn’t want to feel pressured to follow hospital procedures or to end up with a medicated birth at all. She called BirthCare a “cozy environment,” the best option available to her since her insurance would not cover homebirth.

Jackson cited insurance as a continuing dilemma for the practice. “It’s always an issue to get reimbursement,” she said, adding that professional liability costs have risen dramatically. She cited these issues and the sometimes challenging lack of collaboration with other professionals as obstacles that make it difficult to keep going.

“One thing that would make it easier for us to practice would be collaboration between physicians, hospitals and the midwives in cases of necessary transfers. We all want the same outcome: healthy mothers and healthy babies. We need to work together.”

The many happy faces at BirthCare’s anniversary party indicate that there are a lot of families who are grateful for BirthCare’s persistence.

Jessica Claire Haney is a freelance writer, editor and tutor. Her writing has appeared in parenting publications and poetry journals. A former high school English teacher, Jessica is mother to a six-year-old son and a toddler girl. She is passionate about holistic health and well-being and is a leader of a chapter of Holistic Moms Network.

Jessica’s blog is Crunchy-Chewy Mama,, and her writer’s site is

“Like” Crunchy-Chewy Mama on Facebook, and follow Jessica on Twitter @crunchychewy

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Jessica Claire Haney


This holistic mom dreams of a day when all kids -- and adults -- eat foods with only recognizable ingredients. Paying attention is not an option for me; it's a necessity.

A few years ago, my body started breaking down and let me know I wasn’t like all those other Jessicas who were still in their twenties. I began making the rounds of alternative health practitioners and nutritionists to deal with stomach problems, thyroid problems, chronic grumpiness, and infertility, issues that my doctors weren't addressing with any success. With a lot of help and a bunch of lifestyle changes, I managed to work my way back to healthy and happy. And pregnant!

Now a full-on convert to natural family living and a mom to a three-year-old, I’m on a mission to share my insights -- and my persistent questions -- about nutrition and holistic health with other moms and with anyone else looking for something that will work and feel good when other stuff doesn’t. As a leader of a local chapter of Holistic Moms Network, I've tried to build a community that supports other parents in making healthy decisions for their families.

My writing has appeared in parenting publications and poetry journals. I blog about life on the alternative/mainstream divide at Crunchy-Chewy Mama, and I'm a contributor for DC Metro Moms.

Contact Jessica Claire Haney


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