Lorri Walker, owner and founder of South Coast Midwifery, Orange County's only birth center
For Lorri Walker
, this is all good news.
A self-described "childbirth junkie" who is the founder and director of Irvine-based South Coast Midwifery
has been "catching" babies since 1985, after personal experience with her
own children's births led her
to become interested in professionally pursuing alternative childbirth.
As a registered nurse and certified nurse-midwife (CNM), Walker's birth center is the only one in Orange County, and the third in California (one of 40 nationwide) to be accredited by The Commission for Accreditation of Birth Centers.
But while the American College of Obstetricians
and Gynecologists supports birth centers like South Coast Midwifery
, Walker disagrees with the group's stance that home births, a service utilized by more than half of her
mothers, are unsafe.
"Labor and birth is a normal function; in most cases, your body knows how to do it," she
None of this is news to Walker
As a board member of the American Association of Birth Centers, she is acutely aware of the hurdles women must overcome, both psychologically and culturally, when it comes to making choices about childbirth.
"Particularly in this country in the last century, all we knew was what we saw on TV," she
"[People] grabbed their bags and ran to the hospital.
We don't know what happened when they got there; all we know is that you run and then you go to the hospital and then you come back with a baby.
The implications in that portrayal, she
says, are twofold: "Either you went to the hospital and did it the 'normal' way or you imagined hippies living in a teepee burning incense and patting somebody's hand."
But nothing could be further than the truth.
Study after study has found that CNM-attended births among low-risk women dramatically improve the infant mortality rate, number of low birth weight babies and neo-natal mortality rate in both hospitals and birth centers when compared to physicians caring for equally low-risk women.
At birth centers like Walker's
, the staff is highly trained for every type of foreseeable complication, doing mock emergency scenarios monthly and preparing for each birth as if it were high-risk (though the center only accepts low-risk women).
But the increased acceptance of c-sections is also part of our cultural conditioning, says Walker
"We're used to somebody else fixing our body, being told things like, 'Your baby is too big, you should just have surgery,'" she
, too, childbirth is more than a physiological process; it has the potential to be a life-changing experience that can empower women and lead to an increased responsibility for our bodies and our children.
"If a woman is low-risk, I think she
ought to have the option to do whatever she
wants, whether it's walk around or eat or sit in a tub of warm water or have her
loved ones with her
- to not feel afraid," she
To that end, South Coast Midwifery
offers a variety of services designed to allow the family the opportunity to "customize" their childbirth with options like aromatherapy, soothing music and hot tubs.
"We're kind of like the wedding coordinator for the birth experience," says Walker
, joking about the à la carte menu of birth options.
One of her
greatest pleasures, she
says, is involving the father in the birth, sometimes allowing him to "catch" his
own baby if things are progressing normally.