25 years, 40,000 births: Mercy Health-Fairfield center passes milestone

The Family Birthing Center at Mercy Health – Fairfield Hospital has assisted the births of 40,000 since it opened 25 years ago. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
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The Family Birthing Center at Mercy Health – Fairfield Hospital has assisted the births of 40,000 since it opened 25 years ago. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The people born at Mercy Health-Fairfield Hospital’s Family Birthing Center in the past quarter century could fill the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium.

Michele Stokes started working at the birthing center as a young registered nurse with a few years’ experience a few weeks before it opened 25 years ago this month. When she thought about the fact 40,000 infants have been born there since, she said, “Isn’t that crazy?”

Stokes now is the hospital’s director of perioperative and women’s services.

The center delivered its first baby on July 16, 1996, to a mother who went into labor in the parking lot while waiting for the facility to open. Despite a search, the hospital was unable to find the names of that first family.

Stokes and at least six others who worked there at the beginning still do, she said. Before that, she had worked in intensive care for new infants and also labor and delivery.

“When I started there, I had only been a nurse for six years,” Stokes said. “I lived in Fairfield at the time, and so when I found out Mercy Fairfield was opening an OB (obstetrics) unit, I was like, ‘I’ve got to go do this. I’ve got to be a part of this. It’s my community. It’s literally almost in my backyard. How could I not want to work there?’”

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Stokes and her parents had received care at the hospital previously, and she had a good impression. She and others were hired about a month before the birthing center opened, ‘just getting to know each other,’ taking group classes, meeting all the doctors they would work with, deciding where all the medical supplies should be stored, and bonding as a team.

“Even to this day, it’s been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do that,” she said.

When the center opened, it had three nurses and two technicians staffing 15 labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum (LDRP) rooms, a level-one nursery, one operating room, and one triage room on a typical day. That team has grown to 10 nurses and as many as four techs who staff 12 LDRPs, 21 post-partum beds, two operating rooms, four triage rooms and a level-two special care nursery with nine beds each day. Total staff is more than 90.

“We recognize that every mom’s experience is unique, and we take time to get to know her and her desires for delivery and post-partum,” Stokes said. “We include the family as mom desires.”

Another thing the hospital does, like others in the region, is champion safe-sleep initiatives to reduce infant deaths. The hospital educates mothers in several languages on the topic.

One option provided by Atrium Medical Center in Middletown is water births, where the mother is submerged as the infant is delivered. A Cincinnati woman who gave birth to one of Butler County’s earliest 2021 deliveries traveled to Middletown because that was the closest hospital she could find for that alternative. She called it “more relaxing.”

ExploreCincinnati woman who gave birth to one of Butler County's first 2021 babies chose Atrium Medical Center for water births