An area hospital is celebrating 20 years of helping mothers deliver tens of thousands of babies in a safe, comfortable, caring environment.
Mercy Health–Fairfield Hospital’s Family Birthing Center completed an 18-month, $6 million renovation in 2015 — its fourth or fifth round of renovations and one that transformed its Level II special care nursery from one large, communal room to eight private, single-patient rooms. The environment within each room is designed to promote a quiet, healthy environment for babies born earlier than expected or who need specialized care and each features its own state-of-the-art health monitoring system.
“Everything can be monitored from a central nurses station and we’ve got different security measures set up so we can take care of all issues,” said Jennifer Lipke, manager of the birthing center.
Near the renovated labor-and-delivery birthing suites are two operating rooms in case a surgical procedure, such as a Cesarean section, is required. There’s also a support persons lounge for family or friends supporting a mother during delivery.
The center has been a Baby-Friendly facility since 2003, making it one of only three or four in Ohio and the only one in Butler County with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO) designation that it promotes and supports mothers who are nursing their babies.
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“There’s a higher degree of education, there’s a higher level of support that is expected,” said Michele Stokes, clinical director of women’s and perioperative services. “It’s a fairly rigorous process that we have to go through to demonstrate that we are meeting their expectations for what that means. Certainly, if a mom wants to bottlefeed, we absolutely have what she needs and we will support her choice but we want them to know that breast is best.”
Having separate postpartum suites in the center allows for greater turnover in the birthing suites as well as an more inviting, less clinical-looking area for post-delivery care of both a mother and her newborn.
“They can just settle in and make themselves at home,” Stokes said.
The center filled a need in the area when it open in 1996. Prior to that, area moms had to travel to either Fort Hamilton Hospital in Hamilton, McCullough-Hyde Hospital in Oxford, Bethesda North in Montgomery or other hospitals in the Cincinnati or Dayton area, Stokes said.
“There was no place else out in this area that was doing deliveries,” she said. “It was really designed to give OB care to patients in that southern Butler County and northern Hamilton County area close to home.”
The birthing center averages between 1,600 and 1,800 births a year.
Classes to help families prepare for their new bundle of joy include childbirth education, baby basics, breastfeeding basics, infant CPR and safety and sibling classes for big brothers and sisters.
Area mothers told the Journal-News that what makes the center a success is not just it being a well-designed facility with the latest in amenities and technology, but even more so, its employees.
Jason and Amanda Webber, of Maineville, welcomed daughter Addyson a month early on Aug. 31, six years after Amanda delivered their son, Andrew, at the hospital.
Amanda Webber said her experience both times has been “phenomenal.”
“The nurses and the staff, you couldn’t ask for a better group of people taking care of you,” Webber said. “They know my son’s name, they know my husband’s name, my name. Her they ask (about as we’re) walking through the hallways upstairs back to our room. These people take care of these kids like they’re their own.
“Fairfield, it’s not the closest hospital, but it’s the one we trust.”
“I don’t know what we would have done without them,” Jason Webber said. “If there’s one nurse in one room and they hear a monitor go off, they’re communicating back and forth and just everywhere at all times if something’s going on.”
D.J. Culpepper and Mary Wilson welcomed son Dominic Culpepper on Aug. 28 at the birthing center seven weeks premature and Wilson said “the doctors, the nurses, have all been incredible.”
“They treat us like their own family,” she said, tears welling up in her eyes. “I can’t say enough good things about the doctors and nurses here. The facility is amazing.”
Nurses, Wilson said, have taken the time to talk to her personally, as well as explain everything they were doing with baby Dominic.
“They’ve explained things I would never be able to understand,” she said. “They’ve just taken a lot of time … going above and beyond what their job is.
“We’ve been here a long time and they’ve made us feel very comfortable in the room and the postpartum ward, as well.”
Kevin and Cheryl Snell, of West Chester Twp., who welcomed second child, Lucy, on Tuesday at the hospital after a positive experience when their oldest daughter, Peyton, was born at the hospital’s birthing center three years ago.
“They’ve been very supportive of breastfeeding and helping with that and just, in general, I feel like they’re checking on me often and making sure I’m physically comfortable to be sure I’m able to take care of my baby,” Cheryl Snell said.
Debbie Shields, of West Chester, a registered nurse who has worked at the birthing center since its inception, said she loves that the birthing center’s managers and staff work together and do what is necessary to help one another without any sense of superiority.
“I just really feel that family-centered care for patients and also for the staff working here and that’s not changed,” Shields said. “We truly do try to put that family-first and do what we can to make it the greatest experience.”