I am very excited to bring you another Birth Center Project feature. To learn about my project, click here.
I first visited GraceFull earlier this year; Z Nugg and I attended an Empowered Birth Project infant massage and postpartum yoga class here. I was so excited to attend the class because I would be visiting a new-to-me birth center, and if you know me, you know birth centers are to me like a brand new dog bed is to a dog, I just want to roll around in them and make them mine. Honestly, they give me baby fever! ::insert covered mouth emoji here:: To my surprise (and bit of disappointment), the class was held in the upstairs GraceFull classroom, so I wasn’t able to tour the birth center. However, my future had other things planned because I attended another class at GraceFull a few months later—The Fifth Vital Sign class—which was in the classroom too, so no birth center tour then either. My curiosity just continued growing. Lucky for me, I have this birth center project.
I’m pretty sure that Josh and I are done having children, so I won’t be utilizing a birth center to labor and birth in again, but I’m happy I can still enjoy them through this project of mine. I am even happier that I can capture the relaxing, warm, comfortable spaces of birth centers and share them with you. I am blessed to have the ability to portray a center’s atmosphere through my eyes and present it to you, along with my interviews with their midwives.
Visiting GraceFull was such a treat. Elizabeth Bachner—head midwife, creator, and owner of GraceFull—is such a bright light emitting positive energy and love for what she does.
Thank you Elizabeth for opening your space and your heart to me and to the world.
LNBN #1: Are you a state certified birth center?
Elizabeth: No, we’re not. We are CABC. We are an accredited birthing center.
LNBN #2: How long has your birth center been in practice?
Elizabeth: Four years.
LNBN #3: What is your birth center’s fee and what services does it include?
Elizabeth: We’re the only birth center that I know of in the Los Angeles area that actually works with insurance. We don’t take insurance, we work with it. You’re going to be paying your out-of-pocket cost including your deductible, then we’re going to bill your insurance on the back end. Everyone is out-of-network, but the difference is, instead of you paying all the cash out-of-pocket and then having the midwife bill the insurance, or you trying to get money back on your own, you just pay your out-of-pocket cost and we deal with the hassle and the nightmare of your insurance.
The cash out-of-pocket cost to birth at Gracefull—in the birth center—is $7,000. This includes prenatal care, the midwife at the birth, the assistant, the postpartum visits—four postpartum visits including one 24 hours in your home. What we also include is Infant Care 101, Breastfeeding Basics, and a class called “How to build a strong birth team.” Every once in a while we’ll get people offering classes here and we’ll offer them free to Gracefull clients. For example, we’re going to offer a class on what to do with your pets, and it’s going to be free for Gracefull families and $25 for the community.
LNBN #4: What community does your birth center service?
Elizabeth: We service all of Los Angeles, so we’ve got Silver Lake, Eagle Rock, Highland Park. We’re getting families from Pasadena, Burbank, and Glendale. We have an office in Woodland Hills—Jennifer, one of our midwives, has an office out there—so we service a lot of people from there who either want to do home birth or birth at the birth center. Venice, Los Feliz…if we’re the right place for them, people will come from all over.
LNBN #5: Where is the closest hospital?
Elizabeth: We have the best hospital for infants 1.6 miles away, Children’s Hospital. It’s ten minutes away door to door. We have Hollywood Presbyterian 1.4 miles away. Kaiser is 1.6, and Good Samaritan is 2.6 miles away.
LNBN #6: Do you offer childbirth classes onsite or are there classes you recommend?
Elizabeth: We want people to develop their own community and be in the right place. I teach a class with JJ Brake which everybody loves because we talk about the mental and emotional part, how to not have expectations, and how to get your head around trusting the process.
LNBN #7: Other than English, are there any other languages that the services are provided in?
Elizabeth: No because we don’t have anything other than English speakers. If we could find a Spanish speaker or a French speaker, we’d be totally for that.
LNBN #8: Does your birth center provide well-woman services?
Elizabeth: Yes, it does. We also do IUI, intrauterine insemination, and ICI, intracervical insemination.
LNBN #9: What type of providers administer care at your birth center?
Elizabeth: We only have licensed midwives. We all have medical board licenses.
LNBN #10: Do you work with student-midwives?
LNBN #11: Can you give me a short back story on your birth center? What inspired it?
Elizabeth: Midwifery came to me through dreams, and that’s how I became a midwife. I was always just wanting to create something for the community; a way for myself to create a business and bring this unique way that I see birth—this unique brand—and ground it down so this baby could have a home. I let it grow from there. That is why I created GraceFull. It’s coming from a deep place within. This is my spiritual journey. This is not just a company. This is not just a business. This is not just a job. This is actually my spiritual journey, and it’s in the form of my home which I open up to other people. Some days are good and some days are bad, just like life. Just like the way you raise your children.
LNBN #12: What is the birth center’s philosophy of care/mission statement?
Elizabeth: Our philosophy of care is to look at everybody as an individual, to offer informed consent, and to help families become present with what is going on. To bring awareness. To help the families understand that this is a journey that we’re on, to trust that journey. To not just help families birth babies, but to help them parent and help them see that. This is not just birthing a baby, you’re parenting. To start getting parents to put on their parent hat and ask those questions as an adult—and as the mother of the child or the father of the child—that’s what I’m passionate about!
LNBN #13: Is there anything you’d like to add about your birth center? Is there anything that sets you aside from other birth centers?
Elizabeth: I learn from experience and all the mothers that have come before me have taught me and helped me build GraceFull. This is where GraceFull as a birth center is very different. All the walls have been written on with words and prayers and intentions. This is not something I read in a book. This is something that came through me from spirit. The tiles have been written on, all of them. We had ceremony after ceremony and invited the community. Everything was written on. People would send in words and I’d write them, so it’s filled with intention, both upstairs and downstairs. Then, we painted on everything. Then, we brought in the anthropology/home/bohemian/creative vibe that you’re going to see here.
Another thing about our birthing center is it was created to help the mother-child relationship transition from inside the womb to outside into the world. This was not created as an alternative to a hospital. This is if you want to be in an intentionally built place. GraceFull is not just to “have a natural birth,” “have an unmedicated birth.” No. This is about family. It’s created from “How do we support the mother-child relationship transitioning from inside to outside?” To support that, you’ll notice our beds were not just chosen because aesthetically I like them; they were chosen because a mom can hold onto it and she can come down into a squat. This is not just, “Oh it looks good.” The swings are not just, “Oh we put a swing in the room because you should have a swing.” There’s two hooks in two different places so we can extend it to the tub. Mom can sit on the ball, she can go high, she can go low, she can use it in so many different ways. We don’t just have one birth ball, we’ve got three birth balls to accommodate mom’s size. We’ve got three birth chairs—one that goes in the water—to accommodate the hips to open in different ways. It’s really about the support, I think, that makes us different. How we’re created. This is intentionally created not just built, and it’s aesthetically very pleasing. We continue the support by offering the free classes.
We also have pain relief. For pain relief we have chemical-free drinking water for water birth (aquadural), nitrous oxide, and we have a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit here. All of our midwives have been trained in how to use a rebozo, which I think is really important. We have crystals in the room for those that speak the language of crystals. Each room’s got a pink quartz which opens up the heart. If you believe in that, you believe it; otherwise, you’re looking at it like a beautiful decorative space.
We’re also all for people bringing their families, but we do view this as a sacred place. We like to go slow postpartum. We don’t rush. We do it integrated. We’re setting up the nervous pathways for the babies when they’re born; it’s called biodynamic childbirth. If you want your family to come, you have that choice, we’re not discouraging it, but why not have them wait at the house, and why not have this as your sacred place to bond—to get used to the fact that two people became three or three became four—and then go home to the whole family? I think that’s a different way of approaching it. I think that’s what makes us different. We really honor the sacred space and what works for the family.
Other things that makes GraceFull really different from any other birth center that I know of is we’re environmentally-friendly. We as midwives are helping the future. I don’t just want to help the future of children and families, I want to help the future of the planet, so it’s chemical-free drinking water that the children are born into. The mattresses are from a local and sustainable mom and pop company. The sheets are sustainable eucalyptus to wipe away sweat. Almost everything in here is upcycled, recycled, and respectful to our environment. At the same time, we’re being hospital standards, so the floor is marmoleum—it’s antibacterial, but environmentally-friendly. We clean with a green cleaner, so there is no toxic cleaner we’re using here that your baby can have in its first moments of life. We really practice what we preach to the best of our ability.
One other thing that’s really important. You notice there are no windows here? That’s actually on purpose. You know about the hormones in the body right?
LNBN: Yes, I do.
Elizabeth: What do you know about the hormones in the body for them to get to work for birth?
LNBN: They need darkness.
Elizabeth: Cave-like. One door in. One door out. Have you met a woman yet who wants to look outside the window when she’s in labor (for an unmedicated birth)?
LNBN: No. At least, I know for sure that I didn’t care to look outside when I was in labor.
Elizabeth: If you have a window, there could be this place of, “Oh my gawd. Could somebody see in?” so there’s no windows in here on purpose. I chose a cave to support the physiology. Everything here is literally to support.
LNBN #14: What is your favorite area of the birth center and why?
Elizabeth: My favorite area of the birth center is the reception area. I love hanging out in the front, on the couch, seeing who comes in, and meeting new people. I get a lot of work done on the couch. I love the couch. I love the black and white photos with Ina May. I like the reception area because that’s where all the midwives and my office staff hangs, and I like the people I work with. There is so much that happens there.
Thank you Elizabeth!
Now, let me walk you through the birth center Big Nugget style…
Thank you so much for visiting with me! I hope you enjoyed and learned something new. If you have any comments, questions, or thoughts, I encourage you to share them with me.
Cheers to GraceFull!