Madison Hunter

In November 2011, the Santa Barbara Birth Center opened its doors. Five years later, its 250th baby is due mid-February. The expectant mother, Madison Hunter, explains her first birthing experience at the center and why she’s returning to have baby number two.

When my husband and I first found out that I was pregnant, we went about making appointments with an obstetrician, pre-registering at Cottage Hospital, taking Lamaze classes, and so on. But 29 weeks into the pregnancy, we started considered the idea of having the baby at the Santa Barbara Birth Center. I’d always expressed a desire to have a natural birth, and it seemed like the Birth Center would be the best place to facilitate that.

Upon transitioning to the center, the first thing that stood out was the length of the appointments. Unlike the average OB appointment, which was less than 10 minutes, the midwives took their time. Best of all, they listened. Each appointment didn’t necessarily center around just the baby. They were just as much about me. My relationship really grew with each of the midwives so that I felt incredibly comfortable, safe, and looked-after as I went into my first birth.

When I went into labor, I phoned the midwife on call. She told me to stick around my home and work through the early stages of labor there. In most “traditional” circumstances, we would have frantically made our way to the hospital the minute my water broke. But the Birth Center encouraged us to calmly embrace this experience in the comfort of my own home. As the contractions grew closer together, the midwives helped me to know it was time to make my way to the Birth Center, where I labored for an additional 15 hours.  

The facility was clean and calm, everyone was so attentive, and there were a number of different welcoming amenities to maximize our comfort, from the bed to the hot tub to the standing shower that never got cold! I made my way around the room trying out each birthing option, when I finally settled on the bed — and we welcomed our newborn into the world.

Given the length of my labor and my desire to have a natural birth, I could not be more thankful to have had that experience in a place that was so welcoming and safe, and where the relationships were so deep. The midwives helped me work through my most difficult moments calmly while keeping me very much in the moment.  

I’m now pregnant with my second child, due February 14, and have chosen to be part of the Birth Center experience once again. There, I know that I’m surrounded by women with decades of collective experience who share the same desire for a natural birth that I do. I’m anxiously looking forward to meeting the newest member of our family in the most empathetic environment I know.

The S.B. Birth Center (2985 State St.) will host a 5K Run/Walk & Wellness Fair on Saturday, May 6, at Leadbetter Beach. Call 770-3700 or see


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