Austin Area Birthing Center Celebrates 28 Years and 7,200+ babies
Austin Area Birthing Center has been providing safe, compassionate care to expectant mothers and their babies for 30 years. Our business has grown leaps and bounds since it first opened in the spring of 1987 and in October 2014, we caught our 7,000th baby.
“Since our first year, it’s unbelievable what strides we have made with our facilities and our clientele,” says Jean Stokes, owner and founder of Austin ABC. Jean was born in San Marcos and has lived in Austin since middle school. “We started out being a one-woman operation. I was the midwife, there was one front office person – my cousin who took phone calls – and I had one student midwife. We now have an outstanding team that includes 15 midwives, midwife assistants, a masters level health care administrator, three office assistants, a front office manager, two medical assistants, instructors and doulas, all working together in our three beautiful facilities. AABC is the largest Texas employer of midwives with master’s degrees. We also have a Postpartum Team that consists of a Lactation Consultant, Licensed Midwife, and Registered Nurse, who assist with lactation coaching.”
Our practice boasts a low rate of transport to the hospital in labor. Only around fifteen percent of mothers have to be delivered outside the birthing center.
The birthing center started with founder Jean Stokes’ idea to begin her own business after having a career as a registered obstetrical nurse in Austin. She had become what she calls a “nurse friend” to many existing midwives back in the ’70s after she graduated from UT School of Nursing and worked in Labor and Delivery at Brackenridge Hospital. She found the entire practice of midwifery to be fascinating, so she acquired her midwife certification and then began her career by driving to clients’ homes for their deliveries.
That small operation grew into a thriving business. She was so busy that at times she was attending several births consecutively and driving to all corners of Austin to deliver. “One time I had to attend four births back to back; I had to drive to South Austin, to the Lakeway area, then all the way to Round Rock and back into Central Austin again in a matter of a few hours to deliver four babies all in a row. It was crazy! I knew I had to make some decisions right away, and having a single location for my clients to come to seemed to be a great solution,” Stokes says.
The first location she opened in 1987 was known as the Austin Birthing Center on Shoal Creek and Steck Ave. When she outgrew that facility and needed to expand, she rented space for 15 years at Cima Serena and Mopac. But in 2005, Austin ABC’s dream came true when they were able to move to a location that had been built and designed from scratch.
“We found this North Austin location and worked with an architect and a designer to really create the right kind of rooms for our business. We have plumbing in every room, deep birthing tubs and lots of space. We’ve kept each room warm and inviting for labor and delivery.”
The Duval Rd. And Mopac facility was opened in July of 2005, and since moving there eight years ago, business has been booming. Stokes is still excited about her role in the world of midwifery, and after nearly 33 years she is thrilled that a growing number of people are now taking midwives seriously and are much more positive about it. “From dignitaries to dreadlocks, we have worked with many different and unique people at Austin ABC,” says Stokes.
The most exciting part of her business, she explains, is “getting to know the people – knowing what really makes them tick and seeing what we can do to guide them emotionally, and spiritually through pregnancy and then the birth of their baby. It’s truly amazing.” Thousands of Austinites have put their trust in Austin ABC and one of the most special moments in Stokes’ midwife career happened a few years ago.
“I had the honor to sign up a young lady with Austin ABC who was 18 years old, and I realized I had delivered her! Her mother had been my client at the center. I couldn’t believe it! It was such a great feeling that she returned to me to deliver her grandchild in a delicate situation that involved her daughter having an unplanned pregnancy. She totally trusted me and my team. It was a compliment to the work I have spent my entire lifetime career doing.” Since that day, Stokes has seen many of her “babies” return to the birth center to have babies of their own.
“The gift of motherhood is magical, and it’s the mothers who make it happen. The power of women is phenomenal and I am so proud to be a part of it everyday,” Stokes says.
As her practice grew, Stokes felt the need to add a second facility to better serve clients living in central and south Austin and points beyond. In late 2009, the developer of the Duval Road location approached her about buying space in his new Class A, medical-zoned Stonegate II complex in south Austin. The whole Austin ABC team was excited to learn that this project met all their needs and was in a fantastic south-central location easily accessed from IH-35, Lamar, Loop 360 and Mopac.
Austin ABC opened its second location at 2500 W. William Cannon, Suite 503 (between Manchaca and Westgate) on Labor Day 2010. The new 4,300 square foot facility doubled the company’s birthing room capacity to six by adding three large water birth suites, each decorated in a distinctive South Austin vibe. Austin ABC South also has two exam rooms, a comfortable family waiting area with full kitchen, and an on-site lab.
Stokes says, “We’re in the middle of the fastest-growing part of Austin and we can see that growth by how many South and Central Austin women choose Austin ABC to provide safe, natural care throughout their pregnancy. Opening this new center put us closer to these clients and enhances their experience with us.”
She added, “We wanted to celebrate South Austin’s art and culture in our new birthing suites. So we have an Austin Art Studio, an Austin Music Scene Room, and a cool, rustic Folklife Room.”
Austin Area Birthing Center Williamson County opened in the fall of 2015 to serve mothers in North Austin, Cedar Park, Round Rock, Pflugerville, Leander and the entire Williamson County area.
“We continue to be filled to capacity every month and have moms on a waiting list, so we’re excited to provide yet another Austin Area Birthing Center to Austin and surrounding areas.”