Meet Amy Johnson-Grass!

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Today we get to know Amy Johnson-Grass, founder, director, midwife and naturopathic doctor at Health Foundations Birth Center.

Amy_birth_BabyName:

Amy Johnson-Grass

Family:

Husband Tim, and two kids, Liam (7) and Isla (5).

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Current residence:

Saint Paul, in the same neighborhood as the birth center.

What is your birth story?

I was born in February in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.  My mother always spoke warmly about her pregnancy; she loved being pregnant and always gets a glow when she talks about it.  At the time, they didn’t let dads into the labor room, so women spent much of their labor on their own.  It’s so interesting; it’s such a difference from most women’s birth experiences today.

And of course, it was February, in a snow storm…the snow always brings the babies!

Where else have you lived besides Minnesota?

Everywhere!  Growing up, my family moved about once every year and a half to two years, so I have lived lots of places.  As an adult, I lived in Seattle for many years and Tim and I moved back to Minnesota in 2005…living in St. Paul is the longest I will have lived anywhere!  While I wouldn’t change my childhood, I love the idea of building roots in one place for our children.

What is your favorite Saint Paul restaurant?

We love Salut, just down the street from the birth center on Grand Ave.  It is our neighborhood hangout.  They know us there, know our names, our order, everything.  We love that it is walking distance from our house and their patio is the best in the summer!

If you could travel anywhere tomorrow for free, where would you go?

I’d go somewhere warm with a beach.  I love adventure and going to new places, so I am not sure where I’d go exactly, maybe somewhere new.

Amy delivering babies in Vanuatu, an island in the South Pacific

Amy delivering babies in Vanuatu, an island in the South Pacific

If you could have one super power what would it be and why?

I’ve always wanted to have the nose-wiggling power from the show Bewitched!  Just wiggle your nose, and poof!  The house is clean!  Food is made (and cleaned up after)!  The laundry is washed and folded and in the closet organized (and all the socks match)!

What do you love to do when you are not at Health Foundations?

Well, I am here a lot!  But when I am not, I really enjoy running, it is very calming.  I also really love to spend time with Tim and the kids.  The kids are really active and we spend a lot of time outdoors, year-round.  In the summer, we especially love being in the water, being on the boat, and just being outside in the sun.  I love the sun.

Amy at the Dirty Girl Mud Run-- HFBC has a team every year!

Amy at the Dirty Girl Mud Run– HFBC has a team every year!

Great, let’s shift now to Health Foundations…

What is your role at Health Foundations?

My husband Tim and I own the birth center.  I am also the director, a naturopathic doctor, and a midwife in the practice.  As a naturopathic doctor, I specialize in pediatrics and women’s fertility.

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What is Health Foundations’ ‘birth story’?

Tim and I moved back here in 2005 from Seattle.  When we returned, I opened a private practice on the other end of Grand Avenue and I was a homebirth midwife, serving local families from about 2005 to 2010.  And at the same time I was in a three-year postdoctoral fellowship with the National Institutes of Health for Complementary and Alternative Medical Clinical Research.  I also worked at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis in their Integrative Medicine Program.

In 2008, Tim and I began looking for the perfect space for the birth center.  It took a while, actually, to find this space.   We were also the first birth center to open in the Twin Cities [in February 2010] so we had to work with the city on zoning.  It took several months to work with the city on not being zoned as a hoptial. The birth center has grown in so many ways since we have opened!  We are going on our fifth year, turning five in 2015.

What is your educational background?

I did my undergraduate work at Saint Olaf, in Biology and Environmental Education.  I always knew I wanted to go into medicine, so I was initially a pre-med student.  Even though St. Olaf is small, one of my early memories of the pre-med program was sitting in a big auditorium, they said “these are the numbers you need to get, these are the tests you need to take…” and it was just a big numbers game.  That is just not me.  So I looked into other majors, such as sociology and anthropology, but everything kept bringing me back to the medicine.

At the same time, I was volunteering at a surgery unit in the hospital and we would see the same patients back again and again.  There was such a lack of education for patients so that they would make the changes needed and not have to keep coming back; so they could actually be healthy and not need so many surgeries.  So that is really what got me into naturopathic medicine, it was the philosophical difference of that education piece and the finding a root cause of things that are going on with people so that you can really make a positive and lasting difference in their health and well being.

After my undergrad, I pursued and completed a Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine, a Masters of Science in Nutrition and a Certificate of Midwifery at Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington.  I am also completing a Masters of Clinical Research at the University of Minnesota.  My Clinical Research masters thesis is on the statistics of Health Foundations Birth Center for the first four years in operation!

What inspired you to get into your field?

Really it was women’s choice, and women knowing their choices and their options.  And then as time has gone on, it’s been more and more about women’s empowerment.  I see how much pregnancy, and labor, and delivery, and birth can really change a woman—who she is and how she thinks about herself.  It’s more of a self-perception than an “anyone else” perception.  But in turn how a woman thinks of herself impacts the type of mom she is, the type of partner she is… that’s a big deal.

And the other piece is the education.  That has always been huge for me.  It’s a partnership so, in our practice at least, we give our patients the information and then our families digest it, ask lots of questions, and make the best choices for them.

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What makes Health Foundations unique?

I think it is really unique to the Twin Cities that we are an integrative practice.  So we are in both worlds.  We understand the complementary medicine piece of herbs, homeopathy, botanicals, and counseling, physical medicine, nutrition and diet & lifestyle counseling—because that is huge.  But we also understand the conventional side of it too—medications, prescriptions, specialists and surgery.  We offer both worlds under one roof that is specifically serves women & children.

Also, I don’t think the community knows we offer fertility counseling and education for GLBT families and surrogates.  Low-tech (IUI) inseminations are done in our office, including both known donors and cryobank specimens.  This is such a special time in families lives that The Center is a welcoming and relaxed environment for these families to be.

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What is your favorite thing about Health Foundations?

Truly, the community here.  It’s just amazing to see how moms and families connect with each other, either through the classes we teach, the HFBC events, Moms Group…  There is a big sense of community here.  That is really why Tim and I built the birth center was to create community.  And, as a choice for women.  Giving women choices in birth.

I also LOVE the HFBC staff of women I get to work with everyday.  I am so thankful for such an amazing group of women!

Also, I’ve been practicing in Minnesota since 2005. The first baby I delivered here was born in 2006.  So to see those kids and families grow, is the best.  I just ran into a mom at a coffee shop and her son just turned four—not so little anymore—it is wonderful to see families grow.

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What is your philosophy on birth?

You know, everybody always says birth is normal, and it is—our midwives, we are truly experts in normal birth.  And that is so important today because normal is a rarity.  And knowing that birth, labor, and delivery don’t look the same for every woman is so important, to really know the range of normal and respect and allow for that.  I believe in woman’s right to have mobility and be able to eat in labor, to be in the positions that are best for them in their labor.  Its really about women and their experience.

What do you love about Health Foundations families?

The proactive role they take in their health.  And the energy and enthusiasm they bring to their care and their experiences.

What do you wish all Health Foundations families knew?

Well {laughs}, I am famous for the unpopular but important “no ice cream in pregnancy” rule!  Really, ice cream is not good for mom or baby!  It’s been so funny, because lately moms who’ve given birth with us have come back in and joked about the no ice cream rule!

Also, for new parents, I suggest choosing how you want to handle sleep before your baby hits 9 months!

Know that really, you only have so much control.  Your job in pregnancy is to exercise, and eat right, and get good sleep, and do everything you can do.  But ultimately, babies decide where they are born.

Amy_BirthBaby

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Collective Wisdom: Sharing Pregnancy News

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This week’s question:  How did you share the news of your pregnancy with your partner?

The video above is from one of our lovely Health Foundations families, the Ingmans.  What a fun way to share the news of your pregnancy!

Other Health Foundations families shared how they spread the news:

“With a hug, a kiss, and a pregnancy test!” – MAQuiroz

“I gave him a card that said “you are going to be a daddy” with a positive pregnancy test taped to it.”—Katie

“I showed him the pregnancy test shaking my head in disbelief– we were moving across the country in a week!”–Danielle

“I said ‘we’re going to need a second car seat’.”—Toni R.

“We took a pregnancy test together.” – Vanasse

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This is a great announcement from one of our fabulous families.

How did you share the news of your pregnancy with your partner, friends, and family?  We’d love to hear your story!

Meet Monica Liddle!

We are bringing a new feature to the blog this year—a series of interviews of our own family here at Health Foundations.  We hope this will allow our prospective and current clients to get to know us a little better. We know that it can be hard to choose a care provider based simply on the credentials that come after one’s name or from a basic biography—hopefully this will give a sense not only of who we are as professionals, but who we are as people.  We feel so privileged to get to know each and every one of our families and we want you to feel like you know us a bit too. 

The first member of our team we’d like to introduce on the blog is Monica Liddle, one of our fantastic midwives.

Name:

Monica Liddle

Hometown:

Columbus, Indiana

Current residence:

Saint Anthony Park neighborhood of Saint Paul

Family:

Husband Tom, who is currently getting his Masters of Divinity at Luther Seminary, and two children Hannah (born 2004 in Duluth, MN) and Simon (2010 in East Timor).

Monica and her family (husband Tom and kids Hannah and Simon)

Monica and her family (husband Tom and kids Hannah and Simon)

Member of Health Foundations Team since:

February 2013

Monica, please tell us a little about your role at Health Foundations

I am a licensed midwife and a naturopathic doctor.  I provide comprehensive maternity care to women in the childbearing year, including prenatal, labor and delivery, and postpartum care.  I also play a supportive role in naturopathic medical care for our patients.

What is your educational background/training? 

I received my BA from University of Arizona in Tucson in 1994.  I received my degree in interdisciplinary studies in a combination of Women’s Studies, Modern Dance, and Creative Writing.  I received my Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine in 2002 and my Certificate in Naturopathic Midwifery in 2003, both from Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington.  This is where I met fellow midwife and Health Foundations owner Amy Johnson Grass. 

Tell us a little about your own birth

I was born in July 1971 in Columbus, Indiana.  I am the second child in my family.  My mom had a pretty straightforward seven-hour labor with me and had a normal spontaneous vaginal delivery (NSVD) in a hospital.

It sounds like you’ve lived in quite a few places, where have you lived beside MN?

I’ve lived in lots of places, including Indiana, Arizona, North Carolina, Washington, Duluth (Minnesota), and East Timor, an island nation in Southeast Asia.  I moved to the Twin Cities in 2013 with my family and am happy to be back in Minnesota.

Monica in East Timor

Monica in East Timor

What is one of your favorite things to do when you are not at Health Foundations?

I love reading stories to my kids.  That has to be one of my favorite things to do with them.  Bedtime reading includes Dr. Seuss and Busytown Books (the Cat Family) for Simon. Harry Potter is Hannah’s favorite.

If you could get on a plane tomorrow and travel anywhere in the world where would you go?

I would definitely travel back to East Timor—I have many friends and loved ones there, not to mention, it’s warm and sunny!!!

If you could have one super power what would it be? 

I would want to fly!  And I would probably fly myself to East Timor, as mentioned.

Okay, lets get into your midwifery practice.  What inspired you to get into your field?

At the very beginning of my naturopathic medical program at Bastyr, I participated in a new student orientation interest group session on the midwifery program.  I wasn’t necessarily considering it before, but as I listened to the midwifery program advisor talk about natural childbirth, I was struck by how clearly birth was central to the naturopathic philosophy of health.  Namely, that natural birth strives to avoid unnecessary interventions in the birth process, and that solid foundations in good nutrition and positive self-care can and do support a woman’s ability to have a healthy pregnancy and birth, and a healthy newborn.

It took many months before I could actually pursue this path (after my general naturopathic curriculum), but once I began the midwifery program and started attending births, I really loved it.  It was interesting to see how the program “thinned out” as fellow students began to realize the lifestyle commitment required of midwives (namely the 24/7 on-call commitment), but this didn’t dissuade me from pursing this line of work because of how important I believe midwifery and natural health care to be.

In addition to midwifery coursework, I spent 9 months after completing my ND program working with naturopathic midwives in Seattle. Naturopathic midwives are those of us trained at US Department of Education-accredited naturopathic medical schools with doctoral degrees in naturopathic medicine AND specialty training and certification in comprehensive maternity care.   The final piece of my midwifery training in 2003 was at Bairo Pite Clinic in East Timor, working alongside Timorese midwives.

Monica with a family in East Timor

Monica with a family in East Timor

Actually, when I think back to my introduction to midwifery at Bastyr, I think the reason that it resonated so much to me is because of my experience in women’s studies as an undergrad.  I felt like my eyes had been opened to the world through women’s studies.  And then along came midwifery, and I was struck: midwifery in America is truly “radical health care for women.”  While those of us who practice midwifery in out-of-hospital settings are considered “outside the box” by American standards of maternity care, there are things to keep in mind. For example, midwives are the primary providers for childbearing women worldwide, and out of hospital settings are the norm in many places. In East Timor, over 70% of deliveries happen at home in this very rural country, and most women don’t have access to competent medical or midwifery care.

Finally, here in the US, the research bears the truth: midwifery care by trained providers both in and out of the hospital is without question a safe option for low risk women with the benefit of less interventions, good outcomes for mothers and babies, and more personal attention for individual women.

What do you love about Health Foundations?  What is your favorite part of your job?

I love working with women who are committed to serving other women with care and commitment.

I love catching babies!

And, I love when first time moms have that moment: “Oh !*%?! I can’t believe I am doing this!!!!”….and then they do it!

What is your philosophy on birth?

I feel like giving birth is a natural part of a woman’s life.  In the work I do with midwifery care, I feel like I am honoring that most essential aspect of womanhood.  And it’s really important for me and always has been to see birth as an opportunity to empower women because when women are empowered through birth, through giving birth, it can change their lives.

What do you love about Health Foundations families?

I love to witness the diversity from which Health Foundations families come, and with similar intent: for an empowering, natural birth.

What do you wish all HF families knew?  What advice or wisdom can you share with pregnant or new mama readers? 

Read Ina May Gaskin!

Practice your squats!

Trust your body!

Honor yourself and your baby.