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Little Wonders
      A Shoreline couple grows their family at The Childbirth Center.

"Now what?"

That question comes up a lot for parents expecting their first baby; it was no different for Shoreline residents Heather, 31, and Johnny Shi when they were expecting their first child.

Meridian Women's Health obstetrician Dr. Carol Salerno answered simply.

"Well, we'll make you an appointment for once a month, then in the third trimester you come in once a week, and then we'll deliver your baby."

Heather remembers asking if the labor would hurt, and Dr. Salerno's matter-of-fact reply.

"She gave it to me straight," Heather says. "There was something reassuring about that honesty. I knew I had found the right doctor."

Heather and Johnny are your typical, everyday couple. They have two beautiful children. Two-year-old Riley and two-month-old Logan take up a lot of space in the family's north end home. Toys are stacked high behind the bassinet where Logan naps. Riley is enthralled by a cartoon, but loses focus at the sound of Johnny's motorcycle humming up the driveway. She hops off the couch, skirts the ottoman and pads to the front door — she does this quietly, conscious of not waking her brother.

The quiet doesn't last long. Dad is home and Riley is hanging all over him, somehow managing to do a modified Stairmaster climb using his hands as pedals and his head as a perch. Before shifting his attention to Logan, Johnny, 38, sets Riley up with a few crayons.

Johnny says the most important part about choosing an obstetrician is personality, something he says Dr. Salerno has in droves.

"We wanted someone Heather was comfortable with and that we could be ourselves with," he explains. "There are tons of obstetricians in the area and the skill level is going to be very good. What we needed was a doctor who 'got' us. Dr. Salerno did."

But the couple says it wasn't just the doctor. Something stood out about Meridian Women's Health and Northwest Hospital's Childbirth Center. At a routine appointment in the third trimester of her first pregnancy, Heather began to feel severe back pain - so much pain that Dr. Salerno decided to send her to the hospital. Heather could barely stand, let alone drive. It was almost 5 p.m. and the office was about to close.

"One of the nurses drove me in my car over to the Childbirth Center and wheeled me right in," she says. "They got me comfortable in a bed and began monitoring me." Though Heather felt like she had gone into labor, she was actually passing a kidney stone. She gave birth to Riley a week later. Heather jokes that it was like giving birth twice in one week.

Whether a first-time or veteran mom, the hospital's childbirth team works with mothers to carry out the birth plan they have designed with their partner and obstetrician. Mothers and babies are monitored with wireless, waterproof technology, meaning laboring moms can walk around freely, use birth balls and enjoy some relief from the intensity of labor in one of the center's Jacuzzi tubs.

Close monitoring was important near the end of Heather's second pregnancy when she noticed Logan's movements begin to slow. Dr. Salerno immediately sent her to the Childbirth Center for observation.

"We were there within the hour and the staff was already waiting for us. They knew our name and were ready," Johnny says. "Everything was so organized..."

"...And connected," Heather finishes. "Northwest Hospital and Dr. Salerno's office work together. I was nervous. The first seven months had been perfect and now to have something go wrong...Dr. Salerno was right there for us the entire time."

Once hooked up to the wireless monitor, Logan started moving again. Dr. Salerno takes every precaution when taking care of her patients. That focused care is even more important for parents with more complex pregnancies. Many of these couples spend time at the Childbirth Center long before their labor begins. They get to know the team of caregivers and the caregivers get to know them.

"The center is equipped with all the advanced technologies and safety measures a larger hospital would have but in a more intimate setting," Dr. Salerno explains.

The nurses are particularly integral to the birth experience. During their fi rst pregnancy, Heather and Johnny got to know their nurse Kelsey. They call her a "fantastic sixth man."

"She was awesome," they say in unison.

"For the second delivery, we tried to work out the birthing dream team &mbsp; Dr. Salerno and Kelsey &mbsp; and us, of course," Johnny jokes. "There was a scheduling conflict, so our nurse was Jennifer."

For the second pregnancy, the two skipped pregnancy preparation classes. They say Jennifer's cheerleading helped. When they needed prompts, Jennifer coached. When Johnny needed an alarm clock, Jennifer woke him in time for the delivery. And when the couple wanted to go it alone, Jennifer allowed them to share the moment together.

"We forgot the breathing thing, when to give her ice chips, when to rub her back," Johnny says, motioning to Heather who is soothing a restless Logan. "Jennifer was able to prompt us, but not take over the moment."

From labor to post-partum care, every aspect of Heather's care was seamlessly coordinated. During the labor, her contractions escalated quickly. Within 20 minutes, her pain jumped from a two to a 10. The anesthesiologist arrived within 10 minutes, administered the epidural and stayed until he was sure she was comfortable.

"You always hear the stories about a 36-hour labor or something going wrong, but the majority of pregnancies and births are just like Heather's and Johnny's," Dr. Salerno says. "They are a healthy, happy couple. They asked the right questions. They were excited and they had normal, safe pregnancies and healthy, beautiful babies."

Parenting is hard work but the two say the rewards are immeasurable. When Riley and Logan were born, the couple says their hearts skipped a beat. That feeling hasn't changed. One thing that has changed, though, is Johnny's opinion of Northwest Hospital. His relationship with the hospital began when he was born at the Childbirth Center. So were his nieces and nephews, and later, his parents received care at the hospital, too.

"I didn't really know how much I appreciated it until they were helping us give birth to our children," he says.

Northwest Hospital offers women an array of services including pregnancy, birth and after-birth care, as well as routine gynecologic care. The hospital's talented providers are board-certifi ed in obstetrics and gynecology. They listen and collaborate with women and their families, blending advanced medical care with personal contact.

To find a Northwest Hospital obstetrician, call the free Physician Referral Line at (206) 633-4636 or see a list or providers now. For more on Dr. Salerno and her practice, visit www.meridianwomenshealth.com.

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