Karin Vandervelde, CNM
Bloomin’ Babies Birth Center
Intermountain Healthcare

In Canadian nursing school in the 1970’s, Karin Vandervelde observed a live birth for the first time. “I thought, this is amazing! This is what I want to do for the rest of my life!” In those days, Canadian midwives basically functioned as labor/delivery nurses and Karin rubbed shoulders with them often. However, getting into labor/delivery work required travel to Great Brittan for a year of training. As a newlywed, Karin chose not to pursue that route but focused her work while intentionally positioning herself closer to the labor/delivery suite. She worked in OR for a while, assisting with emergency C-sections and women’s surgery, becoming well-acquainted with sterile technique.

What happened next was surprising! In Canada, the unionized hospital was closing units. As each unit was closed, the most senior nurse could bump anyone, taking their job. This pattern continued on and on, leaving many without jobs. Karin’s position was snatched up quickly due to her seniority and great hours. She didn’t feel comfortable taking anyone’s job, but noticed a nurse midwife from Australia who hadn’t started her position yet. Karin approached the nurse manager about her dream of being a midwife. She explains, “All I can say is, God opened the door and I got to train with these midwives who were amazing!”

Vandervelde went on to work in Mississippi for 30 years in a patriarchal, provider-centered medical world where women delivering their babies in operating suites while strapped down in bed was the norm. “It was horrendous the things I saw, and I reported them numerous times,” Karin describes. Eventually, advocating for patients caught up with Vandervelde and she was put on disciplinary probation for simply helping a woman procure a doctor of her own choosing.   

“So, I went back to school and became a midwife,” Vandervelde states. Afterwards, Karin and John moved to Grand Junction. They recall backpacking every other week and couch surfing on the kindness of strangers since they hadn’t yet purchased a home. Employment opportunities were sparse but Bloomin’ Babies offered Karin a part-time job one weekend a month which she started in July, 2017. Karin took advantage of her slow schedule and completed her doctorate in nursing. By February, the clinic had grown enough that she was offered a full-time position as a certified nurse midwife (CNM). “It’s later in life that I’m fulfilling this dream that was birthed in the 70’s,” she says. “This is personalized and woman-centered care. This is what I became a midwife to do.” She elaborates, “If we can love and support women through their pregnancy then we have better mothers and better children and we’re going to have a better world.”

“The thing that energizes me more than anything is watching someone walk into their first appointment, and often they’re unsettled, but as we love them and give them counsel through all of the pregnancy changes, we start to see them grow as maturing women who are going to be ‘baby-in-arms mothers’, responsible for the care of a child. Those success stories of women are beautiful. At least once a year we’re seeing that kind of dramatic change. And it’s that once-a-year that keeps you going and gives you hope!”

Vandervelde appreciates that St. Mary’s has allowed the Bloomin’ Babies to maintain the birth center model of care. During COVID however, there was a 20% increase in out-of-hospital births leading to even more awareness and appreciation of the birthing center and its unapologetically natural approach to birth. “I think that’s the way our culture is going to go. We’re becoming more health conscious and aware of our bodies,” Vandervelde articulates.

Karin had two home births herself—child number six and seven. Of her seven children, three live in Grand Junction with their spouses, and the majority of the Vandervelde’s Grand Junction grandchildren have been birth center babies.  Their remaining four children live in Mississippi, Georgia, Turkey and China. John and Karin have 13 grandchildren with another on the way. It wasn’t planned, but Karin’s first midwife catch was actually her daughter’s baby, born in Mississippi where physicians do not collaborate with midwives. Though the physician was on his way, he arrived too late, and grandma caught the baby— a fitting way to kick off Karin’s fulfilling and impactful career.

Bloomin’ Babies Birth Center is accepting new patients. To learn more, visit their website at BloominBabiesBirthCenter.com.