Meet Amy Johnson-Grass!

BlogIcons_MeetStaff 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).

Amy_FamB&W

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

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!

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.

Amy_atBirth

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.

Amy_LaborCoach

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.

Amy_swaddledbaby

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.

Amy_Birth_babybed

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