When Montie Christodoulou gave birth to her first child, she was lying down. “If I was uncomfortable, it was too bad.” During labor with her second child last year at the Group Health Family Beginnings Unit on Capitol Hill, Christodoulou moved through a series of positions—on a bouncy ball, in a Jacuzzi, on her side, on her hands and knees—only one of which was technically lying down. Christodoulou’s own comfort, and the coaching of her midwives, guided her actions. That freedom to choose demonstrates the fundamental mission of Family Beginnings. Though most women come intending to give birth naturally, in this collaborative practice a midwife can seamlessly transfer care of a woman to an ob-gyn for an epidural or a Cesarean section—although that’s rare: in 2010, only 18.5 percent of Family Beginnings’ births were C-sections, compared to the local average of 34 percent. After hours of labor, Christodoulou’s water still hadn’t broken. Her midwife explained the pros and cons of breaking her water, so she agreed to a minimally invasive intervention and soon gave birth to a daughter. A typical patient at Family Beginnings sees only nurses and midwives throughout her labor, and rarely sees physicians. The practice may be catching on: Evergreen Hospital plans to open a similar practice in Kirkland by the end of 2012.