BLOOMINGTON — Health care evolved in McLean County this week and the proof weighs 6 pounds, 9 ounces and is 20 inches long.

Arwen Marie Giles became the first baby born at The Birth Center of Bloomington-Normal at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Because the Birth Center is the first free-standing birthing center in Illinois outside the Chicago area, Arwen also is the first baby born in a licensed, free-standing birthing center downstate.

"We think it's incredible that she was able to usher in this special place," her mother, Danielle Giles, 29, of Champaign, said Thursday as she held Arwen in the Birth Center, 6 Westport Court, Bloomington.

"I am proud and honored that my wife and child experienced the first birth here," said Caleb Giles, 30, as he looked at their first child.

The birth center received its license from the state earlier this month, meaning it was approved for deliveries, two years after the state's first center opened in Berwyn. The birth center began providing pre-natal care in July.

The goal of Dr. Dele Ogunleye and Dr. Joe Santiago — Bloomington-Normal obstetrician/gynecologists who are co-owners of the birth center — is to attract Central Illinois women who want to give birth in a less clinical, less costly setting.

Birthing centers are for women at low risk of birthing complications. OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington and Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal have agreed that the center would be a good option for women with low-risk pregnancies and who don't wish to deliver in a hospital.

Danielle's labor progressed normally, said nurse-midwife Jenni Meyer. Arwen was born, as planned, in a water birth using a labor tub, with her father and three nurse-midwives present.

"The environment here, the people here, allowed us to have a family event — not a medical event — bringing Arwen into the world," her mother said. "It was a beautiful, intense experience."

"Opening the birth center was a lot of work," said office coordinator Jessica Poppe. "This is what it was for."

Arwen soon may have company.

"We have a couple other women who are due to deliver this month," Poppe said.

Follow Paul Swiech on Twitter: @pg_swiech

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