From the moment you open the door and head up the stairs you'll know the West Coast Health Collective is going to be a different kind of medical office.
The subtle scent of essential oil fills the air and local handcrafted cedar signs welcome you into Abbotsford's newest healthcare cooperative.
Open the doors to the "office" and you step into a big welcoming room with sunny views overlooking the city's historic downtown, comfy couches and some very inviting toys in the corner. It feels more like a friend's home than a clinic.
And there to greet you are the WCHC team - Laura Stewart, Brandi Wasyluk, Alescia Richardson and Rob Dewitt. They may very well offer you tea or one of Dewitt's tasty muffins.
Together this young quartet of health professionals offer services for midwifery, nutritional counselling and homeopathy, all of which dovetail seamlessly in their holistic approach to their clients.
Wasyluk and Richardson are registered midwives who have privileges at the Abbotsford and Chilliwack hospitals. Both have worked around Canada in their profession, including in Abbotsford.
Since their shingle went up in April, the midwives have been busy.
"Demand here is huge. Most women hear of us through word of mouth," said Wasyluk, adding they enjoy great support from local doctors and nurses.
They offer primary maternal care, covered by the Medical Services Plan, for healthy, low-risk women from the time they are pregnant to several weeks after birth.
They schedule appointments that allow time - 30 to 60 minutes - for them to build trusting relationships with their clients and for women to ask questions about pregnancy.
"We want people to feel relaxed, not rushing in and rushing out," said Richardson, who has overseen 400 deliveries in three years.
They have a lending library as well as movie nights, workshops and support groups, such as the La Leche League for breastfeeding help once the babies arrive. Sometimes the gatherings end up in the clinic's kitchen over freshly baked snacks and healthy drinks.
"It's much more comfortable than going to a typical doctor's office, where it can be clinical," said Victoria Smith, a client who's expecting in two months.
Laura Stewart offers age-old homeopathic remedies, derived from natural ingredients that work on the cause of illness, not just the symptoms, she said. It's very individualist - five people may have a cold but they won't necessarily each respond to the same remedy, she said.
"I don't focus on just the cold, I focus on more than that," including health history, stresses, family and work environment, she said. First visits can be two hours long and follow-up appointments are half an hour.
"If you take the time to discuss things, you get more information," said
Stewart, who also used her background in psychology to support her observations.
For Dewitt, life revolves around food, so giving nutritional advice seems natural.
"Everyone knows you are what you eat," he says, and that's doubly important for an expectant mother.
Dewitt can provide advice and custom menus for sports nutrition and geriatric nutrition, but his passion is prenatal nutrition counseling.
"If I can counsel a [pregnant] woman to eat well, I can affect the child's entire life. That's pretty powerful," he said.
To learn more about the West Coast Health Collective, call 604-746-2558, find it on Facebook or visit the website at wchealthco.com.