Tara Livesay and Beth ‘KJ’ Johnson at the new Starting Place Birth and Wellness Center in Temple, Texas.
In 2014, the Heartline Maternity Center was in its seventh year. The program’s model had slowly evolved, and mistakes had taught us what worked and what would not work in our cultural context. It was in mid-2014 that the idea to write a “how-to” manual first came. Finding the time to write it while operating a busy Maternity Center was a struggle. We were fielding multiple questions per month about how to start a program like ours, and it seemed that others were interested in at least partially duplicating our model. We invested numerous hours meeting with other ministries and organizations to answer their questions about the Heartline Maternity Center. We knew that we could share the model more widely if we could write about our process and the things we had learned. In the early months of 2017, we began writing the manual with the help of Sarah Bessey, Heartline’s Board President. We wrote and edited for two years whenever we had time. The manual was ready, and our first group of participants took the accompanying class in September 2018. In 2019 Haiti experienced great political unrest. We were unable to host classes due to the risks involved. In 2020 we offered the class three times, twice in Haiti and once in Texas. We will continue to offer Starting Place classes for care providers, administrators, and organizations a few times each year as part of the Starting Place model.
From 2017 to 2020, our focus in Haiti was to build a strong staff that could handle the 24/7 coverage that the Maternity Center required. For years there was a large dependence on external support in missionaries, ex-pats, and other maternity professionals to cover the Maternity Center and be on call 24/7. We recognized that a birth center that depended on foreign midwives to operate was not an ideal situation. Our staffing in Haiti grew from one Haitian nurse in 2010 to 10 Haitian medical professionals currently. By increasing the staff and investing in their continued medical education and skills development, we (Tara/KJ) were able to consider moving to the USA for the first time since the Maternity Center began in 2007.
Tara and Beth “KJ” Johnson actively communicate with the midwives and nurses in Haiti but in a supportive cheerleader role. This change has allowed Tara and Beth/KJ to consider the needs in Bell County, TX. When the move to the USA began to become more of a reality, we researched three areas that all had discouraging maternal health statistics. Bell County was one of those three areas. We hope that The Starting Place Birth and Wellness Center will be another outpost of health and wholeness.
Laying Down Roots
On December 31, 2020, we closed on a building located at 3rd Street North near downtown Temple, TX. Heartline Ministries cares deeply about the needs of marginalized women in Haiti – and Texas. We anticipate the new location will require three to five months of renovations before offering services at the new Birth and Wellness Center.
The goal of our model is to meet each woman and her individual need. For example, suppose a woman is on Medicaid. In that case, we anticipate offering her prenatal care at a significantly reduced rate, allowing her to use her Medicaid benefits for delivery at the hospital. If a woman wants to have a home birth, we will offer that, and if a woman prefers a birth center birth, we will offer that as well. We foresee serving many women either in military service or connected in some way. The largest Army base in the United States, Fort Hood, is located in our county. We plan to do a sliding scale price structure based on income. We are still working through how that model will look.
We intend to provide:
At The Starting Place, you will receive personalized prenatal care through the midwifery model of care. First consultation free of charge
- First prenatal visit at ten weeks gestation
- Appointments monthly until 28 weeks
- Appointments twice monthly until 36 weeks
- Appointments weekly until delivery
- Prenatal health education
- Consulting physicians and referrals as necessary
- Diagnostic referrals and lab work
Labor and Birth
At The Starting Place, clients are given an option to choose between a home birth or a birth center delivery in Central Texas. You will have two midwives with 22 years of combined maternal healthcare experience in attendance at your birth. Additionally, we will provide you with referrals for a doula if you so desire.
- Labor support
- Family involvement to the extent you desire
- Full scope maternal and fetal monitoring within the midwifery scope of practice
- Immediate postpartum care
- Immediate breastfeeding initiation and support
- Comprehensive newborn exam
The Fourth Trimester, Postpartum
The first days, weeks, and months after delivery can feel like a vulnerable and overwhelming time for new mothers. The midwives at The Starting Place provide support according to each mother’s needs. The postpartum schedule is flexible based on a personalized plan of care.
- In-home 24-hour postpartum visit for mom and baby with Newborn Screening
- Access to midwives by phone 24/7
- One week postpartum office visit for mom and baby.
- Two-week postpartum office visit for mom and baby with Newborn Screening
- Six-week postpartum office visit for mom and baby
- Postpartum Pap smear and family planning counseling
- Access to breastfeeding and postpartum support groups
EDUCATION AND SUPPORT
We offer a welcoming environment where it is safe to ask questions and learn. We believe women should have access to all the information regarding their health. When women are informed, they are empowered to be active participants in their own stories. In our experience, this leads to better outcomes for moms, babies, families, and communities.
We offer support groups and classes in Central Texas for:
- Pregnancy health
- Childbirth Education – individual or group
- Infant loss and miscarriage
We are excited to begin renovations and make the Starting Place Birth and Wellness Center a reality for the community in Bell County. While our focus at the Starting Place will be those who are often underserved and marginalized, we will make our services available to all women regardless of their wealth or privilege. Profits, if any, will be reinvested into the work of the Heartline Maternity Center.
As always, we welcome your questions and feedback. You can reach us anytime via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for future updates, and thank you for investing in families with Heartline. You are making an impact in the lives of children, women, and families every day!