The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

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May 11, 2014

At local birthing center, it is Mother’s Day every day

GREENVILLE — The structure sits in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood not far from downtown Greenville.

If not for the sign in front advertising the home as “The Baby Place Birthing Center”, anyone passing by would likely have no idea that it is a facility where mothers come to deliver their children.

Audrey Stucker runs “The Baby Place” at 2406 Church Street, the first birthing center in Greenville and the only such operation east of Rockwall.

The center has been open for a little more than a year and Stucker said she has a steady list of customers.

“I keep the numbers low, so the moms don’t overlap,” Stucker said, as she gave a tour of the delivery room, which looks nothing like what you would find in a typical hospital.

Granted there are the ultrasound and other monitors, but there is a comfortable bed in one corner and a bathtub in the other.

“That is for mothers who want to have a water birth,” Stucker said.

In short, the center looks a lot more like someone’s living room than a maternity ward, which Stucker said was the whole idea.

Stucker approached the City of Greenville about 18 months ago with her business concept, seeking a change in zoning for the building which would allow her to open the center.

Stucker said she wanted to provide an option for mothers who wanted to give birth in a home-like environment, which some consider much less stressful while giving birth.

The Greenville City Council approved the change from “single family” to “neighborhood services” in March of last year, and she opened the doors on April 1, 2013.

“We have about five births a month here,” Stucker said, adding she is also assisting mommies to be and helps provide care following the births. “I have about 35 active clients right now.”

Stucker has assisted mothers from as far away as Paris, Wolfe City and Sulphur Springs and, of course a few from Greenville.

“We have delivered close to 15 children during the past year,” Stucker said.

The center has been successful enough to where she is considering potentially moving to a larger location, or adding on to the current building.

A birthing center is considered a healthcare facility that is staffed by nurse-midwives, midwives and/or obstetricians. The facility also allows doulas and birthing coaches to attend and assist midwives.

Stucker is herself a midwife, and also employs a second midwife, a nurse midwife and a student midwife, along with a front desk assistant and a billing company to help deal with the insurance paperwork.

The staff provides a combination of prenatal care and postpartum care services and, when asked, can assist with home births as well.

One of the other reasons why some mothers choose a birthing center, is that is can be a low-cost alternative to a traditional hospital birth.

“It is about one-third of the cost,” Stucker said. “It makes a big difference.”

She also understands that it is more than just cost or even the home-style setting which attracts mothers to birthing centers as opposed to hospitals.

“I believe women have a little more control of their care here than in a hospital,” Stucker said. “The moms are excited that they have another option.”

Even without her licensing certification and medical training, it is safe to say Stucker already had some firsthand experience in childbirth prior to opening the center.

“I have 10 kids, my husband and I do together,” Stucker said.

It was after she had her fifth child in 2003 that she realized there was a gentler and more natural way to deliver children. It was then Stucker decided to become a midwife, beginning her journey in 2007.

“It took me three years to complete the process,” Stucker explained. “I then worked for one year.”

The Stuckers were already living inside the Church Street residence and came to the conclusion that it would be an ideal location for the concept.

Her husband, Rob Stucker, is co-owner and the head trainer at the Chop Shop Mixed Martial Arts Studio in downtown Greenville.

“We just want to see Greenville grow,” she said. “We want to see more positive things happen here.”

Stucker said the past year has been rewarding and she is grateful to be able to fulfill her dream of helping mothers.

“It is all about the mom,” Stucker said. “It’s all about getting the care that she needs.”

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