Faces In The Crowd: Laurie Zoyiopoulos

June 14, 2018

By Aaron Michell

Laurie Zoyiopoulos is your local midwifery specialist.
Try pronouncing that three times fast. [Zie-op-uh-liss, mid-whiff-er-ee; okay, now try again]
Her last name, and her profession, are totally unique. As are her children: Rainbow, Jacob, and Echo. With a last name that leaves them at the end of the alphabetical order line, the Zoyiopoulos family continues to look at life from reverse alphabetical order.
Laurie (Reynolds) and her husband Jeff Zoyiopoulos met at Evart High in 1977. The couple were married in 1981 and have raised their family from the Zoyiopoulos homestead near 80th Avenue and 18 Mile Road in Marion since 1987.
These days, Jeff and Laurie spend much of their time with their grandchildren: Patience, 14, Isiah, 11, Hunter, 8, and Karson, 4.
Whether it’s fishing, gardening, hiking, derby car racing, or sailing, many of the Zoyiopoulos activities revolve around family.
But faith is a big part of their lives as well. In August, Laurie and Jeff will join 18 other members of their church family (Sears Church of God) in a mission to Uganda.
We caught up with Laurie recently and we discussed Uganda, midwifery, the Zoyiopoulos family, and what they’re all about. We found out that, without a doubt, Laurie Zoyiopoulos is much more than just another face in the crowd.

Laurie Zoyiopoulos

Laurie Zoyiopoulos

Marion Press: So you were born and raised in Evart?
Laurie: I was, more or less. I was born in Barryton and then moved to Evart when I was 5, and went to school and graduated from Evart in ’79.

MP: Are you from a big family?
Laurie: There were six of us kids [in the Reynolds family]. There was a gap in our ages, and they didn’t all go to Evart. Three of us were all of similar age and kind of grew up together and went to school together.

MP: What were things like in Evart in the ‘60s and ‘70s?
Laurie: It was a really cool small town to grow up in. It’s still a cool, small town. We’re raising grandkids now and we live in the country, whereas I grew up in town. There’s such a difference – our 11 year-old grandson will ask, ‘Can I ride up the road and back, with my bike?’ And I don’t remember ever asking my mom. It was like if she woke up in the morning and you weren’t home, she knew that you were out riding your bike out around town or going to the waterworks swimming.

MP: Where was your home at, in town?
Laurie: The house was on Oak Street. It’s still there – it’s one of the centennial homes. In 1972, it was one of the homes that was declared a centennial home.

MP: What were your interests in high school?
Laurie: I was in softball, and choir. There wasn’t a lot going on, if you didn’t do those things. I’d hang out with my older sister, Donna – when she’d let me! And my older brother, Jack. Those two I grew up with most, my other siblings are older.

MP: And your husband Jeff, is he from around here?
Laurie: He grew up mostly here in Marion. It’s funny, we realized we both went to Barryton in school for a little bit and didn’t even know it. I started in Kindergarten there but moved to Evart pretty quick. His family moved to Marion and when he was in 11th grade he chose to come to Evart, and that’s how we met.

MP: Did you start dating in high school?
Laurie: We didn’t. We met, but we started dating when he went off to college in ’77.

MP: And what year did you two get married?
Laurie: We got married in ’81.

MP: And we’ve heard that you’re a midwife. Could you explain to us what your job is?
Laurie: I’m a homebirth midwife. I deliver babies at home, and I do prenatal care, much like what a doctor’s office does. Some people just think that a midwife just shows up when women are in labor and they haven’t had any care, but the care schedule is very much like a doctor’s: they get their bloodwork and ultrasound, and we see them every four weeks, and then every two weeks – and more often if they go past their due date.
And growing up, I had no idea I was going to be a midwife – I had no interest in medical things, but I did find pregnancy quite intriguing. Even though I was a very average student in school – I didn’t like school at all – I got A’s and B’s in biology and physiology.
It was so interesting to me, but I didn’t know why. I got married and had three children, and it was through finding a midwife through our 2nd pregnancy that I discovered midwifery [pronounce mid-whiff-er-ee].
So we had a midwife with our 2nd and 3rd babies – our 3rd was born at home – and I asked our midwife, Patrice Bobier, about [midwifery] and she said that she had a spot for me to start training and working in post-partum care. So I decided to start slow with that – checking on people on day 3, or a week later, doing vitals, and weighing babies, and helping with breast-feeding, things like that.

MP: And when did you get started?
Laurie: I started doing the post-partum care in ’87. I started my apprenticeship in 1990.
I became a certified midwife in ’96, through the Michigan Midwives Association, and it was kind of a cool and progressive certification back when the state didn’t have a licensing program [for midwifery]. And then we decided to retire that program when the North American Registry of Midwifes (NARM) developed their certification in the 2000s, and that’s where we’ve pointed our students ever since. It’s national, so it holds throughout the country. But still, Medicaid, and other insurance providers don’t cover our services because they don’t recognize it as a legitimate profession.

MP: Do you think that’s starting to change?
Laurie: Well we hope with the licensing legislation (Michigan midwifery licensing standards signed into law in January 2017) that it will change. It will probably take some time for Medicaid to come on board, but the fee is so much less [than at a hospital].

MP: Do you work from home?
Laurie: My address is Marion. I used to see people for pre-natal visits, or post-partum visits at my home office. For the Amish, I go see them at their home. And then I rented office space here in Marion for a couple years, at Artesian Springs. Now I’m in McBain – I rent an office at McBain Chiropractic, Dr. Gish’s office. People come there for their pre-natal’s or their post-partum visits.

MP: Do you have a name for your company?
Laurie: There is. It’s called Faithful Guardians Midwifery Service.

MP: Where’d you come up with that name?
Laurie: I’ve always had a team – I’ve had students or an assistant. Angie Moore has been my assistant, she lives down in Evart and she’s been attending births with me since before I was a midwife, attending births with Patrice and I. So driving around, thinking of a name for your practice – it was kind of like thinking of a name for your child, it’s pretty important – and midwives are considered guardians of the norm. So as a Christian, I liked the idea of being a faithful guardian.

MP: How many births have you been a part of, over the years?
Laurie: My first birth was in 1988 – I was just going to do post-partum care for the woman, but they let me attend the birth, and that was really nice of them. And I just counted it up, and it’s been 1129 since then. Waiting on the 1130th one right now.

MP: Wow. Probably a lot of those babies are grown adults.
Laurie: They are. A few of them are having babies with me now, so that’s just so amazing. It’s so surreal. To have someone who I delivered, and now she’s coming to me for care. I don’t feel that old!

MP: Tell us about your kids – Rainbow, Jacob, and Echo – what were they into growing up?
Laurie: They all graduated from Evart. They were into band. Echo’s very artistic. Jake loved football. Rainbow and Jake worked for Marlin Venema at his farm up the road from us. It was a good job for them – they were all in 4-H growing up, and it was good for them to learn: they’d have to be at the farm at 5 a.m. and milk the cows and feed the calves – Rainbow was good with the calves. Marlin had a theory that girls would do better with the calves because they were more patient – they would get them to drink off the cow, even if it took longer!
And Echo is a high school art teacher in Colorado. She loved art and her art teacher, Dave Cronk, who’s gone on to do some really amazing things as a movie producer and director [Cronk’s directed feature films such as God’s Not Dead, and The War Prayer] he really helped her along. I remember at a parent-teacher conference when she was in the 9th or 10th grade, and he said: ‘I’m not gonna ask if she’s going to art school, I want to know which art school she’s going to.’
And she ended up going to Kendall College Art and Design.

Tell us about your grandkids.
Laurie: Patience is very much into agriculture. They all go to Northern Michigan Christian schools, and Patience is taking Ag class so she’s doing some gardening with grandpa. And the boys love to go fishing – Isiah, he needs to make that his job – and he can do that! Of course, they like to play ball. They’re good, energetic kids.

MP: What is it about this area that keeps you here?
Laurie: Probably family. Growing up, I think Jeff and I thought maybe we’d leave the small town and go off and do something amazing, but our family is here. My mom and some siblings stayed, and Jeff’s mom and dad are here and they gave us the property to build on. It’s probably just the stability and the ability to raise kids around their grandparents – and now we’re the grandparents and we get to see our grandkids.

MP: And you’re going on a mission trip to Uganda coming up. What’s that all about?
Laurie: Yes. We went 19 years ago – my husband and I and another woman from our church (Sears Church of God) went 19 years ago and we’re going again in August [along with 17 other church members].
Pete Seager is on our missions board and was inspired to make this trip. We’re going to see a missionary couple, Tim Stevenson and his wife, the same missionary couple that we went to see 19 years ago – and it’s really neat to go visit them. It’s not so much that we’re going to do some amazing thing that someone else couldn’t do there, but one of the things I remember from our trip 19 years ago is that Tim told us that it’s great that you [budget for the work we do] but if you actually come back to see the progress that we’re making, you’ll never let the Church cut us from your budget.
One of our projects is working with TAPPS. It helps with the women who are raising orphan children from the AIDS epidemic. They don’t have the programs that we have here. It’s designed to help them form a business to run. One of the main ones that I’ve seen involves jewelry – where they make jewelry out of paper. It’s really neat jewelry, and it’s teaching them how to run a business. It’s really neat because they don’t need a handout – they need to learn how to survive.

MP: Any other interests or hobbies that we should be aware of?
Laurie: There used to be a dirt track race out on 15 Mile Road – I think it was called the Barnyard 300, and Aaron Riggleman used to run it. And one day I told my husband, I think I should have a car to advertise my midwife services.
So my husband got it in his mind that we should do that – and that I should drive the car! So I did. We had this old Ford Escort, and we painted “Faithful Guardians” on it. And on the back, he put: Just Push. Like when you’re having a baby. And as midwives, we’re usually racing to a birth. So I got to race this car, but I was petrified!
It was all guys racing, except Ashlee O’Dell (Flachs), and she kind of encouraged me and showed me when to slow down, and when to speed up.
So I got to the racetrack and my car wasn’t really ready to run – the airbags needed to be removed and a couple other things needed to be done – so I was thinking, ‘Oh good, I can’t do it’ – I was kind of relieved! But they got it ready to run and I raced and it was really fun. And at the end, they had what was called the grudge race, and I ended up winning that race.

MP: Wow. That’s great!
Laurie: It was really fun! They gave me a big, huge, hand-me-down trophy. It was a lot of fun.

MP: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? Any mentors who’ve really helped shape who you are today?
Laurie: Patrice Bobier is my mentor. She’s an intelligent, well-respected woman in the community. She finds time to do so much – they’re organic farmers; they grow tons of produce to sell at the farmer’s market. And she’s a very busy midwife. Her husband, Bill Bobier, was a state representative for a long time until he was term-limited. Patrice would be the one to say, ‘Go do stuff’ – don’t sit around waiting for a birth. She’d be the one who I’ll call for advice or if I need a shoulder to lean on.

MP: It’s good to have someone like that.
Laurie: It is. And my husband. It’s pretty awesome to get this far in life and have your husband still be your best friend. He is. It’s nice to still really like each other. He’s my best friend. He’s a good listener for a guy, especially. Just think of all the stuff he’s had to listen to!

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