All posts by Rhonda

Rhonda is our clinic's Marketing and Communications Director. She has worked here for 12 years. When not working Rhonda enjoys being outdoors - especially hiking, biking and gardening - and music, reading, and spending time with family.

When Life is Hard – Be Thankful

Tips for Being Thankful Even When Things Aren’t Going So Well

Happy Thanksgiving
The coming of the holiday season can be a time of great joy for many. When it doesn’t feel that way, check out these tips for being thankful.

The coming of the holiday season can be a time of great joy for many. It can also be a time of stress, emotional challenges and difficult circumstances.

Holidays with family can be a stressful time if family relationships are strained. Or if one or more family members struggle with addiction. Or if someone is often angry or short-tempered or controlling.

The coming of winter can also be a difficult time for people who are especially affected by limited daylight. Colder temperatures and a feeling of being trapped inside can be hard.

Add into this mix any of a number of other personal challenges such as tight finances, job stress or an unintended pregnancy and the holiday time appears anything but happy.

So, how do you maintain a thankful heart and mind in the midst of life’s challenges? Here are five ways to help us be thankful at Thanksgiving and always.

  1. Count your blessings. Counting your blessings helps tremendously. Do you have a safe and warm place to sleep tonight? Will you have food on your table for Thanksgiving? Do you have a job? Is there one person who cares about you? Are you healthy enough to go for a walk? Thinking about what we do have instead of what we do not have can be a great way to develop a heart that is thankful.
  2. Look at the beauty around you. Have you seen the sunrise or sunset this week? Did the clerk at the grocery store smile at you? How many cute dogs have you seen out walking with someone? When we notice the beauty around us, it can lift our spirits and we can feel thankful.
  3. Develop a spirit of generosity. Even if finances are tight, consider sharing something you have with someone who is less fortunate than you are. Giving can be a greater blessing for the one who gives than the one who receives.
  4. Do your job, or volunteer, with excellence. Do you work in housekeeping? Make the rooms you take care of as clean as possible to help someone else enjoy their day. Do you bag groceries? Make someone’s day by having their bread get home without getting smashed. Are you caring for children? Help them to be safe and well fed.
  5. Look for opportunities to make someone’s day. Smile at that person you pass on the street. Offer to help an elderly woman load her groceries into her car. Let a pedestrian cross the street in front of you. Or let someone else have that last parking spot that is close to the mall.

Whether your life has never been better – or never been harder – or somewhere in between, you can choose to be thankful day in and day out.

Happy Thanksgiving – every day!

A Secret to Transform Your Relationship

After the birth of our second child, my husband and I struggled. Our relationship got harder as the demands on our time multiplied. During this time, we learned a “secret” that was part of what transformed our relationship.

This remarkable idea was that each person feels and expresses love primarily in one or more of five different ways. I would clean our house and make a nice meal to show that I loved him. But what he needed was to hear my affirmation. He would say something positive about me and I would thank him and feel appreciated. But I didn’t return the affirmation and I secretly wanted him to be helping me more with the dishes. We were missing each other. It was a formula for both of us feeling like we weren’t very connected, wanting to be and not knowing how to get there.

Discovering the Five Love Languages made all the difference. It helped us to both begin to feel loved again. We learned how to express love in a way our spouse could easily receive it. We also worked together to figure out ways we could spend more time with each other, even with the demands of parenting two children. And in the midst of it, we both grew and learned to receive love in multiple ways.

Couple thinking
Wondering how to express love in a way your partner feels loved? Learning the Five Love Languages could be a great step!

If you’re parenting alone or with your partner, discovering love languages could be one step to help you. Learning your primary love language, and the love languages of your current or future partner, could be a tool to make your relationship and parenting work.

The Five Primary Love Languages that were made popular by Gary Chapman, based on earlier research, are:

  1. Words of Affirmation – If words of affirmation is your primary love language, you feel most loved when someone tells you things like, “I love you” or “You look great today!” or “I’m so glad to have you as a friend.” The words are so significant.
  2. Acts of Service – Actions speak louder than words if your primary love language is acts of service. It is incredibly meaningful and speaks love to you when someone does your laundry or takes out the garbage.
  3. Receiving Gifts – Some people feel most loved when someone gives them a gift. Gifts can be as simple and inexpensive as a wildflower picked along the roadside, a handmade card or a candy bar. What matters is the love behind the gift.
  4. Quality Time – If your primary love language is quality time, what matters most to you is when the person you love spends time with you. You crave his or her undivided attention. You can do activities that you both enjoy, like going hiking or playing tennis. What’s important is that you both know you’re doing it to be together, not to become world class tennis players.
  5. Physical Touch – A pat on the shoulder, a hug or having your special someone reach out to hold your hand speak volumes of love to the person whose primary love language is physical touch. The physical contact is of supreme importance and speaks love beyond words.

Want to learn more about the Five Love Languages or ready to discover yours? has a quick assessment, free of charge, to help you discover your primary love language. There are also information and resources to help.

Whether you are in a relationship now or wanting to start your next relationship off on the right track, give it a try. Learning your love language, and being able to discover the love language of your partner, could be an important step toward having a great relationship!

Introducing Katie

Katie, our new Education Manager, has been a labor and postpartum doula since 2009. She is also a childbirth educator. Katie first volunteered for our clinic as a childbirth educator in 2011-2012.

When Katie graduated from high school, she began working for the Salvation Army in their youth programming. In 2009, while taking a college psychology course, she learned something unexpected.  Her professor was also a doula. This professor taught about the psychology of the birth experience and how it affects moms and babies.

Following this introduction, Katie wanted to find out more about doualas. She went to doula and childbirth education training. Soon she became an apprentice for a seasoned doula. During her one year apprenticeship, Katie continued to work at the Salvation Army. Upon completion, she taught childbirth education, newborn care and safe sleep at the Salvation Army. She also volunteered as a doula for some women in the shelter.

From 2011 until 2015, Katie worked as a full time doula. She also taught childbirth education classes for Meriter Hospital during this time. Following this she worked as a supervisor for FSET.

Katie Casey, Education Manager
Katie is excited to be “back in the birth world,” teaching and forming relationships with moms.

Katie has helped many women prepare for the birth of their children. She has been alongside numerous women in the delivery room. One doula experience is particularly memorable. Katie served as a doula for a pregnant teen who was alone. She did not have support from the father of the baby or either of her parents. This young mom endured a very difficult and long labor. When her son was finally born, the new mother said to Katie, “Thank you. I couldn’t have done it without you.” Recently, Katie saw this woman at a park with her son and was pleased to find that they are doing well.

Katie and her husband have been married for over 20 years and have three teenage children. Their family has a dog that they enjoy very much.

Katie likes music. She plays piano and sings. She also enjoys writing fiction and reading.

She is excited to be “back in the birth world,” teaching and forming relationships with moms. Her favorite part of working with pregnant women is seeing an expectant mom’s outlook turn around. It’s exciting when she begins by saying, “There is no way I can do this” but changes to say, “I’m excited about this and can do it!”

5 Ways to Help a Friend

What do you say when a friend tells you she might be pregnant? 

Recently I was talking with a woman I’ll call Leslie. Leslie was a client at First Care Clinic a couple years ago.

Leslie told me that she wished more people knew about First Care Clinic. Then she told me why. Leslie has a friend who had been pregnant and ended her pregnancy. Leslie didn’t know how to help support her friend as she was making her pregnancy decision.

5 ways to help a friend who might be pregnantEspecially for situations like Leslie’s, we like to share these 5 Ways to Help a Friend Who Might Be Pregnant.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Listen without judging. Many women who are facing an unintended pregnancy expect that some around them may look down on them for how they got into this situation. A listening ear is invaluable and can be rare.
  • Don’t pressure her. Women facing unintended pregnancies often feel pressure from their boyfriend, parents or friends. Support her and let her know you care without adding pressure.
  • Let her know there’s a place she can go for help in First Care Clinic.
  • Be there for her. Invite her to join you for coffee or to call you whenever she needs to talk to continue the conversation.
  • Keep the news to yourself. Don’t share the news with others. Keep her confidence unless there is a dangerous situation which should be reported.

Here’s how we can help:

  • Medical services
    • Pregnancy testing
    • Obstetrical ultrasound
    • STI testing and treatment for women
  • Education and support
    • Evidence-based medical education about pregnancy options
    • Pregnancy, childbirth and parenting education
    • Support for men from men
    • Healthy relationships education
    • A listening ear and ongoing support
  • Residential maternity program, The Elizabeth House

We offer all of our services confidentially and free of charge.

Don’t keep First Care Clinic a secret! If you know a young woman or man who might be making a pregnancy decision, listen, be there and spread the word that there is help available!

Meet Billie Jo, RN, BSN

Meet Billie Jo, RN, BSN. Billie Jo has been a nurse for 16 years, beginning in neuro-medical surgery in 2001. In 2002, she began working in obstetrics at St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison. For the past 15 years, Billie Jo has worked in labor and delivery, postpartum, antepartum and NICU. She has served hundreds of women and babies.

When she was in 7th grade, Billie Jo did a report for school on crack babies. Researching this topic opened her eyes to nursing, especially neonatal nursing. She thought then that she wanted to be a NICU nurse.

As a junior in high school, Billie Jo traveled to Guatemala to serve with a team of people. They were working to meet health and educational needs. She knew then that she wanted to serve families and people.

Billie Jo Larsen, RN
Billie Jo Larsen, RN, is excited to join the team at First Care Clinic.

Billie Jo loves to serve. When she started college, Billie Jo was undecided between teaching and nursing. She initially began pursuing a teaching degree. Yet her heart was drawn back to nursing, and she completed her degree in nursing. In December 2017, Billie Jo completed her BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing). (Post updated January 2018.)

Growing up on a dairy farm with three older brothers, Billie Jo developed a love for the outdoors. And for competitive sports. She played basketball and softball in college.

Billie Jo loves nature. She loves doing just about anything outside: Walking, running, biking, fishing, hunting and even reading. “If I could read outside all day I’d be happy,” she said.

Billie Jo and her husband enjoy raising their family in the country to enjoy the great outdoors. They currently have four children between the ages of six and 13, including a son they adopted.

Sadly, Billie Jo and her husband also experienced a full-term stillbirth, losing their daughter, Olivia, at 39 weeks. As a result of this heartbreaking occurrence, Billie Jo became a spokesperson for the March of Dimes. She has also gained increased compassion for women who experience pregnancy loss.
Billie Jo is excited to join the team at First Care Clinic. She looks forward to providing pregnancy and sexual health related medical care to women. And she’s eager to serve and support women as they make decisions about their pregnancies and sexual health.

We are pleased to welcome Billie Jo to our staff. Her professional and personal experiences will be a great asset to our patients.

Chloe’s “Best Decision She Ever Made”

Chloe* had been feeling really sick for about six weeks – so sick she spent most of her time on the couch. A medical appointment found nothing wrong and Chloe soon began to feel better.

Chloe and her best friend, Allison*, decided to vacation in the Madison area. While on the drive, Allison asked Chloe if she could be pregnant. “Absolutely not,” was Chloe’s reply. But she started to wonder. A pregnancy test indicated that Chloe was indeed pregnant.

“I was absolutely freaking out,” Chloe remembered. “I needed answers now and didn’t want to wait until we got back home. I was in total disbelief and just wanted to find out.”

Chloe searched online and found a clinic in Madison, Care Net’s First Care Clinic. “It said it was free. That was hard to believe, but I made an appointment and went in the next day.”

Chloe and her best decision
“It was so valuable to talk with your clinic staff. They took a neutral position on my options and spent so much time with me.”

Chloe expected something “run down and shady—like something you’d see on a TV show.” But when she arrived at First Care Clinic she found something entirely different. “It was so, so nice. The facility was amazing and the people were extremely helpful. I was sitting there thinking, ‘They’re going to bill me for something.’ I was so nervous. It helped that they let Allison stay with me the whole time.”

First Care Clinic staff took the time to listen and heard Chloe’s worries. “One of my biggest concerns was talking to my parents. I’m not married. My parents are kind of old school and I didn’t know how to tell them I was pregnant. The clinic staff helped me talk through why I thought they’d be upset and how I could deal with different reactions and concerns.”

Clinic staff also gave Chloe the tools she needed to make decisions about her pregnancy. “I filled out a decision guide that helped me break down all my options and weigh the pros and cons of each one.

“If I chose to have an abortion, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to live with myself afterwards. But I also wasn’t prepared to be a mom and had so many worries. I wasn’t sure what to do.”

Having to make such a critical decision on her own was terrifying. But Chloe soon realized there was someone on her side. “It was so valuable to talk with your clinic staff. They took a neutral position on my options and spent so much time with me.”

“They did a pregnancy test and then an ultrasound. I was in awe. I could see that he already had arms and legs and was moving around. It was pretty crazy.”

Chloe chose to carry her baby to term. Her son, Ethan Lucas*, was born earlier this year and is “doing great.”

“Since coming to First Care Clinic, I have definitely changed. I feel that I was a mature person before, but this experience helped me grow up even more. Becoming a mom and having my son has given my life a whole new meaning.”

Chloe thanked those who make First Care Clinic possible. “First Care Clinic helped me to make the best decision I ever made.”

* Names changed to protect privacy.

Everybody Loves Carol

Everybody loves Carol.

So many patients on their exit reviews wrote their thanks to this caring nurse who serves in our clinic.

Here are a few recent comments from Carol’s patients:

 “Thank you so much for making my visit here very comfortable, especially my nurse Carol.”

“Carol was very kind, amazing.”

“My nurse, Carol, was so understanding and so helpful. She made me feel so comfortable.”

In case you have not yet met Carol, let me introduce you.

Carol has been nursing for over 50 years. When she was just eight years old, her grandfather told her she should be a nurse. She took it to heart and has “never regretted it. I don’t want to be anything else – even in my retirement.” Carol loves nursing!

Carol began her nursing career working in the intensive care unit of a hospital and next did psychiatric nursing. After those, Carol was a public health nurse, which is how she spent most of her career.

In the 1990’s, Carol became a clinic nurse and while there, in 1999, went back to school and became a Nurse Practitioner. She created a position for herself at the clinic where she worked. This rural clinic had never had a Nurse Practitioner before and were a little skeptical. But they knew Carol and moved ahead with her in this new role. Carol also taught nursing students after she became a Nurse Practitioner.

Carol officially retired about 10 years ago but loved nursing too much to end her nursing career. She began volunteering at a pregnancy clinic in northern Wisconsin.

Carol moved to Madison from northern Wisconsin in 2012 – and began serving at First Care Clinic soon after her arrival in Madison.

When Carol is not in our clinic, she loves spending time with her family, including four teenage and preteen grandchildren. She also loves to go camping, canoeing and hiking. She goes for lots of walks. She enjoys taking advantage of the arts opportunities available in Madison – the symphony, art shows, music and drama.

And Carol adds, “I enjoy sitting down with my feet up and reading a good book.” Her favorite genre is historical fiction but she enjoys reading a wide variety of good books. She especially likes to read books that her grandchildren are reading. Then they can talk about the books together.

Carol enjoys having an opportunity to help women and to walk alongside them as they make big decisions. “I love being a part of something –  it keeps me active.”

Meet Tanis, Clinic Director

This week is National Nurses Week, which is celebrated every year beginning on May 6 and ending on May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday.

During this week we would like to introduce you to our Clinic Director, Tanis Jean-Louis, RN.

When Tanis finished high school, she planned to become an interior designer, but her plans changed the next year when her family traveled to Haiti. While they were in Haiti, they visited a hospital that was vacant but was planning to reopen. In seeing the great need, Tanis decided then that she wanted to go back and work there. She began pursuing nursing.

Tanis graduated with her nursing degree in 1985 and has been practicing nursing for 32 years. Her first nursing job was in a neurosurgery critical care unit. After taking a course in international health, Tanis started doing outpost nursing serving Native populations at various outposts in northern Canada where she was the only medical staff person there so she treated all patients.

Tanis’s next road led to Haiti where she started and ran a community health program. And she assisted in the very hospital she had visited years earlier, working in labor and delivery and in OR.

Five years later, Tanis returned to her native Canada and later moved to the United States with her husband, who she met in Haiti. She has worked as a hospice nurse, in labor and delivery, in school nursing and as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.

Tanis began at Care Net in 2004 and brings a commendable dedication and excellence to her work. She is caring toward each of her patients. Her kind, professional manner and the time she will spend with an individual patient shows her commitment to their care.

Tanis is glad to be able to work in women’s health, using her vast experiences and nursing skills to care for women. Further, Tanis enjoys helping patients who are facing difficult life situations, “…like abuse and addictions – and seeing them change their lives around by the support they receive in our clinic.”

When Tanis is not working, she enjoys relaxing with her husband and bargain shopping.


Welcome to First Care Clinic, one of the most trusted women’s health clinics in Madison, WI for over 30 years!

Our medical professional provide compassionate medical care, free of charge and confidentially. If you are experiencing signs of pregnancy, pregnancy symptoms or thinking about abortion, call us.

We are available to discuss your options, listen to your concerns and answer your questions.

We also offer STI/STD testing and treatment for women, diagnostic ultrasound and pregnancy and parenting education.

To make an appointment, call or text us at 608-259-1605.

And visit our new blog to find up to date information related to pregnancy, sexual health, healthy relationships, abortion, community resources and more.