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Meet Rochelle McLean of Babies in Bloom

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rochelle McLean.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
When I was a child, I was always fascinated by birth. At the age of 10, while my friends dreamed of becoming princesses and ballet dancers, I announced that I wanted to be an obstetrician when I grew up. I attended my first birth when I was 17, supporting my cousin and her husband while she gave birth to their daughter. That wondrous moment galvanized my decision to pursue a career in medicine and birth. The license plate on my car even read OBGYN2B and that is the path I focused on in high school and college … until I decided to marry my best friend who happened to be entering a career of military service.

I spent the next several years moving around the country with him, working in early childhood education, but always felt that something was missing. The birth of my own two children reawakened my desire to work in the birth field. It allowed me to realize that pregnancy and childbirth where I was meant to be. I treasured every moment of my pregnancies and read voraciously. When my friends’ husbands were deployed, they asked me to be there when their babies were born. When my children were old enough, I returned to school.

While in nursing school, I took a doula training course thinking it would help me be a better labor and delivery nurse. Instead, I found a name for the role I had assumed with so many friends and family members. Becoming a certified childbirth educator and lactation consultant allowed me to expand my knowledge and ability to support pregnant women and families. I knew that this is what I was supposed to do and finally felt complete.

In addition to my work at a local hospital, I also taught private classes out of my home.

Through the years, clients and students frequently asked me, “Where can you buy a …?” or, “How do you use a …?” I envisioned a place where people could come in and take a class or, find the perfect product to meet their needs during pregnancy and the first year of their baby’s life. Not an overwhelmingly huge store with aisles and aisles of stuff, but a place where you could pull up a chair and ask someone questions.

A place where someone would help you choose the right items for you and then show you how to use them. I rented a small office where I could see clients for lactation and private classes, as well as rent breast pumps and offer a small collection of baby items. We quickly grew out of that space and spent the next several years in a large space with a good sized boutique and classroom

When educating students about their options for birth, we would talk about hospital and home, doctors and midwives. Many parents were interested in birth centers but did not want to travel to downtown San Diego or Orange County to give birth.

At a community event, I was speaking with a midwife friend, telling her my frustration about the lack of birth centers in North County. “Why don’t you open one?” I giggled at her suggestion. When I went home and shared the conversation with my husband, he said, “You should.” Thus the seed was planted and one year later, we were thrilled to have opened the first Birth Center in North San Diego County. Our hope is that one day there will be as many birth centers as needed for all of the women to have the choice to deliver where, how and with whom they desire.

The best part of my chosen career is that it allows me to do something I enjoy without compromising the most important job I have – that of wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. Working with pregnant and new families isn’t my career, it is my passion. I enjoy being able to meet people and help them navigate the transition to parenthood. I feel so blessed to be able to do what I like and love what I do!

Has it been a smooth road?
I don’t think being an entrepreneur is ever a smooth road. There is a great meme that shows the ever-changing brain of a business owner (“I am doing great!” “Oh, no! It’s so hard!”). We are fortunate that we have grown slowly and conservatively. I think that is how we have remained open while many similar businesses have closed their doors.

We continue to feel the pressure from Amazon and big box stores. As far as the boutique goes, there is a fair amount of showrooming (where a client will come in and ask a ton of questions, you give them all of the information and allow them to demo a product and after several minutes or an hour, they purchase the item elsewhere).

It is frustrating because as a brick and mortar store, I think the perception is that our prices are higher, but they usually are not. There are services that we used to offer for free that we now have to charge for because we while we gave the education and support, clients purchased elsewhere.

The birth center brought a host of licensing, regulations and protocols that I think most people imagine would be difficult to navigate. I actually enjoy it. It is like a puzzle.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Babies in Bloom – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
We really have four complementary businesses under one roof.

We offer a ton of classes and support groups (many of which are free or low-cost). We have everything from childbirth education and prenatal yoga to lactation and postpartum support groups and infant art and toddler music classes. We also offer several trainings and networking events for birth workers.

In the boutique, I think we specialize in customer service and knowledge. The employees are specialists like babywearing educators, doulas, infant massage instructors, doulas and car passenger safety technicians. We like to talk with clients and find out what their needs are so that we can help them choose the best product for their family – whether that is an herbal supplement, a toy or a car seat.

The birth center allows women to receive holistic, family-centered maternity care and bring their baby into the world in the way that they want. It is so empowering to have a say in your medical care and make decisions. Personally, I am a lactation consultant and love to help moms make their way through breastfeeding as easy as possible.

I am most proud of the foundation we provide for childbearing families. In this day and age where extended families reside all over the nation and world, new parents often lack the education and support they need. I hope in some small way we provide that for them.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
My husband was stationed at Camp Pendleton and Miramar at the end of his 20 year USMC career. We loved the area so much, we stayed here after he retired (he currently has a civilian job on Camp Pendleton).

I love that San Diego really has everything… beaches, mountains, deserts… urban downtown with cultural things like museums, music and theater, and also suburbs and farmland… amazing food and a melting pot of people and cultures… and of course, the weather.

If I had to pick two things I like least, it would be the traffic (I want to be able to get around this amazing place and see and do all of the things) and the lack of an NFL team. Football is my favorite sport and it has been rough for us since we moved here.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Kelsey Smith Photography

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