As a small business owner, it's important to me to go out of my way for my clients. To get to known them and to provide a level of service that I am tremendously proud to represent. A customer experience that injects every dollar my clients invest in me with tremendous value.
I learned a lot about the added value that a small local business can offer though my experiences with Kelly LaChance Guertin of Bellani Maternity.
[Above: A photo of Kelly with her three kids last summer.]
I realize this post is gonna read a bit like an advertisement, and that's not my intention. Genuinely good reviews just sound a little like ads, and there aint nothin' I can do 'bout that.
But if you read my blog, you know that truth is of the utmost importance to me in life and in my business. I would smash my beloved camera to the cement before I promoted a business here that I do not believe in.
The following is just information I think you should know.
I found Bellani Maternity five years ago when I was pregnant with my first child and searching for a local maternity yoga class. I later learned that it is owned and lovingly operated by a (North Kingstown) high school acquaintance.
I first thought Bellani was just a shop for classes and maternity and infant gear but quickly learned it is so, so very much more.
Here are three of the many ways that Bellani Maternity has changed my life, ranging from least to most important:
1) Kelly helped me get out of the house.
If I tell you that Kelly "helped me find the right stroller for me," it might not seem like a big deal to you. But when you've got post-partum depression and a colicky baby and you feel guilty about giving him formula but he can't latch so you pump your breasts eight times a day and you have already bought and returned six--count 'em--SIX other annoying-assed strollers, and quite frankly you are really not getting out much at all because EVERYTHING IS JUST SO HARD…finding a good stroller is a very big deal.
It makes getting out a lil easier.
You need to get out, you know.
Regain some normalcy.
Kelly understood everything I was going through. She named challenges that I was struggling with but couldn't put words to. She knew every feature of every stroller on the market, the ins-and-outs, the goods-and-bads of each one, and she was forthcoming about all of it.
When she demonstrated the one-handed fold of a Baby Jogger stroller for me, I just about fell to my tired knees with happiness. I think I actually did cry.
The Bellani team knows their stuff.
2) She helped me feed my child who would not eat.
Eventually (three months later), I waived the white flag over my breast pump and cut that masochistic sh*t out. But I didn't do so without tremendous Mommy Guilt, so I had to come up with a way to make up for the fact that I was denying my child precious breast milk and also a bonding experience and thereby f*cking with his entire LIFE because I SIMLY DID NOT WANT TO PUMP.
Or at least that was one of the sweet nothings I whispered to myself.
Shortly after sobbing to my husband that our child would inevitably go to California for college because of the lack of a breast-feeding maternal bond, I devised a plan to compensate.
I would make all of his baby food. I would lay the smack down on the Gerber baby food industry and feed our child only homemade organic baby purees made with love from scratch.
But apparently it would be (and still is) very hard to feed this child--not just breast milk--but ANYTHING. Probably because of the psychological scars I inflicted while trying to get him to latch.
Also. I didn't know anything about infant nutrition, and I didn't know anything about making purees.
I took two of her baby-food-making classes, both of which were chucked to the gills with information that only a ton of reading and YEARS of experience could get ya. She also knows all the fun tricks for storage and travel and other such good things.
One of my favorite tips from her at that time was to crush up cheerios into dust and shake em around in a plastic bag with banana pieces. That makes it easier for the little ones to pick up the bananas.
Kelly helped me to feed my child who would eat almost nothing, and more importantly, she helped to calm my nerves and remove the guilt about the whole feeding thing. MAJOR WIN.
[Noteworthy fact #467: Our second child LOVES Gerber.]
3) She empowered me to hold my second baby immediately after giving birth via c-section.
This one. This one, I will be grateful for until the day I die.
When I was pregnant with our second child, I was in Bellani because my son was enrolled in their *awesome* toddler art classes. During my visit, I rubbed my belly and bemoaned to Kelly that I was sad I'd have to have another c-section.
My first c-section was a surprise, and the doctor later told us it would be risky and unwise for me to attempt a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean), which was extremely disappointing news.
"Have you ever heard of a Gentle Cesaerean?" Kelly asked. I hadn't, and neither had my OBGYN. But Kelly put me in touch with Amanda at ICAN RI (Amanda, BTW, also works at Bellani), and Amanda helped me lay the groundwork so I could have a Gentle Cesaerean.
It was the first Gentle C-Section in the history of Women and Infants hospital, thankyouverymuch.
(The best part of a Gentle C is that they allow you to hold your baby on your chest immediately after s/he is born, instead of making you wait until you get to the recovery room, which is what happened when our son was born. Instead of feeling like you're in the hospital to have surgery, it feels like you're in the hospital to have a baby. That's good.)
Mark this as one of the very best moments of my life, and one I will remember for ever, evah, evah to infinity and beyond.
[Above: To answer your question, yes. My forehead does have an end to it.]
Bellani Maternity has had a huge impact on my experience as a mother, and has connected me with a community of other wonderful moms: both when I was a stay-at-home mom, and now as I run my photography business.
Have you seen my photography display in their shop?
[Above: Me, this summer. Listen. I said I can help YOU to not be awkward in front of the camera. I did not say that I am not awkward in front of the camera.]
Getting to My Point:
Every time I visit Kelly, she is helping another mom with something totally unexpected. Last week, I overheard her helping a mom whose three-year-old daughter is insistent upon knowing how babies are made. On my previous visit there, she helped a pregnant mom relieve her back problems. (The mom didn't know she was wearing the wrong kind of maternity bra.)
I cannot express how much Kelly and the team at Bellani Maternity have impacted me, and that's why, when they approached me about collaborating on a January promotion, I was eager and excited to jump onboard.
(This promotion also coincides with the same month I am teaching a Photography 101 class at Bellani! There are only two spots left in the class so please register soon if you're interested!)
You can read the details of the January promotion here. Basically, when you spend $100 at Bellani this month, you are entered to win a photography package with me (worth over $1K!)
This promotion is my way of showing gratitude to the whole Bellani community for the many ways they have positively touched my life, and it's Kelly's way of showing gratitude to all of her supportive clients, and of adding even more value to her own client experience.
As if she needs to.
Has Kelly or someone else in the Bellani community touched your life in a positive way? Tell us about it in the comments! :)