Heidi McDowell of Mind Body Baby Collective: Podcast Episode #235
April 25, 2024

Heidi McDowell of Mind Body Baby Collective: Podcast Episode #235

Kristin and Heidi discussed her yoga studio’s expansion, including child care and a co-working space.  They also discussed Heidi’s contribution to the fitness section in our upcoming book release, Supported: Your Guide to Birth and Baby.   

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to bring back Heidi McDowell of Mind Body Baby to chat about so many topics today!  But the overarching theme is going to be focusing on creating community and certainly addressing the childcare struggle that moms have, that birth and baby and health and wellness practitioners have in building businesses and making appointments.  Welcome, Heidi!

Hi, Kristin!  I’m happy to be here!

Yes, I’m so excited to chat about your news related to solving some of the challenges with childcare and expanding your own practice!

Yeah, we are really excited to be able to announce that we have purchased with the intentions of expanding into a new 8,000 square foot facility.  We’re calling it a Mega Mom Center.

I love it.

It’s titled the Mind Body Baby Collective.  We are partnering with other women-owned, women-operated businesses to support moms, families, women who are really excited for what we have in store.

It’s so exciting, and Mind Body Baby has always provided childcare, not only for your employees, but for your students, and you are solving this childcare issue by providing it for all of the members of the collective.  So you have massage therapists, doulas, a chiropractic practice – so many different businesses can benefit from the dilemma that those of us doing this work faced when we had young children.

Yeah, absolutely.  It is that two-pronged approach.  Not only is the center operating child care for our services, so Mind Body Baby and everything that we have, like, but we are offering childcare for the entire facility.  So anybody that is within the walls of Mind Body Baby has the opportunity to utilize childcare.  My thought has always been, why do we have to choose between self-care and childcare as a community in a country that is considered to be one of the wealthiest?  I think that we’re really failing women and mothers and families when it comes to the level of support that we offer, and most times, whether it is somebody that’s in the same field of birth work or support, or whether it is that you’re just a mother, you do have to choose.  How are you spending your time?  Do you have access to affordable childcare?  And we’ve noticed that being a barrier for people for being able to, one, provide care to return to the workforce, or to be able to get the self-care that you need and want.  So we’ve opened this space, and we have created a beautiful childcare, and whether it is somebody that is coming in to provide the self-care or somebody that’s coming in to receive the self-care, you have the opportunity now to utilize childcare to allow your child to be cared for by a professional in a space that is safe, that you feel comfortable, and you don’t ever have to wonder or worry if they’re getting what they need because they’re having fun with other kids while you get what you need.

Right, while you get a massage, or take a class that’s not a mommy and me class, not the toddler type of classes.  You can just have that true self care.  And I saw some of your social media promotions about a lounge area where you can just take some time, close your eyes.

That might be my favorite part of the new expansion.  Within the Mind Body Baby space, I was thinking, like, what is something that is considered a luxury for moms, and it’s rest.  So we created two different lounge spaces.  One, we’re aptly calling the Mama Lounge.  That’s more of community; grab a coffee.  We’ll have a tummy time area for little ones.  It’s baby friendly.  Come and meet after class and just enjoy a few moments together.  But the other one we’re calling the Rest Lounge.  We’re going to have seven kind of like rest lounge chairs, pillows, blankets.  They’re going to have divider curtains.  It’s going to have, like, spa music.  And the idea is that it’s childfree, so no kids allowed, but it’s guilt-free rest.  So whether you want to bring a book, grab a coffee, drink a coffee while it’s still hot because we know that that doesn’t happen often.  Listen to a podcast.  Or maybe, just maybe, close your eyes and take a nap.

Exactly.  Even 15 minutes of uninterrupted time can make a big difference.

Oh, my gosh, so much.  And we joke that moms don’t get sleep, moms need rest – but in a true health and wellness sense, we are living in a really heightened nervous system.  Moms are overstimulated.  We’re touched out.  We often are short-tempered and a little bit anxious, and it’s because we are constantly inputting stimulation.  And to have a space that’s very low stimulation to help your nervous system down regulate to help you just feel better in such a way – it’s going to be so beneficial for the family unit, for everybody that’s involved, for your health, for your wellness.  Oh, my goodness.  I’m just so excited for it.  Part of me feels guilty because I’m going to be sending my clients sleeping at work.

No, don’t feel guilty.

I know.  No, I can’t feel guilty, right?  That’s the point, too.  It’s got to be guilt-free.  We’ve got to be able to just know that we get to rest, and there doesn’t have to be a prerequisite to rest.  Rest is productive, too.

Yes, absolutely.  So fill us in about the other practitioners that are part of the Mind Body Collective.

Oh, my gosh, yes!  So excited, we just announced, I think on Saturday, so just a couple days ago, the services that are going to be included.  And when I listed out the menu of choices of things that you have to choose from on a daily basis at the space, my mind was kind of – how did this come together so beautifully?  I’m going to just rattle off some of the things.  I hope I don’t miss anything.  So we’ve got services within services within services.  We’re going to have the on-site childcare and the nursery space.  We’ll have specialty movement classes.  We’re going to have a co-working space.  And then the two lounges, the Mama Lounge and the Rest Lounge.  Within our space, we’re going to have a coffee bar café.  And then we’ve got all of our collective providers.  We’re going to have chiropractic care specializing in prenatal and postpartum.  So everybody’s focus is the same stages of life, so fertility, prenatal, postpartum, and beyond.  We have massage therapy, acupuncture, pelvic floor physical therapy, birth and postpartum support, occupational therapy, lactation and feeding support.  We will have counseling services specializing in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

Excellent, and having childcare for that – wow.

Right?  I don’t know if anyone listening or you yourself, Kristin, has ever tried to navigate having a telehealth appointment or a mental health appointment while the reason you have the appointment is like, actively, on your lap or talking to you and you feel like you just can’t get the focus that you need on yourself.

Absolutely, with interruptions, yes, it is challenging to have that telehealth, but also convenient for therapy.  I have experienced that.

Yeah.  I can’t be more elated at the way that this has come together and just the next level of support that we’re going to be bringing in and offering.  It just – it blows my mind at the idea that this has come together the way that I dreamed and hoped that it would.  It really feels like everything that I – I was a pandemic mom.  So going through that – it started with infertility and that feeling isolating, and then becoming a pandemic mom and being – like, hoping that after that fertility journey, I would have my big village of people and support.  Pandemic happened; I had nobody.  And then postpartum, I had my baby.  Everybody met my baby through a window.  And it was just – you know, no village, no support, no community.

So you built what you needed with Mind Body Baby.  And now, this collective even more so!

100% !  I love the idea that as we are growing with the community – like, my baby was just one when I started this, and so a lot of it is just my own personal experience and needs and then feedback from people.  So as we’re growing with our community, if we see a need that’s still not being met, a barrier that’s still not being broken down, we’re able to look at that and say, okay, how can we help?  What can we do?  We have space.  We have a platform.  We have resources.  What can we do to help get the care and the healing, the support, the community into the hands of the people who need it the most?  And those are the life-giving, world-populating mothers.

Yes, and it’s nice that you have so many related practitioners, again, focusing on that pre-conception through early parenting stage, that they can black out their appointments and get a coffee in between, meet a friend, take a nap in between meeting with different practitioners.  I wish that Gold Coast was able to make the move, but we are still a big fan, and we’ll send our clients your way.

I appreciate it, yeah.  I think, too, it’s community support, and part of the community is the practitioners.  I love the idea that our practitioners are moms, too.  We are – right now, it’s seven women-owned and operated businesses, and that’s not even counting the individual, like, businesses that are independent consultants that operate within each business.  But they’re all women and all moms, and so they need the support just as much as everybody else.  And I think that’s part of the reason why they chose to be in the collective because they knew and they understood the level that this is bringing and that they can utilize what we have, too, just as much as the community that they’re serving.

Absolutely.  And I know that there are different types of communities cropping up around the country like these postpartum recovery centers in some of the major cities and multiple collective spaces.  But I do feel like you have a unique slant on yours.  I don’t know if you’ve thought about expanding to other communities or even other states, but it’s a great model.

Thank you.  I appreciate the feedback.  Yeah, it’s definitely a lot of work.

Yes, it’s got to be.

As much as we dream of that – we will see.  We’ll see where we end up and if it’s something that we’re able to scale and share.  We’d love to be able to revolutionize the way that the country receives support and take it further than just West Michigan.

Exactly.  And it is so funny that on social media, I see so many moms talking about how they joined a gym just for the childcare and then they work at the gym instead of working out.  So you’ve got this co-working station.  You have areas that you can have coffee and meet with friends, so more of a social environment.  And then the ability to take any of your fitness-focused classes, which you have – you teach yourself, but you also have a variety of practitioners and offerings, whether it’s infant massage to barre classes to, of course, prenatal yoga.  Do you want to expand a bit about the offerings that you have in your studio?

I would love to.  Yeah, so we – again, growing with the community, it really just started with having prenatal postpartum yoga.  And then realizing that that supports part of the community, but what else?  And we added in barre classes after that.  All of our instructors are cross-trained professionals.  They are experts in pre- and postpartum fitness, and so they know how to keep you safe, first and foremost.  That’s really important to us.  It’s not just about being modified.  It’s about making sure that they can educate and keep safe mom and baby.  And then we just keep adding on.  So from there, we’ve got classes that you can do with your baby.  So we’ve got baby and me yoga, baby wear barre, baby and me dance classes where you baby wear and get to dance with your babe.  Such a great, cute thing that we do!  And then we’ve got things that are more baby-friendly where if you’re not quite ready for the childcare aspect of what we offer, you can bring your baby to your mat and they can watch you grow strong.  We’re expanding that now into being more of like a mama and me where we don’t ever want kiddos to look at their moms or to see the way they lead their life or even hear a story from their mom about all the things they used to do.  We want them to see that their mom can just excel and grow and continue to be strong with their kids, and it’s not a life or a lifestyle they had to leave behind.  So we want them to be able to observe and witness that.  So we created this really cool class.  We joke that we might call it Hot Mess Express where you can bring your kids with you.  And they can watch; they can practice; they can jump on your back.  They can do whatever, but the idea is that they’re just in space with you, and it’s something you can do together and they can see you doing that thing that you love to do to grow stronger.  So we’re really excited about that one coming up.  We’ve got toddler time classes, busy babes.  We’re partnering even with a couple other women-owned businesses that bring in other types of movement classes, things that we don’t necessarily offer.  We’re bringing in different workshops, like baby signs and ASL class.  We’re bringing in bilingual babes, so introductions to early languages.  So beyond movement classes, we’re bringing in experts to help shape and offer you fun things to do with your kiddos.

Excellent.  I know Alyssa teaches your sleep workshop on occasion.  So lovely. 

We tell everybody, you’re going to want to sleep.  You’re going to wonder how you could ever think about sleep so much as the fourth trimester of your life.  So that’s a beautiful offering, too.  We love that one.

So Heidi, as far as your true passion in creating this amazing collective, what is your mantra or what keeps you going with all the chaos from finding the perfect building to assembling the members of the collective?  You’ve got a lot on your plate with your existing studio, being a mom, and so I would love for you to just share maybe a meditation that you use or a mantra with our listeners.

Yeah.  Well, I have two.  One is my motivation mantra that brings in the passion, and that is: we can do better.  We can do better for ourselves; we can do better for this community.  We can do better.  And I say that all the time when things just aren’t adding up, when it feels like there’s those barriers.  But the other one is for my own mental health to keep me sane on the days where it seems like I’m doing everything, but really I’m breaking down on the inside or maybe even the outside.  Having a good cry while I’m overwhelmed because I’m human.  And that one is, I can’t be everything to everyone.  While I’m trying to create something for everyone, while I’m trying to use all these different pieces and parts and have them work together, I’m going to let people down, and so I have to remind myself that while I’m doing this beautiful thing, I’m also going to disappoint people at the same time.  So we can do better, but I also can’t be everything to everyone.

Beautiful.  I love it.  Thank you for sharing.  Alyssa and I recently announced our book that’s coming out on Mother’s Day, and we invited you to be our expert contributor on fitness, whether it’s prenatal or postpartum.  So can’t wait for our listeners and clients to see your section that covers everything from swimming to prenatal yoga to different exercises to walking, ways you can move your body in a healthy way.

Well, first of all, I’m so proud of both you and Alyssa for having the mental capacity to put a book together.  You’re so busy.  It’s a long process.  It’s amazing.  I can’t wait to see it, to read it.  Thank you so much for trusting me to be a contributor to your book.  It’s such an honor, and I hope that it’s just so well received because the intentions behind it are so beautiful.

Well, thank you.  And similar to our Becoming a Mother course, rather than trying to bring the information from our point of view, we wanted to bring in experts, so we do have everything from a pediatrician contributing to a mental health therapist to you of course with the fitness section, and so many beautiful client stories, whether it’s their birth story to their caring for a newborn to their feeding journey.  So it really was a beautiful group effort in creating Supported.

Oh, my gosh, it sounds so lovely.  I really can’t wait.  I’m so excited to be able to share it.

Maybe we can come in to your birth story class and share some of the stories.  We could get some of our clients to share their own experiences.  That would be a fun way to do a reading.

That is such a great idea!  I absolutely love that.  Please do!

Yes, we’ll be in touch!

I love the idea, too, that you took out the opinions and the bias and you made it evidence-based information.  And then shared stories.  I think that’s really what – as doulas, what we try to offer all the time, and you just wrapped it all up and put it in a book.

Yes, we tried!  But we would love to continue to partner with you.  Please share all of your different social channels, your website, so our listeners can learn more.

Yes.  The website is Mind Body Baby.  Our social channel recently got an update because we’re no longer just Mind Body Baby.  We are now Mind Body Baby _ Collective to really encompass all that goodness that we have.  I know, yay!  Yeah, we’re hoping to have our grand opening celebration this summer and would love to see you there and have you as a part of it.

Of course, can’t wait!  And we’ll miss you in East Town, but at least you’re here for a little while longer.

I know, kind of bittersweet.  We love that studio.  It really feels like a space that we grew up in.  It kind of held us all and supported everybody, and we watched a lot of families grow within that space, including my own.  So it is bittersweet, but we know the expansion is necessary in order to grow the level of services that we have to grow in the space that we have.

Exactly.  I’m so excited for you.  Well, thanks for hopping on, and we will chat soon!

Thank you so much, Kristin!  Talk soon!


Mind Body Baby Collective

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming a Mother course