We had the good fortune of connecting with Mary Love and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mary, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I worked as a hospital based midwife for 8 years before opening Heart of Houston Birth and Wellness Center. When I initially moved to Houston I worked in a private midwifery practice and would hear clients lament on a regular basis that they would like to give birth at a birth center, but they didn’t want to drive out to the suburbs to do it. Or that they wished there was a better relationship between the community birth setting and the hospital in case there was a need to change locations for the birth. For years I thought, “sheesh, someone should really do this.” I transitioned from that position to a role as a CNM hospitalist. In this role, I saw pretty much all the patients that were coming into the hospital and cared for a lot of high risk woman and babies. It was eye opening to see how so many of these pregnancies became only about the problem, and all the normal bits, which is still most of everything that goes on with pregnancy, was just left behind. This experience really solidified that all pregnancies benefit from some aspect of midwifery care.
At some point the combination of these two things turned the light bulb on in my head. One day the realization that the “someone” who should do this might be me.
What should our readers know about your business?
Heart of Houston Birth and Wellness Center is a free standing birth center in the heart of Houston, Texas. We provide personalized maternity care to low risk pregnancies as well as wellness, gyn, and some primary care. In addition to birth care, Our Whole Heart Collective offers the opportunity for education, midwifery minded support, and community for those not giving birth with us. The goal in creating Heart of Houston was to fill in so many gaps that exist in our maternity system in the city.
There are often a lot of misunderstandings about midwifery care in the United States. Often the first question I get asked is, is it even legal? While each state has different rules and regulations for midwives – the over all answer is yes, it is. As a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) my scope of practice includes caring for women from puberty through the life span, so yes, we do a lot more than birth care, although for Heart of Houston, birth care is the majority of our business.
Maternity care at Heart of Houston looks similar to conventional care with a obstetrician as far as timing of prenatal visits, recommended labs, ultrasounds etc. We have professional evidence based guidelines that we follow for our recommendations. What really sets our care apart from the usual care is time spend with the midwife and a belief that pregnancy is a normal body process. Clients spend at least an hour with the midwife at each visit (actually with the midwife, not waiting in the waiting room). This gives time to actually talk about what is happening in the clients body and in the rest of their life. There is time to answer questions, discussed risks and benefits for options, and review upcoming expectations.
In addition to offering services to those not giving birth with us, our nurse-midwives also have the ability to attend births a the hospital. Some of our clients come to us desiring a hospital birth, and for others circumstances arise either during pregnancy or labor that necessitate the need to give birth at the hospital. In most circumstances, risking out of giving birth at the birth center doesn’t risk a person our of having a CNM attend their birth at the hospital. We also have great support from our physician colleges to collaborate and coordinate when a higher level of care is needed.
Some aspects of starting Heart of Houston were easier than I expected, and other harder. It took two years from the time I first seriously started considering the idea to when our first baby was born. I was thrilled at how much enthusiasm for the vision there was among birth professionals and the Houston community at large. I knew early on that I would need some help and was over the moon when Jessica Gonzales, our co-founder, saw the vision and said yes. Getting funding was also easier than I expected. What has been hard – writing a business plan. It took me nearly a year, it must have kicked ass though, because I got approval for my SBA loan with our much hassle. Another challenge that I did not anticipate was real estate. The answer to why no one has done this is – real estate. That has been a bit of a bumpy road, With so many lessons learned. We were fortunate to get into our current location in the Tribeca Lofts building on short notice – because we had babies in the way. We should start the build out on our “forever” home in the next couple months – pending how fast the Houston’s permitting folks work.
I think what I would most like people to know about our brand or story. Is that we believe that birth is a life changing moment, but that it is just a moment in the grand scheme of things. How a baby is born isn’t nearly as important how everyone walks away form the experience. You can have the most picture perfect birth and walk away feeling dehumanized. Or, a person can go through every hoop and step and come our feeling like they kicked ass. Often it is believed that if there is a healthy mom and a healthy baby everyone should be happy. But in reality everyone getting out alive is sort of like getting a C on the test. You passed, but it probably could have been a lot better. Also, having a healthy mom and a healthy baby isn’t even possible in every birth. I like to tell families, that at the end of the birth, when you hold that baby in your arms I want you to be proud and say, “I did it!”
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Oh goodness. This is a good one. I moved to Houston when I had a 1 year old, and we had another baby a year later. So most of my adventures often involve kid-friendly things and a lot of stuff out doors. We love the zoo, Herman park, and the natural science museum. I also love the museum of fine art and the Rothko Chapel. Of course Houston is filled wit all the food choices you can imagine, so there is always food involved.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many people that have been pivotal in my journey over the years. I think probably the group that deserves the biggest shout out is everyone at Pediatric Associates of Franklin. Twenty years ago they offered me a job at their office on a complete leap of faith. I had NO education or experience in healthcare, but understood I was interested in going to nursing school. I started out filing charts and bringing patients back to the clinic rooms. I will never forget when, in one of my first weeks there, Joann, the nursing supervisor sat me down with a list of works I needed to learn how to spell! Over the course of next 6 years they supported me as I went through nursing school. I learned everything from the basics of taking vital signs, to procedures for running the laboratory, phone triage, vaccine administration, and all the other things. I think I learned more in that job, including how to talk to people, than I have in any other role.
Stephanie Shirley Alyse French