Welcoming a baby into the world is a happy time for those wanting to become parents or expand their family, but along with the excitement can be a fair amount of stress. A new local business wants to help ease those nerves before, during and after birth.
The Nest & Company, led by owner and CEO Jenica Willis, is a one-stop resource center for expectant parents, offering childbirth education, lactation support, CPR and first aid classes and more. While the space has been open for a few months, it's officially celebrating with a grand opening on Saturday.
"We want to build a community around this," Willis said of The Nest. "It doesn't matter what kind of parent you are ... you need the community and the support of other people, and you can find that here."
The Nest hosts various specialists, like childbirth educators leading prenatal classes for expectant parents or International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (or IBCLCs) offering support sessions for those struggling with breastfeeding. Willis contracts with the birth professionals and, as a lactation and childbirth educator, leads some of the sessions herself.
"What we teach is not one kind of method specifically," Willis said, referring to techniques like the Bradley method, lamaze or hypnobirthing. "We don't just teach them what we think. We teach them everything."
The company also teams up regularly with nonprofit Baby Cafe, where new parents can drop in for free breastfeeding support. The Nest hosts Baby Cafe three times a week: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays and 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays.
It's all about bringing resources to one place, Willis said, whether that's learning about different childbirth methods or getting help with breastfeeding if a baby doesn't seem to be taking to it. Willis and the contractors strive to build an inclusive, judgment-free environment.
"I just want The Nest to represent choice for families, for pregnant individuals," she said.
Willis, 29, is originally from Reno, Nev., but has lived in Bakersfield since she was a teen, graduating from Liberty High School. Married with two children from her husband's previous relationship, Willis had been working as a licensed vocational nurse, mostly in women's health and pediatrics, before deciding to follow her passion for childbirth and create The Nest.
"I decided to leave all that behind, leave the career I knew, to do all this," said Willis, who is also a midwifery student.
The Nest is about a year in the making, with Willis officially starting it last April before finding the physical space for it off Stockdale Highway earlier this year. From the outside, the building looks like any other office, but inside are a few plush couches where parents and parents-to-be can meet for classes or groups.
In the space nearest the door are a few products available for purchase, items like diaper bags and nursing covers. The Nest also has a Medela pump rental program, which, with Babies R Us closing, will be the only one in town, Willis said.
The concept is not anything Willis came up with on her own, she said. Similar businesses are found in Southern California, she said, but there wasn't anything like it in Bakersfield. A center like this lets families explore their childbirth options and get lactation support outside of a hospital setting.
"We give them information about their choices and provide care similar to what they could get in a facility, but in a more relaxed environment," Willis said.
In addition to supporting families, The Nest also supports local birth professionals, Willis said, allowing them to connect with families who might like to use their services. Though The Nest isn't affiliated with any hospital, Willis said she would love if doctors or hospitals referred families to the center if they are looking to explore their options or get more help.
To formally introduce The Nest to the community it hopes to serve, Willis is holding a grand opening ceremony and vendor fair on Saturday. Nonprofits like Baby Cafe, Bakersfield Birth Network and WarmLine will be there with more information on their organizations, and vendors like LulaRoe, LipSense and Melange Boutique will be selling their products. Guests can beat the heat with a cold treat from Kona Ice.
The event is a time "to just hang out ... and see what we have and what we offer," Willis said.
The Nest just wrapped its first childbirth education series, to positive reviews from parents-to-be. Willis said she is excited to watch people "on their parenting journey," from expectant parents in childbirth education classes to new moms and dads at Baby Cafe, mommy and baby yoga or the regular Books & Cookies meetings.
Eventually, Willis would like to expand The Nest's resources beyond the first few years of a new baby's life and offer resources and classes on marriage and family counseling. For now, though, Willis is looking forward to helping local families connect with resources to make their birth plan one with which they can feel comfortable and confident.
"They can see what options and choices and resources we have to offer," she said. "If you're expecting or thinking of starting a family or increasing your number (of children), just come and see."