Turlock resident and business owner Katie Bettencourt was 22 weeks pregnant and preparing for a vacation to Hawaii, taking some time away from her salon to enjoy a getaway with her family last November before they welcomed their baby boy into the world.
Their joyful holiday plans soon turned to tragedy, however, when on the way to the airport Bettencourt suffered a miscarriage, losing her unborn son and nearly her own life.
In the weeks that followed, the one thing that brought her comfort was her “heartbeat bear,” which played the sound of her late son’s heart as she hugged it close to her at night — a common gift at ultrasound photo studios like the one Bettencourt visited in Modesto while she was pregnant.
Looking for something to devote her time to and heal from the loss of her son, Bettencourt began to brainstorm and realized there were no such studios in Turlock. Listening to her son’s heartbeat and looking at photos of the baby inside of her womb was Bettencourt’s saving grace following her miscarriage, she said, and she decided to give local women the same opportunity to see and hear their babies for the first time.
Starting in April, Bettencourt will open Hello Baby, the city’s very first 4D/HD live ultrasound photo studio, inside of her salon Lux Lounge in downtown Turlock.
“I felt like this would allow me to heal after losing my son, to be able to do this for other people,” Bettencourt said. “I also wanted to bring something different like this here to Turlock so people don’t have to travel as far to get this done.”
More detailed than the typical, black-and-white ultrasound photos taken at the doctor’s office and even 3D photos provided at other ultrasound photo studios, 4D/HD live allows the parent to watch their baby in motion during the ultrasound via a crisp, clear image on the monitor.
While the service may just seem like a fun way for a parent to get to know their baby before he or she arrives, for a lot of anxious mothers, seeing their baby on video can help calm any fears they may have.
As a mother who has experienced loss, Bettencourt wanted to provide that reassurance for parents.
“We’re constantly worried because at the doctor, you may have to wait weeks or even months in between ultrasounds. The whole time, you’re wondering if your baby is okay,” she said. “Seeing your baby and seeing an image that really looks like a baby is comforting.”
Not only does Bettencourt want to help moms see their babies for the first time, but she also wants to make the experience affordable. She has numerous packages available, which can include a heartbeat bear, a web link to photos and videos of the baby, gender reveals and more, ranging from $55 to $100 total.
Bettencourt is most looking forward to revealing genders to parents, she said.
“Your baby doesn’t really have an identity until you know its gender. You know you’re pregnant, and you know you have a baby in there but you don’t know what its name will be, its features, what it’s going to wear or any of that stuff,” she said. “Especially with the HD, I think people are going to be so surprised when they first see it.”
Guests at Hello Baby can bring anywhere from eight to 10 guests with them while in the ultrasound photo studio, and Bettencourt believes the experience can be just as special for those watching — especially fathers.
“Because it’s the women who are pregnant, sometimes dads aren’t as in touch with the baby. For the dads to be able to see their baby that vividly, it helps them be like, ‘Okay, there’s a baby in there. That’s my kid.’” she said. “It allows them to feel more ready and connected because they’re able to see the baby before it’s outside of the womb.”
Currently, Bettencourt is preparing the Hello Baby photo studio inside of Lux Lounge. The ultrasound machine will be delivered this month, she said, and she’s already booked moms to practice and be trained on until official appointments begin on April 3. Mothers who are at least 14 weeks along can book an appointment at Hello Baby by texting 209-559-9100.