After giving birth to two children and adopting three more following symptoms of early menopause, Misty Gunn thought her chance of getting pregnant again was "one in a million."
So when the 33-year-old Grants Pass resident realized that, against all odds, she had conceived, even frequent ultrasounds throughout her high-risk pregnancy didn't offer enough face time with the fetus.
"This baby is — even the doctor calls it — a miracle baby," says Gunn. "We want to be able to see it as much as possible."
Women like Gunn have a window to the womb whenever they choose at a new "pregnancy spa" with ultrasound services. Modeling her Grants Pass business on similar ones in larger cities, Rebecca Bender opened Keepsake 3D Imaging, Southern Oregon's first elective ultrasound center, in March. Gunn was first in line to view her unborn baby, take home photographs and a DVD and — with any luck — confirm its gender.
"We want to find out the gender, so we can start our shopping," says Gunn. "Whatever they say it is, I'm going to be ecstatic," she says.
Keepsake allowed Gunn to bring about a dozen people, including her husband, children, other family and friends, to the viewing. Using the GE Voluson 730 Pro Ultrasound, the same machine found in some local clinics, Bender transmits uterine images onto a large, high-definition, flat-screen television while clients recline — fully dressed — on a daybed. The "shabby-chic" decor of antique-looking furnishings, burlap and lace with a color scheme of "ballet-slipper pink" and blue is unlike the typical obstetrician's office, says Bender.
"Kids are welcome; dads are welcome."
Keepsake's purpose also is worlds apart from a doctor's prenatal exam. Trained by GE representatives primarily to obtain the best ultrasound image, Bender has no medical experience, and she does not bill her service as a substitute for diagnostic ultrasounds. Her sessions merely allow clients the chance to check up on their babies when insurance plans won't pay for ultrasounds deemed medically unnecessary.
"You don't have to wait nine months to get to know your baby," says Bender.
Parents, however, often can know their baby's gender from an appointment with Bender. The "sneak peak" gender determination is the least expensive service at $65 and takes about 10 minutes. Clients can choose longer sessions that include two-color photos or photos and a DVD of the ultrasound for $99 and $150, respectively.
"I feel like it's just priceless," says Gunn, who booked Keepsake's three-appointment "journey."
Bender advises clients to wait until they are 16 weeks pregnant before undergoing a Keepsake ultrasound. After 27 weeks, a fetus' features are distinct. However, its position, situation of the placenta and amount of amniotic fluid all influence ultrasound quality.
Keepsake performs ultrasounds no longer than 30 minutes at a time in compliance with Food and Drug Administration recommendations, says Bender. If sessions don't reveal a full facial image, depending on circumstances, clients may be credited a second appointment free of charge.
Keepsake also holds two-hour baby showers at the center, where participants open gifts, play games, eat, drink and view the guest of honor's ultrasound. A snack of choice — plus coffee and tea — is included with the $225 fee, but clients can bring additional refreshments, says Bender.
Asked "all the time" to host baby showers, Bender, 29, organized a 2008 event at an elective ultrasound center in London, which brought her own business concept into focus. Moving back to her hometown of Grants Pass about two years ago, Bender says she couldn't justify traveling to Portland to get an elective ultrasound while pregnant with daughter Ila, now 9 months old.
"I thought that's way too far."
But the gap presented itself as a business niche, which Bender started filling late last year. By Christmas, she had posted the website www.keepsake3dimaging.com. Formerly a resident of the San Diego area, which also has elective ultrasound centers, Gunn located Keepsake during an Internet search and booked her appointments more than a month before it opened.
"I would have been in there yesterday," says Gunn. "We figured 'Why wait?' "
Bender also plans to provide prenatal massage from licensed therapists and a "baby concierge" service that can help parents — particularly first-timers — decorate a nursery, obtain all the newborn necessities or even select "green" products. Courtesy of a local event planner, the service is ideal for working or otherwise busy women, says Bender.
"Why not have someone else do your nursery for you, so you can just enjoy being pregnant?"