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Pampering mom from head to toe

Pregnant and on bed rest, with a 3-year-old son and a husband working full time, Rochelle Walker wanted her mommy, who lived hours away.

She would have settled for a concierge.

Walker muddled through somehow, but she has just launched a Baltimore-area concierge service to offer the sort of help she could have used as an expectant and new mother.

Pampered Mommas offers a wide range of services, including in-home pre- and postnatal massage, hypnosis for childbirth, in-home prenatal yoga, maternity and newborn photography, meal delivery, housekeeping, baby sitting — even "cloth diapering education."

"I really designed it and created this idea for moms," said Walker, 36, whose two children are 41/2 and 15 months now. "And being a stay-at-home mom is just as difficult as the mom who gets up and goes to work every day."

The service, which Walker started just this month out of her Parkville home, taps into the mommy-centrism that can be seen on reality TV and in the growing number of professional services available to mothers.

The pamper-mommy movement is such that Walker's web site, http://www.pamperedmommas.com, could easily be confused with http://www.pamperedmamas.com, run by a doula in Nova Scotia who, in addition to helping mothers with childbirth and breast-feeding, offers scrapbooking services.

"Pregnant in Heels," a TV series on Bravo, follows "maternity concierge, fashion designer and pregnancy guru Rosie Pope" as she advises well-heeled clients on their "pregnancy dilemmas."

"From shotgun wedding planning and rock n'roll nursery makeovers, to daddy boot camps and even getting the baby into British aristocracy, Rosie Pope is the maternity concierge to the most affluent –- and hormonal — expectant mothers in the city," Bravo says on the show's web site.

Walker is a fan of the show but said her services are nothing like what's been portrayed on TV, noting that in one episode, producers empaneled a focus group to help the mom pick a name for her baby.

"Kind of ridiculous paying a woman to help them name the child," she said.

Hers, she said, is "a more realistic service for the average mom, the average, normal everyday mom — the mom on the go, the mom that just really needs an hour to herself to just regroup."

One of the distinctly unglamorous services she offers is cloth diaper education. Disposable diapers have been a part of American motherhood for so long that eco-conscious moms who'd like to go with cloth find themselves at a loss, she said.

So for a fee — $110 for an hour-to-90-minute consultation — Walker will send a cloth-diaper educator out to do some training.

"Someone comes into your home and brings a variety of cloth diapers to see, touch, feel, explain the pros and cons … go over how it works, what didn't work for her," she said.

The client receives a variety of cloth diapers, so she can try out different styles when the baby arrives and decide which one she wants — if any. One of the most important parts of the diaper session is this warning: "Both parents need to be on board, 100 percent, and be committed. … Cloth diapering is a commitment."

The idea of hiring someone to instruct an expectant mother in diapering technique would have been laughable just a few generations back. When families were bigger, girls grew up tending to younger siblings; they knew how to take care of babies well before their own came along.

Anyone who wasn't pressed into service as a kid could turn to mom or other female relatives for advice, if need be. But in a more mobile America, many new mothers don't have family nearby for help.

"A lot of people, they've moved away from their hometowns," Walker said. "Families aren't nearby. My mom is three hours away. I don't have the luxury of calling up Grandma and saying, 'Can you come over?' "

The woman who offers the cloth diapering advice is simply a mom who developed her expertise one cloth diaper at a time. But for services where professional training is required — prenatal massage, hypnosis, pedicures and manicures — Walker employs licensed professionals.

Mothers can find many of those services on their own. What Walker is selling is one-stop shopping, a single service that can hook a harried mom up with people who will organize the nursery, or baby-sit for just an hour or two, coach her through birth, photograph the birth, and make sure Mom's toenails look bright and shiny in the delivery room.

"If my husband could have gone to one web site to get me nursery organization and housekeeping and a massage, things would have been a lot simpler," Walker said. "Even if you're not on bed rest, the list of things you want to get done is long and it's stressful."


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