Metro-East News

O’Fallon business lets families see babies before they’re born

Melissa Thurlow’s passion for pregnant women and babies started her first day on the job as a nurse.

“It was like, ‘I love being around these women. They’re strong, and they’re brave.’ ... You got to see the whole family beaming with pride and excitement to meet their new baby,” Thurlow said.

She’s been a labor and delivery nurse with Memorial Hospital for 18 years now.

Recently, Thurlow started a business that gives moms a new way to introduce their babies to family and friends. She opened Little Peek Boutique at 701 South Lincoln Ave. in O’Fallon, where pregnant women can bring family and friends along for an elective ultrasound. The cost range is $80 to $175.

The business offers 2D and 3D images and videos, as well as the latest technology, virtual HD, which Thurlow said gives an even clearer picture of unborn babies.

Families can also arrange for Little Peek Boutique to bring the technology to them for a home viewing or baby shower party, for example. That will cost between $250 and $350.

While ultrasounds are generally considered to be safe with low risks, the risks might increase with “unnecessary, prolonged exposure” to ultrasound energy, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Thurlow said the equipment at Little Peek Boutique is operated by an experienced ultrasound technician.

Thurlow has two sons of her own, a 2-year-old and an 8-year-old. She said she wishes the virtual HD technology had been around before they were born. She knows from experience how much the images can mean to families.

“My sister just had a daughter ... so we got to use her as our practice subject as we were learning our machine. ... Our whole family got to bond with her baby before she even had her,” Thurlow said. “It was pretty cool.”

The business is also a boutique that sells products made exclusively in the United States. Thurlow said most of the items are handmade by local moms.

“It’s a pretty big honor for me to be able to support all of these women in my community. Right now, I have 32 women that offer products here,” she said. “I’m a labor and delivery nurse, so I surround myself around women and that’s my comfort zone. That’s who I want to be around.”

Customers will find jewelry and clothes for moms and babies, custom artwork for nurseries, bibs, blankets, car seat covers, toys and essential oils in the boutique. Thurlow said she will accept new vendors, too.

One of the local moms who Thurlow partners with is Margaret Winkeler, a registered nurse and lactation consultant who lives in Shiloh. Winkeler owns Holistic Beginnings, LLC, which offers lactation consultations to help new moms with breastfeeding and infant massage classes at Little Peek Boutique.

The rest of the family, including pregnant women, can get massages at Little Peek Boutique, too. The cost is $80 for one hour or $115 for 90 minutes.

Melissa Thurlow recently spoke with the News-Democrat about her new business:

Q: Where did your passion for this field come from?

A: “Growing up, I did not know I wanted to be a nurse. It was not something that I had always dreamed of doing, but my first job out of college was in a postpartum unit at Memorial, and I fell in love with it. ... It’s the most exciting time in somebody’s life to be part of and I get to be part of it every time I’m at work. That’s kind of where my passion has started, just from that very first experience, day one on the job.”

Q: Where did the idea for this business come from?

A: “In October, virtual HD became available. ... There’s some studios in New Jersey and New York and California and Texas that offer virtual HD, but no one in the St. Louis region offers this yet. I have a feeling that once they see it, they’re going to jump on board and get it. But it’s not available to anybody other than here at Little Peek.

“... I was thinking, ‘Well, if I have this ultrasound studio, it’s not going to be busy 24/7, you know? It’s not going to hold 9 to 5 every single day appointments, so what can I do in addition to that?’ So that’s where I came up with my baby boutique.”

Q: How is the virtual HD different from 3D?

A: “It’s a crisper picture. The colors are different. In a 3D — which we can offer that also — a 3D is more of a yellow-toned ultrasound picture where this, you can tell, is more pink, flesh toned, so it looks just more realistic. The virtual HD aspect lets all the facial features really pop so you can really tell the definition of the nose, the mouth, the lips when they’re sucking on their little fingers. It shows all of that.”

Q: This is not the experience that people have when they have an ultrasound at a hospital. Is there a limit to the number of people who can come with you to that one?

A: “You can have one visitor, typically. The hospital’s ultrasound is a diagnostic ultrasound. So they are looking for any problems. They don’t spend the time trying to get the perfect lips and the perfect nose and the perfect fingers. That’s what we are doing for you. We are a photography session with a different type of camera.”

Q: Is there any limit to the number of people you can bring with you at Little Peek Boutique?

A: “Our studio accommodates between eight to 10 adults. They can bring as many kids as they want. And then at home, we’ve had two people up to 50. It just depends on how big your space is at your house.”

Q: Why did you choose O’Fallon for your business?

A: “I was born and raised here. I’ve lived here my entire life and wanted to keep it local.”

Q: What has the reception been like?

A: “As soon as a mom walks in the store, they know this is a special place. I mean, it’s special. Everything about it feels good. It feels like it’s important.”

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes

Little Peek Boutique

  • Owner: Melissa Thurlow
  • Address: 701 South Lincoln Ave., O’Fallon, Illinois
  • Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays (Home visits and parties can be scheduled on weekends.)
  • Website: littlepeekboutique.com
  • Phone: 618-978-8203 or 618-632-0701
  • Social media: Facebook.com/littlepeekboutique
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