Nicole McCharen - Owner, Mama Bloom

Nicole McCharen - Owner, Mama Bloom

Nicole Palomo McCharen created Mama Bloom in 2016 a powerful guided postpartum group that provides connection, reassurance, and resources. Through the years, Nicole put together a team of professionals and mamas who are committed to facilitating these group experiences. 


Troy: Good afternoon. Hope everyone is doing well today for the Austin Spotlight. I am joined by Nicole McCarran. McCarran. That's right. I think I pronounced that correctly. That's not one of my fortes in life is pronouncing names, but every once in a while, you have blind squirrel finds a nut from time to time.

So good job, you do it. Yeah. And she's the owner of mama Bloom here in Austin. Texas. So welcome. Thanks for taking the time to, to be on the podcast today.

Nicole: Yeah, thanks so much for having me. I'm happy

Troy: to be here. Why don't you maybe first start off with telling us a little bit about what Mama Bloom is?

Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. So I started Mama Bloom in 2016 and it is an organization that focuses on really supporting particularly moms, but also just families in the postpartum season. Through postpartum groups and also through coaching, like one-to-one coaching and group coaching. And we recently started a community which we call the Mama Bloom Collective.

That's for Mama Bloom alumni. But we're really about shifting the isolation postpartum and helping moms just be more confident postpartum. So that's, yeah, that's mom and

Troy: plum. Nice. And so maybe going back to. I always like to get a little bit of origin story from Yeah.

Far as they're, most people aren't originally from Austin. But so what, what was your ex kind of experience growing up and yeah. Being here in Austin and deciding.

Nicole: I am from Austin, which is crazy. I was born here and my parents were not, they were from Chicago and my mom was born in the Philippines, but then grew up in Washington state.

And so I was born here and, have lived various places. I went to ut, lived north, lived south, lived north, went to ut, have had kind of a wide range, lived east for a long time, and. So love Austin, have seen lots of changes, but really I feel like I really care about the community here and have really it's just so in my roots, it's like I've grown up here and love it and have seen all the shifts and and I have a pretty like, lengthy background of my career.

I was a social worker initially and was seeing a lot of teen parents birthing alone. I'm in the hospitals about I have this really poignant memory of a 14 year old birthing alone, and I was really struck by it. And so I started studying how to become a birth doula, which is like a labor support companion.

And I did that for 10 years and from that experience, saw the need for the postpartum support, and then launched Mama Bloom in 2016. So I started birth dueling in like 2008. And then it overlapped into Mama Bloom. But just really saw a gap, I was beginning to really notice that there wasn't as much postpartum support and seeing the need for it, but then also my own experience.

When I became a mom, I was like, this is a huge need and a huge gap. And so Launch Mama Bloom from there.

Troy: No, that's awesome. Yeah, I feel like that along with a lot of other mental health. Facets of people's lives have been given a spotlight in the last, half decade. Decade, which is great.

Yeah. A lot of times it's not that people didn't necessarily not have those previously, but Yes, they, you suffered in silence in a lot of cases and the. As great as a lot of the changes have been in the world and in technology and in being able to connect socially. Like sometimes you do miss on that one-to-one connection for a lot of people, which can make that part of mental health, stress, postpartum, all those different kind of things.

Lot more challenging because it's great to be able to chat with someone and that part of life is awesome. And again, during the pandemic, amazing that we had that technology where you could faceTime with somebody, the fact that you and I can do this right now. Yes. Could have done a decade ago.

Yeah. But the fact that, having someone that's, that can physically be there for you is definitely a whole nother level of Of assistance for mental

Nicole: health. It really is. And I, about four years ago I started studying called, studying something called somatic experiencing. And it's a trauma healing modality, particularly connected to the nervous system.

And one of the things that I learned there that really like ties into what you're talking about was basically like when we're person to person, How much more accessible our like social system comes online where we can calm ourselves, we can co-regulate, it, it just gives us access to a different nervous system state than just stress or fight or flight.

So actually being in person with people can really cultivate that in a new way. And that is so the heart behind our groups, like just being. In community and knowing you're not alone and removing a lot of the shame from different experiences I think really impacts that mental piece. You're not struggling alone and all of that.

I'm really excited to see the shifts even in the past like seven or eight years, like since I've started the groups really seeing big shifts in the mental health space. For

Troy: sure. Yeah. What made, you mentioned that you, did you go to UT to become a social

Nicole: worker? I did. Yeah. Yeah.

Troy: What kind of prompted you to wanna go down that career

Nicole: path?

Initially I was, I loved working with people. I was always drawn to working with people. And initially I was like, I'll be a teacher, I wanna be in the community, I wanna be in schools. And I did some type of like it wasn't student teaching, but it was like a volunteer thing. And when I was there, I noticed, I was like, I don't wanna teach, I don't wanna educate these children.

I wanna talk to them. Like I wanna know what they're thinking and I wanna know how they're doing and I wanna support them. And I had a good friend who was studying social work who told me about it. And once I heard it was like, and we were really similar, we had similar values and yeah, once I heard it was like, oh my goodness, I can go to school for this.

This is what I wanna do. So yeah, then I started studying social work at ut and. Doing lots of different things, but that's initially what drew me to it.

Troy: It's always cool when you find a career where you're like, I can get paid

Nicole: to. Exactly. Yes. I feel that about my work too now.

Like social work was one thing, but even now I'm like, this is the best work. I love it so much. Getting to just, yeah. It being my work is such a wonderful gift to me too.

Troy: And then you mentioned the social, social work turning into being, becoming a doula. Yeah. Was that just from doing social work in hospitals or with specific social work clients or, yeah, people and wanting to make that transition that way because, Not, I mean there definitely are social workers that work in hospitals, but that's not necessarily always the primary place where people for sure are at.

So like what kind of cultivated that experience? Yeah. Which led you down that road. So

Nicole: I initially worked in foster care for three years and had worked some with teen parents there. And I don't, I just had this draw to working with moms and I think it took me about a decade to really realize what it was.

But looking back, I'm like, I think I really believe in their like generational impact. Like I see the influence they have generationally. So I was drawn to working with moms and then I got a job at any baby can, which was basically like a dream job. And I was working with teen parents in the high schools.

I was doing like visits, teaching, parenting, education, childbirth, education. A lot of that stuff, birth education, and that's when I began to see a lot of them either birthing alone or like really unsupported. And from my background, I had also found an article about a doula project in Chicago that was seeing basically like a.

Lower, like abuse was being lowered by having doula support in a birth. And and they were seeing like higher levels of bonding and better mental health, for the parents and things like that. And so from there it just seemed like a natural, things really wove together nicely for me to start pursuing the doula work.

And I quickly learned of an organization called Gals, and they're still local in Austin. And started volunteering with them. And they specialize in basically no un birthing alone. They provide free labor support. And that was really my first entrance into the doula world. And I've been connected to them through the years in various capacities.

But that really launched me into doula work privately and then also in a volunteer basis for a while with gals. So just really seeing that need for it and. I think also really believing that birth is a rite of passage and there's this kind of sacred, even almost spiritual thing that happens when someone is birthing a baby into the world and just wanting there to be guides and support along that in that space.

Troy: Yeah. And especially say you mentioned you being a 14 year old, that kind of was that Yeah. Moment for you? One, yes. How much do you most people know at 14? About anything level? Yeah. Yeah. Parent really not a whole lot, even though I'm sure a lot of 14 year olds think they know a whole lot. Yes.

And then the other component of it too is a lot of single parent house single parents, single moms in that case come from other single parent households. Yeah. And so it's, again, if you. Haven't been. It's like a lot of things that school doesn't teach us about, yeah. Finances and about, eating healthy and all these kind of things that are practical life things that would really be beneficial.

There aren't real, even home ec back in the day, which I don't even know that is a classroom. Yeah. Like even that though, that's gone, even when it was around, it still wouldn't teach you all that much necessarily. And yeah. Just having these basic.

Ideas and understandings or even reference points of where to go to, right? Like in a lot of cases, not that mo a lot of people in their jobs don't necessarily know everything, but they know where they can go. Yes. For the answer, in a lot of cases. Yes. And obviously for a lot of people nowadays, let's go to the internet, but Yeah.

But in something as. Critical as being a parent. A lot of times what you need is a little bit more nuanced than just Googling something.

Nicole: Absolutely. And I see that so much, especially in the past few years when now people are getting so even more information on the internet, even more like influencers and things like that on Instagram that it gets so overwhelming for new parents and it's this person's saying this and this person's saying this.

Like what is actually true? So to, yeah, to be with real people that are, that have walked that path before, or even real people that are like, I am walking that path and this is working and this isn't just to see those nuances. It's a lot easier to connect to those nuances when you're actually with real people, right?

Versus the internet that's here's this formula, it should work. And then the parents feel bad because they can't make that formula work. So yeah, getting to be with real people is can be so powerful for that.

Troy: And like a lot of things like too, that there really isn't a perfect way to do it necessarily, right?

Yes. I couldn't even tell you which, what is the proper way for a child to sleep if it's on their back or on their stomach these days. But whatever way it was, I'm old enough that we did it the opposite way. I'm pretty sure. And yes, millions of us survived. Being that's true, going sleep on the wrong side of our body type of thing.

And so yes, it's one of those things where babies are pretty resilient and so it's, yeah, it's, you shouldn't beat yourself up over thinking you have to do it perfectly cuz that's not the case. No. No one ever does.

Nicole: It really is. It's so easy to fall into that trap though, because I think everybody, it's I think they're grasping for control.

Like it can be such a vulnerable time that you're like, which, how do I do this? I feel out of control. A lot of people are coming from I've been in my career 10 plus years and I'm really good at it, and now I have this new baby and I feel like helpless, like I don't know what to do.

So they're grasping for control. And they're looking for formulas, but there's really not, it's sure there are supports here. There's maybe information here and maybe this works for a lot of babies, but my firstborn was a total wild card, and it like made me, it made me have to, I remember reading a book that was like, there's no formula for parenting.

And I was like, what? It like blew my brain, I was like, oh my goodness. Okay. That's what I needed to hear. Cuz I've been like, if I can find the formula then I can parent this kid. And he just, Has its own agenda and still does. So that was a gift to me in the moment. It was painful, but now I've been like, okay, there's not always this perfect formula or perfect way to do it.

Even though that would be convenient. Yeah. So yeah,

Troy: It would be boom, you think about it, it's, it's all, it's a, it's actually amazing that it's not, because that's part of what makes each of us amazing, unique is that individuality, that yes, if you could raise every kid the exact same way, We'd all be boring, quite frankly, and so

Nicole: Absolutely.

Absolutely. The fact that what makes us human? Yeah.

Troy: The fact that there have to be a million different nuances of how to raise a kid. Yeah. Is because there are a million different nuances to all the people out there, or a couple billion nuts. Absolutely.

Nicole: Absolutely. And you're right, that's really ultimately a really beautiful thing when you look at that.

Like the, yeah. The power of all the differences and all of that.

Troy: Yeah, so you were a doula for a number of years and then decided to start the ma mama blooms. Yes. Does it mean the, a support group or like an information resource center, or, a little bit of all that? Yeah,

Nicole: that's a great question.

It's really a support group. It's a closed, we offer like a six week session. I have a team now, so we lead in twos and we. It's a six week closed session where either we have a first time moms group and then a subsequent moms group. And it's tailored to both seasons and we've really seen a lot of differences based on those like whether you're a first time parent or not.

And it's really a blend. I wrote a curriculum when I first launched it that we work through that. We do a blend of like check-ins. There's normally a theme for each group and then interlaced in between. There are also like resources. We share resources. People ask questions. There's a wide spectrum of questions, but a lot of the themes are more focused on the mom being well, being kind to herself, having a sense of thriving, like just being really cared for because I think our society often. Just misses that part of it. And it's okay, mom, give off everything to this baby, which they're doing already, but they're not actually being nurtured. They're expected to be, just jump back in.

You should be just as productive, be happy just keep going. So we spend a lot of time nurturing the moms and normalizing and shaming their experiences and connecting and all of those things. So it's really a blend and. Each group is a little bit different. We tailor it on who's there. We co-create the space with who's there.

But those are the kind of the general pieces that are normally present.

Troy: And what made you decide to want to to go from, so both social work and I'm assuming being an A doula is very, It's not necessarily a self-employed kind of thing, but it's very kinda just one-on-one.

Yeah. You doing, your thing with the mother. Yeah. Or the client or whatever in that case to deciding to try to expand and start a bigger organization or help more people because for a lot, some people, Would, there's a, no, I shouldn't say so. A lot of people are, don't prefer to expand their Yeah.

Start their own business. Yeah. Be the point person for yeah. Groups and stuff like that. Was that something you had always done, like been the group leader for school projects or been that person come take charge or?

Nicole: I don't, not, I, no, I don't think I was particularly, I don't think I was the person that was like, Hey, like we're doing a group project and I'll take charge.

I do think I had a history of leading groups, as a social worker in my first internship. I had led a parenting group in 2003 before I was even a parent. And I think ultimately, I think it was really. Built into me. And even maybe culturally, I'm, like I said, I'm part Filipino. I'm half Mexican.

There's, I, there's a lens I think, for the collective, and I think even without knowing that was important to me, it was important to me. And so I've always had some connection to groups. Even through high school I was like, leading. Like life groups for teens, like just a community.

I think there's been this pull to community and and so I think it just felt really natural. Like I saw the gap and that was just a part of who I am, part of some of my family, even my dad, I feel like is very wired to look at the collective and to think about the greater good and connection and community.

And I think that's why it emerged organically. And through the years, people, I feel like seven years ago, self-care was new and people were talking about it and it's been unfolding and now that's been talked about a lot. But Collective Care is really coming online and people are talking a lot more about collective care and I think that was just somehow a part of my identity and who I am and how I was raised.

And yeah, so it just emerged organically. Yeah, it's just important to me. Yeah,

Troy: no, that's, like I said it's interesting to hear. How do different people start, the reasons or, yeah, their, cause again it's a, it's another challenge, right? So again, becoming a mother. Becoming a parent, yes.

Is a challenge. It can be scary for a lot of people. Deciding to start your own business can be scary because for a lot of people it is again, another child almost.

Nicole: It is, absolutely. It really is.

Troy: You're having to take care of and foster and grow. And so for a lot of people, that's not a decision that they.

Voluntarily maker or, I think there's a lot more people nowadays. It's as being a small business owner and being entrepreneurial has become more and more popular the same way. Yes,

Nicole: it does feel like that.

Troy: Is more popular. I think there's a lot of people that have become more willing to do it, or at least.

The thought of doing it, but it's still, not everyone makes the jump and then not everyone who makes a jump is successful for

Nicole: as long as you Absolutely, yes. Yes, for sure. And that's one of the crazy things. I didn't actually plan to launch a business like I. My plan was to launch a group.

And I will say that when I've initially launched, I had been working for ATX Doulas, which is a collective here in town who does a lot of different services for the community, and I was working for them and they had a gap, and that's what I saw. It was like no one was leading postpartum groups. We had all these.

Parents. And I remember thinking like, I have a dream to lead this postpartum group, but like surely someone else wants to do it. And I asked them and they're, everyone's no, I don't wanna do it. So when I launched I remember initially being like, oh my goodness. Like my skillset is leading groups. My skillset is walking with parents through this time.

But all of a sudden I'm doing the marketing, I'm doing the books, I'm doing the emails, and I just remember this weird ramp of Wait, what's happening here? This is more than I realized, that was actually happening and it's honestly taking me a couple of years to really own that.

Hey, I'm a business owner actually, because once I, initially I was with ATX Doulas, and then we branched out and at some point I was like, Hey, I'm gonna stand on my own. We still collaborate a lot, but I was like, I'm gonna be my own entity and I've really had to grow into that. That wasn't.

That I'd never expected to be actually running a business. And then, yeah, to be running a team and as much as it was organic and I think my heart was like, I want a team like that. I just love the collaboration. That wasn't really the plan. It's just organically emerged and I have had to grow into it.

And that's looked like me. Investing in coaching and having my own coach who's calling me forth and challenging me and really helping me step into it and all of that. Now it's really fun and I love that part, but I will say in the beginning I was like, what did I do? What, why, how did I get into this?

Troy: Yeah. Yeah. How was the challenge, right? So for someone who wasn't really planning on it, right? It wasn't like you, let's sit down and drop a business plan and then Exactly. Figure out our five and 10 year goals type of stuff. Yes. What was how was the challenge for you of. Having to be the person responsible for the small business side of things.

So I think that's one of the things that a lot of people, don't realize when they decide to chase a dream or a passion like that is great. Yeah, I'd love to, yeah. Be in charge of this, of the, of this group, or I'd love to start my own restaurant and cause I love baking.

But yeah, a lot of being a small business owner is doing the behind the scenes stuff that like save email marketing, the keeping the books. Yes. And things that. A lot of times don't come naturally to people and are not near as fun. Like it's not Absolutely. You don't, most people don't get their ener, don't get their energy from oh, it's time to go sit down with QuickBooks and Exactly.

Do this month payroll, or do you know, whatever. Yeah. Balance the checkbooks and stuff and so yeah. How was the challenge there of transitioning to having to do that part of the business? I

Nicole: mean, I think, again, I think there was some shock wait a second. Like I thought I signed up to be a facilitator and to be this create like more people oriented and all of a sudden I'm learning how to use Facebook pages or just all the different, and I'm doing the books, and that was in the beginning at this point, I've had a virtual assistant for a period, which has been life changing.

It's like I've learned to optimize, I think. And support myself, cuz I'm, the admin stuff is really hard for me. It's not a natural and it's draining. So at this point I have a virtual system that does a ton for me and has really freed my energy up to do what I'm really good at. But I would say initially it was really shocking.

Then there was a lot of resistance. Then I think there was this fork in the road that was like, are you gonna do this or do you need to let it go? You either need to grow into this or you have to, or it's gonna be done. And I think I was, I rose to the challenge and learned a lot and really worked on my like business brain is what I would call it, which I initially had none of that.

And now I'm like, oh, this is fun. But I also have support, like the parts that are absolutely. Like soul crushing to me and are hindering the business. I'm really trying to get better at okay, this is the stuff that my virtual assistant's gonna help me with because this is gonna take three hours and I'm gonna be cussing at the end of it.

I'm gonna be so mad. Whereas, I've been growing a lot through the years with all of that for sure.

Troy: Yeah. I think that's one of the hardest things for new business owners to do. Those to be to let go. Yes. Of some things and to delegate, but it's usually one of the biggest.

Impacts to seeing their business grow because one, it obviously frees up some of their time, which they don't usually have a lot of anyway. But then two, it allows them to focus their time and energy on the things that they enjoy about the business rather than the component, the components that they don't.

So not only are you freeing up, two hours a day, four hours a day of. Of time. Yeah, in general, but it's usually the two to four hours a day of the stuff that was so crushing. Exactly. That didn't make really like the stuff that you really wanted to get in business for to begin with anyway.

And now you can spend a lot more of your day on those activities that hopefully help the business grow, but also bring you some joy and energy as well.

Nicole: Exactly. Yeah. We just launched as a team. We just launched, like I said, the Mama Bloom Collective, which is an alumni offering. And I was realizing the other day, I was like, we ha we wouldn't be able to do that if I didn't have this virtual assistant that I brought on.

I had one last year, but I brought someone new on in January and I was talking with her and I was like, you have done so much for me. And even just energetically, just letting go of okay, I don't do these pieces. She does these pieces has freed up my energy to go create new stuff. But part of the reason I think I was even able to do that was I had talked.

Maybe, I don't know, maybe a year ago there was a really successful c e O that I had a conversation with, and he shared this experience about bottlenecking his business, and he was like, he just had this like light bulb moment where it was like, I'm blocking so much because I'm unwilling, to let go and I'm unwilling to give this over.

And it was one of those moments, where it's I know it's for me, and I'm like, ah, really wrestling with okay, what do I need to let go of? And I'm still, I'm very much in a learning process with that. But trying to look honestly at the ways that I block my own, ability to expand and to offer more and things like that.

Yeah, I think that's a real challenging part. Yeah.

Troy: What are some of the things on the horizon for mountain Bloom? So what plan do you guys have for the next, 12 to 24

Nicole: months? Yeah. We're, like I mentioned, we're really excited about the collective. It's, we're collaborating as leaders.

My, my team are these like incredible leaders. They all have their own businesses. They're all doing. Like a variation of things, like one's a therapist, one's an art art, creativity coach and uses art to process things. One's like yoga and movement. And so we've taken all of our geniuses and put it together in this kind of 12 month offering where we do monthly workshops.

And I do coaching kind of outside of that once a month. And so I'm really excited about that. We just started two months ago, but it's really, it's been seven years since we've had an offering after Mama Bloom. This is the first real offering after, and we had a ton of feedback. So many people would be like, After we do your group, we want to keep, we wanna stay.

There's, but the only way to do it is to come back with another baby. And so we just,

Troy: they're not, they dunno if they're necessarily willing to have another baby to be a part of the group, but they're like, exactly. When we think about it, we think

Nicole: maybe. Exactly. And we've had that, but a lot of people were like, please is there something else?

So this was our first like post mama bloom offering. So we're really excited about that. We have lots of plans for this year with that, and it's going really well. And I think in the long run too, like maybe in the next 12 to 18 months, we're hoping to do maybe like a retreat or something like that again, as a team.

And again, looking for offerings that are accessible for people that aren't just postpartum. Even though we're focused postpartum, we're really focused on just nurturing moms and creating safe spaces for moms to be healthy and whole. And. Doing their own work so that they can parent from a place of wholeness and not like reactivity and exhaustion and all of that.

So we're excited about that. And then just, we just keep plugging along with groups. We offer probably 12 to 15 a year and that keeps us really busy and, we're always, ever perfecting our process. And even recently we're changing some things like, Hey, we wanna add this and give this resource.

And collaborating on that, and I'm trying to think if there's anything else I'm missing. Yeah, those are the things that come to

Troy: mind. If you are missing something, what are some of the best ways for people to stay in touch or find out more information? Yeah.

Nicole: Following us on our Instagram, that is one at Mama Bloom Austin, which is up right there.

I also have my own Nicole McCarran coaching. I'm always towing an interesting line with our groups and our community. And then I also do private coaching on the side. And so both of those spaces will have information connected to my work, our work in the community, and. Yeah, those are probably the best places.

I am, one of the things I'm working on, and this is part of growing into the business, is I'm changing up some of the marketing. And so we will have a better list to join on our website coming up soon, like probably in the next month so that people can join the list and be connected to us that, that way

Troy: as well.

Nice. Yeah. Sounds like some good things are coming up, which is always exciting. Yeah. To be working on and seeing come fruition. Yeah, absolutely. Cool. I really appreciate you taking the time to, to jump on. Yeah. Thanks Troy. Yeah. Be a part of the podcast. It's always interesting to hear different stories and meet a, meet an actual original Austinite cause Yes.

Nicole: I know it's rare,

Troy: right? Not the, not the norm, but these days to,

Nicole: I know when you said that, I'm like I'm original. I'm from Seed Hospital, born in Seed Hospital, so yeah. Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me.

Troy: I appreciate it. I'll take you again. Thanks for thanks everyone for watching. Hope you guys have a wonderful day.

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