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The Hood Magazine

From a Surprise Diagnosis to a New Business: Our Journey to Helping Parents Nurture Their Babies

Apr 12, 2023 ● By The Hood Magazine

Sponsored By: Your Nurtured Baby

By Laura Hanson 

I was just weeks away from my 40th birthday when my husband, Tony, and I were expecting our first child together – the fourth in the mix. Because of my age, my OB suggested we meet with a genetic counselor. It felt like we were simply checking a box and getting a few extra ultrasound pictures of our sweet baby, so we opted in. We truly did not expect anything life-changing to come out of that visit. 

Three weeks later, we received the results of our amnio via email. We accidentally found out we were having a girl (we were hoping not to discover her gender until birth) and that she would indeed be born with Down syndrome and a complete AVSD that would require open heart surgery within six to nine months. Our world came crumbling down around us. 

Following an extremely stressful pregnancy, Mara Elaine joined our family in November 2020, and she is every bit of perfection. 

About a month and a half after her birth, Mara entered heart failure sooner than expected. While waiting for Mayo to hear her case and be given a surgery date, we were searching for ways to help her. During Mara’s 3:00 a.m. tube feeding, I discovered infant massage and baby spas. I immediately texted it to Tony, who was on shift as a firefighter. Then, I texted it to my oldest daughter, Liz. What if we learned infant massage to help Mara? It’s great for helping babies with low muscle tone, low appetite, sleep, bonding, and simply to relax. 

We met with a Certified Infant Massage Instructor at Mayo only a few weeks later. Because Mara was still intubated and the fact that infant massage is taught over four weekly sessions, we were unable to learn strokes, but we were taught a few beneficial hand placements to help relax her. We could not find anyone who could teach us when we returned to Sioux Falls, so Liz and I decided to take steps to become certified to teach parents. That turned into taking other courses and training, eventually leading us to open a beautiful baby spa and boutique called Your Nurtured Baby. 

At Your Nurtured Baby, we help parents navigate the first year and a half of the new baby’s life through infant massage education, water movement, other education for parents and caregivers, and simply socialization. Liz and I love watching parents connect and share experiences and advice during classes. It truly is a place of no judgment – just support. All of this came about because of our sweet baby Mara. 

Be sure to check us out at and consider joining us for Baby Day 2023 on April 29! Details can be found on our website and social media pages.