Birchbox CEO Ran Her Company on Bed Rest During High-Risk Pregnancy

Katia Beauchamp, mom of four and founder and CEO of beauty subscription company Birchbox, opened up to Marie Claire about how she managed to run her company from a hospital bed during her complicated fourth pregnancy.

Katia landed in the hospital after her doctors found out that her placenta was at risk of detaching from her uterus, in July, 2018. This condition is called placenta previa, and “occurs when the placenta covers all or part of the cervix during the last months of pregnancy.”

When her condition was discovered, Katia was about 24 weeks pregnant and admitted to the hospital to go on bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy. “My doctor said my condition was extremely dangerous and very high-risk,” Katia told Marie Claire. “All of the sudden I could start hemorrhaging, so I couldn’t even be 10 minutes from the hospital.”

At first, Katie likened bed rest to “prison.” “My family would visit at night and it was so dramatically painful when it came time for them to leave because I was so attached to Niko [one-year-old son] and he was so attached to me,” Katia said. “My two other kids understood why I wasn’t at home, but it was still difficult to adjust. Eventually, after being in the hospital for about 4 weeks, life there began to feel somewhat normal. That felt scary too—because how did this get normal?”

As for Birchbox? It was still business as usual; in fact, the first business call Katia made while on bed rest was to the chair of the company’s new board. She took video conferences, and even occasionally held in-person meetings with staff who came to the hospital—usually with an IV in her arm, and doctors checking on her frequently.

But work actually served as an effective distraction during Katia’s bedrest. “The weird thing was that work became the best part of my day,” she said. “It was such a mental savior. My productivity and effectiveness were high—even my team was impressed by the level of thinking and the thoughtfulness.

Of course, she missed out on key parts of being in the office. “Although I was accomplishing a lot, I couldn’t do many things that I would typically do in-person, like walking the office to check the vibe,” Katia said. “It is significant to not be physically present in the office.”

Three days before Katia’s 35 week pregnancy marker, she started having contractions in the middle of a business call. “My nurse kept coming in asking ‘Do you feel that?’” Katia said. “I’d nod ‘no,’ and indicate I was in a meeting The nurses finally stopped me, told me to end my meeting, and pay attention to what was happening in my body. Next thing I knew, my doctor (my wonderful doctor) was there saying I needed to go into surgery now; the biggest risk of my pregnancy was me going into labor.”

As she was about to go into surgery, Katia’s husband received a text from her company asking Katia to sign off on a major partnership with Walgreens. It was just what she needed to take her focus away from the high risk surgery and start freaking out. “I was so relieved by that because it distracted me from my real fear,” Katia said.

Katia hemorrhaged “a lot” during the surgery. Because her baby girl, West, was born before 35 weeks, she was in the NICU for three weeks. The Walgreens partnership pushed Katia to head back to work almost immediately. She bounced back and forth between work, home, and the hospital. When baby West was released from the NICU, that’s when Katia took her maternity leave.

Her traumatic pregnancy made Katia rethink her position as a mom in charge of a successful company. “Before this happened, I had never really ruminated on what women go through to become mothers. I’m a feminist, and I think about how lucky I am to be running a company, but I had never really appreciated the trauma that some women go through to have children. When I shared what I was going through on social media, so many people responded with their stories on becoming a mom. I’m flabbergasted that we’re still debating the ability of women.”