9 Questions: Alchemy43 Founder Nicci Levy on Single Parenting and IVF

Alchemy 43 founder Nicci Levy posing pregnant

Shawn Michelle Photography

In honor of the nine months of pregnancy, we are asking pregnant people nine questions about their journey to parenthood. This is an inside look at Alchemy 43 founder and CEO Nicci Levy’s pregnancy experience.

Nicci Levy always knew she wanted to be a mother–but she always also knew that she wanted to start her own business, and those two things were at odds during much of her 30s. "Throughout my career, I've always felt a little conflicted about the ticking time clock and my career aspirations," she says. Thankfully, modern medicine was able to help out in the form of freezing her eggs, freeing her up to have more breathing room to work on her first baby, her brand.

The Los-Angeles based beauty veteran has experience working with big-name brands such as Benefit, M.A.C. Cosmetics, and Calvin Klein. She even worked for Allergan Aesthetics (the parent company of Botox and Latisse) as well, where she learned all about medical aesthetics treatments.

Levy combined her passions when she founded Alchemy 43, a med-spa chain with outposts in California and New York (she is also the CEO). The boutique-like business specializes in what they have branded as cosmetic "micro treatments," including neurotoxin and filler injectables, chemical peels, and microneedling. The vibe of the spaces is more akin to a chic nail salon or blow-dry bar than a traditional medical office.

Now at age 43—it’s a coincidence with the name of her business!—Levy is preparing to become a single mother by choice. She froze her eggs at age 36, before she started her company. “It was a very intentional thing on my part to be able to say that I want to give myself to this concept and this business, and I feel like [the business] is going to need all of me for the next few years,” she says. 

That kind of forward-thinking has made Alchemy 43 a success—and it will serve Levy well when she gives birth to a baby girl in October 2021. “[Freezing my eggs] was the smartest thing I’ve ever done,” she says. ‘I’m so glad. It was very expensive, but money well spent. I wanted to make sure I had the option to be a mother, and it gave me peace of mind to be able to move forward full-throttle with my business and not feel this ticking clock in the back of my head.”

While the entire process has been exciting and difficult, it's been worthwhile for her to create her family on her own terms. In addition to her baby girl, she has one embryo left. “I’m crossing my fingers and toes that it could happen again,” she says. 

Verywell Family sat down with her right before her due date to talk IVF, going it alone, and what she really thinks about Botox during pregnancy. 

Alchemy 43 founder Nicci Levy posing pregnant

Shawn Michelle Photography

Question 1

Verywell Family: What’s your IVF journey been like so far? 

Nicci Levy: I became aware of a [fertility] company called Kindbody. I really liked the concept of their vision and what they were building.

I decided to use them for the next part of my journey [conception]. I had a decent amount of eggs. In hindsight, it really is true what they tell you—I think I had 21 eggs frozen, and that yielded basically three viable embryos. I remember them saying, even though that feels like a lot of eggs, freezing eggs is different than freezing embryos. I decided to go full force and then COVID hit. 

Miscarriages happen very often, and this was my first real try. But it was painful and difficult. And then there are all the questions: was I too stressed? Did I cause this somehow? 

There was a period of time where the clinics were closed, and then when they reopened, I started getting really serious about the process. I did a transfer in July of last year, which resulted in a miscarriage, unfortunately. I miscarried at eight weeks. I think I had my head screwed on straight about it in terms of knowing the chances and the commonalities. Miscarriages happen very often, and this was my first real try. But it was painful and difficult. And then there are all the questions: was I too stressed? Did I cause this somehow? 

It takes a couple of months to recover [from a miscarriage]. There’s also been a lot of steps in my journey of things no one talks about with IVF. It’s very different than trying to get pregnant on your own. You might have existing health conditions that might be problematic, and you wouldn’t even know about them if you naturally got pregnant. 

With IVF, they want the entire environment to be perfect. I had to have fibroids removed. I had to have a fibroid shaved down. Then there was some scar tissue. It resulted in multiple procedures before I could even try to get pregnant. They want this perfect environment. It makes sense, you’re going to spend all that money and go through this invasive process, and it involves things that getting pregnant naturally wouldn’t. Genetic testing, testing embryos. I tried again once we got everything back in working order, and on January 30th, I had a transfer of a second embryo that we ended up fertilizing. 

Question 2

VWF: Do you think it’s been any more difficult for you because you are considered advanced maternal age? 


NL: I would say it nets out somewhat equally because I think I have something that I wouldn't have had 15 years ago: perspective. I know not to sweat the small stuff. I knew going into this eyes wide open, I knew I would be geriatric. I have to go to a maternal-fetal medicine doctor in addition to my OB for high-risk stuff. 

Every time I go, he pulls up my chart and it has terms like gestational diabetes and obesity on my chart. They’re so unkind, and I’m in really great health. I think someone younger would take that a lot harder. I have a sense of humor about it. Slap it on me, I’m high, high risk. But there’s a lot more care. They’re not missing a thing.

Question 3

VWF: Speaking of perspective, what would you tell someone going through IVF now? 


NL: Going to extraordinary measures just means that you really want to be a mom, and when you’re willing to go through the process, you just have to go into it knowing that it’s not a clear-cut journey. There are going to be bumps in the road like anything in life. It’s just not perfect. Human beings are human beings and we all react differently to things. There’s a degree of uncertainty going into this, and you have to know that you need to be equipped for things that are going to come at you, unexpected things like gestational diabetes. You have to go into it and say, the end result is worth it for me. 

I keep joking when I was going through procedure after procedures with my doctor that this baby better be real cute!  I remember telling the fertility doctor when I finally got pregnant that I’m so nervous because of the miscarriage. She said, “welcome to the next 18 years of your life. You never stop being nervous or worried.”

"Going to extraordinary measures just means that you really want to be a mom, and when you’re willing to go through the process, you just have to go into it knowing that it’s not a clear-cut journey."

Question 4

VWF: We have to ask—what are your thoughts on injectables while pregnant?


NL: You’re not allowed to do anything while you’re pregnant, everything is off-limits. But that’s because no pregnant women want to be guinea pigs and use their unborn fetus to try something out. It’s easier to say no and to err on the side of caution.

I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to test the waters, especially since I’ve worked so hard to get here. I’m certainly not going to do anything to jeopardize [my pregnancy]. At Alchemy 43, we cannot and will not treat anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding with an injectable. 

But I can’t wait to go back! I have been doing Botox since I was 27 years old. I haven’t had it since December, and obviously, any effects that I would have had by now have completely worn off because Botox is only FDA-approved to last up to four months. But I still don’t have any movement [in my forehead], and I don’t have any fine lines or wrinkles, so it’s worked as a preventative. I haven’t used those muscles, which are what causes the wrinkles and causes the contractions. My body has forgotten how to use those.

I’m very happy, I thought I would look pretty haggard at this point, but I’m smooth and I don’t think I have to go back to square one. I’m certainly a test case for starting early and doing it preventatively to maintain your look. I’m very much looking forward to getting it again as soon as I’m done breastfeeding. I’m going to give myself the full monty treatment and get myself back to looking and feeling my best, but until then, I’m good.

Question 5

VWF: Have you had to change any other part of your beauty routine, such as retinol? 


NL: I am a huge fan of retinol. I believe so much in its power to affect radiant skin and anti-aging. I’ve been using them for years, but I haven’t been using it as part of my routine during pregnancy, and I’m excited to get back to it.

In the meantime, I’ve relied more heavily on things like vitamin C, which has always been a part of my routine but now I’m really leaning into it. Anything super hydrating—I feel like I’m using a lot more oil, my skin is more thirsty. I’m just keeping it really supple and hydrated, and giving it as much nourishment as I can in a healthy way.

Question 6

VWF: Has being pregnant in COVID-19 times affected your work as CEO? Have you had to change anything? 


NL: The thing that’s been the most shocking—and I feel like I went into this pretty eyes wide open—is the tiredness. I have never felt this tired. First trimester and third trimester. In my second trimester, I felt pretty normal. In my first trimester, around 2:45 p.m. or so, I would all of a sudden I would feel like I got run over by a truck. I could not function.

I’ve never been a person who takes naps. All my cycles run pretty normally. Then all of a sudden I was useless. It was so out of the ordinary for me. I feel like people don’t talk about that enough. You hear about the other symptoms of pregnancy, but the tiredness…

Because of [the] COVID-19 [pandemic], I’m primarily working from home and had been prior to pregnancy. We have freestanding locations that I’m typically bopping in and out of, which I haven’t been doing as we are trying to keep the number of people in our locations lower to be safe and keep everyone safe. I’ve been doing a lot more things on Zoom. 

In the last few weeks, blood pressure has been sort of an issue which isn’t surprising as a CEO and older mama. I’m on strict orders to have a modified work schedule where I can’t do things that stress me out and I give myself time to rest and clear my head. I’ve tried to honor that but it’s tough. 

Question 7

VWF: On that note, are you taking maternity leave? 

NL: It’s not been a black-and-white thing for me as a founder. But we’re a relatively young company and I'm still very much involved in the vision and making sure what I envisioned is coming to life. 

I have amazing support on my team, I have a great COO and an amazing head of marketing, but I’m still very intrinsic to the process. While I’ve tried to step away from the day-to-day administrative activities—things like placing orders—there’s still the strategic side which I can’t [step away from]. And truthfully, I don’t think I would enjoy stepping away. For me to go away and not be a part of things for several months just doesn’t feel authentic to me.

I’ve struggled with it. People have told me that I have to set the right example for my team. Are they going to feel like it’s not okay to take maternity leave? I totally understand. I want my team to feel like it’s absolutely appropriate and ok to take maternity leave, and they should take it.

I’ve struggled with it. People have told me that I have to set the right example for my team. Are they going to feel like it’s not okay to take maternity leave? I totally understand. I want my team to feel like it’s absolutely appropriate and ok to take maternity leave, and they should take it. They should live life on their own terms. For me, this is about personal choice and something I’ve chosen that feels authentic for my journey.

Part of why I started my own company was to live life on my own terms. And so this feels right to me. It doesn’t mean it’s right for everybody. It’s been conflicting, I’ll be honest. It’s been tough. 

Question 8

VWF: How do you think motherhood will change you as a business person? As a human? 


NL: It’s going to be great for me. I have enough self-awareness to know that I have given 100% of myself to this business and to building out this company for the last few years. My approach has been to lean into all of it. But at the same time, I feel like I’m at the point, where the company will do better and the brand will do better if I have a more balanced perspective. 

I don’t think it’s healthy to have this laser focus on any one thing. It’s good to be diverse and to have different things going on that take up your energy. One of the things that became clear to me during [the] COVID-19 [pandemic]—which I’m sure many people can relate to—is before, I always had my work schedule, and my busy days, and then ways to decompress. Exercise, or meet a friend for dinner or drinks. You have that moment where you don’t think about work. You talk about boys, shopping. 

Having a child and being a mom will make me a better CEO. It will make me a better, more well-rounded human being. 

During [the] COVID-19 [pandemic], I didn’t have that. It was work, work, work, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom all day. It was tough. Having a child and being a mom will make me a better CEO. It will make me a better, more well-rounded human being. 

One of the things I hear a lot from my friends that are business-oriented is that once you have children, you’re more likely to live in the moment. My friend was telling me that she was sitting with her little baby at the park, just watching him play with sand. She said she had this moment where she was not thinking about the next meeting or having to hop on the next call, she was just literally enjoying watching her son play with sand. I can’t say when the last time I did that, just had a moment of living in the moment. It’s going to be great. 

Question 9

VWF: As someone who is choosing to parent by themselves, what advice do you have for someone thinking about doing it? 


NL: I don’t have advice yet because I haven’t started on the [parenting] path yet, but what I will say is that families look a lot of different ways today. I grew up in a very traditional family and had great support around me. 

It’s tough to think that my child’s not going to have a dad right away—hopefully, one day. I have an amazing family and I love my dad. It was a pill I had to swallow because I had such a wonderful experience myself of a more traditional family.

A child needs one parent who loves them unconditionally, who is there for them and supports them. I know so many children to single mothers who are unbelievably amazing, well-rounded human beings. I’m up for it.

But I think that a child needs one parent who loves them unconditionally, who is there for them and supports them. I know so many children to single mothers who are unbelievably amazing, well-rounded human beings. I’m up for it. 

Listen, I’m somebody who has never shied away from a challenge. I’ve never not done something because it was going to be hard. I probably lean into things that are hard. I’m going to make it work. I’m going to be both parents and I’m going to have a life too, and I’m going to show her that you can be an amazing entrepreneur and passionate business person and be a really hands-on mom. It’s going to be messy. It’s going to be tough. And I’m here for it. 

Alchemy 43 founder Nicci Levy posing pregnant

Shawn Michelle Photography

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