ED NOTE: This interview was conducted and this story was written pre-COVID-19.
Carly Cardellino is the former beauty director of Cosmopolitan magazine, where she brought a much-needed dose of realness to the beauty and wellness world through the stories she wrote and products she shared with her audience. As a beauty influencer and consultant, she offers honest, easy-to-understand, and personality-driven beauty content. Follow her on Instagram for her hair advice (that blonde!); stay for the dance videos of her, her husband, and her 16-month-old daughter, Delfina.
We weren't really trying, but we talked a lot about having kids. At the time, though, we were really just talking about getting engaged.
I was having this digestion problem and I went to a gastroenterologist who diagnosed me with H. Pylori. I was on a two-week course of antibiotics to clear that up and was supposed to get my period around the same time I stopped the antibiotics, but it never came.
I called my cousin and asked if she thought that the antibiotics could push my period. She suggested we consult Dr. Google. There were some people that thought the antibiotics could have an effect on the cycle. We found a few people who were saying the difference in estrogen could possibly make your period late. I thought that maybe that was it.
But a couple of days later, I still hadn't got my period. I wasn't feeling any sort of way, but I thought I should probably take pregnancy test. I was really scared to do it--the whole thought of your life changing in a second. I basically took an entire box of pregnancy tests, the ones with the stripes. They were all positive.
I called my cousin. I was crying just because I couldn't believe it. I hadn't called my at-the-time-boyfriend, Gio, because I wanted to first confirm it was all true. He didn't even know I was taking the test.
My cousin suggested I get the tests that simply read "PREGNANT" or "NOT PREGNANT." I went and did that and all the tests said read: ”PREGNANT.” Now I needed to get my blood tested.
I went to Quest Diagnostics right across the street from my office (I was working at Cosmopolitan at the time as the Beauty Director). I told a colleague what might be happening. The lab said that they could have the results to me by the end of the day.
The next day I was leaving for Paris on a work trip, so that night my friend was coming over to basically style all these looks. I got home and I was prepping to tell Gio the news. I was making dinner and he walked in and asked how my day was. I think I said, "I don't know."
He asked me what I meant. I said, "My period is late and I took a bunch of pregnancy tests and they all said positive and I went to the lab and had some blood drawn and I'm waiting to get the results back.”
He said, "Okay. I need a second." I remember it was literally one second for him. He grabbed the counter and the refrigerator door as to brace himself, and then said, "This is great! We've been talking about all these things anyway. This is gonna be great!"
In that moment, I honestly couldn't be more thankful that he was that supportive. In my mind, everything that I had worked for had to come to a halt. I didn't know how I would be able to continue to do the things that I had been doing. You just think about going out to dinner with friends and things like that. It’s not that those things are more important than starting a family, but in that moment, you're just focused on the fact that your life is about to change.
The next day, we started talking about what would this look like for us. At the time we weren't even engaged, though we had known each other for many years. It was a huge life changing event.
The next day, the doctor called me and told me I was definitely pregnant. I immediately wanted to come in and just see whatever I could--I was so curious. Gio had a mandatory meeting at work so he couldn't come with me. So, I just I went by myself and they did a sonogram of sorts. She had a heartbeat. I didn't know it was a girl at the time, but I heard my baby's heartbeat. I recorded it for Gio. The doctor said it looked like I was about six weeks.
"I'm going to Paris in four hours," I told her. "Is that okay?"
She gave me all these things to do. I told her I was going with people I would normally be going out with and she basically told me that I was going to be doing an alternate version of what I was used to.
I sent Gio the heartbeat video. He was at the dentist and sent me back a message that he was crying in the dentist's chair. I knew he would be a great father, but he was an even better support system for me while I was pregnant. When you're going through a pregnancy, you're going through it really by yourself. Your partner isn’t actually going through it physically. They're just there to make you feel normal in some way.
So, I went to Paris. I had the best time. I had to tell two of my friends--I remember telling them on a street corner in Paris after we got some juice, which I couldn’t drink, as it probably wasn't pasteurized. They couldn’t stop screaming. We ended up having the best time and they were fully supportive. I still went out because I was still feeling like myself.
When I got back from Paris, the entire thing became more real. I was very, very tired. I was going to sleep at 6:30 p.m. and waking up the next day at 7:30 a.m. still tired. It really knocked me on my butt. I was nauseous in the morning until I realized, for me at least, that I had to wake up and eat right away. Then I was able to minimize the nausea.
I couldn't smell any fragrance. Gio jokes that I was like a canine at Laguardia Airport. It was a lot. He had to stop wearing fragrance. We used fragrance-free everything: lotions, laundry detergent, laundry sheets. As a beauty director, I basically would keep a bunch of beauty products at my desk and I couldn’t do that anymore. It was just too intense for me.
I didn't know, but Gio was planning to propose to me on a trip we had planned to Italy. He proposed at Le Sirenuse in Positano. Everyone was so excited. It was such a wonderful time. We were able to just be engaged for a month, before telling our families that we were pregnant. Then we started telling, which coincided with my 15-week mark. The timeline really was on our side.
We're both Christian so I was nervous and wondering, "How's this going to go?" I was 34 at the time and even as a 34-year-old, you feel there is supposed to be an order to this stuff and this wasn't in the “right” order. But, Gio really quieted that fear for me. He reminded me that all the people we were telling loved us and we loved each other. I was nervous, but after we told them it was really, really wonderful. Everyone was loving and the response was overwhelmingly positive.
And then we were engaged and trying to figure out how this timeline was going to shake out! We started executing the wedding plans. We didn't want anything large. I just wanted it to be intimate and celebratory of our love. I feel like people's weddings can get really outrageous it. I didn't want any extra stress.
A friend suggested we have it at Palma, an Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village. It's so beautiful there and you really don't have to do anything to make it beautiful. It was December 8th when we got married and I gave birth two and a half weeks later.
My friend Hayley Paige designed my wedding dress and literally was sewing me in into it two days before the wedding. We talked about like what we wanted it to look like probably two and a half weeks before the date. I was so not worried about it. I had so many other things on my mind. It was perfect.
I think it was Christmas Eve and I got really dehydrated and almost passed out. We were in Westchester with Gio's family and we drove into the city and went to the hospital. The doctor told me that I needed to be drinking more fluid. I was drinking so much water at the time. but I guess that day I was drinking out of smaller water bottles or something. I asked if the baby was okay and they told me she was, but that I really needed to up my water intake. That was my first run in with the labor and delivery triage.
At that point, I decided we needed to pack our stuff because we just didn’t know--this baby was going to come at some point. We packed up everything and kept it by the door, which I'm so glad we did, because the last part of my pregnancy was probably the hardest.
One of my baby’s legs kept going up under my ribs and it was so uncomfortable. I would always have to move her down. It was just really, really uncomfortable and I was ready for it to be done even though I still had a minute to go. I had a feeling (and I was hoping) that I was going to go early. I didn't want to be pregnant anymore.
It was the night before New Year's Eve around 3:00 a.m. and I woke up Gio. I just felt like something was happening inside me. I asked him to help me get up, which he did, and I put my hand down by my crotch and it sort of felt like something was leaking. We went to the bathroom and there was nothing there.
They tell you there's going to be all these things if your water breaks. I was like, "Well, I don't see any of that. I think we're okay." I decided I'd just try to go back to sleep. I was able to go back to sleep and then in the morning, had breakfast with a friend in SoHo.
During that breakfast, I told my friend that I feeling weird. “I'm feeling like I'm peeing but I'm not. Maybe my water broke and I just can't tell?"
My friend was like, "Um, I think you should check!"
I continued eating and sitting there. I went to the bathroom probably five times. After that I had a manicure and pedicure appointment at Ten Over Ten in SoHo with Gio. I told him how much I had been going to the bathroom at breakfast.
There was a girl sitting next to us who was reading that book, Bringing Up Bebe. She was listening to me tell this tale of what happened, and she suddenly said, "Excuse me, I don't to butt into your conversation but I think your water did break and you should probably go to the hospital."
I was like, "I'll go after my manicure."
She pushed, "I actually think you should go now."
She scared me enough where I felt we needed to go right then.
We pulled up to the hospital and arrived at the labor triage rooms. The nurse swabbed me to see if my water broke, which it most definitely had. She was like, "You are not going anywhere." She told us that if I wanted to eat anything, Gio would have to go get me food RIGHT now. He ran to BareBurger and got me a million things: sweet potato fries, a hamburger, all kinds of stuff.
I wasn't having any contractions and the labor room wasn't ready, so they just had me walking up and down the hall. I was one centimeter dilated when I went into the hospital and 50% effaced. They recommended I do squats up and down the hall and just stay relaxed. I started to call people and tell them I was in labor. At the time, I'm thinking to myself, "This is pretty easy!" Obviously, I wasn't going into contractions, so I wasn't feeling anything.
Then they moved me into my regular room and the doctor came to talk to me about giving me Pitocin. At first, I said I didn’t really want it. But she told me: "If you were my daughter, I would tell you to get it because you're not going into contractions. Now that your water has broken, there's a possibility for bacteria to be introduced.”
It was New Year's Eve day, well actually 11 p.m. at this point. I was finishing doing edits for Cosmo. We were watching the Ryan Seacrest’s New Year's Rockin’ Eve and the nurse came in to give me my first round of Pitocin.
Shortly after, the contractions started. You know those blood pressure cuffs that go on your arm? It felt like that, but on my whole entire body. It wasn't a zinging pain, but more like a heavy, intense compression pain. Gio was helping me press my hips, I was bouncing on a yoga ball...
After a certain point, I was still only two centimeters dilated, and I had labored for an hour and a half like that. I was definitely ready for an epidural. I was done with that portion of this event.
I was really scared to get the epidural, to be honest. I had heard my friends talk about anesthesiologists that couldn't get the needle in the first time. Gio and I just prayed before. "Please just allow this to happen easily."
They came in and administered it and then all the sudden my legs just felt like I had a really intense workout---like when you go to sleep and you're lying in bed and your legs feel like they're sinking into your bed. That's what it felt like. I remember my cousin had told me she hated how it felt, but I really didn't mind it. When I started feeling the contractions more, I would give myself a hit and I was able to go to sleep.
I slept through all of my evening of contractions, which was a miracle. I feel very lucky to have had that experience. I woke up around 8 a.m., the nurse walked in and felt my cervix to see how dilated I was. She told me she could feel the baby’s head.
Gio raced to go put in our name for a private room so that he could stay with me overnight. By the time the doctor arrived, Gio was still not back – he was running around on a different floor still trying to put our name down. I kept texting him, telling him that we're ready to get this thing going.
He got back and the doctor started telling me how to push. I tried all of these different positions. We ended up where Gio stood behind me in the hospital bed and rested his elbows on the bed and I put my hands behind my head as used to hold on to his forearm. Then I was able to really tuck my pelvis and push that way. Honestly, it helped so much. I was really pushing for probably 30 minutes and she came out.
I remember there was only a nurse and a doctor in the room and I was asked, "Shouldn't there be more people in here?" Everyone was like, "Nope! This is it. You're literally the only person we need." There were no complications. There doesn't need to be anybody else.
We had this idea of cutting the umbilical cord -- that Gio would cut the umbilical cord, that we'd wait until all the blood drained out of the umbilical cord and into the baby. You have all of these plans; and when our baby came out, the cord was wrapped around her neck, so none of those plans happened. The doctor had to quickly do it.
We had Delfina at 10:15 a.m. on January 1st. We did skin to skin immediately.
It's a weird smell; a weird mucous liquid. It’s a lot of emotions. It was really interesting. Right away, you're like, "OK, now do we take a do?" You're immediately sore and even though so many people try to prepare you for the month-long diaper journey, it really is a lot. A lot.
I breastfed for a little over nine months. She latched right away, but my milk, even though it was in, didn't drop. Had my milk not dropped when it did, we probably would have had to supplement with formula because she was losing some weight. We had a night nurse who my cousin recommended, and she was there the first night we brought Delfina home from the hospital.
She just blended in with everything we had going on. If I asked her for advice, she gave it to me, but she listened to how I wanted to do things. I really appreciated that. She was just a really good fit with our family. She's such a cool woman. Very knowledgeable, super sweet. I felt really comfortable having her there because she was neither of our families. It's such a high stress time, you don't want somebody there that you're going to be accidentally yelling at that's related to you. It was such good investment for us, because after I felt well enough to be out of the house, we started going on date nights and things like that. We weren't worried about Delfina because we knew she was in good hands.
I really wanted to get out of the house. It starts feeling like Groundhog Day very, very quickly. I think it's also very helpful when people come to visit you and make you feel like you're not out of the loop. It's hard to expect people to always want to come over but my friends did that, which was really nice.
But sometimes when they couldn't get there, you just kind of wonder, "Am I going to go crazy in here?" The newborn stage goes so fast. It really is the only time that they're not moving around. In the moment, you're wondering when this stage going to be over so we can move along to the next thing. But now, looking back, I think, "Wow, that was actually the easiest part of this."
My transition back to work was really great. We had a nanny who was recommended to us by our night nurse. She started coming a couple of weeks before I went back to work. When I would leave for work, I would tell myself that I was just going on a long errand.
It was actually really nice to talk to other people and talk about other things than what my baby was eating or what her poop consistency was. I really welcomed that.
Now, Delfina is 16 months and it's totally different. She's fully mobile; walking, trying to run, trying to talk, babbling, saying some words. Her personality is definitely more like me. She loves dancing and she's just really personable, always waving to people and wanting to say “hi.” I'm going to have to teach her about stranger danger. She doesn't have it. She's a she's a really sweet, sweet girl. She's been calm since day one. Very observant and warm.
As a new mom, you have to really learn patience. That's definitely something that has been an ongoing learning for me. You're being patient so that they don't feel anxious. It's almost like you have to have this bird's eye view of your child's life, and really acknowledge that everything I do will affect this person. I want to be making sure that all the choices I make are in line with how I want her to grow up to a certain extent. Obviously, I can't control everything. I always tell people you should have to take a test or get a license before you have a baby because it's way more important than knowing how to drive or anything like that.
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