My [COVID-19] Birth Story: Carly Cushnie
Carly Cushnie is the Creative Director and CEO of CUSHNIE, a womenswear brand known for sexy dresses and perfect proportions.
“As a woman," she says, "I understand what my customer wants from her clothes. I’ve grown and evolved alongside her over the past 10 years, and I strive to present her with timeless silhouettes that make her feel sexy, sophisticated and powerful — all at once.”
Here, she shares her unique perspective having given birth to her second child at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I found out that I was pregnant at the end of July. It was not something my husband and I were expecting. I had just given birth to my first child March 31, 2019, so she was just 3.5 months old when I found out. We definitely wanted more kids, but it was a very quick turnaround for me. At the time I found out, I was just starting to go back to work, to workout—just starting to get into a bit of a routine. I was feeling good. And then I was pregnant again.
Oh my God, it was definitely a shock to the system, but once we got over the initial shock, my husband and I were super excited. We just thought, "Okay! We're just going to have our family super quickly—all at once!"
Parts of the second pregnancy were better that the first and parts of it were worse. At the beginning, with my first child, my morning sickness was really bad. It went on for pretty much five months. I felt awful and nauseous all day long.
With the second pregnancy, I didn't feel that way. I was nauseous at the beginning, but by the end of three months, it was done. I had a lot more energy. I had found out I was iron deficient in my first pregnancy, so I just started taking iron as soon as I found that I was pregnant again. Things like that helped me be more prepared this time. But then, towards the end, I felt a lot worse.
My baby, she felt she felt incredibly low and I had a lot of pelvic and back pain. Standing up and sitting down and just basic things seemed to get really hard very quickly. I couldn't walk for very long periods of time—it would be debilitating after a while.
I ended up working from home—quarantining—about a month before the baby came. It was actually a bit of a blessing, because had things been normal, I would have still been going into work. It was good for me to just take a little bit of a break and not be rushing to the subway. I was in a lot of pain. I think my body was just like, "This has all been a lot at once." Had I given my body a little bit more rest in between the pregnancies, my second pregnancy would have been easier.
The day before I gave birth to my first child, I went to brunch! We went to Costco and Buy Buy Baby—all of these errands and I felt totally fine. I certainly couldn't have done anything even close to that [this time].
When we first started hearing the news that COVID-19 had hit Seattle and California, it just kind felt like we were waiting for it to come to New York. It was anxiety-inducing—things like taking the subway to work. The last day I came into work, even my employees turned and said, "Carly, you really shouldn't be coming in at this point." I told everyone that they could work from home. This was still in the super early days before it had really hit New York City.
I was definitely getting sucked into the news. I kept hearing people say, "Oh, this will be over in a couple of weeks!" I knew that wasn't going to be the case and that once it hit New York, it was going to be bad. I felt like they just needed to shut down New York as soon as humanly possible. When they were holding out with school and everything, I was just wishing they'd shut the whole place down.
The week after I went to my 36-week appointment I told my doctor I wasn’t coming back. Because I’m 36, which is considered advanced maternal age, and my pregnancies were so close together, they were having me come in every week. I told my doctor, "I'm not coming in anymore. You have too many people in the waiting room and it's freaking me out."
She understood and she was fine. It felt too stressful. Also, for me, I had done this—exactly a year ago. I think I would have been a lot more nervous had this been my first pregnancy. There's a lot of anxiety with being a new mom.
I think we got a call the following week—someone telling me that I really needed to come in. I did one more appointment (they started taking virtual appointments, so I did one appointment that way) and then that was it until I went into labor.
It's a fine toss-up between knowing your body and listening to medical staff. You need to obviously listen to the medical professionals. but they also do a very good job of freaking you out. For me, I really felt that I'd know if something's wrong. The baby was still moving a lot. If she ever stopped moving, obviously, I would have gone to see the doctor. I felt fine otherwise, other than having joint pain and things like that. I had gotten it in my head that this baby was going to be fine. She was going to be here when she wanted to be here because she had really decided that she wanted to be here. It was a surprise that she arrived. Of course, she had to come in the middle of a pandemic. I felt, "She knows what she's doing."
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Motherhood has been the greatest gift. I couldn’t be more grateful for all the lessons learned, the twists and turns and the endless love and joy. I can’t believe I’m a mama of 2 already and I cherish every moment. Thank you @ocnyc for being the best father and partner, our little family is my everything. Missing my Mum in London right now but I know we will celebrate when we can all be together again. A special thank you to my Mother in law Rosa for quarantining with us, being such an incredible grandma and taking such good care of us all. Happy Mother’s Day Mum, Mama Cantú, my sisters and all my wonderful mamas 💕 #mothersday #motherhood
I read an article in the New York Times that there was this midwife whose business was tripling because all of these people were changing to home births [because of COVID-19]. I discussed alternative birth plans with a few friends. One of my best friends, a doctor, said to me, "If I were you, I would still be in a hospital" I felt I wanted to be in a hospital. To me, and I know a lot of people who do home birth, I'm just not sure what's scarier.
I started to get freaked out when some hospitals stopped allowing partners into the labor and delivery rooms. When I spoke to my doctor at NYU Langone, she told me they had just had a big meeting and were allowing partners in delivery. Thank goodness, Cuomo made that executive order that partners were allowed attend births and allowed to stay in recovery, as well. I was really grateful for that. You have no idea what it's going to be like when you go into the hospital and having absolutely no one with you...that upset me the most leading up to the delivery—just being worried that anything could change in the coming weeks before I gave birth.
I spoke to a person at NYU a week before I gave birth and they said that essentially everything was the same except that my husband would have to come in with me. “He can't come in later or leave and come back,” they told me. I asked her if there had been any COVID-19 patients in and she said that right now, there weren't, but that she didn't know what was going to happen between "now" and when I came in to deliver. "It could be a very different situation," she warned.
On April 7th, at exactly 39 weeks I started having contractions. They weren't super bad. It was 6:00 p.m. when they began and I carried on as usual: I bathed my one-year-old, read her a story, put her to bed, had dinner with my husband and my mother-in-law who was staying with us... I finally thought that I should make sure my bag was together, so we got everything ready and went to bed. The contractions got more intense when I got into bed and I started timing them. I woke up my husband and told him it was time to start getting ready.
We called the doctor to tell her how far apartment my contractions were—they were maybe 10 minutes apart. The doctor asked me how dilated I was at my last appointment. I told her I hadn't been in since 36-weeks. We had no idea where we were even starting. The doctor asked me how long my last labor experience was and I told her six hours. She was like, "YOU NEED TO GET HERE SOON."
I had asked my husband earlier in the day if he could go get some stuff out of the basement...the bassinet, things my older daughter hadn't needed any more, but we needed for the new baby. So he went to the basement while I’m still lying in bed…just waiting and just moving through my contractions, and after a while, I was like, "Where is he?”
I sent him a text message: "Where are you?" and then decided to take a shower to try to feel better about the contractions.
I was ready to go.
We had rented a car, which our nanny had been using to drive to and from work, and that we would be taking to the hospital. She had already driven home that night and my husband had to call her and have her come back. She arrived and I finally found my husband, who had been in the basement that whole time.
The nanny drove my husband and I to the hospital—I was lying down in the backseat. We left probably just before 3 a.m. and my husband said there was absolutely no one on the Brooklyn Bridge or the FDR. It was so bizarre. We got to the hospital with our masks and gloves on. There were two security guards, but the rest of the lobby was completely empty. They brought me a wheelchair and took both of our temperatures before bringing us upstairs to the delivery ward.
So, I’m up in triage changing into a robe and they put a monitor on me and my husband looks at his phone and notices that our nanny was driving back to Brooklyn without the keys in the car. It's one of those cars that doesn't need a key to start. We have this monitor that keeps flashing telling us that the car keys are not in the car. My husband still had the keys in his pocket. By the time he realized, she was already back in Brooklyn. She had to turn around. And he went downstairs and waited to give her the keys.
Meanwhile, the nurses are checking my contractions, which are only a few minutes apart at this point. The doctor comes in, sees how far dilated I am and how far down the baby is and says, "Your baby is RIGHT there. You have no time for an epidural."
I was insisted, "No. no, no, no. I need one." I have a friend that's an anesthesiologist who told me there's always time for an epidural. But the doctor didn’t think I would will be able to sit still long enough for them to put the needle in my back. She told me that by the time the epidural starts to work, the baby will be here.
My husband's still not back.
They start wheeling me to a delivery room. I called my husband:
"Where are you? It's go time! It's happening now! You need to get back up here."
He was still standing downstairs with the security guards, waiting for our nanny. He basically just throws the keys to the security guard and tells them a woman would be coming back for some keys. “Just give them to her," he instructed. And he came back upstairs.
Even though I had told him it was go time, I don’t think he really processed it was really go time. By the time he got there, he literally walked into the room and the doctor was like, "Great! Grab a leg!" Everything just happened so quickly.
Everyone had masks on. There were two doctors and both of them wore masks plus whole face shields...it was like giving birth to an astronaut. Everything was just moving so quickly. I was still freaking out from not having the epidural. Being scared and breathing heavy and everyone having masks on, I found it difficult to understand everybody. You can't see their lips and their voices are so muffled behind everything that they're wearing. But she was out in about seven or eight pushes. My husband walked into the room at 3:45 a.m. Quincy Sol Cantú was born at 3:48. a.m.
I did skin-to-skin immediately and that was all fine. After she came out everything was more or less "normal." Only mothers who tested positive for COVID-19 were separated from their children. Since we didn't have fevers, we were fine, and she was with me from then on.
Coming home, for the most part, felt normal. Everything was the same and because I had just done it in the exact same hospital with the exact same doctor a year before, everything felt the same. The only difference was that everyone had all of this gear on. I'm very grateful that my labor was pretty straightforward, and the medical staff at NYU Langone was so great. I never felt scared or worried about COVID-19 while I was in the hospital. I was so focused on the baby.
I stayed two nights in the hospital with my first pregnancy, but this time they released me after 24 hours since everything was fine with the baby. I was so glad to leave the hospital. The last time, I didn't want to leave the hospital. You had nurses checking on you all the time! But this time, at that point, I was really ready to get out of there.
I wasn't told about any additional precautions like needing to stay home for 14 days. I was going to be home anyway. It's funny because I think I felt like more of an anxious mother with my first child because I was a first time mother and she was very small. She lost a lot of weight when we left the hospital and wasn't nursing properly and had tongue tie. She was hungry and my milk wasn't coming down very well. It was just one bad thing after another until I found a lactation consultant.
This time, my baby had no problem feeding. I spoke to a lactation consultant on the phone, but I fed fine. I'm lucky that my baby was fine because, if I really needed to see a lactation consultant or had issues with my baby, or if she needed to be in the NICU, that would have been really hard and scary.
Coming home felt fine because I would have been home all this time anyway. It was a little bit different from the last time: When I came home last year, I would take the baby for a walk. I'm lucky that I have outside space, so we get fresh air easily. And I have been on walks with her, just not as much.
I'm grateful that my husband is home as much as he is. He actually told me leading up to the labor, before COVID-19, that he didn't think he was going to be able to take off much paternity leave because he'd been really busy at work. He's fully working from home, but it's nice that we're all together as a family.
My first child is loving quarantining! Everyone is at home and everyone's together. She has grandma and daddy. It's just unusual for her. It's been really nice to just be together, to cook and hang out and spend time with both our kids. That has been the silver lining.
Interviews and stories on hillhousehome.com are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.