My [COVID-19] Birth Story: Jenny Cipoletti
Jenny Cipoletti is the founder of Margo & Me, a platform dedicated to sharing Cipoletti's vision of all things style, beauty, and travel. Alongside her creative right hand, her husband, Freddie, and their French Bulldog, Margo, Jenny continues to create visually stunning content and offers valuable advice and information via her website, Instagram and YouTube channel. Here, she shares her COVID-19 birth story.
My husband and I have been together for 10 years. We always knew we wanted to start a family. We were living in Manhattan in a one-bedroom apartment and ended up relocating to Van Vorst Park, which is in Jersey City. We found out that we are pregnant literally a week after signing on our new place.
[Our home in Jersey City] is a single-family brownstone with a backyard. We knew we'd start a family—we just didn't realize it would happen immediately. We had been in the "letting it happen" mentality since the beginning of 2019. It took us a good seven months for it to happen on its own. It was a tremendous blessing. That was last August. At the beginning of my pregnancy, everything was so smooth. I didn't have any morning sickness or anything. I was just very fatigued.
We wanted to find out the sex of the baby, so we got the blood work done early and found out we were having a little girl. We would have been so happy either way, but I'm such a girl's girl at heart, so it was a really exciting moment for me. I hope to have a little boy in the future but having a little girl as our first was something that was so special. We were in the backseat of an Uber when the doctor called to tell us the news. I put her on speakerphone and the Uber driver got an earful.
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Two souls don’t simply find each other by accident... Right before the turn of last decade, I met my soul mate. And for the past 10 years, we’ve been immersed in each others love. We got a puppy, got engaged, married, sailed the Mediterranean sea, explored far corners of the world and built two businesses, all out of our innate love of what we love to do, together. Right before the turn of this decade, we found out we were expecting a little one. I can’t begin to articulate all the hope we feel right now in this moment. If only I had a pause button to freeze this moment in time. The feeling I had when I read “pregnant”. The feeling I had when I saw that little heart beat for the first time on the ultrasound. That feeling I had the first time I felt a kick, telling my family and friends. And now each of you. My heart is so full. @fredcip and I couldn’t be more excited and grateful to be embarking on all that this next decade has in store for our family. We can’t wait to meet you and show you the world, sweet little one. Blooming this Spring ❤️
We took a babymoon to Miami in late January, which is when the news started spreading about COVID-19. I remember feeling like I should talk to a doctor about getting on a flight—really find out whether or not it was smart to travel. There was still a lot of uncertainty around everything. [The virus] hadn't really come to the U.S. and there wasn't a tremendous amount of concern, so we decided to take the trip.
It was on that trip when I started to realize this could get really serious. The anxiety surrounding all of the uncertainty really started. There was little to no information on if it was going to affect pregnant women or babies. After getting home from that trip, we buckled down and didn't venture out as much. I stopped taking meetings.
At first, I was with New York Presbyterian and we were going to be delivering at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital in Manhattan. Our doctor's office was on 51st Street and so we would drive into the city to go to our appointments. We had our last appointment at the end of February. Our doctor basically said, "We can't put you into a bubble. Everything is going to be fine. We'll figure it out as we go." That was the last appointment that we had with her before everything got crazy. And by crazy, I mean, before the offices closed down. The doctors got moved around because there was a COVID-19 outbreak at the labor and delivery [ward] at New York Presbyterian.
It was impossible to get a hold of our doctors or nurses. Think God, I had a doula, who I’d been working with from the very beginning. She's an incredible doula here in New York named is Gayle Lemke. She really helped us navigate not only our pregnancy, but also everything that was going on with the announcements about COVID-19.
All the sudden, none of the private hospitals in New York were allowing birth partners. That really was the hardest part of my pregnancy—the idea that my husband wouldn't be in the room while I gave birth. Labor is terrifying enough if you haven't done it. Doing it alone, if you've been training with your partner to do it together…that was just a terrifying idea to me.
We realized New York Presbyterian wasn't an option for us anymore and started talking to our friends and family. We have a few friends that are doctors at hospitals in surrounding areas and we asked them about alternative options:
What if we came in through the E.R. when we were in labor? What if we considered a home birth? Are there any even midwives available?
I was in my 36th week of pregnancy and all of a sudden, I was thinking about doing a home birth! The entire concept of a "birth plan" was totally shot.
I knew I needed to do what was best for my baby and myself. I thought, "If the hospitals are overrun and labor and delivery wards are overrun with COVID-19, there's no way that I'm going to be going in there--especially alone."
I just kept having this vision of my husband dropping me off, curbside, and me, walking in by myself with my stroller and my yoga ball and being like, "OK, see you later with the baby!"
It was about one week of uncertainty where everybody pulled together to create this huge online petition. It got over 500,000 signatures in 24 hours. It was five days from then until the Governor of New York announced that one birthing partner was allowed with a mother. That gave me a huge feeling of relief.
But while that was all happening, we were still searching for our Plan B, so to speak. That eventually came in the form of our doula finding a private doctor who was willing to take me on at 36 weeks. Not a lot of doctors are open to doing that so far into a pregnancy.
This meant that I would have to switch hospitals and come out of pocket for an additional cost. The hospital that I ended up delivering out of was Lenox Hill Hospital and they were allowing birthing partners. That, plus the fact that this doctor was willing to take me at 36 weeks, made us ready to move forward with this new plan. I couldn't imagine myself training for a home birth that late in the game, and after all of our research, we found there were no midwives even available. However, I do think that if I was, maybe, three months into my pregnancy, I would definitely consider the home birthing path.
I was making all these decisions all while trying to remain calm and centered and anxiety-free because we all know that anxiety doesn't manifest well in your body. I stopped watching the news entirely and had my husband filter good information that was coming to me. I cut down on my screen time on Instagram. I would go on to post, but I wouldn't scroll. I knew that I had to cut these things out because the second that I would allow them back into my routine. the anxiety would hit again. I really put strong boundaries into place for myself in order to get through those last few weeks of my pregnancy.
I delivered at 40 weeks. Forty weeks and four days. At that point, I had met the new doctor and knew the protocols for the office. This new doctor had a very small office with two exam rooms on the Upper East Side. She had all of her patients wait in their cars outside and they would call you to come up after they sanitized everything. The car was the waiting room.
She was able to do the last round of exams and tests to make sure the baby was in the right position... all these things that you're supposed to do in your 35th week that my old doctor had kept bumping. I didn't really know: "Am I supposed to get these? Am I not supposed to be getting these tests?" Nobody called me to tell me one way or another.
It was an incredibly confusing time, too, because you think that you have this guidance and all the sudden, your doctors’ attentions are pulled in a horrific direction. And you can't blame them. They're doing what they're supposed to be doing. But it was also this feeling of abandonment.
Seeing [the new doctor] was reassuring in the sense that I knew I would have care through the end of my pregnancy and that she, herself, was going to be the doctor actually delivering my baby. The fact that I knew her and could spend the next three weeks getting to know her through my weekly appointments, and the fact that she would be delivering my baby…I really felt like I was in the best hands. The best-case situation came out of the worst-case situation.
My due date was on the 28th and I delivered on the second. The labor started on a Thursday night around midnight (which my husband had predicted). Going into May 1st, I was up all night with contractions. They felt like the Braxton Hicks contractions plus lower back pain—sort of like period cramp pain. I knew there was something definitely percolating. There was a definite difference.
I ran a warm bath, put on my birthing meditation app, Expectful, and just tried to rest. I knew I needed to start preserving my energy. I got out of the tub and the contractions started coming on really strong around 2 a.m.
I looked at my husband and said, "I think this is it!" I called my doula and my doctor. We had everything prepped and ready to go. We had put together a whole sanitizing kit with masks and gloves. We had trash bags that we were going to put all of the "contaminated stuff" into that would go straight to the washing machine. The hospital bag consisted of essentials, not fragranced candles or aromatherapy.
We went to the car, drove to the hospital and we were so lucky to find a parking spot a block away. We went in, got to the sixth floor, and it was empty. We got there around 4:00 a.m. and there was not one patient. It was just people working.
They took both our temperatures immediately before even asking us for our names. My husband waited in the waiting room with our things while I was in triage for about an hour by myself. Nobody else was in there. To be in triage alone was a huge relief. I was concerned that there was potentially going to be other triaged women in labor who may have been infected because they don't separate you in triage. When I got to triage, I was already five centimeters dilated.
We were moved to our delivery room around 6:00 a.m. I remember that because the sun was coming out.
Everybody in the room was incredibly well protected. Everybody had gloves. Everybody wore double if not triple masks. Our doctor even wore a face shield. I wore a mask for the most part. When I got into my eighth centimeter, it was incredibly hard to breathe. They had gotten my COVID-19 test back and I was negative, so they allowed me to take it off.
Through all of my research one of the things that popped up was everything surrounding epidurals and the waterfall effect of drugs that take place with Pitocin and an epidural. If you'd spoken to me sixth months previously, I would have been like, "SIGN ME UP! I'm definitely doing an epidural. No questions asked." But after all of the reading that I was doing, I felt like it may not actually be something that I wanted to do. I wasn't going to write it off completely because I didn't know what direction things were going to go in, but I went in open to the idea that I could do it without [the epidural].
What really got me through [labor] was this idea that we can do anything for one minute. I really took those words and focused on them. As each contraction came on, I would picture a wave. It would come on really strong and I would breathe through it and then release. Knowing that it would end in a minute to a minute and a half really allowed me to get through each contraction up to eight centimeters.
At that point, I felt ready for the epidural. It was around 10 a.m. and they called in the anesthesiologist. I sat on the bed and just had this moment. Everything came rushing back to me about why I didn't want to have the epidural; the thought of the needle in my back and the Pitocin. I asked if I could just do one more exam with the doctor to see how dilated I was. I thought that if I had only one or two centimeters left to go, I might as well just finish without the epidural.
The doctor came and said I was about eight and a half centimeters dilated. She said, "I've seen it go for two hours...five hours...I can't give you a timeframe, but the pain will get more intense and there is no going back from here because you're probably not going to be able to sit still."
I had two nurses, my husband, the doctor and the anesthesiologist standing around me, staring at me, waiting for my response. You could cut the tension in the room with a knife. I looked at my husband and he looked at me and just said, "Trust your gut."
I looked back at the anesthesiologist and my doctor: "Final answer: Not doing it."
It was something that came deep within me: I'm just going to push forward. I'm already this far into it. I'm going to go for it.
All the sudden the nurses totally changed gears. They put me into a position on the bed and started talking me through how we were going to get the cervix to open up. I kept my meditation music on. For my husband and I, it was our most intimate moment in 10 years of knowing each other, because he was so deeply connected to everything that I was going through. He was doing pressure points on my lower back. He had the nurses teach him how to read the contraction chart, so as one was coming on, he would coach me through it. We were a fluid team, just rolling through each contraction that came on longer and stronger.
I was only pushing for around 20 minutes. After the last push, the doctor told me to open my eyes. I opened my eyes and I heard her little cry and saw her little hands and her little feet. We did skin-to-skin and I was just a wreck. And then all of a sudden, the pain just diminished. It was gone. There was no pain anymore—the oxytocin was just pumping through me. I still get so emotional thinking about it. It was really something else.
I breastfed about 30 minutes after she was born—she started rooting immediately, so I started breastfeeding her in the labor and delivery room. We were in the hospital for 24 hours and then we were sent home. The same care went into the recovery room as the labor and delivery room. All the nurses wore gloves and masks. It felt very safe.
We had a bunch of stuff set up at the front door of our home for when we got home: a trash bag, change of clothes for us and for her…We really just stripped down at the front door and just let everything sit. There's so much back and forth on whether the virus can stick to clothes or not and we really just wanted to get everything off before we came into the house. But besides that, there weren't really a lot of extra precautions we had to take when coming home.
We've been in quarantine now for 10 days and on Sunday it will be two weeks. We plan on seeing my in-laws on Sunday. They came by while we were at the hospital and stayed at the house because we have a dog—our French Bulldog, Margo. When we came, they left. They were 12 feet away from us, down the street, as we were going up into the house, waving. It was incredibly emotional. You're used to expecting to share that moment with your family.
I didn't think that not being able to be with family would affect me as much as it has. I'm on FaceTime all day with my mom who's in California. She was supposed to be here for the birth and for Mother's Day...to stay with us for a few weeks. It's been really tough not having her here. My mom is a breast cancer survivor and is at high risk and we really can't be jeopardizing her health either. It's just an incredibly tough position and everybody is going through it one way or another. But we have to remain positive and know that there will be a time that will come when everything is safe again.
Our baby’s name is Lucy Marie Cipoletti. It's just a name that we found to be so sweet and soothing. “Lucy” is an incredibly symbolic name and honors our family heritage. Both of my husband's grandmothers were named Lucy. It's also a name that I've always loved ever since I was a little girl. “Marie” comes from her Godmother and Auntie Kristin Marie; a beautiful soul who I’ve come to know and love as my sister over the past decade…who’s shown me unconditional love and acceptance from day one.
Margo, our dog, is adjusting to the new addition. She reminds me of Lady in Lady and The Tramp. She's my shadow. She really follows me around the house. We are just connected as one. She just looks at me like, "What have you done to my life?" She sleeps right next to the bassinet and every time the baby cries, she looks at me and she looks at the baby and she just sniffs the cap off her head. She's so sweet and gentle with her. I'm sure as she gets a little bit older their relationship will blossom.
I've had such a seamless experience. I have been incredibly, incredibly lucky. I had so many girlfriends share their experiences with me of postpartum and from what I've heard, I've just come out the other end incredibly lucky. I'm just enjoying every moment, because I know everybody says the newborn phase is the hardest, but it's also the most special and it's going to fly by. Every time I look at her, I'm creating memories. It's amazing. She's really trying to live at that moment.
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