My Birth Story: Nell Diamond

Nell Diamond is the founder and CEO of Hill House Home. When she’s not busy running her bedding empire, she can be found watching Paw Patrol and/or participating in “imaginative play” with her 3-year-old son, Henry. While wearing a bow. 

 

I found out I was pregnant about two weeks after launching my company Hill House Home. It definitely was not planned, but my husband and I were super excited. My older brother and I are both IVF babies. My mom went through all of these really intense fertility treatments at a time when IVF still felt very experimental. I can't imagine how difficult that was for her. She never hid that from us. She always talked a lot about what it meant to be a test tube baby, what it felt like to go into all those treatments, how confusing it was, and how hard she fought for us. That was so much a part of my story growing up. I would talk about it all the time. It was always my "fun fact" or "two truths and a lie." 

Because I'd grown up knowing that, I had just assumed I would have a lot of trouble getting pregnant and then I didn't. And, you know, there's so many emotions when you pee on that stick. But I remember thinking: "I can't believe this! This is insane!" And then I remember also feeling a little bit guilty. It was so easy for me after knowing what my mother had been through. But then I just got really excited.

 

 

I had a really big day at work the day I found out. We had just launched the company and I went to my office on Canal street and ordered Baz Bagels—specifically a bagel, egg, and cheese and a huge orange juice.

My husband was working down on Wall Street, so I went to go meet him at a coffee shop. I had told him the news over the phone. I couldn't do one of those reveal things. It's just not me. I took the subway down to his office and met him and we were just looking at each other thinking, "I cannot believe this has happened!" We really weren't prepared. But, we were so, so, so excited.

My mom is my best friend. I speak to her every single day. She is one of the most important people in my entire universe. She made it so clear while raising me that all that she wants is for me to not have to go through the hard things she went through. One of those big, hard things was fertility. So, I think that her immediate response was just, "Thank God." She was so happy I didn't have to go through any of that. 

I hated almost every second of being pregnant. It felt like every day was worse than the last. Pretty soon after that initial day, I started to get morning sickness and continued to be sick every day of my pregnancy. That type of all day, every hour nausea can have a supreme mental effect on you.

I remember the first few weeks the literal motion of brushing my teeth made me vomit. I would have to lay down on the couch so that I wouldn’t have to move a single muscle. Eventually, I went to my O.B. and told her what was going on--that it wasn't manageable. She gave me this medicine called Diclegis. I am so grateful for that medicine and took it for most of my pregnancy.

Pretty soon after I found out I was pregnant, my first employee quit. So, I spent the first few months of my pregnancy running this new business by myself. Everyone kept saying, "You're so strong! You're really doing it!" All the while, I was thinking, “This does not feel strong at all. This feels like I have no choice.” 

I had put years of my life into the business, put my savings into it, had inventory, bills to pay, customers placing orders…I had no choice. And in that moment, it was really overwhelming, but the necessity drove me forward. I I think it was a real precursor to understand even what motherhood is. I had to take myself out of my body and say, "my physical comfort isn't the most important thing now" and really just be humbled by everything that was going on.

I am the girliest girl that that there is. I've always been this way. I literally wore glitter on my eyelids in preschool. I was truly born this way. But at the same time, you know, I really didn't think about the gender of my baby either way. I didn't really even think about what that even meant. I was just excited to get to that next phase. For me, it was less about about him being a boy or a girl and more about being at the phase of the pregnancy where you can find out gender.

Also, what is gender? What does that even mean? Even though he's boy, who knows! Maybe he'll like glitter, too!

At around 11:00 p.m. on October 18th (which coincidentally is my wedding anniversary), I woke up and was pretty sure I had peed the bed. There was a wet spot on the mattress, which did not shake me at all because you pee the bed a lot when you're pregnant. I was 38-weeks pregnant.

The next morning, October 19th, I woke up and I started getting dressed for work. We had a holiday shoot that day -- and the feeling that I felt can best be described as “plodding.” I felt like I was plodding on the wood floors. Everything was just heavy. 

I got to my Canal Street office. There were two models, a photographer, a stylist... all these people. We ordered bagels—of course—and I'm spreading cream cheese on my bagel—going so slowly, and my now-Chief Product Office Allie is asking me a question. I'm looking into her eyes and just fully not hearing her.  

Allie: "You good?"

Me: "I'm not sure?"

I realize now that I was going in and out of contractions. It just wasn't painful at that point.

I went to my desk to get my phone and I searched "contraction timer" in the app store. I downloaded this app where you press a button and your contractions are recorded. I did this three times and—no joke—an alert popped up on my phone, like a Postmates alert: 

"Congratulations! You are in labor! Go to the hospital!”

I basically threw my phone.

I called my doctor. I told her. I'm literally, like, mansplaining to my doctor on the phone: "It’s not labor. I am only 38-weeks."

She very clearly said, "Nell. You're going to the hospital." I called my husband as soon as I talked to the doctor—he randomly happened to be with my mom. As I was heading up the FDR in a taxi, I was sure it was a false alarm.

I got to the hospital around 11am on the 19th. First, they checked to see if my water broke. Basically, if the test turns blue, your water is broken. The first time they did it, it didn't turn blue. I was like, "I KNEW IT!" They came back and said they were going to do it again. This time, it turned blue!

I had spent very little time thinking about what the actual birth was going to be like. And maybe that was a coping mechanism. I can't even understand why, but I just didn't think about it. I was so sick during pregnancy that I was so focused on the end and so excited to have a baby and not be pregnant.

I was checked into a room and got an epidural around 1PM. At about midnight, the epidural was wearing off. I could feel everything. That pain was so intense that I couldn't breathe. I was throwing up. It was really, really painful. I remember looking at the monitor—you can see when the next contraction is coming—and my mom and husband who were both in the room would gear me up for the next one. And I remember begging for the anesthesiologist to fix the epidural. That whole night I was in crazy pain.

Around 8am on the 20th, just as they were about to re-do the whole epidural to see if it helped, my doctor came in. She had been there for 24 hours, checking on me the whole time. She's just this incredibly joyful, buoyant person. She marched into the room and she was like, "Nell! You're ready! We're going to do this. You don't need more epidural. You ready to do this?" And I was like, "YES!' She was like a cheer captain.

I'm a loser. I love being given instruction and love boisterous energy. So I was like, "Alright! I'm ready."

I pushed for 15 minutes, which was incredible. I was so excited that it happened so fast. I think my doctor knew I was really ready. I never I thought I would be one of these people, but the pushing experience was absolutely incredible. I still can't believe I did it. I was so proud of myself, like, fully elated afterwards. 

Henry came out and he was so big. He was like nine pounds—two weeks early and nine pounds! So huge and so pink and already so much personality. I remember being wheeled into the recovery room and being so happy. We did skin to skin right away.

About six hours after delivering, he had to go to the NICU. That's something that I think only really only hit me maybe six months after his birth. In the moment, I was just so prepared to trust the hospital and the doctors. I remember thinking it was strange that my OB-GYN wasn't making the decision. There was this moment where I realized, oh, she's actually my doctor and then Henry needs a different doctor, a pediatrician. That was one of the first moments that I realized Henry and I were separate people. The doctors were very clear. They said that Henry’s white blood cell count was slightly elevated. It was likely nothing, but he could have an infection. They said they were exercising with an abundance of caution and would put him into the incubator and on antibiotics for seven days. I remember being so business-like about it and just really happy that I was in a great hospital. I was at NY Presbyterian Weill-Cornell. I knew they had some of the best Neo-natal care in the nation.

Thank God we exercised that caution. We found out afterwards that he did have an infection and it likely would have been fatal if we hadn't given him antibiotics, which is just an insane thing to think about. 

I had to leave the hospital without my baby. In the moment, I was fine. But now, I literally could cry for days thinking about that. He had only ever touched me before. We were one person less than 24 hours ago and I couldn't stop thinking: Every step I take is the farthest we had ever been from each other. And that was just horrible. He was there for seven days. Again, I felt really lucky.  Some babies are in the NICU for six months.

My milk didn't come in for five or six days. The nurses and doctors kept saying that was very typical for mothers of NICU babies. Something to do with stress. But I tried. I sat in the hospital every day. The only time I would go home was for a few hours of sleep. Then I would sit in the waiting room with a pump and my computer. When he got back from the hospital, my milk definitely came in more, but because he was on antibiotics, the hospital had given him formula right away. That wasn't even a question for me. I was totally fine to have him get formula at the start.

I breastfed for three months. I didn't love breastfeeding. I think it was fine. It was a lot of work. And I didn’t have great supply, so I think that made it a little bit trickier, but I did it. After three months, I definitely still felt pregnant and was ready to give it a break, especially with going back to work. It was just not the right thing for me. We had found a great formula that he really loved—he has always been in the 99th percentile in terms of weight and height, so, this baby was fed!

I never really took time off from work after having Henry, but I think I took maybe two weeks before I went back into my office again. It was a very different situation than somebody who's working for somebody else in a traditional office. The first couple of weeks, I could go home if I was feeling tired. We were a super small team and I genuinely love what I do. It was nice to have that. Who knows, though? If I have a second baby, maybe it will be different. I can see the value of really taking time. But it just wasn't a possibility for me at that time.

Now, Henry is three-years-old. He loves trucks, LEGO’s, Magna-Tiles, and reading. We love books and his teachers say he loves imaginative play, which is good because so does his mother. We love to pretend. We love to bake cookies.

My real learning from that first year and since is to really surround yourself with people that love you and respect you. I'm so grateful to my friends and my parents and my husband and the people I work with just being super respectful.