Dear Newly Postpartum Mom,

I wrote this on my daughter’s 2nd birthday, a few weeks ago. This piece sat in my drafts folder while I contemplated whether or not I should post. Today, the feast day of the Immaculate Conception (Which I know is technically about Mary’s conception), I can’t help but think about how saying yes doesn’t always look pretty. Sometimes, being open to the vulnerability of what is out of our hands can feel like one giant contraction. But that’s how growth works. It may be difficult and painful, but there’s usually something incredible on the other side.

2 years ago today, I gave birth. I remember telling a mentor this time last year, “Yea I guess I’m just still processing her birth and my postpartum experience.” Without a beat, she replied, “Oh you’ll be doing that for the rest of your life.”


Dear newly postpartum Cassie,

Everything is scary. You feel like you’re drowning. You have forgotten what the light of day looks like. I promise it will return and I promise everything you are experiencing is temporary. Not that that helps in the moment, I suppose.

You will eat at a table again one day. You won’t eat fresh direct casseroles for the rest of your life. You will connect with your husband again. Just not for now.

They tell you to sleep when baby sleeps – you don’t like doing that. That’s ok – you don’t have to. You wonder why you aren’t bonding with your newborn. Everyone says the connection is like lightning from the second you lay your eyes on your babe. That’s the case for some – but not for everyone. Don’t rush it, your bond will come, slow and steady, but with the force of tectonic plates moving. Give it time, dear.

Your daughter has colic. She screams for hours. Sometimes it’s more than 6 hours a day. Nobody should be expected to go through that without some effect on their sanity. Hire the postpartum doula. Forget the money – it’s worth every precious penny. Hire a housekeeper once or twice a month while you’re at it. The baby is fine. The baby will be fine. Her needs are very simple. Yours, however, are not. So I beg of you, invest in yourself now. The 4th trimester is actually, mostly, about you. And trust me, the rest of the kid’s life is about them. So take the time now.

There are no parenting styles right now. There is only survival. You have years ahead of you to hone and refine the type of parent you want to be. That’s not today’s project. Today is not the day to become a french parent, a dutch parent, a free range parent, or a hippie love earth mama parent. Today’s project is to eat, sleep, heal, and recover. Which reminds me, accept help. ASK for help. You can’t do this alone! You shouldn’t do this alone!! When someone offers a casserole, the answer is, “Can you come tonight? I like chicken.”

Newborn babies are blobs. They don’t really have much personality (especially before that first smile) and they’re kind of…boring? They sleep (or not), they poop, they move their hands in weird ways, they cry, and they boob. Sometimes I feel like we think a 9 week old baby should behave like a 12 month old. Not that a 9 week old isn’t cute in its own way. And it’s good to talk so the baby can hear words and what not – but you don’t have to pretend to have conversations about the ethical and moral implications of (fill in the blank with the current news of the day). It’s okay to not talk to your newborn. Sometimes you just want to do those dishes in silence. The days of talking will come – oh they will. I promise. Maybe silence isn’t so bad in this season.

You will feel guilty about holding her when she cries. Or wearing her while she sleeps. There are no bad habits right now. A nap schedule? Wtf is that? Nobody knows! And def not your newborn. Your kid doesn’t even know that she’s not still inside of you. She can’t even see, save for shapes and blobs. You can’t spoil the baby. Use the boob. Please, it only works a short time. The boob will solve 99.99% of your baby’s needs right now. Speaking of boob, get alllll the lactation support. Hire the IBCLC. (It will end up being a lasting relationship and you will more than get the $300 out of it.) If someone gives you advice that doesn’t sit right with you – ask for another opinion. Don’t settle. Find your cheerleaders and focus on them. Breastfeeding really does get so much better. Find your village, get your army, and lean on them until it does.

Oh the 5 letter word. You know the one – it rhymes with sheep. Put the damn books down. Unsubscribe from the email lists and block the facebook groups. It will work itself out. I promise you this. The sleep industry is fueled by fear. Don’t buy into it! Your personality really doesn’t fit well with sleep training, basically you’re inconsistent (re: lazy). So work with it, don’t work against it. This can be your friend. Shut off your damn phone at 2am. Stop counting the hours – coffee is lifeblood. Just relax. Your daughter will become the most amazing independent soul. She will sleep through the night on her own but it won’t be easy getting there. Take care of yourself, take care of yourself, take care of yourself. OH. And buy a king size bed. It will be life changing.

You will go to a lot of mom’s groups in the beginning because you are desperate for human conversation and a semblance of socialization. Maybe go easy on the moms group thing. You weren’t the type to socialize daily before having a baby so don’t expect yourself to suddenly blossom into a socialite. (Besides, all they do is talk about sleep at the groups and you’ll walk away feeling like a giant failure anyways.) The mom friends will come. Again, just give it time.

Basically, postpartum is one giant, emotional, extension of labor. You might just walk away from this thing with the tools and grace and patience to become the parent you want to be when that time comes. Until then, get as many massages as you can. Indulge your postpartum appetite, and enjoy the taste of beer again on your palate before crashing for the night at 8:30 pm. This, too, shall pass. Pinky promise.


Future Cassie


Leaving Babyhood for the First Time


Find artist Katie Baklinski here.

I can’t help but feel the ever shifting movement through time as we close the season of babyhood. She’ll always be my baby. But she’s not a baby anymore. With the start of preschool (Yes, in NYC, preschool starts at 2. Which apparently is a year younger than the rest of America.), the breaking down of the crib, the advent of toilet training – I am forced to relinquish the baby years. This makes me sappy and sad, which is particularly strange because it’s not like I was all that fond of the whole infancy thing.

My first year postpartum was overshadowed by sleep deprivation, depression, anxiety, and a relentless yanking on my self-esteem – or rather lack thereof. We should be commemorating the breaking down of the crib with champagne bubbles and party streamers. Yet the paradox of parenthood triumphs, as always. So, we wipe the tears, move on with the tide of the day, because the new new will change again another day.

She took to school better than any parent could have ever asked for. (In fact she was quite upset the other day when it was time to go home.) I am left with a little more free time on my hands. As we enter the third year of Amata’s life, her needs have changed and she just doesn’t need me in the same way that she did last year, which was different yet than the year before that. I collect myself to adjust to the new needs. She certainly still thinks the world of me. But I’m not always the de facto favorite person to hang out with. I had to pick my jaw up from the floor yesterday when I went to pick her up from a friend’s house and she firmly planted her feet and said, “No mama. I stay here.”

Well okay then.

Who am I when my child needs me less? Who will I be when she goes to kindergarten? When she’s at middle school dances? High school football games? Am I who I want to be? Am I what I want her to see?

I’ve been scratching my head feeling futile with the whole “part time working mom” thing. I love what I do but gosh it feels like I have one foot in and one foot out. I hardly cover childcare, it’s not like I’m some bigwig CEO. Maybe it would be easier if I only had to focus on staying at home. That was my primary gig. Or maybe it’d be easier if I worked full time. Then I wouldn’t be answering phones while pushing a stroller and missing the bus and scrambling to find a pad of paper while my kid mews for “more raisins”.

Nah. I’m gonna keep going. I’m gonna keep on keeping on. It’s weird, right? The second our kids are born, they usurp every second of freedom and energy. And slowly, while not in a linear fashion, but in a gradual-eventual-trend-of-upwards fashion, they take less. Or maybe it’s the same, but it’s in a different way. It will be many years before my kid(s) are out of the house – but it will happen one day and I want to make sure I’ve taken the time to give to and nurture myself. Sure I’m a mom – but underneath the stained shirts and baggy eyes, I think there’s still a Cassie in there.

The tides – oh they are always changing. Parenthood is never stagnant. It’d be a shame if we got too comfortable.


The Motherhood Co-Op

May! May is here! And I’m finally feeling that late spring city vibe where the flowers are cheap and the vitamin D is ample. It’s a haul for me every year to get through January-April (which is ridiculous because that’s 1/3 of the year). But beach days and pool trips are just beyond the horizon and I think we can all collectively sigh about that.

A few months ago, I joined a mom’s group. Like a legit group with a (minimal) fee. I’m still mildly embarrassed about it but I’m telling the internet so obvs not that embarrassed. The woman who started the group had young children at the time and worked as a freelancer. It was originally a coworking space that had childcare. This got too complicated to sustain legally, so it ended up just being a group with the option to share a bulk of time at the coworking space and the option to do childcare swaps throughout the week. Her kids are older now, so she doesn’t need the childcare, but she organizes all the weekly activities, brunches, happy hours, and day trips. (Which tbh is worth the fee alone. Half the time I just want to be told where to show up in this city with a trillion options.)

Joining this group has become probably one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself and my kid. Some call it a pre school co-op. Others call it a mom’s group. I’ve also heard it’s our village. But sometimes I think to myself, “This is just how it should be.”

Maybe it used to be this way with neighborhoods before the internet and what not. But I didn’t experience that with my daughter as a baby. So to have this group that meets weekly, sometimes even multiple times a week, where the kids grow to know each other and drop each other off at their houses for a day off feels so organic. Instead of paying absurdly high prices for toddler classes, we just get the kids together to play to interact and learn about human nature. No wait lists, no late fees, no clamoring to get the best seat. And it’s also nice to know there’s some structure behind it – someone is organizing and coordinating. Otherwise, we get pulled into our lives and forget to make the effort.

I recently heard someone say they would have no qualms about having kids if they lived in a commune. Rightly so. I’ve done the lonely motherhood thing. It’s hell. (Which came first the isolation or the Post-partum depression? You tell me.) So I find this group inspiring and exciting. We’re all just making it work. The city has a way of making people get creative to fulfill their needs.

So that’s what’s been filling our time these days. I am in a motherhood co-op. And it’s one of the best things to happen to me since moving to New York City. (Among many other things.)


These Days

I hate spring. Allergies, pollen, rain, the tumultuous transitional weather – it’s not for me. So these days, I’m just getting through and trying to find the good in the every day.

We recently moved to a new apartment. It’s only a couple blocks from our old place, but it has 2 bedrooms and many conveniences (re: luxuries) that we didn’t have before. In unit laundry! A dishwasher! A backyard! (Even if it’s small and concrete that means a lot in this city.) It feels honestly a bit self indulgent. I can do laundry a step away from my bathroom. In my PJ’s! Still reveling in it, I suppose.

When we initially moved to New York, the first placed we signed on was in Brooklyn. It was a tiny tiny basement studio and our bed was no more than 4 feet from our kitchen. We didn’t have any closets and for all intents and purposes, the bedroom was the living room. We made it work and I still have some fond memories of that place. But I never thought we could come this far in 3 short years. It’s made me a little uncomfortable to be honest. Do I deserve this? I am only 26 years old – what makes me think I should have these sort of amenities?

Motherhood in New York is so vastly different than doing it anywhere else. There are some real advantages that give you an upper hand (it’s convenient to be able to walk to places), but there’s also some very unique struggles (not convenient to get on the subway with a toddler who does not want to be sitting still in a stroller or worn in a carrier. Geesh, mom.)

These days, we are well into the season of toddlerhood. We are constantly zipping from one activity to the next. While very different from last spring, we are still busy. Busy in a different way. I have simultaneously more and less free time than the itty bitty baby season.

Moving to a new apartment has given me lots of tactile projects to do. Reorganizing drawers and shelves and odds and ends. I’m starting to grow a small herb garden and also getting into cocktail making. (They obviously go hand in hand… 😉 ) I was going to give up social media for lent but I chickened out. I decided to focus more on being intentional with my time – no matter what I’m doing. Whether I’m doing a load of laundry, rearranging furniture, making dinner, or giving my daughter a bath. I’m making space for daily prayer and basically stopping to look around every once in a while.

Kyle once told me that life is divided into 3 major chapters. Learning, Producing, and Reflecting/Giving back. Obviously there’s some overlap – we never stop learning and we should always reflect on past decisions and moments. But these days, I’m definitively in the chapter of producing. And even though I’m completely exhausted by the end of the day, what better way to exhaust your energy than on rearing your little one(s)?

People keep telling me how fast it goes and how they miss “those days”. I often want to punch them in the throat for this trite cliche. But there is something I can take away from it. I’m up to my ears in spills and tears and stains and poop. (Poop? Yes, poop.) But it will pass. Like the itty bitty baby season – which I swore would last a lifetime.

I frequently feel like in my adult life that I missed the starting gun. No one told me when to run. I said the other night, “This is it. The starting gun happened. These are the memories, the moments, the cliches.” I remember on my wedding day, feeling like “Oh this is it? I feel so…ordinary. How can this be that day?”

Life feels ordinary 99% of the time. It seems to only feel extraordinary when I stop to think about it and drink in the exhaustion and hustle. So maybe that’s my goal for this lent season. My goal of ditching social media was really all about being more present and alive anyways – so maybe I should be focusing on that. I know, it’s not very original but it’s honest and that’s all I have to offer.


Instinctual Motherhood

In my current season of life, I get 2ish hours a day to myself. My daughter’s morning nap and then her afternoon nap. This season is short lived, seeing as she will eventually only need one nap and then no naps at all. And if I’m so blessed to have more babies, I will have older toddlers and children to care for. So this is in fact a season. But it’s such an exquisite one. (Most of the time, anyhow.)

I have to be very mindful of how I spend those 2 hours. I hate when I hear her awakening to realize I’ve spent the past 60 minutes scrolling on facebook. I like to use the time to read, to write, to bake, to create, if I don’t have work stuff to take care of.

I recently started cloth diapering. Which is slightly ridiculous because I inherited a full use of cloth diapering materials before Amata was born. And I’m just getting around to it at 9 months. It seems to fit in with this chapter where I feel such a powerful urge to be resourceful, inventive, and methodical. Of course it’s more work and more time. But it feels oddly grounding and satisfyingly domestic. For now anyhow. 😉

I’ve been making anything I can from scratch. Baking bread, canning vegetables, making jam, concocting homemade desserts, anything really that involves using my hands. Seeing as I work on my computer, that’s usually the extent to which my hands labor. These somatic projects allow me time to be reflective and meditative.

There’s so much I have found that is instinctual in babies’ early months. With breastfeeding, newborns cluster feed to ramp up your supply, especially in the evening. Our bodies make the most milk at night and that is also when babies (painfully, annoyingly, frustratingly) wake and get their calories and the highest quality milk. With baby led weaning, I watch my daughter take baby bites out of an entire plum and spit out the parts that are too big to swallow. While I find  that she is moving towards a more toddler like disposition, (so things aren’t quite as instinctual as they used to be) I haven’t lost touch with the fact that motherhood, like babyhood, is largely instinctual. If we can get quiet enough to listen to those instincts, there is pure gold there. People frequently told me “babies are smarter than we think.” But I believe mothers, too, are smarter than we give ourselves credit for.

Motherhood has given me superpowers that include a new reservoir for patience, ability to listen to my intuition, and an explosion of creativity in domesticity. Maybe I’m crazy, but I think the uptick in tactile tasks is an instinctual way for me to savor the season.

Before giving birth, I was really terrified of labor. I kept thinking, “How is *that* going to to come from *there*?” Everyone kept telling me, “Your body knows what to do. It’s different than anything else you’ve ever done.” Well, motherhood seems to be an extension of that. It’s different than anything I’ve ever done. It pushes me to my limits, and then past them. And you know what? I’m really really thankful for the opportunity to grow and learn about myself through the process of motherhood.

We commonly ask pregnant women with a hint of anticipation, “Is it your first?” While I’m embarrassed to admit it, I always find myself a little less excited when they say no. I think with first time pregnancies, the suspense and excitement lies in the fact that both the mother and baby have yet to be born.

I revisited my journal recently from those early early months of new motherhood that were darkly shadowed and overpowered by anxiety and depression. I wrote about how I felt like I had been born into motherhood and I needed time to transition into that. It’s been a long 9 months, but I feel like both my little one and I have grown into our new selves with much more enjoyment and delight than I ever thought possible. (Not without bad days and nights, of course.)

If I could go back in time, I would tell my newly postpartum self that I just needed time, flexibility and a wholeeee lotta grace to grow into this new role. And that I would. I would grow and stretch and my heart would swell. That I didn’t need to be any other kind of mom than me.

And that’s just how I’m feeling today. Now, I have diapers to launder and dinner to throw in the crock pot. I’m just a regular old domestic kinda gal, what can I say?

10 Things About Being a Mom in NYC

When I see extended family members and friends they always ask how I am “doing it”. By that, they mean having a baby and living in New York City. Well, it might not be the most ideal thing in the world, but I have found many conveniences and advantages to being here with my babe. So here it is, the good, the bad and the ugly.

1. Babywearing. All the time, anywhere. We brunched one day for 5 hours going from place to place with friends while Amata stayed cozy cozy in her carrier. She napped when she was tired. She nursed when she was hungry. We didn’t have to get in a car once. (This was when she was younger and not nearly as mobile.)
2. The dollar. You want to do a sing along class? Great. That’ll be $165 for a 30 minute class. (Kidding! It’s only $50 for drop in, silly.) Things cost here. There’s a lot of fun activities to do, but you have to get creative if you’re trying to get around on a dime.
3. Activities! There are ways to get creative though. Sure, you don’t have a backyard with a kiddie pool, but you have story time at the Met! Water sprinklers in Central Park! The Botanic Gardens in Prospect Park! And did you know that there is a movie theatre in Williamsburg that hosts a weekly movie where you can bring your baby (under 1)? Okay, there’s some crying and fussing and you don’t get a whole lot of movie watching done but they will bring you snacks and cocktails. Also there are probably 37 meet ups on any given day within a mile range that would be up your alley. There really is anything and everything here.
4. Community. I’m sure there’s community no matter where you live, but there really is something special about being somewhere so physically close with your neighbors and people in the hood. I think with city living, you are more dependent on people. So we naturally appreciate the connections. When I was pregnant, the UPS guy delivered so many of our registry items. Our giant rocking chair. The car seat. The bassinet. Then we had the baby, and he was delivering diapers. He has watched this kid grow in person, sadly, more than some family members (because of circumstances, not by choice!). There is this connection where everyday items I use, I know who personally helped get it to our doorstep.
5. Community. On the flip side, all this close knitness has a downside. I know people are going to tell you how to parent no matter where you live. But because there’s an increased volume of people here, there’s an increased volume of unwarranted advice. I’ve had two separate people ask me on the same train ride, “Don’t you think she’s cold?” and then “Don’t you think she’s too warm?” When you’re riding 7 inches from a stranger on public transportation, there’s bound to be some conversation you didn’t ask for.
6. Convenience. After our home birth, we sent every piece of laundry out. Yes, even the sheets I gave birth on. Around 7 months of pregnancy I was fed up with carrying groceries so we started getting them delivered. We haven’t looked back. In the early days postpartum, we ordered casseroles like they were going out of style. The bodega down the street? They’ll deliver pretty much any hour of the day. I would do Target shopping at 2am while nursing my newborn. The modern day method of shopping is two thumbs up for this NYC mama. It was also easy and convenient to go out for just a cup of coffee in the middle of the day in those early weeks where I wasn’t ready to socialize, but just wanted to get out for 15 minutes. The coffee shop across from our building we call “downstairs”. Kyle will sometimes ask, “Do you want to go get a bagel downstairs?”
7. Aaand inconvenience. Like the stairs. Oh the stairs. I live in a walkup. Granted only the second floor. But yea, it’s an art to carry the stroller, the diaper bag, the picnic blanket, a lunchbox and a car seat down the stairs. Did I forget anything? Oh, right. The baby. Has that happened in real life? Yes. Sadly, yes. But I never have to go to the gym. So there’s a bright side.
8. R-E-S-P-E-C-T You have to hustle here. So if you’re hustling with a little one, you deserve mad respect. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an elder man (usually hispanic) do a sign of the cross and say, “God bless you and the baby.” I don’t know why this is a thing, but it happens almost every time I’m out with the babe. I usually get a seat on the subway. And people generally are really happy to see a baby here.
9. Diversity. Kids grow up here seeing all different walks of life. All different religions, races, and economic brackets. I think that’s kind of cool.
10. Small living spaces. This is a pro and a con. We don’t have much storage space so we really have to think twice before buying that new amazing wing ding bing toy that takes up a fourth of our living room. But it’s cozy and I don’t have to worry about keeping my eye on her. She’s nearly always in my line of sight because that’s how my apartment is. She still sleeps in her crib in our room for the first half of the night and then eventually comes in the bed with us. I suppose now it just feels normal to sneak into our bedroom at 10pm. Sure, she’ll get her own room one day. But we’re making it work for now. Also, it’s pretty easy to clean all the floors and tidy things up in 30 minutes. Who needs more than one bathroom anyways? 😛

We don’t know how long we will stay in the city but we’re really having a fun time with it. Especially this time of year, there are so many exciting things to go and see and take advantage of. And little Amata can always say that she was born in a New York City apartment. That’s gotta give her bragging rights on the playground, no? 😉

These Trenches Were Dug By Love

I didn’t want to be another mommy blog with another piece on how wonderfully sloppy this whole motherhood business is – but, well – whatever. Here I am and here this is. Take it or leave it.

My introduction to motherhood has been laced with moments of joy and awe along with frustration, impatience, and tears. It’s been a rocky one. After my near perfect pregnancy and relatively easy labor, postpartum hit me like a ton of bricks. Maybe it was because Amata was tongue tied, underweight, colic, and “spirited” as they say. Maybe it was because I suffered from a heavy dose of PPD/A. And yes I just shared that, it’s more common than you think. Maybe it’s because I am young, far from family…yada yada yada. The list can go on. Frankly it doesn’t really matter why the last 5 months have been challenging – it only matters what I’m doing to take care of myself and my family now.

As a first time mom, I struggle with – how should I put it – anxiety about anything and everything, but particularly why my kid isn’t sleeping. I guess I always envisioned that babies were difficult to get to sleep, but once you got them there you could just place them placidly in their crib. And well, I don’t know, when they woke up again (maybe 6 hours or so later) you would peacefully waltz into their nursery and nurse them in a rocking chair, moonlight streaming in while you lovingly kiss their furry little head until they doze off again.

Then I had Amata. I can’t tell you what kind of sleeper she is because it literally depends on the week. We have gone from bed sharing to having her sleep in the car seat (these were the early, early days) to being in the bassinet next to us, to some kind of hybrid co sleeping/bed sharing to making my husband sleep on the couch so just Amata and I can share the bed – who knows what it will be next week. Parenthood doesn’t just humiliate your opinions once. But over and over and over again and frequently on the same issue. I no longer say “I’ll never ___________.”

Motherhood rocked my world, the transition was shocking. Those first three months felt like time had been placed in a filter of molasses. Will I ever eat at a table again? Will she ever stop screaming? Will breastfeeding ever get easier? Will I ever connect with my husband again?

The short answer is yes, we eat at the table. (Most of the time.) Amata is still “spirited” but the hours of screaming have waned (for the most part). Breastfeeding is the least of our worries now and my husband and I are adjusting to our new relationship. While it’s different than before, it has a sweetness and dedication much deeper than on our wedding day. And I often think – this is only the beginning!

After I read just about any book on the shelf that involved the words, “baby” and “sleep” and “through the night”, I resolved to not pick up another book. But I now like to add an exception. It’s not only okay, but it’s nourishing for me to read anything that serves as an encouraging voice. Not telling me what to do, or how to do it – rather reinforcing that while this season is incredibly challenging, I could miss it, if I don’t remember to look around every once in a while.

The sweet little smiles in the morning as my baby girl coos in the bed with us. The quiet, intimate cuddles in the middle of the day when I’m nursing her to nap. Her precious little toes and deliciously chubby fingers. That shout out in the dead of the night that says, “Mama, mama, where are you?” These moments are fleeting. And as exhausted as I am, it’s so cliche, but one day she won’t need me like that anymore. Those months zoom, and I know they’ll bleed into years.

I’ve been so caught up in getting my baby to sleep and behave like the books tell me to that I forgot to enjoy everything else. The trenches are hard enough, I don’t need the extra pressure of some doctor in some far away land telling me I’m ruining my child because she’s not napping at the drop of a hat on a structured, perfect schedule. That works for some moms and their babies, but I guess it just hasn’t worked that way for us as of now.

Amata is well on her way to crawling. We’ll probably be starting solids soon, and after that, well, she’ll basically be headed to college. So sometimes I look at my exhausted face in the mirror, pajamas with spit up on them and hair that hasn’t been combed and say, “Hey, mama – there’s a lot to love here.”

These trenches are unrelenting and mammoth, but they were dug by love.


Painting by Lauri Blank


A Queens Baby: Amata Therese’s Birth Story

People think a home birth is crazy. “Weren’t you worried about the pain?” “But what about an epidural?” “I could never do that!” But I promise you, it had nothing to do with how strong I am. (Which is not very.) I was lucky to have an uncomplicated labor and an amazing birth team.


Here’s baby Amata’s birth story.

It was a Monday. I was 5 days past my LMP due date and 1 day past my ovulation due date. I was grumpy, exhausted, sick of being pregnant and also kind of terrified of having a baby. Kyle took the day off work and I was finishing up a freelance project, (Because why not take on a job when you’re 39 weeks pregnant?) We went to the bakery to get out of the house and send some files over faster internet. (I live in New York Freaking City and still have internet through a phone line because my building isn’t “optimized”. Anyways.) It was a warm, sunny November day. We walked and walked and walked. I enjoyed some sweet treats and (decaf) coffee. I think I sort of knew in my gut that this would be the last day that it was just Kyle and I.

Later that night, we blew up the birth pool. I didn’t tell a soul, not even Kyle, but I could tell early labor would commence soon. I was getting more crampy as the night went on. We crawled into bed, Kyle grumbled about how he hoped we would have a baby by now but if he had to go into work the next day, he would do so with a good attitude. I secretly thought to myself, “You aren’t going anywhere tomorrow.” But I didn’t want to set any expectations so I quietly cuddled next to him saying everything would be ok and baby girl will come when she’s good and ready.

I woke up around 2AM with contractions. Now that I know the real deal, I know how minuscule these contractions were. But at the time, I was like “Okay here we go, this is it. Let’s start this marathon.” I was using the yoga ball and moaning through the contractions. We called the midwife who was quick to say, “Woah woah woah, Go take a warm bath, drink a glass of wine, we need to stall labor as much as possible and you need to get as much rest as you can. Go back to sleep. Don’t waste your energy mustering through these small contractions because you need to save it for later.”

So I did. I took a warm bath (which helped a lot a lot.) And I went back to sleep, waking up every 30 minutes or so for a contraction. I finally woke up around 10am and this time I couldn’t go back to sleep. We called the midwife again, Kyle attempting to soothe me and also time the contractions. Karen asked, “How far apart are they and how long?” Kyle (whose strong suit isn’t exactly time keeping) sputtered “Uh, 7 minutes. And they last like 5 minutes. Or like, they’re 5 minutes apart but last 2 minutes. Well actually I’m not really sure.” To his defense, it’s probably stressful as the husband watching me go through this and look at a clock. Karen curtly replied, “Put her on the phone.”

She asked me how I was doing. I can’t really remember exactly what I said, but it was probably some grunts that I hoped translated to, “I think I’ve transitioned and I’m ready to have a baby.” Once a woman has transitioned, and I can attest to this, you get super focused on one thing and one thing only. Getting through the contractions. You don’t care for chit chat, you get completely zoned into your body, your baby, and your self. It’s so frequent that when we’re doing one thing, we’re always thinking about 4 other things we need to do. In labor I knew there was only one thing in the world I needed to be doing right now and that was having a baby.

I had two contractions within a few minutes of each other on the phone and she knew this meant it was time. She told Kyle to fill the birth pool and get the doula on her way. Naturally, I wouldn’t let Kyle leave my side for a moment. The doula was stuck in train traffic and said she was doing her best, but running a little late.

I always thought I’d be swearing and cursing and screaming in labor. But in actuality, I was just super focused. I was very economical about my energy and knew I needed every ounce to get through each contraction. I don’t even know if I said f*%&# once. Kind of an achievement, actually. The only words I used energy for was “No.” Kyle kept trying give me gatorade to which I often would say, “No.” Kyle kept trying to massage and rub me to which I would abruptly say, “No.” There was one point where he had this wet washcloth on my head and I said “No” at least 6 times, but he must not have heard me because he kept it right there on my forehead. Finally I realized I would have to speak in sentences. “What is this thing?!” I exclaimed. “Get it off of me!!” Poor Kyle. He was just trying to help.

We alternated from the shower (which felt amazing for my posterior labor) to the bed to the yoga ball for a while until the doula arrived and we were finally able to try to fill the pool. Kyle yelled from the kitchen, “I think I broke the sink!” I wasn’t having any of that. I think I just muttered, “No.” Even though we had done a dry run and tested the hose to make sure it hooked up days before, Kyle couldn’t get it to work. He tells me he ripped the faucet part out and shoved the hose up in there, but I’ll never really know what happened during Amata’s birth to the sink.

At some point (I can’t really remember when) the midwife and midwife assistant arrived. Here I was buck naked, they walked in with all their bags and gear and I weakly raised my hand as if to say, “Hi, this all the energy I can use on this”.

The pool was nice. Very nice. I kept begging Kyle to make it hotter (I’ve always had a fondness of hot hot tubs. I mean borderline boiling water, here.) And Karen kept ordering him to make it cooler (I’m assuming for safety of baby. But I just wanted a damn hot spring in my apartment, okay?) I reached this oddly blissful point in the pool. I thought, “This really isn’t so bad. If this is labor, then I can do this.” This had to be hormones talking. No sane person thinks this.

And then it happened, I had the urge to push. And pushing was AWFUL. I was like, “Dear heavens, let’s go back to contractions. All I had to do was get through those. Now I have *do* something?!?” The doppler wasn’t working as well as the midwife wanted for the pool so she encouraged me to get out of the pool. Which at the time seemed like someone taking away the one good thing I had going for me in life. This must have been around 2pm.

Karen kept pressuring me to get 4 pushes at each contraction. In typical Cassie fashion (I’ve always been the tortoise in the tortoise and the hare story) I stubbornly chose to do 3. But I hit a point where I looked despairingly at my midwife and cried, “How much longer? I can’t do this anymore.” Karen replied, “You have to push. It’s the only way out now. You can push in a cab, you can push at a hospital, you can push here in your bedroom, but this baby is only coming if you push her out.” I remember whimpering a little to myself, thinking that this was just a cruel joke and God was definitely a man. A woman God would not wish this on anyone.

My midwife told me that on the next contraction I could reach up there and feel her head. So I tried. She looked at me encouragingly, “Did you feel her? She’s right there!” I declared that there was no baby. I had legitimately convinced myself that the past 12 hours of labor were for nothing and there was, in fact, no baby. I repeat, hormones make you think crazy thoughts.

Eventually, through a myriad of positions, little Baby Amata turned herself (from posterior to anterior). But since I was still stubbornly only doing 2 or 3 pushes a contraction I could only get her head out. So there was a full oh, I don’t know, 2 or 3 minutes in between final contractions where her little baby head was out to see the world but the rest of her body, not.

But then I got the rest of her out and she pooped and peed and cried real tears all over me and I didn’t even care. My first thought was, “That was f*&#@ing crazy. I need some chicken broth and like 12 hours of sleep.” Then I was like, “Wait that’s what was inside me??”

The birth team quietly stepped out of the room, and gave us some alone time with our newly formed family. They cleaned up the apartment, I got my chicken broth, and then the midwife assistant hosed me down in the shower so I could feel (relatively) clean. They made sure baby Amata (who was yet to be named) was latching ok. I would later find out that while her latch was ok, her suck was not. But that’s a whole other story.

Even though Kyle and I had picked out a handful of names – it still took us 5 days to sign the birth certificate. We just couldn’t decide! Those first days were such a whirlwind. The transition from pregnancy to parenthood was a shocking one. And while I wouldn’t change a thing, I think when/if I do it again, I’ll know to cherish the moments more because when they’re gone, they’re gone.

Mamahood is unimaginably demanding, totally overwhelming, and I can’t tell you how many times a day I ask myself, “How is it that the most common job in the world is *this* difficult?” Nothing, and absolutely nothing, prepares you for it. But then again, this must be why babies are so darn cute.