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As I sat down to write out the story of how the amazing Bishop came into this world, I did a quick search on my computer to see if I’d started any kind of record already. Turns out, I did! Thank you, past me. When Bishop, or “Bee” as we like to call her, was 7 months old, I jotted down the details most fresh in my mind then. I blinked and now, she’ll be 14 months old tomorrow. It’s so interesting to see what details still feel fresh and sharp and which have faded with time.
What’s most fresh now, over a year later: the wonder and awe I still feel when I think about the miracle of her life. The wait through early labor in the delivery room; the one long (channeling my past “going for a deadlift PR” days) push; my wonderful physician giving a cheerful “hello, you!;” that my trembling from adrenalin calmed miraculously just before she was placed in my arms; and gazing at this tiny, whole person, who I both knew so well and also couldn’t wait to get to know. I remember that while my doctor stitched me up I whispered a, “oh I wish I could kiss her” (I was wearing a mask) and the nurses whispered back, “take it off, honey.” I took it off, tears filled my eyes, and I kissed her forehead for the first of one million more times to come. What a gift to be able to kiss her then and now. Gratitude, trust, and faith are the feelings of my most prevalent memories.
But what about the more detailed story? Surely there’s more. I gave birth at the beginning of a global pandemic. We knew so little about the virus and so little about how it would impact Bishop’s birth. I’ll walk you through as much as I can recall.
I think it’s important to first talk about my personal context. Aside from important global events, I came into Bee’s birth with a previous experience of welcoming Bishop’s big sister, Graysen (or “Gray” as we call her), into the world two years prior. If you’re curious, you can read Gray’s birth story here. Gray’s entrance into the world was an un-rushed welcoming where all my “birth wishes” came true. Both my husband and my mom were by my side, I let her come on her time (almost a full 42 weeks), felt great, and had a no-complication delivery. If I had to choose a word representative of Gray’s birth, I’d go with “peaceful.” I prayed for trust and surrender and was gifted just that.
Bishop’s birth was similar, where I prayed heavily for trust and surrender, but the feeling of peace came less easily.
Our Bee was predicted to make her entrance into the world in late April 2020, which turned out to be right at the beginning of a heartbreaking global pandemic. Before March 2020, memories of my pregnancy with Bishop were consumed by joyful daydreaming with her big sister, watching her move in my belly as I lay down at night, working hard with my team at Fed and Fit to build enough content for them to stay busy through my planned maternity leave, and working to put the finishing touches on my next book (Cook Once Dinner Fix, which is finally available for pre-order!).
I was busy, very busy as I also had a toddler at home, but happy and at peace. My “plan” (which I do see as more of “wish”) for her birth was the same as before: my husband (Austin) and my mom in the delivery room, same hospital, Graysen would come in to meet her sister right away then go have a sleepover at her Yaya and Papi’s, and we’d come home to a clean house and slowly invite our friends and family over to meet the baby.
Then, the global pandemic.
Flash forward to March 27th, 2020, my 34th birthday and 3 weeks before Bishop’s scheduled induction (a decision we made for several reasons). I vividly remember sitting in my bathroom, on the corner of our tub, on a FaceTime call with my Mom and Dad sobbing uncontrollably. We were in full lockdown, had been for several weeks, and were taking quarantine very seriously. We obviously wanted to avoid contracting the virus ourselves and also wanted to do our part to slow the spread across our communities, but the unknown of how the virus impacted the birthing process was a huge and intimidating question mark over our heads. The physical absence of my parents, who live just down the road from us, whom we saw daily, was felt in a way that brought me to overwhelming tears that day. I missed them dearly, I missed not getting a bear-like birthday hug from my dad, I missed seeing them play with Graysen, and I was mourning that my mom wouldn’t be at Bishop’s birth, that they couldn’t come to the hospital, and that I wouldn’t see them for many, many weeks to come.
Those weeks felt heavy, sad, and intimidating.
I spent a lot of time in a melting pot of personal and global prayers. I asked for healing, peace, and wisdom. In my search for personal direction and wisdom, the Spirit reminded me to go where I felt safest.
We went through more iterations of our “birth wishes” than I can actually remember. I had so many different scenarios drafted up as each day brought new news of the virus and of rapidly evolving hospital protocols. I wanted to give birth in a hospital, that’s where I felt the safest (at the moment), but could Austin be there? What if we contracted COVID? We still didn’t know much about the virus. Would I be separated from our newborn? Where would Graysen go and how long would I be separated from her?
While a hospital birth remained our Plan A, I made arrangements for a homebirth, too. I contracted with a midwife and made all relevant preparations for if I chose to go that route. Note: the midwife was fully in the loop that a home birth was not our preferred plan, but she generously agreed to be “on reserve.” I was grateful to have a stay-home backup, as the news could shift drastically (again), and home could become where I felt safest.
That’s essentially what it came down to: at the end, after studying current hospital protocols, talking with the staff in the units, praying for clarity, and checking-in with my gut, …we went with the hospital I knew. I believe strongly in a mother’s instinct and trusted it would point me in the right direction.
More than ever, my “birth wishes” were clear and simple: healthy baby, healthy mom.
Here’s what I shared on April 7, 2020 on Instagram in response to how I was feeling at the time. I was 37 weeks pregnant:
Giving birth during a pandemic… you’ve asked for my thoughts! Truthfully, there were a lot of tears mourning what I’d taken for granted. I will really miss immediate visits from family, my Mom’s presence in the delivery room, conversations with Dad while we wait for baby, and Graysen hopping in my lap to meet her little sister while she’s just hours old.
Once I let myself grieve, I could see clearly that I am made for this. I believe that He is sovereign and I AM MADE FOR THIS. I have everything I need to bring this sweet baby into the world with love, strength, compassion, and surrender.
Now, “planning” for the birth feels like this …there are two trains on parallel tracks that are going to pass each other *sometime* in about 2 weeks, we don’t know exactly when. I’m standing on one train holding a basketball while there’s a hoop *somewhere* on the other train, we’re not sure exactly where. My job is to toss the ball in the hoop.
To solve this riddle, I can drive myself to the brink of insanity as I calculate 400+ different scenarios with calculus 4-level equations. OR, I can establish a few ground-rules and understand that I won’t have a clear picture of this birth until we get much, much closer. My plan: stick my head out the widow of the train, look for the hoop, and toss when my gut tells me to.
Will we continue with our plan to give birth in the hospital? Right now, that’s still where I feel is safest. Do we have contingency plans? Yes, about 4 of them. Will Austin be allowed there? Right now, yes. Who will stay with Graysen? Right now, my parents. What’s my #1 priority? The health and safety of this tiny baby in my belly.
That’s all I know! It’s unclear and essentially the same as every birth experience. It’s washed in hopes, belief, and unknowns. As this moving target gets closer, instead of slipping into panic, I’m choosing belief. It’s going to be one of the greatest honors of my life to meet this little girl, however that may happen.
Because of my fear, I could be brave. The bravest thing I could do at the time was to challenge myself to see what I could control, what I couldn’t control, and then to leave the rest up to God and the gifted team of Health Care Professionals who had our back.
The Day of Bishop’s Birth
The morning of my scheduled induction (right at 39 weeks), we confirmed with the unit that Austin could be present in the delivery room. Praise the Lord! I let out a couple tears of gratitude and enjoyed a healthy breakfast (kale, eggs, sausage, berries, sweet potato) with our sweet Graysen. We’d made the decision to leave Graysen with my parents, who’d been exceptionally strict with their quarantine for well over a month in preparation. They gently knocked on our door, we hugged for the first time in so long, and they got to spend the day with their first grandchild. Austin and I said our goodbyes, I hugged then kissed both Ben and Gus between the eyes, and we loaded up.
If you’ve walked into a hospital in the last year, our experience that day was probably similar to what you’ve also seen. We checked in right at the front door where they took our temperatures, double-checked that we were supposed to be there, and reminded us that their policy stated, “no coming and going,” so we needed to have all our things with us. Austin ran back to the car to grab the infant car seat (which he’d planned on getting later) and we were ready to check in at Labor and Delivery.
From there, it was a relatively expected experience! Of course, we were all wearing masks (including during delivery) and they made sure our room was ready for us (no waiting room time), but all else was pretty typical. In an effort to keep exposure at a minimum, they were operating with a slightly smaller staff, but it didn’t feel that way to us. The nurses in our unit were superheroes and made us feel extremely safe, cared-for, and comfortable.
I changed into my gown + hospital issued socks (the kind with rubber patches on the bottom) and settled into the bed with my laptop. I still had juuuuuust a couple work-related loose ends I wanted to tie up (maternity leave-related emails and scheduling a couple recipe posts to Instagram, of all things) before all my attention went to baby.
I want to pause here and say that it felt like an absolute luxury for this to have been my 2nd birth. While there was still so much unknown and deliveries can take many unexpected twists, I still had an “I’ve been here before and it was okay” sense of peace. I was given Pitocin during my labor with Graysen to help speed things along and my body didn’t handle it well (my body was already in labor, and they had to slow it down with another medication). So, it felt like a luxury to be able to relay that history to the staff, so they could adjust their plan accordingly. They still administered Pitocin, but it was a much smaller dose, and my body did great.
I’d also decided ahead of time that I would elect for another epidural. I waited until my contractions were well under way and then called for the anesthesiologist. The medication wound up migrating to only one side of my body. Though the staff had me lay on my left for over an hour, it still didn’t settle evenly. We called the anesthesiologist back in who adjusted the epidural catheter (the thin, flexible tube that stays taped to your back) and the medication settled evenly. While that was technically a complication, I still have no complaints about the process and have noticed (now over a year later) no adverse consequences.
From then, we just waited! Austin and I talked, he did his best to make me laugh, and we played a few games together. We FaceTimed with family members, prayed, and I did my best to rest my eyes. I wound up falling asleep for a little over an hour and woke to the final stage of labor known as transition. Though I had an epidural, I could still feel her move, feel my body stretch, and I knew we were close.
The nurses came back in, checked my progress, and decided we were ready to call my doctor! That’s when I started shaking, almost uncontrollably. Adrenaline is so powerful! Our beloved doctor was there in a blink and we were ready. She (somewhat) jokingly told the rest of the staff, “I hope y’all are ready for this baby to be here in a matter of seconds because this mama can really push!” My doctor smiled up at me, asked if I was ready, Austin squeezed my hand, I took a deep breath, and pushed. I was already mentally prepared to go again when my doctor told me, “stop pushing, Cassy! You did it!” I couldn’t believe my ears. She said a joyful “hello, you!” to our sweet girl, checked that all was well with her (and it was), and my shaking stopped. They placed our Bishop right on my chest and oh my God, she was (and is) amazing. After whispering, “I wish I could kiss you,” the nearby nurses nodded and told me to take my mask off. I kissed her sweet face, she held her daddy’s finger, and soon after she nursed.
We stayed in the hospital for one night and it was, honestly, lovely. Bishop was born at 9 pounds and 6 ounces (one of the reasons we induced was because of her expected size), so her blood sugar levels were monitored for the first night (because of her large size). We rested well together. I watched a few episodes of Downtown Abby (which I haven’t watched since, #workingmom), somehow my mom found a way to get a home-cooked Italian noodle bake up to our room for dinner that night, and we gave thanks for our perfect gift from God.
If you’re curious, we don’t have the same kind of delivery room photos that we captured with Graysen’s birth. The photographer we invited into the delivery room then wasn’t an option (for obvious minimal staff reasons), but I love these snaps in time just as much.
Where are we now? Well, Bishop, or “Bee,” as I like to call her, is an absolute slice of real-deal heaven. She’s joyful, intelligent, easy-going, fascinated by her big sister, absolutely loves most foods, and it really feels like she’s always been a part of our family. It’s funny how that happens… how when you meet a new family member (a new baby or maybe in some cases, a new puppy), how it can feel like they’ve always been there. I like to think that feeling of familiarity comes from the fact that God prepared our hearts from the start. My heart, those I’m meant to love, all come together, dropping into their perfect place, at their perfect time, to fill in their special spot in the puzzle of a life’s loves.
Miss Bee is no different. When I held her in my arms, I realized that I’d loved her before and always. Now that I’m getting to know her better, that love has taken a deep, strong, life-changing root.
It could have been so easy to let panic, fear, and grief define that time of our lives. I felt all of those things but refused to let them define the space. Instead, and by supernatural power, that time is defined by gratitude, grace, faith, and miracles. Bishop Ann is an incredible person and we are so, so lucky, so blessed, and so happy to be the ones to nurture, protect, and get to know the unique and beautiful gifts only she can bring to the world. Being witness to Austin’s life as his partner and having been chosen as mom to these two girls are the greatest honors of my life.
Laurie McGee says
I just love following you and Who and what you represent. A Godly, loving, encouraging, nurturing, family loving Momma! You are truly an inspiration ❤️ I pray for you always
Beautiful, remarkable story (and family!) Thank you for sharing! Love and hugs to you all
Brandi Schilhab says
So kind, Jessica!