First-time expectant mom Caitlin Sweeney talks pregnancy during a pandemic, and how Larktale fits into her and her wife’s vision of New York City motherhood
Written by Mia Weber
In our on-going column, we are catching up with real parents and parents-to-be all over the country about how Larktale fits into their lifestyle. This month, we caught up with Caitlin Sweeney—the Director of Digital Publications at arts non-profit the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, who is expecting her first child in early July with her wife Natalie Wolchover—a science writer and editor at Quanta Magazine.
Tell us about your family—where do you live?
Natalie and I have been married for almost five years, but we’ve known each other for 12 years. We live in New York City with our two cats, Teeny and Massimo. I was born and raised outside of Washington, D.C. whereas Natalie was born in London and then moved to Blanco, Texas, when she was seven. Talk about extremes!
When you first found out you were expecting, what were some of your top concerns?
Since we are two women, I’ll just say that this was a very planned pregnancy! We were ready and eager to become parents, but I think nothing can prepare you for the surprise and sense of awe when you find out that you will actually have a kid! I think the feeling is like: “Am I really up for this? Will I screw this up?”
What have been some of your go-to parenting resources?
My sister-in-law, who had a baby in November—having someone with experience close by has been invaluable. We consulted the Mayo Clinic Pregnancy book. We learned so much during our class at Birthsmarter and from our amazing doula who works for Baby Caravan; Angela Garbes’ book, Like a Mother, got me excited before I got pregnant; and Emily Oster’s Expecting Better gave me really important perspective and sanity about eating and drinking things once I was pregnant.
Given everything that’s been going on in the world with COVID-19, how has your pre-baby preparation plan changed from how you imagined it looking? How did the quarantine affect how you shopped for gear and created a registry?
Living in NYC and being six months pregnant during the height of the pandemic, I went into a sort of panicked survival mode. I really focused on what was 100 percent necessary to keep a baby alive, and then when I was still losing sleep over it, I just went ahead and bought a lot of the essentials for myself off of Amazon. Our baby shower was also cancelled, which was such a disappointment. But I think that just meant my mom’s friends were even more eager to send us the nice stuff off our registry and they sent gifts early to make sure they arrived!
How have you handled the healthcare aspect during the pandemic—navigating doctor’s appointments and making a birth plan?
There was a period of time when we thought I would have to go into labor by myself because the hospitals weren’t admitting birth partners at all. That was an incredibly distressing time, as any semblance of the emotional or practical expectations I had about childbirth went flying out the window. I was on a repeat cycle of sadness, fear, and anger. Fortunately, the ban was lifted—which was a huge relief—but it also put a lot of things into perspective.
For instance, I might have been disappointed that I have had to conduct most of my appointments virtually in the past, but now I’m so grateful that Natalie will be present, I just don’t care about the details. I’ve been focusing on what I can do to protect my own sense of well-being in a potentially stressful environment—I’ll still have to wear a mask while I’m in labor—which has meant a lot of meditation and yoga and practicing calming activities with Natalie. It’s sort of a self-taught version of hynobirthing.
And also, virtual support has been amazing with our doula. It’s weird to think that she might have guided me through pregnancy and coached me—remotely—through childbirth and I still might not recognize her on the subway.
The doula also provided a “checklist” of preferences to give my OB-GYN. This list was a really helpful guide for me and Natalie—it was a foundation for us to discuss and identify the things that were most important to us. My OB also really appreciated it because we could speak clearly about my preferences, make sure we were on the same page, and they could be on file in case she is not physically present.
Have you and your partner been working from home during this time? How have you navigated the ups and downs of that process?
Both of us were lucky as we were able to easily transition to working from home. We’ve honestly been pretty happy not commuting—and I’ve been happy about unsupervised mid-day naps and a kitchen full of snacks—although I really miss my co-workers and I think that some synergy is lost when you’re not working on a project together.
What have been your top priorities when shopping for baby gear?
City-friendliness—for example, can we get it in and out of a taxi, or up and down subway stairs? We also want items that are adaptable so that they can be used for longer periods of time.
How does Larktale fit into your plan for motherhood?
We chose the Coast stroller because it is light and easily compactable, with lots of different options for protecting the baby and adding on features as they grow. And we love that we were able to use the frame with the car seat that we purchased. We didn’t have to buy a special car seat just for the stroller. There are just so many thoughtful touches—when I watched the video I felt like there were so many features that I didn’t know I would want but am so happy are there!
What about the Larktale brand speaks to the lifestyle you hope to have as a parent? What values does the brand have that align with your own?
We’re very active in NYC. We go on lots of outings to the park, to friends’ homes, to museums, and to restaurants. So the Coast stroller really appealed to us. It is light and easy to fold. It’s super important that we are able to take it with us, whether we’re taking a taxi or the subway or walking. We’re relieved by how little space it takes up in our apartment. Plus, it looks really sleek and fashionable!
What are you most excited for about being a mom?Seeing a new person learn and experience the world for the first time! I’m excited to feel a new kind of love!
For more real-life stories of how real moms and dads are living their best lives as new parents, with their Larktale strollers in tow, stay tuned to our blog this year!