Designer Carly Cushnie's Covid-19 Birth Experience Plus, thoughts on raising her daughters today.

By Colleen Crivello

Last time we hung with the founder of Cushnie, she was pregnant with her first. Now, a little over a year later, she’s a mother of two! We caught up with this dynamic, stunning mama (both inside and out) on her work-life-slash-home-life with two under two, her birth experience during Corona, and what it means to raise Black daughters today. @carlycushnie

Life with two girls is…

Crazy. But amazing. Our girls are very close in age. They both came at 39 weeks and are shy of being Irish twins by a week. Santiago is our first, and Quincy is our second. We gave them masculine names as I liked the idea of having a strong first with a feminine middle name: Santiago Lola and Quincy Sol.

Did you plan to have two under two?

No! When we found out I was pregnant again, it was a complete shock. At that point I was in the thick of life with a 3.5-month-old; the last thing on my mind was having another baby. But, for some reason, she had to come in a hurry, hot on the heels of her sister. 

Difference between pregnancies?

With Santi, I was sick all-day (and night) throughout my first trimester but felt good for most of my second and third. However, with Quincy, I had a touch of morning sickness in the first, followed by tons of energy until the last 6 weeks. Towards the end she was positioned low which caused horrible pelvic and hip pain plus I was unbearably sick; I could barely move. The reality is, I didn’t give my body enough of a rest between babies, and I felt it.

Your experience giving birth during Corona?

The first time I gave birth, I was petrified of the actual delivery, but in the end, I had a reasonably straightforward experience. With my second, I was less scared about birth and more concerned about COVID. However, when faced with the decision to have her at the hospital or home, I preferred the hospital. Considering I’d never even thought about home birth, it seemed crazy to change my plans suddenly.

Leading up to my due date, I stayed well informed. I called the hospital regularly to keep current on evolving entry procedures and if there were any COVID patients in the maternity ward.

I started having contractions during my 39th week. Initially, I was unsure if it was discomfort or active labor as the range of stories I’ve heard about the second baby run the gamut from quick births to laboring for days. Plus, since becoming a mom, my pain threshold has gone way up, so I was very casual about the whole thing. That night I bathed Santi, read her a book, and tucked her into bed. After she was asleep, my husband and I had dinner together, and watched TV, all through my contractions. Able to manage the pain, I went to bed but woke up in the middle of the night and called the doctor. As the contractions intensified, she asked how long my first birth was. I told her 5 hours and her only response was, we needed to hurry to the hospital! So, we left immediately.

The roads were desolate, and we made it to NYU around 2 AM. Upon arrival, two security guards took our temperature and ushered us into the waiting room, which, to our luck, was empty. Since I’d unintentionally labored at home for so long, when I made it to the hospital, there was no time for an epidural! I was terrified as the epidural not only helps with pain through birth but also after.

During labor, everyone was wearing a mask, including me. The entire experience was disorienting as I could barely breathe while I was pushing or understand the doctor without seeing her lips move. There came the point when I was trying to breathe through the mask, and couldn’t. My husband saw this and asked that we pause for a moment so I could get my bearings. When we resumed, she came quickly and was born on April 8th.

As nervous as I was before going to the hospital, I didn’t feel scared once we were there. I can only speak for NYU, but my experience was stellar. The people on the front lines are the most cautious and know how to protect themselves. Overall they were professional; I was in good hands.

Working from home?

Fortunately, we were able to keep our nanny. She drives our car back and forth from her house, so she doesn’t have to take the subway. Plus, my mother-in-law stayed with us for the past few months. With a newborn and a 14-month-old (that decided to take her first step the moment, we brought Quincy home), having the help of these incredible women made it possible for my husband and I to work from home.

Work-wise, with COVID, things were quieter. I was selling on my site, but not at the same pace. Once I announced my Target collaboration just after George Floyd and Black Lives Matter, we’ve had a ton of outreach in support of Black-owned businesses. And, now that our factories and stores have started to open up again, we’re fully operational.

Approach to Black Lives Matter as a brand?

Given the platform I have, it’s important I speak out and share my story as one of the few Black female designers. To see certain brands taking accountability and changing policies around how they operate is refreshing, and I’m pleasantly surprised.

Thoughts on raising your daughters today?

My husband is Mexican, and I’m Black, so our girls are mixed race. Understanding both sides of their heritage is very important to us and something we spoke about before having kids. We will have to teach our girls the importance of loving themselves and accepting all people.

I grew up in London, and while racism exists there, police brutality does not as the police don’t carry guns. Therefore, my parents didn’t have to think about my safety in the same way you do here. Even if I were to be stopped by the police in England, I’m not at risk of being shot. Sadly, growing up here, we have to worry about our girls in this way and will have to teach them how to speak to police officers as they get older.

How will you talk about race at home?

Our home is a stone’s throw from the Black Lives Matter painting on Fulton Street. We went as a family the morning after they finished painting and it was so powerful. I look forward to telling our girls about that day and hope by the time they’re old enough to understand, there will have been considerable change, and issues like police brutality on our race will be something of the past. All parents need to have an open and regular dialogue with their kids about race; this will be a big conversation in our house.

At first, I wasn’t sure if real change would take hold as so much has happened in the past, and yet we’re still here. However, this feels different, in part because non-Black people are finally taking a stance. For so long, it’s only been Black people protesting and it’s not until everyone stands together, that we can all thrive.

I am hopeful. This is a big year of change for the human race, the climate, and how we all live together. We still have tremendous work to do, but fingers crossed, a real shift is underway.

Any advice…

This year, we are giving birth to an extraordinary group of powerful little humans. While I understand it’s hard not to worry, know you’ll still be able to have whatever kind of birth you’re hoping for, whether home or at the hospital. It will always be your special story to share. 

“During this time, we are giving birth to an extraordinary group of powerful little humans.”