This is the birth story of my daughter June, who was born a few weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic turned everyone’s lives and the world itself pretty much upside down. This is also a story of my journey to experience an out-of-hospital birth for the first time.

In 2016, when our firstborn son was four years old, we began trying to get pregnant again. I hadn’t known for sure that I wanted a second baby until one day I woke up and knew with absolute certainty that I did. This was reiterated for me one afternoon over a glass of wine with two of my closest friends, when I found myself in tears talking about wanting another child in our family. …

Getting promoted to management is more akin to a fork in the road than a rung on a ladder.

My phone buzzed urgently. It was my manager, calling to tell me the news.

“Are you ready for this? Things are happening fast.” She was excited, talking quickly, and I could hear the smile in her voice. The leadership team had been in a group offsite all day and I was hearing about all the changes practically in real-time. I’d just discovered my manager, Gina*, was being promoted to a new bigger role within the group and I was going to become team manager, starting tomorrow.

It was fast. We had discussed my potential interest in management as part of my regular, ongoing career development plan, and I’d even taken on a few stretch assignments to get more familiar with the scope of her role. When we talked about where I wanted to be in the next five years, management was definitely in the picture. …

Why pumping and breastfeeding while working full-time was one of the most challenging periods in my career.

I once worked 52 hours straight on-site at a work event without sleep, where we were fed a stream of greasy pizza, lukewarm hot dogs, and endless cups of bitter coffee. My team and I conquered that event, despite the nasty combination of no sleep and poor sustenance, bragging about how hard we had worked. Compared to my year of pumping at work, though, the level of emotional and physical toll doesn’t even come close. I’m still scarred from the experience, even after nearly nine years.

A breast pump machine sits on a desk in front of a laptop.
A breast pump machine sits on a desk in front of a laptop.
Pumping at work. Image credit: Alicia Thornber

Driving to work on my first day back from maternity leave, I eagerly anticipated my return to the working world. I missed my colleagues, many of them close friends after 15 years in the industry. Having recently spent long days animatedly conducting one-sided conversations during diaper changes and only getting infant gurgles in return, I longed for adult interaction. How I missed feeling engaged! As a creative lead working in live events, I enjoyed sharing ideas in meetings, scribbling on whiteboards, and working with my team to solve challenging problems. …

Having a child gave me new capabilities, both at home and at work.

I’ll never forget his words. I stood up to thank my employee for his time as we wrapped up our conversation on his annual performance review. As he turned to exit the room, he paused, and turned towards me.

“You know, you’re a better manager now that you’re a parent.”

My eyes widened. It was August of 2012 and I had recently returned from maternity leave after giving birth to my son. I thought of myself as a good manager, but I felt deep down that I wasn’t great. Imposter syndrome? Maybe. I felt innately there was a difference between me, a newly-promoted individual contributor, and more experienced managers that I often sought out as mentors. …

This is the story of my firstborn son’s birth that led me searching for a different option when I was pregnant with my second child. One journey led to the other.

I awoke early on Christmas morning in December 2011 with mild contractions and some spotting. Full of anticipation, I wondered would today be the day we’d get to finally meet our baby boy? I was five days overdue and ready to pop. My contractions faded, however, as I went about my preparations for Christmas dinner later that day. We had relatives in town visiting for the holiday, eagerly and somewhat impatiently awaiting our baby boy’s arrival. His nursery was ready, tiny outfits folded in the dresser, diapers ready to go on the changing table. …

New parenthood is often isolating during normal times. In quarantine, it’s exponentially harder.

My daughter entered the world in the last weeks pre-coronavirus.

I went into labor in early February, right before everything went haywire. We had no idea what was about to transpire. If my daughter had been born just a few weeks later when the coronavirus pandemic swelled, my labor & delivery might have been more challenging on a number of levels. I’ve heard stories of women required to wear face masks during 30+ hour labors, laboring alone without their partners. My heart goes out to them.

We felt especially prepared for this baby, our second child. We had fertility struggles for several years and finally managed to conceive. We knew there would be many sleepless nights ahead, but looked forward to the upcoming dedicated time to bond with our new baby. Given the experience we’d had with our firstborn son, we knew we had our work cut out for us. Thankfully we had a smooth labor and delivery, and welcomed our girl into the world on February 10th, 2020. We named her June. …


Alicia Monique Thornber

Sharing life experiences with empathy and humor.

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