My birth story: I gave birth in an Airbnb during a pandemic

I am so grateful that through perseverance, early planning and certainly some luck, I was able to manifest the birth that I wanted—even through a pandemic.

airbnb pandemic home birth
Rita Cotter

My husband and I are planners. We had scoped out midwives and birth centers before we even conceived, and we planned the due date around my husband's work vacations.

But we could have never planned for the Coronavirus pandemic that threatened to ruin all of our thorough birth plans.

I work as an advocate for sexual assault survivors; informed consent and bodily autonomy are hugely important to me. My first birth, for my 2-year-old son, was at a birth center. It was mostly wonderful, but I have vivid memories of cervical checks late in labor that have haunted me, and I knew I wanted an even more hands-off approach this time.

I also wanted someone knowledgeable to be with me in case things did not go as planned. We had the unfortunate experience of watching our first son delay his first breath for a whole 6 minutes after he was born (don't worry he is fine). But for our second birth, we knew we needed an attentive provider who could give us the personalized care we were searching for.

We live in the very rural Florida Keys where birth options are extremely limited. There are no home birth midwives that would come as far south as we live. As a result, we needed to get a little creative in manifesting the birth that I wanted—a water birth at home with a hands-off midwife who would respect my autonomy.

We found a wonderful midwife in south Miami who had been coming to the Keys to deliver babies at home for years. She was knowledgeable about water birth, very consent-minded, and had a hands-off framework for her practice—it immediately felt like a perfect fit. But she would not come as far south as we lived, which was over 2 hours from her office.

So we started researching short term rental houses closer to her office. We soon found a beautiful house in Key Largo, with a little beach right down the street. We reserved the house several months out from the birth to make sure we had everything squared away far ahead of go time.

The pandemic started

Then we started watching Coronavirus spread across the country.

Our jobs became exclusively remote, our toddler started staying home from daycare, and our county shut down the only road into our community to non-residents and banned all vacation rentals. We started seeing our neighbors calling in non-Florida license plates as possible violations of the non-resident ban.

I started to get nervous that we were not going to be able to rent the Key Largo house after all. Then when folks renting vacation houses started to get ticketed, I really started to panic.

Where would I give birth if we could not rent that house?

I kept hoping that the vacation rental ban would be over by the time my due date got closer, but it became very clear as May approached that the ban, and the roadblock keeping out nonresidents (such as my midwife), would still be in place.

I started calling the State Attorney's Office who was prosecuting cases related to vacation rentals. I was told that the ban was not meant to affect folks like myself, but that there were not any exemptions in the rule—not a response that invoked reassurance.

I then started calling everyone in county government that I could think of, from the County Commissioner to the Code Enforcement requesting an exception. I had to lay out my birth plan in plain language with a lot of government employees.

We got the green light

Finally, I received an email directly from the County Attorney assuring me that they would not prosecute me and that I could use that email as proof should law enforcement come to the door. It was such a relief! I was then able to submit a letter for my non-resident midwife to get through the roadblock—maybe this would work after all!

We arrived in Key Largo a week before my due date, and I nervously said hello to our new temporary neighbors, hoping they would not call us in for an illegal vacation rental—mainly just receiving wide eyes back at my massive belly. I walked with my toddler every day trying to convince my baby to come meet us sooner rather than later.

Finally, two days after my due date, contractions started as soon as I woke up. I was so excited! I called my midwife and gave her a heads up that I thought today would be the day.

My mom and husband were both still working from home and had morning meetings, so I timed my own contractions while watching the toddler for 3 hours in the morning. My toddler had been prepped with books about home birth, as well as home birth videos, and was not scared at all. He mainly watched his movies, and sometimes would come over and hug my belly while I bounced on my birth ball through contractions.

My midwife called every hour and by the fifth hour, I told her I was ready for her to come down—especially considering she had a 1-hour drive and police checkpoint to go through.

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Everything you need to feel fully empowered for your birth.

As my contractions intensified, I asked my husband to start filling up the birth tub in our room, and my mom took over toddler duty. As the tub was filling up, I put on one of my favorite comedy specials hoping to laugh the baby down while sitting on the birth ball. I got in the tub and instantly felt so much more relaxed and confident. I was a little worried I was going to slow down my labor by staying in the tub for so long, so I got out and labored on the toilet to encourage the baby to keep moving down. I was ready to meet my baby.

My midwife and the assistant midwife arrived and set up their supplies quietly. They checked the baby's heartbeat and my blood pressure, gave the all-clear, and then generally left me alone, keeping a watchful eye to make sure we were safe.

After sitting on the birth ball a bit more, I let everyone know that I believed I was in transition since it was getting harder to relax into the contractions. I got into the tub and instantly felt a wave of relief followed by an urge to push.

My birth

I had mentally prepared to push less intensely than I had with my last birth so I would not tear as badly. I reclined against the birth tub and let my body do the work of pushing for about 15 minutes. And then I realized that my baby was really about to come—which I announced to the whole room. I got up on my knees facing the wall of the tub and my husband held one hand while I put my other hand down to feel the head of my baby coming out.

My midwife briefly put her hand down to feel where the baby was and then told me that I had it under control and that it was time for me to deliver my baby.

I pushed and then somehow managed to breathe through the ring of fire for a couple of breaths in order to give my body a chance to adjust to the baby's head—and then I pushed out the head, roaring while I did.

Once the head was out, I took a couple of breaths until their body turned and then, at 4:34 pm, my baby came out into the world. We made sure that breathing started right away and then looked to see the gender. We had another boy! I immediately called in my toddler to meet his brother and we all had a beautiful family meeting.

About 5 minutes after he was born, I delivered the placenta, which felt like such a relief in my body. Once we were ready, my husband cut the cord and the midwife helped me to bed where my husband and baby were waiting. We had good family snuggles getting to know the new member of our family while the midwives brought us some yummy leftovers to eat.

I am so grateful that through perseverance, early planning and certainly some luck, I was able to manifest the birth that I wanted—even through a pandemic.

Moms can do anything.


14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


9 products that will help baby sleep better (and longer!)

For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

How do I get my baby to sleep? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among new parents, and it makes sense, given that babies are born with their days and nights mixed up. For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.


Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

Yogasleep hushh sound machine

With three soothing options, this is a perfect solution to help your baby settle when naps are on the go and during travel! I love how compact this noise machine is and that it can run all night with one charge.


Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

Burt's Bees Organic Crib Sheets

With a variety of print options to choose from, these breathable sheets are *so* soft and smooth, even through multiple washes. The luxury fabric keeps little ones warm without overheating—a formula that helps ensure more sleep for everyone.


The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

You know what's going to help baby have their best sleep ever? Some quality, super soft pajamas. The timeless (and aptly named!) Perfect Pajama from The Simple Folk are some of our favorites. They last forever and they're made from organic pima cotton that is safe on baby's precious skin. They come in a wide range of sizes so siblings can match and feature fold-over hand covers on sizes up to 12 months.


The Snoo bassinet


Designed by expert pediatrician and sleep guru Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo bassinet gently rocks your baby to sleep while snuggled up in the built-in swaddle. Not only does it come with sensors that adjust the white noise and movement based on your baby's needs, there is also an app that allows you to adjust the settings directly from your phone.

While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!


Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

best baby sound machine

The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.


Crane humidifier

Crane Humidifier

The only thing worse than a sick baby is a baby who is sick and not sleeping well. The Crane humidifier helps take care of this by relieving congestion and helping your baby breathe better while sleeping.

Personally, I think the adorable design options alone are enough of a reason to purchase this product, and your child will love watching steam come out of the elephant's trunk!


Naturepedic organic crib mattress

Naturpedic Lightweight Organic Mattress

In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.


Happiest Baby sleepea 5-second swaddle

best baby swaddle

There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


20 baby names that mean miracle—and will never go out of style

In these extraordinary times, we could all use some small miracles.

Meaningful baby names will never go out of style. Whether you decide to name your newborn after a beloved family member, or are simply searching for a name that reflects the journey that led you to parenthood, whatever you choose will stick with you for the rest of your—and your child's—life.

Almost every parent, at some point, refers to their child as a "miracle," though the meaning of the word itself might differ depending on who you're talking to. Miracle is a beautiful word that can double as a name, but there are many other thoughtful baby names to choose from if you're considering giving your baby a name that suggests an extraordinary event, a gift from above or a rare wonder.

Whether you're looking for a familiar name with a miraculous history, such as Aaron, or you're searching for a unique name that means "rare miracle," such as Ender, there are so many choices for both girls and boys that are equally as meaningful as they are interesting. Choosing a baby name with the special meaning of "miracle" is a signal of hope and optimism—and in these extraordinary times, we could all use some small miracles.

Putting a unique twist on a beautiful classic isn't hard with these baby names that mean "miracle."

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