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Lo Mansfield

[Trigger warning: This is the story of a woman whose mother passed away from cancer.]

I was nine weeks pregnant, and my own mama was in the ICU on the day of my first ultrasound. I flinched at the cold gel, looked at my midwife and told her, "We really need a win today."

She put the ultrasound probe on my belly and there it was; that reassuring "whomp, whomp, whomp" of my baby's heartbeat filled the room, It was our first precious win in what was about to become a season of loss.

Carrying our good news, my husband Kelvin and I flew to Washington that afternoon and told our families. My mama was in a hospital bed when I told her, too sick to hug me, but overjoyed all the same.

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I've never met a woman stronger than my mama. I'm not certain I ever will.

Tiny in stature but enormous in hope, she refused to let anything beat her. When I was little, she was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disease that her doctors could not make go away. As the years rolled by, sarcoidosis took a slow, steady toll on her body, quietly creeping into her lungs, her liver and her spleen. She had a lumpectomy, a lymphadenectomy, chemotherapy and radiation to beat breast cancer. She had her spleen removed as a result of the sarcoidosis.

She was then diagnosed with smoldering myeloma; she and her doctors quietly waited and watched for it to show its true colors.

The day I told my mama I was pregnant, she was in the middle of a four-week stint in the ICU, her lungs bravely fighting a dangerous combination of flu, pneumonia, sarcoidosis and fungal infection.

So we talked of death and life, diapers and baby names, fear and hope. We spoke of trusting in what we can't control. I grieved, and I celebrated, sharing our news, growing our baby, and desperately praying for my mama.

My pregnancy

I'm a labor and delivery nurse, both a blessing and a curse when you're pregnant with your own. I'd seen so many births, had so much time to decide what I wanted—what I hoped it would look like. But I'd also seen the things that could happen. I shared due dates with mamas who came into our triage, their babies struggling to live while I quietly and gratefully rubbed my own belly.

Knowledge is power, but at times, it can also bring fear.

Over the next few months, I tried to ride all the waves of worry and elation, fear and joy. Yes, I knew too much to be blissfully naïve, but I was also a first-time mama, joyfully marveling over every new thing. I wanted what many want: a healthy baby, an unmedicated delivery, and the privilege of breastfeeding. I choose to see a midwife, as I had loved the care I had watched them give.

But ultimately, like my patients, I knew I couldn't control much—I just had to trust.

When I was seven months pregnant, my mama was diagnosed with lymphoma. It was cancer number three on an already exhausted body, and it quickly became clear that my baby would not have the privilege of knowing their Nana the way that I desperately wanted them too. This was, finally, the thing that would beat her.

Her plans to be there when our baby was born, to fold tiny baby clothes, to make me dinner and to share naps with our sweet newborn quickly unraveled.

Kelvin would not get the privilege of proudly proclaiming gender and weight and length to my anxious mama in a hospital waiting room.

I would not get the sweet privilege of my mama taking care of me, her own baby girl.

It was the most painful collision of two equally hard and beautiful truths. I was losing my mama and becoming a mama at the same time—a roller coaster of emotion, unlike any I had ever known.

How was I supposed to hold inexplicable joy and inexplicable grief at the same time? How could I be a mama without my own mama? Would she somehow get to meet my baby? Who would I call? Who would I cry to? Would my baby be okay if they only got a broken version of me? Who was going to tell me I would be okay when all things seemed to say that I would not?

I was staring at mamahood, sure to be the greatest challenge I had ever faced, while painfully coming to terms with the likely truth that I was going to have to do it without her. So there I sat, amidst baby kicks and hiccups, a new crib and a guest room we would no longer need, grieving, desperate, grateful—again, I just had to trust.

My labor started

I was 39 weeks and two days pregnant when I went into labor. It was 2:26 am, and aside from my approaching due date, I had gone to bed with zero indication that labor was coming. Contractions woke me, quietly and painlessly, but clearly present.

I lay in my bed, contemplating whether to wake Kelvin. I went to the bathroom, drank some water—all the things I told my patients to do, I did.

And still, they came—every 8 minutes, then 7 minutes.

At some point, I got out of bed, doing laps around our tiny house. I labored alone, quietly, for four hours. I walked and walked, making my body prove to my nurse's head that it was real.

Six minutes, 5 minutes, 4 minutes—my labor pattern was textbook. Finally, I woke Kelvin, certain that our baby was coming.

He and I continued to labor together at home, the minutes both short and long, as we waited for the right time to head to the hospital. Somewhere in those hours, I stopped thinking like a nurse, instead of a woman in labor like anyone else.

Four minutes, 3 minutes.

And then there it was, a contraction that felt different, that said, "time to go." Kelvin questioned me once, as our birth instructor had told him to, but I insisted. "Trust me, Kelvin; I want to go."

I remember no car ride more than I remember that one. My husband's eyes on me in the back seat saying, "Good job, babe, 18 minutes to go… we're almost there, 8 minutes to go."

We arrived at the hospital

We pulled into my hospital, my workplace, at 10 am. I ran up the stairs, vaguely noticing the familiar faces sneaking smiles at me.

In triage, we learned that I was eight centimeters with a bulging bag of water (which means it would likely break at any moment). Things moved quickly then, as they do when a mama is that far along. They placed me on the monitors and my nurse brain briefly kicked back in—the baby's heart tones were perfect, and the contractions regular.

The monitors came off, and we moved to our room. Kelvin and I continued to labor together.

Three minutes, 2 minutes.

The room stayed quiet. I had been clear with my coworkers and friends that I wanted no one in the room except those who had to be there.

I remember the pain, panic and fear, all emotions I'd been told I would feel as I transitioned, as I got closer. There were brief intermittent checks of the baby's heart, the rhythm always steady. I got myself onto my hands and knees on the floor, looked up at my midwife, "I think I have to push." It was too soon, wasn't it? I'd only been in active labor for a few hours. But my midwife knew to listen.

"Okay, Laura. I trust you."

My husband ran to the bathroom, and I asked my midwife to check my cervix. I was 10 centimeters, and my bag of waters was still intact. I asked her to break it; I was ready to be done. Water went everywhere, all over the floor and up my back. Meconium, too—our baby was ready to come out.

My husband came out of the door, panic on his face. A lot can happen in two minutes.

I looked at him and said, "I'm complete. I need to push." I pushed once on the floor, but I wanted to be in bed. I panicked with the next push—it was an indescribable sensation of fullness and pain. My nurse and my husband simply said, "Breathe Laura. Trust your body."

I knew I needed to charge right through it. It took four more minutes, two more contractions and six more pushes. And then the baby was out and on my chest.

I looked to Kelvin. "A girl," he said, tears streaming down his face. "We have a daughter."

The time was 12:26 pm. The day—my mama's birthday.

My baby and her Nana

Emmeline Jean, 7 pounds 4 ounces, 20.5 inches long, was born my own mama's birthday. She was named after her Nana, Tammy Jean.

Emme and I Facetimed my mama daily for four weeks until we flew home for Christmas so they could finally meet.

That Christmas was beautiful but hard. My mama's hair was thinning and falling out. We found out the chemotherapy wasn't working, so the plan was to try radiation next. Over the next few months, my mama's health continued to decline. I quit my job and flew home many times, trying to get Emme and me as much time as possible with my precious mama.

Those trips were painfully lovely, Emme and her Nana the most incredible picture of life and loss, joy and anger, of enduring hope in the hardest circumstances.

My mama died on April 29th, 2017, five months after Emme was born.

Though they never blew out their candles together, I still consider their shared birthday nothing but a miracle. It's a hard day for me each year, but I don't ever want Emme to feel my sadness. The joy of celebrating Emme's life is such a balm for my pain, the sweetest reminder of my mama's legacy.

The love of my mama was a love unlike any I have ever known. Her loss has been both everything and nothing that I thought it would be—an unraveling of who I am, and the slow, steady and painful process of redefining myself as a mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend.

Today, two years and one more granddaughter later, a little bit broken and a little bit okay, we continue to (try to) trust in what we can't control.

The sweet privilege of loving my own girls has been the most precious glimpse of how much my mama loved me—limitless and unconditionally.

Lo Mansfield

Our babies come out as beautiful, soft and natural as can be—shouldn't their clothes follow suit?

Here are nine of our favorite organic kids clothing brands that prove safe fabrics + stylish designs are a natural fit.

Estella

A brick and mortar store in Manhattan that opened in 2002, Estella is NYC's go-to shop for luxury baby gifts—from sweet-as-pie organic clothing to eco-friendly toys.

L'ovedbaby

@lovedbaby

We l'oved this collection from the moment we laid eyes on it. (See what we did there 🤣) Free of things harsh added chemicals, dangerous flame retardants, and harmful dyes, this collection is 100% organic and 100% gorgeous. We especially adore their soft, footed rompers, comfy cotton joggers, and newborn-friendly kimono bodysuits.

Looking to stock up? Don't miss Big-Find Thursday every week on their site—a 24-hour flash sale that happens Thursdays at 9 a.m. PST and features a different body style, collection, and discount every week!

Hanna Andersson

@happyhannas

One of our all-time favorite brands for durability, style, + customer service, Hanna Andersson doesn't disappoint in the organic department, either. From an aww-inducing organic baby layette collection all the way to their iconic pajamas, there are so many organic styles to swoon over from this beloved brand. And we swear their pajamas are magic—they seem to grow with your little one, fitting season after season!

Monica + Andy

@monicaandandy

The fabric you first snuggle your baby in matters. Monica + Andy's (gorgeous) collection is designed for moms and babies by moms with babies, and we love it all because it's made of super-soft GOTS-certified organic cotton that's free of chemicals, lead, and phthalates. Newborn pieces feature thoughtful details like fold-over mittens and feet.

Finn + Emma

@finnandemma

"Here boring designs and toxic chemicals are a thing of the past while modern colors, fresh prints and heirloom quality construction are abundant." We couldn't agree more. Made from 100% organic cotton, eco friendly dyes, and in fair trade settings, we love this modern collection's mix of style + sustainability.

We especially love the Basics Collection, an assortment of incredibly soft, beautiful apparel + accessories including bodysuits, zip footies, pants, hats, and bibs, all available in a gender-neutral color palette that can work together to create multiple outfit combinations. The pieces are perfect for monochrome looks or for mixing with prints for a more modern style.

SoftBaby

@littleaddigrey for @softbaby_clothes

You'll come for SoftBaby's organic fabrics, but you'll stay for their adorable assortment of prints. From woodland foxes to urban pugs, there's no limit to their assortment (meaning you'll even be able to find something for the new mama who's hard to shop for). Plus, the name says it all--these suckers are soft. Get ready for some serious cuddle time.

Gap Baby

@gapkids

Organic may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Gap, but this popular brand actually carries a wide variety of organic (and adorable) baby + toddler clothes. From newborn layette basics to toddler sleepwear—and more—there's something for everyone in this collection. Everything is 100% cotton, super soft + cozy, and perfect for eco-conscious mamas.

Winter Water Factory

@winterwaterfactory

Certified organic cotton with Brooklyn-based swagger? Be still our hearts. Winter Water Factory features screen-printed textiles in bold designs you'll want to show off (get ready for some major Instagram likes). And the husband-and-wife co-founders keep sustainability at the forefront of their brand, meaning you can feel good about your purchase--and what you're putting on your baby.

The company makes everything from kids' clothes to crib sheets (all made in the USA). For even more cuteness, pair their signature rompers with a hat or bonnet.

Under the Nile

@underthenile

Under the Nile has been making organic baby clothes since before it was cool. Seriously, they were the first baby clothing company in the USA to be certified by The Global Organic Textile Standard. They've kept up that legacy of high standards by growing their Egyptian cotton on a biodynamic farm without the use of pesticides or insecticides, and all of their prints are made with metal-free colors and no chemical finishes.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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How much time our kids spend in front of a screen is something we have almost always been “strict" about in our household.

Generally speaking, we're not big TV watchers and our kids don't own tablets or iPads, so limiting screen time for our children (usually around the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines) has proven to be a reasonable practice for us.

It wasn't until this past summer when I started working from home full time that I found myself stretching an hour to an hour and a half or allowing just one more episode of Pokemon so I could get in a few more emails quietly. (#MomGuilt)

I also realized that I wasn't counting when we passively had the news on in the background as TV time and that we weren't always setting a stellar example for our kids as we tended to use our phones during what should have been family time.

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