News National With love from Melbourne to New York: Birth and motherhood in the age of COVID-19

With love from Melbourne to New York: Birth and motherhood in the age of COVID-19

Gabrielle Nancarrow and her baby
Gabrielle Nancarrow's first child was born in New York on Mother's Day six years ago. Photo: Gabrielle Nancarrow
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When Gabrielle Nancarrow went into labour for the first time, she thought, “I think I can do it. I think I can get there”.

She wasn’t giving herself a pep talk about getting through labour, or even reaching the hospital in time to start pushing.

No, this was simply about making it to Mother’s Day lunch.

But little did she know she would be bringing life into a city that, just six years later, would be the epicentre of a once-in-a-century pandemic.

Gabrielle, pictured one week before the birth of her first daughter. Photo: Gabrielle Nancarrow

It was May 11, 2014 – Mother’s Day – and Gabrielle’s parents had just arrived in New York, where the then-Victoria’s Secret editorial director had been living for four years.

I had this big Mother’s Day lunch planned at a place that we all loved going to and I was really, really excited,” she said.

Gabrielle was a week ahead of her due date and never anticipated that she would go into labour so early. But in the early hours of that Mother’s Day morning she began to experience contractions.

However, Mother’s Day meant so much to Gabrielle that she was still “so determined to get to this lunch”, despite entering the first stage of labour.

It’s just a good moment to stop and pause and honour my own mother and to shower her with love and presence and just to let her know how much we all love and appreciate her more than we normally would day-to-day,” she explained. 
Gabrielle with mother Heather, whom her first child was named after. Photo: Gabrielle Nancarrow

Despite her best efforts, she never made it to that Mother’s Day lunch.

Instead, she spent the day in labour, and eight-hours later gave birth to her first child, a daughter she named Camille Heather after her own mother.

Overwhelmed with emotion after giving birth, Gabrielle turned to a whiteboard in the maternity ward where she found a simple but heartfelt message.

‘Happy Mother’s Day’, it read.

“I was like, I can’t believe that [my daughter has] been born on Mother’s Day. It’s really special,” said Gabrielle, who has since moved to Melbourne.

One year later on Broadway, New York City. Photo: Gabrielle Nancarrow

For Gabrielle, a birth doula and the founder of women’s space Gather, in Melbourne’s inner-west, New York City is much more than just a COVID-19 hotspot. It’s the birth city of her first child.

Reflecting on her own time in labour there, Gabrielle can’t help but feel for the women going through the same thing in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

“It’s really confronting for everyone who’s still over there to be in a city where it feels like a ghost town”, she said.

I can’t even imagine what it’s like for the women giving birth over there at the moment.”

With “so many good memories there”, Gabrielle, who is now pregnant with her third child, said the city remains “so close to our heart”.