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Whether you’ve been sitting as a desk or picking up toys, laundry and children off the floor all day, your back is probably screaming by 5pm. This one move is sure to soothe your tight, overworked back muscles. As a bonus, you’ll strengthen your abs, which helps you avoid serious back problems in the future. Here are some of the many benefits of cat/cow yoga flow:

  • Improves mobility in a stiff spine
  • Strengthens core
  • Relieves lower back pain
  • Lessens hip pain
  • Strengthens the abdominals
  • Encourages baby to move into ideal birth position (for pregnant woman)
  • Strengthens shoulders and arms

Try adding cat/cow sounds to encourage your little ones to join you!

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I still remember the man who approached me at the mall while I was changing my seven-month-old son. He was holding his sweet little newborn daughter with a look in his eyes that was a mixture of exhaustion, nervousness, and desperation. “How long did it take for him to sleep through the night?” he asked expectantly.

I knew what he wanted me to say. I could see he was desperate for some reassurance that he would get to sleep again one day soon. “He just started sleeping through the night now at seven months,” I said as I watched his face deflate. “Is she six weeks old?” I asked. “She’s only five-weeks,” he replied sounding sad that he had a very long road ahead of him.

I remember how nervous I was as a new mom. I was terrified to take my daughter home from the hospital. I was also exhausted and worried I wouldn’t be able to survive the seemingly endless sleep deprivation. By the time I had my second and third babies, there were certain things that were less surprising and scary.

Here are the top 10 worries you can kiss goodbye the second-time around.

1. Labor – I can still hear myself saying, “I can’t do it.” There were several moments I just didn’t think I could deliver my first child. I was in the worst pain of my life and exhausted after eleven hours of labor and an additional hour of pushing.

While my second and third labors weren’t exactly a walk in the park, I no longer worried if I could do it. Having my first baby proved just how strong I could be. And all the gross and surprising things that come with labor didn’t freak me out the second and third time around.

2. Basic Baby Care – I was terrified to take my first child home from the hospital. I had no clue what I was doing beyond the brief nursing, diapering and swaddling tutorials I got from the nurses. I almost didn’t want to leave the hospital. The second and third time I couldn’t wait to go home. I had all the basics down, though I never did fully master the swaddle.

3. Common Colds and Minor Injuries – My first born had Respiratory syncytial virus  (RSV) at three-months-old and I was horrified watching her breathing in the vapor from her nebulizer. She looked so tiny and helpless and it felt like she would be sick forever. After that, minor colds and injuries didn’t faze me as much. I learned to save my worry for the bigger illnesses.

4. Poop – If there’s one aspect of parenting you find yourself talking or thinking about the most, it’s poop. Color, frequency, texture, you think/worry about it all. Newborn poop changes color and frequency quite often which is really unsettling for new parents. With the exception of prolonged periods of constipation I never really worried about poop with my other babies.

5. Nursing In Public – I used a cover up with all my babies, but I was really timid about nursing my first baby in public. Even when you aren’t physically exposed you still feel vulnerable. By the time my second baby was a few months old I really didn’t care if people knew what was going on beneath my cover up. I think you gain confidence in feeding your baby and you become less concerned with how someone else might react.

6. Sleep Deprivation – Don’t get me wrong, sleep deprivation is a given when you have a baby. With my first child, there was one night in particular I thought I felt my brain break from lack of sleep. I wondered whether or not I was actually going crazy. The second time around I was like, “Okay, crazy is the new normal.” I also had the experience to know that it wouldn’t last forever.

7. Sleep Training – Sleep training (if you choose to do it) feels like an exercise in torture the first time around. It’s hard to hear your baby cry while trying not to immediately rush in to comfort them. It’s still hard with subsequent children, but you realize that it’s worth a few really sucky days to have them sleep through the night for the rest of their lives. The first time, I kept my eyes glued to the video monitor, making sure my baby was physically alright.

By the second child, I knew he was physically fine even though he was unhappy about not sleeping next to me anymore. I know sleep training is not for everyone, but it gets easier once you have seen great results and know you’re the only one who will remember how tough it was.

8. Being On Time – Before you have kids you take for granted how easy it is just to grab your keys and get out of the house. Once you have kids you have to pack diapers, clothes, food, toys, a change of clothes and possibly medicine just to go on short trips. It can take far longer just to get in the car with kids let alone attempt to get to your destination on time.

Now that I have three kids, I don’t sweat being on time. I’ve figured out the trick to getting somewhere on time or early is just to assume you’re going to be late. It’s strange, but when I start the process of getting ready to go somewhere I already have it in my mind that we’re running late and it gets me out the door ahead of schedule to compensate.

9.Trying To Solve All Their Problems – With your first child, you think it’s your job to prevent every boo-boo, solve all conflicts with friends and make sure they don’t feel bad in any way. With subsequent kids, you learn to relinquish some control and discover that you need to let them find their own solutions.

Now, I simply point my kids in the right direction and let them work things out on their own. The biggest gift we can give our kids is the ability to cope with and solve their own problems.

10.The “I Hate You,” “You’re So Mean,” or “You Don’t Love Me” Rants – You never forget the first time your kid says one of the statements above. It stops your heart, you can’t breath and your blood runs cold. By the third kid, I don’t feel like I’m doing my job if I don’t hear it occasionally.

I’ve learned not to take it personally. As parents we have to make decisions our kids won’t always like, but that doesn’t mean we should avoid making them just so our kids will be happy with us. After the first kid, you recognize that they don’t mean it and it’s our job to be their parent, not their friend.

Many people say that it’s hardest going from one kid to two. I personally found it to be harder going from none to one. While the juggling and multitasking increases with multiple kids, so does your ability to go with the flow and trust your instincts.

What things got easier with your second, third or fourth child?

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama is the author of “So, You’re Broke? 18 Drama-Free Steps To A Richer Life.” She can be found writing for The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not busy caring for her three adorable kiddos. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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Why would I want to talk about something that happened ten years ago? Having a miscarriage haunts you. Out of the blue you sometimes get the urge to cry when you look at your children. Even though I’m in the business of writing about my experiences, I also write about things I know people have a hard time talking about.

Ten years ago, I wish more people had been talking about miscarriage. Maybe then I wouldn’t have felt so utterly alone. The subject of miscarriage was one tiny section in the back of my pregnancy books. It seemed like any woman who had experienced a miscarriage, kept her heartbreak to herself. It felt like there was some mysterious superstition like if you talked about it, you might jinx someone else’s pregnancy.

Never having heard anyone talk about miscarriage ten years ago made me think it could never happen to me. And then when it did, it made it nearly impossible to say the words out loud for a very long time. So here’s what I wish someone had told me about miscarriage.

1. It’s NOT Your Fault – I was a newlywed and I stumbled into pregnancy carefree. I was so happy to be pregnant. When I saw those first tiny drops of blood, I thought it was weird, but panic didn’t set in right away.Then I cried my way through an entire night while I begged my body to stop.

By the time my doctor called me with my test results, I already knew what he was going to tell me. The best thing he said was that there was nothing I did to cause it. Sometimes it just happens. It was pretty awful to have no control over my body. If you’ve experienced a miscarriage, know first and foremost – It’s NOT your fault.

2. You Are Still A Mother – The worst part of having an early miscarriage was the minimizing way some people talked about my loss. Some even said I was lucky it happened early on. NEVER ever say this to a woman who has suffered a miscarriage at any stage in her pregnancy. I didn’t feel lucky that I didn’t have more time to bond with my baby. I felt utterly broken by it.

I hadn’t told many people, but the few who knew didn’t have any personal experience and couldn’t help me navigate my feelings. To the world, nothing had changed and I wasn’t a mother because my belly wouldn’t be getting bigger and I’d never hold my child, but from the moment I saw those two lines on the test, I became a mother. Sometimes a child isn’t born into the world, but they are born in our hearts.

3. You Lost A Baby – If it’s just a pregnancy you lost, it sounds like you lost your car keys. No big deal, right? You’ll find them eventually. That’s how some people talk about miscarriage. But when you experience a miscarriage, you know that what you lost was a baby. You lost the possibility, the hope, and the joy of seeing your child.

4. It Can Cast A Shadow On Future Pregnancies – From the moment the doctor gave us the go-ahead to try again I was full steam ahead. But the foreboding never left. The first time I heard my child’s heartbeat during each of my subsequent pregnancies I cried. The ultrasound tech gave me a quizzical look when I teared up, seeing my little peanut on the screen for the first time and said, “This is your third?”

Perhaps by the third child, some women would feel confident, expecting to see this little life in there right where it belongs. But that first miscarriage cast a shadow of doubt over each pregnancy that came after. I took NOTHING for granted. I NEVER forgot that the very first time I went for an ultrasound, the tech wouldn’t even show me the screen.

5. You Realize How Miraculous Life Is – Maybe you had one miscarriage like me, or perhaps you’ve had many, but if you’re lucky enough to get to hold your living child one day, you know what a miracle it is that any of us are even here. We’re trained to expect pregnancy to end in a healthy baby, but that’s just not always the case. While it was heartbreaking at the time, losing my first baby gave me a profound gratitude for the three living children I’ve been blessed with.

6. Grief Isn’t Quantifiable – When I told my aunt about my miscarriage, she told me that at least it wasn’t as bad as my grandmother’s loss who lost two children in infancy. I get it- the need to quantify pain. Maybe it’s meant to help someone by putting it in perspective, but perspective is subjective.

I felt sorrow that I didn’t even know if my child was a boy or girl and never got to hold him/her or see their sweet little face. Let’s not get into loss quantifying conversations with each other. The only thing universal about grief is that we all feel it and nobody knows the depths of pain in our hearts except us.

7. You CAN Say It Out Loud – I avoided calling a good friend because I couldn’t say the words out loud. Just weeks before, I had happy news and the thought of saying, “I lost my baby” was too much to bear. The problem is that when you don’t talk about your loss, you isolate yourself from the people that could help you cope.

I’m not saying you need to announce your loss right away. I’m saying that in time, open yourself up to the idea that you are not alone in this and you can share your story. So many women have come before you. So many women can share their stories with you and provide comfort.

When we tell women not to announce their pregnancy until they are in their second trimester we are denying some women the only chance they will get to share their joy with their close friends and family. It also further isolates them while they are grieving a loss nobody knew about. Sometimes a loss comes in the second or third trimester.

What we need to do instead is shed light on the mysterious shroud of pregnancy. We need to know that sometimes miscarriage happens and we need to be supportive of each other if it does. We need to share our stories because having a baby is never guaranteed. It’s a blessing!

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

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One of the first things my mother said to me when I got pregnant was how terrific she felt while pregnant and how it would probably be the same for me. Well ladies, let me just slay that mythical unicorn right now and call it what it is, a big steaming pile.

My mother had Crohn’s disease so she was very sick prior to her pregnancy which probably had a lot to do with her feeling so good . As far as I can tell there wasn’t a whole lot of that during each of my three pregnancies. I’m not trying to scare you first time pregnant Mamas. I’m giving you the gift of truth. Pregnancy is rough. Your body is not your own and I want you to know those glowing, happy, feeling great mamas are NOT the norm.

The Secret Sauce of “Pregnancy Glow”

You want to know what that pregnancy glow consists of – sweat and oil. There’s a reason they say you’ve got a bun in the oven. You feel like an oven. I myself had the misfortune of having two of my babies in the miserable heat of summer (July and August) and hot doesn’t begin to describe it. Near the end of my August pregnancy, there were several occasions when the temperature reached above 70 degrees in the office I worked in and I had to be sent home because the heat made me so sick. Whatever the thermostat says, add at least 10 degrees due to your baby oven. The oil is not much better.

My skin has always been acne prone, but nothing could have prepared me for the horror show that my skin became during pregnancy with my daughters. All that extra estrogen coursing through my veins made literal mountains out of mole hills on my face. Though I did have fabulous skin when I was pregnant with my son.

You Never Forget Having PUPPS

But while I had no acne, I got the PUPPS (Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy) rash late in my pregnancy with him. If you’ve ever had this rash you don’t soon forget it. Imagine taking a whip, setting it on fire and striking it all over your body. Yup, that is the horror of PUPPS and for most women the only real cure is giving birth. For me it got worse AFTER I gave birth.

Every Symptom In The Book

I had almost every pain and problem of pregnancy you read about in the pregnancy bible, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” I spent the majority of my time with my head over a toilet bowl or finding concealed places on the side of the road to toss my cookies. I’ve marked my pregnancy territory over much of Orange and Sullivan Counties.

I had pelvic pain like nobody’s business. I had Braxton Hicks Contractions (a.k.a. practice contractions) so painful I couldn’t walk. So if your doctor, friend or your mom tries to convince you they are painless you can call shenanigans on them.

High Risk Mamas Are My Heroes

I count myself lucky that I only had the most common aches, pains, and challenges of pregnancy. Those mamas with high risk pregnancies, on bed rest for months, you ladies are my heroes. You are a testament to motherly love!

So why I am telling you about my pregnancy miseries? It’s not so you run screaming from the pregnancy test aisle at the drugstore. It’s to let you know that it’s normal. There’s nothing worse than wondering where the hell your glow is? Where is this happy go lucky pregnancy people speak of?

Let’s stop putting unrealistic expectations of pregnancy on new moms. Pregnancy and labor suck out loud. There’s no doubt about it.

Pregnancy Is All About The End Game

Pregnancy is the preview for the coming attraction of parenting. They’ll be many days of worry, many nights of misery and many moments of pure heart melting joy like when you hear your baby’s heartbeat for the first time or when you meet that little person who’s been using your bladder as a trampoline for 9 months. So breathe deep the smell of their little fresh-from-the-womb faces. That’s what makes it all worth it.

Pregnancy is all about the end game. I look at my kids and think, “What wouldn’t I have gone through to have you?” Most people wouldn’t willingly go through the emotional and physical upheaval that pregnancy puts you through without expecting the reward at the end.

The Real Unicorns

If you know a surrogate who selflessly goes through the misery of pregnancy, knowing they are walking away with the scars and no baby, well then my friend there just might be a real life unicorn in your midst. As for the myth of “easy” pregnancy, consider it slayed.

P.S. If you laughed while reading this post and are pregnant or just gave birth and peed a little let me just say, “Welcome to motherhood!”

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent Magazine when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This frugal, “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on Money Saving Mom and Mamapedia.

As October begins to wind down with everyone’s focus on Halloween festivities, my mind drifts toward the child that won’t be celebrating with us this year. I miscarried our first child on October 27, 2007. Coincidentally October is also Infant Loss and Miscarriage Awareness Month. One in four women will miscarry a baby. It is often difficult to talk about or share our experiences, but I have found 3 brave friends willing to do that here in their own words.

I often wonder how my life might look today with a 7-year old and a set of 4-year-old twins. Would I be different? Would my family be different? After I returned home and to work I didn’t find it hard to share my story with friends and family right away. I think it was more uncomfortable for other people because they didn’t always know what to say. Sometimes words just don’t seem adequate enough to express how we feel for someone else’s loss. After a while I didn’t want to talk about it because I didn’t want others to think I was seeking sympathy. But, I would share if another mom shared with me. Although after 7 years the emotions surrounding my miscarriage are far lighter than when I first experienced the loss, there is still an emptiness in my family circle.

When sharing my story, other moms have expressed difficulty in opening up about their loss, or have felt the subject “taboo.” Some are afraid of being judged, or dismissed. I am grateful for the women sharing their stories today.

Erin’s Story In Her Own Words:

On November 29th 2013, at 14 weeks pregnant, I gave birth to a sleeping little boy named River Eleusis. I have learned so much about life, death, myself, and those around me because of this journey. 

First, I learned that loss looks and feels different for everyone. And that’s ok. We are all different and we experience life differently. So of course we will experience hardship and loss differently. Some people cry for days, months, years. Some don’t cry at all. Some feel lost and confused. Some feel peace and comfort.

My journey through River’s birth was very different from what most people would expect for a mother who has just lost her child. I was filled with so much peace, comfort, and thankfulness for what I was given. There were moments in which I felt that I should be crying for days and days, because that’s what you’re supposed to do. But what I’ve learned is that I need to be true to what I am feeling and what I am experiencing. So if I was happy, I felt happy and completely embraced that emotion. If I was sad, I felt sad. If I was lost, I felt lost. I allowed each thought and emotion to run it’s course, in it’s own time. And I will continue to do so. 

Second, loss is a process and journey. It has been almost a year since River was born and I think of him daily. There are days that he brings me so much joy. There are nights that he fills my dreams while I sleep. There are days that I miss him and just want to hold him one more time. As my journey continues, different emotions come up. I’ve shared with others before that I didn’t just lose River. I lost my pregnancy. I lost feeling him kick. I lost giving birth to him. I lost feeding him. I lost having three children. There have been many losses through this process,and they will continue. I have learned to take each one as it comes and to fully feel the emotions that come with it.

The last lesson I want to share with you is that community is so important. My family and I were surrounded by people who truly care for us. We had a couple weeks of dinners prepared for us. We had people who watched our older children so we could freely feel and think. We had tons of messages filled with love, support, and hope; and we had people who we could share River with openly. The hardship about having such an amazing community was that there were quite a few close friends and family members that also had to move through the grieving process of losing River. It was hard for me to see their hurt and pain, but I knew that they were on a journey just like mine. They too needed to embrace the feelings and thoughts that came. I have learned so much from the people in my life and I am forever thankful for them.

Kelly’s story In Her Own Words:

I was pregnant with identical twin girls called Mono Mono or MoMo for short.  The odds were against us from the very beginning, but my girls defied the odds and we made it to the point of viability where medical intervention was possible.  I spent a month in the hospital on rest and monitoring.  Tragically despite our best efforts my girls passed away 2 days before their scheduled delivery.  My rare story took on quite a following with friends and family and my community and I started a blog to keep everyone up to date.  I continue it today to honor my girls and to share my healing process with others in the hopes it can help someone.   We were lucky that our story was so captivating for people.  We had a large community of people who followed our journey. I think since so many people knew all that we had been through made it easier for people to be there for us.

I also miscarried a child in the beginning of that same year at 11 weeks.  It was harder to find support then.  We had only announced the pregnancy a week or two before.  I really had no idea a miscarriage was possible for someone who had a healthy normal pregnancy with no issues before.  I felt foolish for announcing the pregnancy “too early.”  I was devastated and felt foolish for being devastated about a baby I never felt kick.  I felt like there was a much stronger sense of urgency to “move on” and “get over it.”  I don’t feel like either of our losses were taboo to talk about but I do feel like talking about miscarriage is at the top of the list of things people just don’t want to hear about.

My best advice for those who want to help: don’t offer advice or cliches to help fix us.  Saying things like, “everything happens for a reason,”  “you can always try again,”  and “thankfully it was early,” are more hurtful than helpful.  Stick to things that you truly mean:  “I’m sorry,”  “I love you,”  and “I am here for you to talk to, cry with, or whatever you need.” Offer specific ways to help.  Generic offers like, “Can I do anything for you?”  “Do you need anything?” can seem routine and not genuine.  So be more specific, “I’d like to come by this week to check on you.  Would you like me to bring you macaroni and cheese or that soup I made last time you came over?”  “I’m running some errands tomorrow.  Do you need anything from these stores I’m going to?”  When I was grieving it was incredibly hard to think about the normal day-to-day tasks, let alone be able to express to my friends what I needed help with.

My best advice to those who are grieving:  There is no end to grief.  It is a continuous and lifelong process.  There will forever be things that stir up emotions you thought you had long ago dealt with.  You will forever be healing and growing on this journey.  Don’t ever feel like there is this end platform you will stand on and say I’m 100% over it.  I’m done.  I’ve moved on.  I’m fine now.  Also, don’t feel guilty for having bad days.  Bad days just mean you loved your baby and the life you had imagined for them. It is OK to miss your child and it is normal.  Grieving is a journey and different for everyone.  So be kind to yourself and know that grief is an act out of love.

You can read more about Kelly’s journey through loss on her blog: www.momomommyme.blogspot.com

Anonymous In Her Own Words:

Having been told that I would not conceive without medical intervention, I never expected to return to the United States after a whirlwind tour of Europe and find myself carrying a 10-week-old baby.  I also never expected to be informed at the same time that I was in the process of miscarrying her twin.

I was under the care of a fertility team.  I tracked my cycle with scientific precision.  I bought and used pregnancy tests by the dozen.  I had been bleeding and spotting for weeks, phenomena I attributed to high-altitude air travel and a hectic schedule.  Scientifically, medically, and according to all other ‘ally’ words, this should not have happened to me.  Yet it did. For the first time in my life, I was unsure of myself – uncertain as to how I should feel and act in this situation. On the one hand, I was going to be a mom and receive the most beautiful gift of my life.  On the other hand, I was mourning a baby who would never know what life would be like.

Initially, all I felt was guilt and shame because I immediately thought that I could have and should have done something to protect both of my babies.  The fact that I did not know I was pregnant did nothing to minimize the feeling of loss I experienced.  Even though one of my babies never made it through pregnancy, he or she left a permanent mark on our family; his or her death was not the last word.

The next day, my husband and I went in for what would be the first of my weekly ultrasounds.  I heard it before I saw my sweet little gummy bear up on the screen.  A heartbeat!  A strong, glorious, melodious heartbeat.  And do you know what else?  I saw life.  Life is amazing, sad, and powerful all at the same time; it is a journey that sometimes ends far too soon, and in unpredictable and seemingly unfair ways.  I have come to view my loss as something that is woven into the fabric of our family, as it has shaped how I engage the world.

I once shared my story with a “friend,” who responded with disbelief because I failed to tell her about the miscarriage sooner.  After all, she suffered a loss, which was a seemingly positive home pregnancy test very early on that was not confirmed with further home or blood testing, and shared this with me as it was happening.  This “sanctimommy” (read the blog – it’s hysterical) taught me a very valuable lesson, and one that I want to share with you.  Your grieving process is yours and yours alone; only you can define whether sharing this aspect of your life helps you heal.  If reaching out to others and speaking about your loss doesn’t provide you with what you might need to begin living again, there is no rule saying you have to talk about it with others.  My husband and I are very comfortable in our decision to keep this information to ourselves.  And do you know what?  That’s ok.

Just remember that the day will come when you will all meet again for the first time.

 

Loss is such a personal journey, but not an experience you need to do alone. There is no formula to grieving. Whether you choose to share it with the world, or just your partner there is no right or wrong way to embark on that journey. With 1 in 4 women experiencing a loss, there are many of us who understand.

Have you survived the loss of a child or miscarriage? What was something that helped you in the healing process?

 

I sometimes wonder if the term “baby bump” was created specifically to “out” pregnant celebrities. Every tabloid cover is filled with pictures of celebs sporting the tiniest little nothing of a stomach with a circle around it questioning if she is in fact pregnant. Pregnancy creates some crazy speculation in people. Is she pregnant or just getting fat? When is she due? Is it a boy or a girl? Most of the time the concern is all in good fun or to avoid an embarrassing mistake like assuming a woman who has gained a few pounds is pregnant. I think the reason is this – the mystery and power of a woman’s body being able to give birth to another human being is just so crazy and awe-inspiring at the same time. But what nobody tell you is that “the bump” many times doesn’t go away just because the baby is out.

My husband with baby Hannah. Will created "the baby bump" as a non-verbal way to communicate "I love you" to our baby.

My husband with baby Hannah. Will created “the baby bump” as a non-verbal way to communicate “I love you” to our baby.

Those Awkward Teen Years

I’ve always been amazed at the moment right after giving birth where your stomach seems to deflate almost like a balloon as soon as the baby comes out. Then months later I look in the mirror and think, “yup, looks like my stomach deflated alright.” BUT I’ve learned to look once and then let it go. I’ve spent so many of my teen years feeling uncomfortable in my own skin; teased for being too skinny, being flat chested, having braces, etc. I wish I could go back in time and smack myself for not appreciating my body, for letting others make me feel bad about myself, and feeling like if only I could change x, y or z then I could actually be pretty. I wasted my youth, waiting for the stars of adolescence to align perfectly in order to be happy with myself.

Body Image Struggles

Anyone who knows me, knows that my 30’s have brought the era of the “I don’t give an F@#$.” It’s made life a lot more beautiful let me tell you. I no longer care what others think about me and there is something so incredibly freeing in that. But the more important question to ask is this, “How do I feel about me?” I’m ok with who I am as a person, but what about my appearance now that my body has undergone four pregnancies and three births. As I was typing I was tempted to say three pregnancies, but that wouldn’t be accurate. I lost my first pregnancy at only six weeks. For all my early angst about my body, losing my baby is the only time I ever really looked at my body and said “I hate you.”

Making A Deal

I literally begged it to stop bleeding out the baby I wanted so badly. It was the one moment in my life I really didn’t want to be in my own skin. So when I made it past the first trimester with my oldest daughter Hannah I made a silent agreement with my body that I wouldn’t criticize it anymore. It was giving me another chance, one I wouldn’t squander by lamenting my stretch marks. I remember my mother touching my very pregnant belly and saying, “My God Erin, you don’t have any stretch marks.” Well, that WAS the case until two weeks before I gave birth to my beautiful daughter. Then came Jay who weighed nearly 9 pounds at birth and brought the additional complication of gallstones for which I had to have my gallbladder removed when he was just 2 months old. So add to the sketch mark collection some surgical scars and a botched hernia repair which permanently changed my belly button from an innie to a halfie – still in but kinda trying to come out. By the time I got pregnant with Sydney I just stopped seeing any of it.

Bye Bye Bikini

I’ve really never been the bikini wearer, even when I was younger and could have pulled it off. But after I became a mom I knew I was saying goodbye to the possibility forever. So there are women out there who have babies and go on as if nothing has changed. My sister is a good example. Her vacation photos of her in a bikini at the beach with her three kids is nothing short of envious. BUT I think it’s the exceptions to the rule that screw women up forever. We look at them and think well if I only do x,y, or z I can look like that too. But pregnancy does things to a woman’s body that make it impossible to go back to the same body you once had. How many of us are still pining away for that pre-baby body? Maybe we always will, much like if we are blessed enough to live till we’re old we’ll lament our non-wrinkled faces.

The Human Growth Chart

But do me a favor ladies, next time you look at your body and see the markers of pregnancy don’t wish them away. Don’t think of them as battle scars. Instead see them as a growth chart. Trace each line of the growth of your precious baby or babies. There are women who would gladly sport your so-called “flaws” if it meant they had a baby in their arms. Jennifer Garner said it best when she named her post-baby bump Violet, Sam, and Sera. She’s proud of her body not for what it looks like, but for what it gave her and we could all take her lead on that.

 

The New Definition of “Baby Bump”

So if I may submit for your consideration a new definition of “baby bump.” When Hannah was a baby, my husband invented a silent communication of “I love you” to our child. He leaned his head towards hers and she did the same, culminating in “the baby bump.” It’s a tradition we’ve carried on with our son and soon it will be Sydney’s turn to learn “the baby bump.” Because of my husband’s invention my kids have been saying “I love you” long before they could talk. I’m willing to lend you our family tradition if you want to try it with your babies. Let’s reclaim “the bump” in the name of love and gratitude for the precious gift of life and start loving our bodies because no matter how “flawed” anyone thinks they are, they are pretty freaking awesome!

Hurry Up And Wait

On Tuesday night July 22, 2014, the day before my due date, I went into labor. There is nothing fun about labor and in my case, nothing predictable about it either. I did what I was supposed to, according to the doctor, which was wait for my contractions to become very regular. Guess what? They didn’t. But the pain was worse than my worst Braxton Hicks contractions so I knew this was not a drill. They hovered between 3 1/2, 4 and 1 minute apart, never becoming consistent. I almost didn’t call in reinforcements (aka my labor coach – my sister-in-law, and my awesome childcare team – my neighbor and friend Allison and my step father Tim). Luckily pain is the ultimate dictator. It forced me to decide that waiting for a rhythm that wasn’t coming, wasn’t doing me any good.

Early Labor
What early labor looked like for me.

Will sleeping
What early labor looked like for my husband.

Labor Not By The Book

I had heard pleasant theories that subsequent labors would be shorter and easier. I got the easier part right and the shorter part oh so very wrong. I went into labor at 9 pm and didn’t have her till 5:08 pm the next day. I can tell you one thing after one 12 hour delivery and one 10 hour, I sure as hell didn’t see a 20 hour labor coming. My labor stalled at 4 cm and then again at 6 cm so I had to be given Pitocin to move things along.

Doula In Disguise

Julia Doula
My sister-in-law Julia really helped me get through
all my labors, including this one.

I’m pretty proud of myself for reaching a new level of pain tolerance, and perhaps I can chalk that up to my body’s experience by my third delivery. I was up with headphones on dancing around my room for several hours trying to get gravity to help things along. At some point I had to admit that even though it made me feel better to be up and doing something, it just wasn’t moving things along. So after the first 10 hours, I got my epidural, which I had forgotten hurts like a B@$#%. It truly was worth it though. I got to avoid the pain of them putting in the catheter and the more painful contractions that follow once they break your water and/or start Pitocin. I know there are women that can go natural, but I know it’s not for me. Someone told me to get a doula after I wrote my post Post-Traumatic Labor Disorder. What I discovered was that I had one all along in my sister-in-law Julia.

Transition
If you’ve never seen it before – this is what the
transition phase of labor looks like.

Her words were steady, reassuring and yet insistent. I listened and trusted her and it paid off big time. When laying down she noticed my contractions weren’t as strong and urged me to sit as much as I was comfortable doing so. She talked to the nurse who told her that when the baby’s heart beat dips slightly with each contraction, it’s because the baby is pushing down, working with the contraction. So she was able to reassure me that the baby was working just as hard as I was to come into the world.

When transition pain hit, she urged me to breathe even though I felt like there was no air left in my lungs. She talked to the baby and rubbed my belly. She told me I was doing good when I felt like she was never going to come out. Can you believe they had a lock down drill take place while I was in transition? I thought they’d never come in and check me and I had a pretty good feeling I was ready to push. The only thing quick about my labor was the pushing. I was so exhausted and determined that I did one “practice push” and refused to stop until she was out.

Welcome To The World – Sydney Alexa Grace

Sydney Alexa Grace
Sydney Alexa Grace, born at 5:08 pm July 23, 2014.

Mommy & Sydney
Love at first sight.

Daddy & Sydney
The proud Papa!

Recovery in the hospital is not restful, but I’m super happy to be home now with my new daughter – Sydney Alexa Grace. She was 7lbs, 9 oz, 21 inches long and the most beautiful thing I ever saw. I wept with joy the second they placed her on my stomach. My theory popped into my head clear as bell – you don’t forget the pain of childbirth, what you do is look at your children and think, “What wouldn’t I do for you?” Looking at my little peanut that’s exactly how I feel.

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My sister-in-law Julia holding Sydney for the first time.

DSC00189
My Step-Dad Tim made an exception to his no
holding newborns rule.

So the first day and night home has been all feedings, diapers and lots of sleeping. I’m thankful that even though my body would never let me nap except during pregnancy or sickness it has allowed me to nap with my daughter. I’m so thankful I enrolled my older children in camp and that my husband is home for a week to help me. I just couldn’t have done any of it without my husband Willie, my sister-in-law Julia, my neighbors and dear friends Sean and Allison who took care of my older kids, and my step father who hung out for the duration and reminded me how much my mom would have loved the baby if she was still around to see her.

Sisters
Big sister Hannah and little sister.

Jay Kissing Sydney
Big brother Jayden loves giving her kisses.

Bringing Sydney home
We got to bring her home Friday,
July 25, 2014.

We are all in love with her and I’m looking forward to all the wonderful ways she’ll change me as a person and a mother. I have no idea how I’m going to handle the challenges of having three kids, but I’m ready.

So I had another blog post in mind, but all I can truly think about is – when is this baby going to come? Somebody said to my husband the other day, “Wow, it seems like your wife’s pregnancy just flew by.” Better that they said it to him than me, because I would have said, “Oh HELL no it didn’t.” Even my husband said to me, “It feels like you’ve been pregnant forever.” This is what happens when you get to this late stage in the game; it’s now time to sit back and wait for labor to start. I feel like an egg about to hatch or a bomb waiting to go off.

38 weeks pregnant
Me two weeks ago (38 weeks pregnant). Due July 23rd.

It could happen anytime, anywhere like while picking up my kids from camp, in the grocery store aisle, or in the middle of the night. I imagine all the possible scenarios and it’s driving me nuts. Being 39 weeks pregnant in the middle of July has its own challenges. I thank God that I have central air conditioning in my house or else I’d be in a constant state of misery. I pass the time reading birth stories online, cleaning my house, or whatever I can think of to take my mind off my dread and impatience of my imminent labor. I think pregnancy is designed this way so that you get so sick of being pregnant that you think, “Ok fine, bring on labor if it means that I can just roll over in bed at night again or won’t have to waddle around everywhere.” In an effort not to focus on the waiting game, here is my distraction game plan.

First day of camp
Camp has been a great experience for the kids
and it will keep them entertained during the early
weeks with a newborn when I can’t do as many fun
summer activities with them. I was super lucky that
my school used a grant to cover tuition for the first 150
kids who signed up. You can bet Discount Diva sent her
applications out pronto.

1. Get out of the house – I’m going to try and get out of my house as much as possible. Whether that means going to a friend’s house, taking the kids to the town pool, or just going to the library or grocery store.  The less I’m inside the better. Why? Because at home I’m surrounded by my stockpile of diapers and unused baby gear just waiting for my daughter’s arrival. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t plan on heading too far from home just in case.

Jay town pool
It’s been fun watching Jay get really brave in the pool.
He’s been trying to swim underwater this year.

Hannah passed her 5 ft. swim test at camp so I take my
water babies to the pool as much as I can before baby girl
arrives.

2. Redirect my focus– With everyone who sees my massive belly asking me when I’m due, it’s going to be challenging. I’m going to try and work with Jay to get him ready for Kindergarten. My library has these great new literacy kits for kids ages 2-4. I picked one up for Jay and it’s filled with books, puzzles and phonics cards to help get him ready for Kindergarten. He’s actually enjoying it, even if it’s only for 5 minutes at a clip which is the limit of his attention span at the moment. So I’ll be working with him on his letter and letter sounds while I still have time to devote to it before the baby comes and demands a lot of my attention.

library kits
Fallsburg Library got a grant to put together these
awesome literacy kits for young children filled with
books, puzzles and games that teach phonics and
foster a love of learning. Read the other reasons I love
the library.
 

3. Vow to stay off online contraction timers – While they do come in handy for keeping track of the length and frequency of contractions, when you’ve had as many bouts of false labor as I have they just frustrate the heck out of you. The truth is, this isn’t my first trip to labor town and what they say is true – When you’re in labor you know it. They’re referring to active labor of course, not early labor which is easily mistaken for Braxton Hicks (in my case many times now). When active labor starts, contractions take your breath away and it’s like time stops while you’re having one. You can’t walk, talk or focus on anything around you.

Diaper stockpile
My stockpile of diapers (bought on sale with coupons
of course) and baby gear sits ready and waiting.

So while I hate this waiting game, I do realize that this is what I signed up for. Remember my baby fever blogger-vention? Sure there is something to be said for scheduled inductions or C-sections and being able to plan for childcare for your other children or just being better prepared, but there is also something magical about letting your baby choose their own birthday. It may not be convenient as is often the case and I struggle not to freak out whenever my husband is more than 20 minutes from home, but I know that I can’t appease my inner control freak.

Labor and childbirth is a roller coaster. Once you board, there’s no getting off till the ride is over.  

So if you’re in the homestretch like me and playing the waiting game, take hope ladies; the ride will start at some point. I have mere days on the clock so wish me luck and hopefully next time you hear from me I’ll be a mommy of three.

I’m not sure who coined the phrase “babymoon,” but this “honeymoon” type getaway before the baby arrives has become really popular. When I was about six months pregnant with my daughter Hannah, my husband and I went away for a short trip to Cape May, NJ. Since my son was born when my daughter was only a little over two-years-old we didn’t have a chance to get away because I didn’t want to leave my daughter. With this pregnancy we went away for a short family babymoon camping at Pine Cradle Lake Campground in Pennsylvania last week. If you’re a regular reader you know how much I value the life lessons that camping instills in my kids and how much fun it is for my family. BUT with that said, I had to toss out my idea of roughing it at 9 months pregnant and opt to go “glamping” for the first time ever.

IMG_20140701_190234

In the past I would have scoffed at sleeping in a fully loaded cabin with a kitchenette and bathroom, but being so close to my due date there were certain things I knew I could not forgo. Here’s my top 5 key ingredients to have a successful babymoom. 

1. Go In Your Second Trimester – If it’s possible try to plan your trip for your second trimester. This is usually the best of the three in terms of feeling good. Morning sickness is probably all but gone and your belly is not so large that it’s causing sleep and digestion issues like in the last trimester. Plus it’s after the usual time frame of miscarriage has passed in the first trimester and before you need to worry about air travel or going away too far from home when your in your last trimester.

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2. Plan For Your Comfort– We can’t all afford to stay at a swanky luxury resort, but where possible make sure your living accommodations meet the sometimes high demands of a pregnant mama. I had to leave the tent at home and pay more for a cabin with a bathroom for the sake of my three nightly trips to the bathroom thanks to being so close to my due date. I also sucked it up and let my husband rent a golf cart so we could explore our campground without me having to stay behind or waddle slowly after my kids since my Braxton Hicks kicked up every time I tried to walk long distances. I also really appreciated having an air conditioner and a fan in my cabin. Temperature control is a big deal when you’re growing a little person which makes you feel at least 10 degrees warmer than everyone else.

Camping

3. Make It A Family Affair – Some people really like the idea of getting away without the kids if this isn’t your first baby, but I totally recommend making it a family trip. Maybe it’s because I have so few family members that I could leave my kids with, but I really loved that this trip was a special time and our last one as a family of four. Next year my baby girl will be with us and that will be special too, but my kids can look back at photos of this trip and remember the special times we had with each of them before the baby comes and demands a lot of mommy’s and daddy’s attention. My kids loved playing at the pool and fishing with daddy and I’m so glad they were with us.

Daddy and Hannah Fishing

4. Scope Out The Local Hospital – If you’re leaving the state, scope out the local hospital and how far away it is. You could even print directions from your babymoon destination so you have the quickest route ready to go if the need should arise. It also might be a good idea to bring a copy of your medical records with you. Granted I went away with only three weeks to go till my due date and wanted to be prepared if my daughter decided to come a little early, but pregnancy can be unpredictable and even if nothing goes wrong it’s nice to know you can get help quickly should you experience anything that causes you concern with your pregnancy while you’re away.

Daddy and Jay Fishing

5. Relax – So many times you come back from vacation more exhausted than when you left. Why? Because you try to cram a year’s worth of fun into a week or less and all that running from place to place and scheduling outings can be a kind of work all it’s own. That’s why I like camping. It sort of slows time down and there’s no need to run from place to place. Shoot for all inclusive destinations and keep activities to a minimum. It might be tempting to do a bunch of activities you won’t have time for once the baby arrives, but I’ll tell you the only thing you’ll REALLY wish you did more of before the baby arrives is rest and sleep.

I wish you all a happy and healthy babymoon if you’re planning one. Feel free to share where you went and what you loved about it.

As I mentioned last week, I’m closing in on D-Day with just about three weeks till I give birth to my third child and the anxiety about going through labor again is kicking in. If you weren’t completely traumatized by my last post about the top 10 things nobody warned you about labor, then read on. If not, hopefully it’s not to late to consider surrogacy.

The closer I get, the more my memory comes back in healthy anxiety-producing flashbacks, but I know the crazy body changes don’t stop once the baby is out. If you’re a first time mom you may want to turn back now, but I always aim to prepare with the truth and dose it with just enough humor so that you don’t go running for the hills. So here are the top 5 hilarious and weird changes your body goes through after your baby is born.

1. Am I Bleeding To Death? – The nurses warned me about the size of the blood clots I would see when I went to the bathroom, but that still didn’t prepare me for that one massive clot that had me frantically pushing the call button, sure I was bleeding to death. I can’t speak to the C-section mamas because I never had one, but massive clots and heavy bleeding are pretty standard after giving birth. Invest in the most ginormous pads you can find, and granny panties you don’t mind throwing away if they get super gross. I snagged a few extra pairs of those mesh disposable undies from the hospital. Dermoplast spray and Tuck’s pads (witch hazel) are tremendously comforting, especially if you’ve had stitches. They also give you a squeeze bottle for warm water rinses which also helps. Be prepared for your bathroom routine to take twice as long as usual between all these different steps.

2. Sweat Much? – I don’t consider myself someone who sweats a lot, even while exercising so I was shocked to wake up days after giving birth with damp and matted hair, completely covered in sweat. Nobody ever warned me that this is how your body gets rid of a lot of the excess fluid it takes on during pregnancy. Wear some loose clothing and be prepared to change the sheets. It’s not a matter of being too hot so you just have to go along for the ride on this one.

 

3. Well HEEELLLOOO Dolly – I know some women would be thrilled to wake up one day with their boobs double their normal size. However, nobody quite prepares you to suddenly find yourself as busty as Dolly Parton. On about the third post-pardom day (it could be the second or fourth) your milk will come in and when it does holly crap does it come in. Your breasts will feel huge, hot, and hard as rocks. It’s not the most pleasant feeling as you can imagine, so invest in some ice packs to stuff into your bra and heavy duty nursing pads. Some women swear by putting cabbage leaves in their bras, but I just don’t know if I can get past the idea of cooking cabbage in my bra. I hate the smell of it cooking in my house let alone having it on me. But hey whatever works.

If you’re breastfeeding keep feeding your baby, but don’t worry if they stop frequently and cough or choke a little. Unlike the manufactured nipples you buy for bottles, yours only come in one flow and it’s your baby that adjusts by slowing down while eating and yes, spitting or choking a little. Don’t worry, you aren’t drowning them. The day your milk comes in you will have way more supply then your baby could possibly eat so don’t force them to drink more than they can handle. Instead pump just enough to take the edge off. But be warned, pump too thoroughly and your body will just produce more, prolonging engorgement. It’s a perfect supply and demand system. Instead try ice packs and a couple of IB profin and know that the worst of it will be over by tomorrow.

4. Cry It Out – Your baby isn’t the only one who’ll be crying when you bring him or her home. Your body is going through the process of dealing with a tremendous flood of hormones after giving birth. You may cry or feel sad for seemingly no reason. With my first child I remember having a conversation with my grandmother the day I brought her home. She asked me if I was going back to work and when I said yes she said, “Why? You wanted that baby so much.” Now I love and miss my grandmother dearly and in her defense she had no idea that I had a miscarriage before getting pregnant with my daughter and how desperate I was to get pregnant again as soon as the doctor gave us the green light.

But it was the spark that started a two week long cry fest. I would hold her in my arms and look at her little face and wonder how I could possibly hand her over to strangers at a daycare in a few short months. Because of my grandmother I hatched my job-share plan so I could work part-time and my mother could watch her. It’s an arrangement that worked brilliantly for four years before my company entered into a merger. I am so grateful to my grandmother, whose well-meaning but painful question gave me the courage and creativity to create the work/life balance I wanted and of course to my boss and family who supported me.

I can’t speak to Postpartum Depression, except to say that mood swings, sadness, and crying are normal right after birth but if you keep experiencing symptoms long after the baby arrives you should seek the advice of your doctor. It’s a real thing and there is help for it, so don’t be afraid to ask.

 

5. Incontinent? That Depends – Ok so I’m entitled to the occasional corny joke. I really didn’t expect this symptom after I had my first child. I think it’s because I pushed for an hour to bring her into the world, that I temporarily lost some feeling and I had no idea I had to pee until I was practically peeing my pants. It was all I could do to find a safe place to put my daughter down and run to the bathroom. The doctor assured me it was perfectly normal, but I guess this is another reason those ginormous pads come in handy and the granny panties you don’t mind tossing in the trash if need be.

And you thought it only took blood, sweat and tears to bring your baby into the world. Well, you still experience them after delivery as well. Whoever said pregnancy was a beautiful thing was never a pregnant woman. Sure the miracle of growing a baby inside you is pretty awesome, but all the weird changes that happen to your body can be pretty weird, gross, and scary. I always tell people you don’t forget how hard pregnancy and childbirth are, but you look at your child and think, “What wouldn’t I have gone through for you?” It’s a good mantra to repeat when they hit about age three and you want to tear your hair out, but that’s for another day and another post.

What was the most surprising thing your body went through after having a baby?

 

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