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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!

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I had a different, fun little piece ready to share, but when I opened my Facebook page my news feed was full of posts about Robin Williams’ suicide. My heart broke. Not because Hollywood lost a great actor, but as humans we lost a great one– his kindness, compassion, wisdom and joy now gone from this earth.

Depression is a scary, unpredictable beast. There are several members of my family who live with this every single day. From seasonal affect disorder to bipolar depression to clinical depression. Not everyone who suffers from depression talks about it or even appears depressed. Many people with depression are capable of getting up every day, going to work and appearing happy and complete. No one else hears that inner voice convincing them suicide is their only option.

No one is immune- not even moms. After hearing the heartbreaking news about Mr. Williams, I thought about moms who may suffer from depression. How many moms get up every day and go through the motions of taking care of their families and leave themselves last on the list? How many moms won’t reach out for fear of judgment or losing their kids?

I often feel lonely in my mothering journey. There are few adults to speak with or to help navigate the difficult days. Being at the service of two demanding toddlers reminds me how difficult the days are compared to my carefree life before kids. All my single friends have moved away or feel they are intruding when asking to spend time with me. My mom friends are just as busy as me. When we get together there’s not much time for bonding between interruptions. Social media is great to keep in touch, but there are days I don’t have time to connect. Some days exhaustion overrides any emotion I have, and I go to bed feeling numb.

I do not have depression, but often feel uneasy about sharing with my friends the loneliness of my day. I don’t want to burden them and so I keep quiet. I wonder how many moms with depression feel the same way. Loneliness itself does not make a mom depressed, but living in a silent, lonely state for a prolonged amount of time can certainly contribute to depression.  According to an online article at OCfamily.com “Statistics show that twice as many women suffer from depression as men, and experts say moms with children at home are a particularly vulnerable group. Women ages 25 to 44 are the hardest hit with clinical depression, the years when most moms are raising their children … Just being a mother does not cause depression, says Dr. Stotland. She treats many depressed and anxious mothers who are overworked, under pressure and do too much with too little support or help with tasks such as childcare.”
“It isn’t that women want to have it all, it’s that women have to do it all. Nobody says that a man with a job and children wants to have it all,” says Dr. Stotland.”

Suffering in silence is not a safe way to live. If you think you may be depressed, have postpartum depression, or maybe you have difficulty finding joy in life please speak to your doctor right away. Please don’t worry that someone will think less of you, or that you can’t be a good mom. Taking care of your own needs is part of being a good mom. Don’t worry about what other people will think, please just worry about your own health. No one will think you’re being selfish. If they do, Whatever! They are not living your life. Most of all please don’t think suicide is your best option. It will end your pain. It will also end your joy and your tomorrows. It will leave a big whole in this world and in the lives of the people who love you. No one can replace you and the important role you have as Mom.

Dear Lonely Mom,

Please reach out.

Please call me for coffee.

I won’t judge you.

Please know you are not alone.

Love,

The Whatever Mom

robin williams suicide hotline

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

images

http://www.afsp.org/ Find local resources and resources to cope with a suicide loss, and to educate yourself on the risk factors and signs of suicide.

You made it! After months of preparation, and hours or days of labor, your baby has arrived and you are both resting peacefully in your recovery room. Or perhaps not so peacefully. For most vaginal deliveries, you and baby will be at the hospital for 48 hours after delivery, and for a cesarean you can expect to spend five days. Even though it is “only” a few days, the discomforts of being away from home can sometimes be discouraging. Here are some practical tips to make your stay at the hospital a little bit more comfortable.
newborn hospital

Pack comfortable clothes. And yes, ladies, I mean maternity clothes. Sorry to say, but it takes nine months to add the baby weight to your body. Delivering an 8 pound baby won’t make it all disappear right away. Pack comfortable lounging clothes to wear in the hospital. You’ll feel a lot more comfortable in ‘real’ clothes, rather than a hospital gown that makes you feel like a sick patient. Good options may be loose-fitting yoga pants, or maternity leggings. If you plan on nursing, you may want to bring a couple of nursing bras or tanks for convenience. And don’t forget socks and slippers! The hospital gets chilly, particularly the tile floor. (Note: for your own safety, you should only walk around with non skid slippers, or slipper socks. The floors are not only cold, but very slippery if you are only wearing socks).

Bring your own pillow. Hospital beds aren’t known for their comfort, pillows included. Have your partner or another family member bring your favorite pillow from home. This will help you get better sleep (when you can), and make your temporary stay feel more like home.

Allow visitors, or not. Depending on your own personality and how you are feeling, you may or may not be up for visitors at the hospital. Personally, I was feeling pretty isolated and lonely with no one around and wished I had more visitors! Whatever your desires are, make them known to your immediate family to prevent impromptu visits if you feel like just spending some alone time.

Pack snacks. If you thought you were hungry when you were pregnant, be prepared for something altogether new as you start producing breast milk. The first six weeks postpartum my appetite was insatiable. Many local hospitals are pretty good about feeding their pregnant and newly delivered mommies well, but it doesn’t hurt to pack some healthy non perishable snacks from home. Also, no one knows your taste better than you.

Bring your own toiletries. There’s nothing like being able to take a shower or bath in your own home, but brining your own supplies from home is the next best thing. Pack your favorite shampoo and conditioner, body soap, toothpaste, deodorant, and even lotions if you like. Although the hospital will have generic items on hand if you forget, having your own may make you feel better physically and mentally.

Take care of yourself ‘down there.’ If you’ve had a vaginal delivery, odds are you are going to be sore or swollen in your perineal area. This is even more true if you’ve had an episiotomy or tearing of any kind. The hospital and nurses will provide you with large sanitary napkins and disposable undergarments for the duration of your stay. If you want to bring your own underwear from home, I would definitely recommend bringing the granny panties that you wouldn’t mind getting stained and thrown out. You’ll also be given a peri bottle that you can fill with warm water to rinse your vulva with during urination. Use this, and bring it home with you. It will feel like heaven. If you do have any stitches, make sure you know how to take care of yourself once you get home, and know any signs of infection.

Do keep in mind, also, that you have the right to check out of the hospital early if you feel that you and baby are well enough to be home without the monitoring of the medical staff. That is a decision only you and your family can make with your doctor. 

Happy birthing!

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