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10 ways to get ready for your newborn before baby arrives ?

Having a baby is going to blow your mind (in a good way). Getting prepared is one of the best ways to welcome the most awesome transformation of your life.


Here are 10 ways to prepare for postpartum during your third trimester.

1. Arrange those cute clothes.

Really important question: Why are baby clothes so stinking cute? Another really important question: How many baby outfits should you have for a newborn?

Newborn clothes typically fit full-term babies up to 8 pounds, and then once baby lengthens and chubs up, she will transition to 3-month outfits. Pro tip from experienced moms: Don’t overdo your newborn wardrobe, as baby often grows faster than you think. (Think around 1 month, or less.)

You might want to wash baby’s clothes in baby-safe detergent (try The Honest Company’s laundry detergent). Baby’s skin is highly sensitive after birth, so it helps to make sure clothes are freshly laundered with gentle ingredients.

To bring baby home, it helps to have the newborn basics. Here’s our newborn clothes shopping list:

  • 5 onesies (short or long sleeve, depending on season)
  • 5 soft pants, ideally with footies
  • 5 sets of socks
  • 4 sleepers (fleece or heavyweight for winter, lighter for summer)
  • 3 sweaters or layering items
  • 1 sleep sack
  • 1 all-purpose swaddle
  • 1 crazy-cute-OMG-I-can’t-wait-for-baby-to-wear-this outfit splurge ?

2. Think about your postpartum wardrobe, too.

Postpartum recovery is a crucial time for new moms.

You will still look pregnant for some time after baby is born—it’s normal!—but your body has unique needs that differ from pregnancy, so it helps to get your wardrobe ready. First, if you’re breastfeeding you’ll want shirts that have easy access for nursing. You’ll also want a few nursing bras. On the bottom side, you’re likely to need roomy pants to make way for your post-pregnancy hips and belly, as well as pads or adult diapers in the early postpartum.

Here’s our postpartum wardrobe shopping list:

  • 3 nursing-friendly postpartum shirts
  • 3 nursing bras with various features (sports bra, structured bra, sleeping bra)
  • 2 pairs of roomy lounge pants
  • 1 recovery robe
  • 1 postpartum yoga pant to smooth belly
  • 1 mama’s-still-got-it outfit that makes you feel amazing (size up from pre-pregnancy)

3. Set up a nursery nook.

The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that baby rooms with mom for the first months of life; moms love that they don’t have to go far to care for baby during those middle-of-the-night feedings. When you set up a small nursery nook in your bedroom, you can keep the decor simple and keep baby close.

For the closeness of co-sleeping without the stress, try a co-sleeper next to your bed. Read more on inspired ways to make a small space for baby.

4. Install the car seat safely.

Installing the car seat that you’ll tote your baby home in means that it’s really happening! It also means you’re a responsible mama who can totally be trusted to raise a tiny human from infancy to adulthood.

Buy the right seat.

Consumer Reports’ top-performing car seats for infants include:

The products review site also puts out a guide to car seat safety, with full rankings available here. (Note: Available to subscribers only.)

Install it properly.

Here’s what you need to know about safely installing and using infant car seats, from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):

Make sure it’s rear-facing.

All infants should ride rear-facing starting with their first ride home from the hospital. For infants, rear-facing-only seats and rear-facing convertible seats are best.

And tightly in the back seat.

On where to install the seat, according to the AAP: “It may be best to ride in the middle of the back seat. However, it is sometimes difficult to install a car safety seat tightly in the middle if the vehicle seat is narrow or uneven.”

“Also, most vehicles do not have lower anchors for the middle seating position. It is safest to put the car safety seat in a position where you can install it tightly with either the lower anchor system or the seat belt; in some cases, this may be on either side of the back seat rather than the middle.”

Check out the video below for more details on how to safely install a rear-facing infant car seat, from the AAP.

Check your work.

You’ll want to make sure you install the seat properly before you head to the hospital, so consider having your work checked by a Child Passenger Safety Certified Technician (find a location near you). It can be trickier than it looks—and it’s crucial that you get it right.

The Car Seat Ladies, a doctor-nurse (and mother-daughter!) team with deep expertise in car seat safety, are also a great resource for specific questions you may have. They offer one-on-one appointments in Baltimore and NYC, and have a huge range of tips and insights for keeping your little one safe.

This video below on safely securing your baby into her car seat is also helpful.

5. Stock up on easy-to-make power meals.

Make-ahead frozen meals

You have so many options when it comes to prepping tasty eats in advance of baby’s arrival (check out BuzzFeed’s 23 fave make-ahead meals for new moms to freeze).

But you don’t have to just stock up on frozen food—you can also fill your shelves (and freezer) with power foods that will help provide great nutrition during the early days of breastfeeding.

Healthy “fast” food

Nutritionist and wellness expert Shannan Monson recommends that you stock your whole house with healthy “fast” food. Premade smoothies, protein shakes, frozen egg quiches, grilled chicken, all the prepped food you can get your hands on.

Being prepared with quick things you can eat with one hand while nursing a baby in the other will save you from skipped meals and cookie cravings the rest of the day.

You can also stock the ingredients to make hearty, healthy lunch and dinner bowls to power you through the early days of breastfeeding. Don’t overcomplicate it—just rely on shelf-stable grains and frozen veggies to power you through and mix in whatever cheese, produce and beans you have on hand.

Grain bowls

Need a quick and healthy dinner idea? @nutritionsimply here again with my favorite I-forgot-to-plan-and-we-need-to-eat dinner idea. I usually take 1⃣2⃣3⃣ and blend for baby food and voila! Din. Din. Tag a mama who'd love more quick dinner ideas and spread the love 😘 Farmer's Market Grain Bowl (serving suggestions are for 1) 1⃣ The Grain Base: quinoa, farro, wild rice, amaranth, buckwheat, etc.-- 1 cup cooked or about the size of a baseball 2⃣ The Veggie Toppings: dark leafy greens, crunchy cruciferous veggies, starchy root veggies (you can’t go wrong here--1 cup cooked or about the size of a baseball 3⃣ The Fruit Toppings: mangos, cherries, pears, and other soft, sweet fruits--¼ cup or about the size of an egg 4⃣ The Cheese Toppings: soft cheese like feta, goat cheese, and Brie are my favorites, but hard, finely shredded cheese work as well (use nutritional yeast or goat’s cheese for dairy-free option--1 ounce or about the size of a pair of dice 5⃣ The Nut Garnish: all nuts and seeds, but we tend to go for soft crunchy nuts like walnuts, peanuts, cashews, macadamia nuts and pine nuts-- 1 ounce or about the size of a pair of dice Dress with 1 TB each olive oil and balsamic vinegar or dressing of choice and serve warm for a hearty and nourishing quick weeknight meal.

A photo posted by Motherly (@mother.ly) on

And smoothie bowls

Just like the grain bowl, smoothie bowls are easy to whip up for breakfast and dessert as long as you’ve loaded up your freezer with organic fruits and berries—and stocked your cabinets with hearty ingredients like goji berries, coconut flakes, nuts and chia seeds.

Um, YUM.

6. Get the right breastfeeding support.

We know as first-time moms it’s easy to focus on overcoming labor and delivery, but the truth is that while labor is intense, it usually lasts just a day or two.

Your breastfeeding relationship will be one of the most demanding parts of life as a new mama. As Motherly’s expert lactation counselor Megan O’Neill shares:

Breastfeeding truly is one of the most unnatural natural things you will do. Mama needs to learn, and baby needs to learn. 

Learn the basics.

For some women, breastfeeding is easy. For others, it’s super demanding. Take the time to learn the basics of how breastfeeding works in new motherhood, and how often you can expect to nurse.

Lactation consultant Wendy Wisner provides an overview of what to expect as a new mama.

Take a class.

We love the idea of taking a class with popular breastfeeding expert and lactation counselor Lindsay Shipley to learn the basics so you’re not so surprised when you’re attached at the boob to your little one 24/7.

Find a breast pump.

Figure out how you can get (or rent) a breast pump. Many hospitals, birth centers, lactation consultants and mother resource centers offer rentals, but they can get pricy.

Look for a breast pump ahead of time instead of waiting till baby arrives and scrambling to pick up and pay for it. YummyMummy, a breastfeeding supply store, offers rental through its website and works with your insurance.

Get 1-on-1 support.

Ask your OB, your girlfriends or your future pediatrician’s office who they recommend. You might also want to find lactation consultants who can visit you in-house in case you have tricky issues around feeding (like some of us at Motherly did!) that require support at home.

Some lactation consultants, like Lindsey Shipley, even offer Skype sessions.

Locate a support group.

La Leche League, a breastfeeding advocacy group, offers support groups in all 50 states to help you bond with other mothers learning how to breastfeed, or find other women figuring out how to make breastfeeding work. Find one near you.

7. Prep stations around your house.

There will be a ton of diaper-changing and baby-feeding (not to mention newborn-snuggling) going on all over your house in the next few months, so we love the idea of making it easy on yourself by creating stations in several key places.

For a nursing station, you’ll want:

Where you’ll need it:

You’ll likely find several comfy spots in your home that work for feeding after baby arrives—likely in your bedroom and living room—so it’s easy to have a cluster of goodies in each station, especially if you’re going upstairs and downstairs.

For your diaper changing station, you’ll want:

  • Size 1 diapers (oh so teeny tiny and cute!)
  • Wipes (those little behinds are so precious you’ll barely mind cleaning them, we promise!)
  • Diaper cream (we’re big fans of The Honest Company Healing Balm)
  • A changing pad (either a full-size changing pad or a compact changing kit)

Where you’ll need it:

You’ll likely be changing diapers in baby’s nursery, in your bedroom and in the living room/playroom (not to mention on the go around town), so depending on your home’s layout, you might consider setting up baskets full of diaper goodies in each location. The Diaper Genie caddy makes it easy to organize, but any basket will do.

For a bathroom station, you’ll want:

We know it can feel overwhelming to find the right doctor for your baby, but it’s easier with advice from Dr. Tiffany Knipe, Motherly’s expert pediatrician and a mom of two little ones!

Here are Dr. Knipe’s 3 tips for finding the right pediatrician.

1. Start in your third trimester.

Start looking for a pediatrician in your last trimester. If you have local friends or family who have children, talk to them. Do they like their doctor? If yes, why? If they don’t, why not? What fits one family may not fit another. In fact, as you move forward as a parent this is a good message to keep in mind for all things.

2. Interview around.

If you live somewhere with a few local options, meet at least two or three doctors.

Get an idea of what features are found in all pediatric practices and which things are variable.

3. Ask the right questions.


Is this office convenient/accessible?

Remember, you are likely going to be traveling with a baby and baby paraphernalia, in cold or wet weather, and, at times, with a sick or fussy infant. You want a doctor’s office that is easy enough to get to.

Do they take their time?

If a pediatrician doesn’t have the time or patience for you before your baby is born, they are unlikely to have the time for you after.

Are there sick and well waiting rooms?

Ask your doctor or their office staff the policy for newborns and sick children. Newborns should not wait in a busy waiting room because of their susceptibility to infection.

Can you reach them after hours?

Is your doctor accessible? What are the office policies for after-hours? Babies rarely get sick Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm. So, how will your doctor handle these situations?

What hospital is your doctor affiliated with?

If your child needs a specialist or an emergency room, does your pediatrician have a reliable network of physicians and affiliations to get your child the help he needs?

Do you have chemistry?

Much like choosing a partner or a friend, you should get a good vibe from your pediatrician. For overly anxious parents, your doctor should help to mitigate your anxieties (not exacerbate them). And for overly relaxed parents, your doctor should make it clear to you when to worry.

9. Take an infant CPR/ first aid course.

Learning how to help a choking baby or what to do if your little one ever stops breathing can put your mind at ease as you transition to life as a new mama.

The Red Cross offers classes around the country (find one near you here) but you can also ask you health care provider about where to locate one. You’ll feel good knowing that you know what to do in an emergency.

10. Plan your maternity leave.

Whether you’re going to be staying at home for good or will be heading back to work, you’ll want to prep your new working life after baby is born.

Make sure you’ve checked in with HR on your company’s procedures, and find out if there are any state-specific benefits you’re eligible for while on leave. If you’re staying at home, start doing some research on new-mom support groups or mommy-and-me programs to connect with other new moms.

Find out what you need to know for a successful leave with our maternity leave transition plan.

BONUS! 11. Sleep! ?

We know it’s so hard to catch those Z’s with leg cramps and a big belly in bed and constantly feeling like you have to pee. We get it. But if you’re wondering if you should clean the house or nap while the end of your pregnancy draws near, we promise: THE ANSWER IS NAP.

New mamas lose a lot of sleep in the first year of baby’s life, so on behalf of all those bleary-eyed new-mama warriors of the world: Sleep now, and forever remember this peace.

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Unstructured play is play without predetermined rules of the game. There are no organized teams, uniforms, coaches or trainers. It is spontaneous, often made-up on the spot, and changeable as the day goes on. It is the kind of play you see when puppies chase each other around a yard in endless circles or a group of kids play for hours in a fort they created out of old packing boxes.

Unstructured play is fun—no question about it—but research also tells us that it is critically important for the development of children's bodies and brains.

One of the best ways to encourage unstructured play in young children is by providing open-ended toys, or toys that can be used multiple ways. People Toy Company knows all about that. Since 1977, they've created toys and products designed to naturally encourage developmental milestones—but to kids, it all just feels like play.

Here are five reasons why unstructured play is crucial for your children—

1. It changes brain structure in important ways

In a recent interview on NPR's Morning Edition, Sergio Pellis, Ph.D., an expert on the neuroscience of play noted that play actually changes the structure of the developing brain in important ways, strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain considered to be the executive control center responsible for solving problems, making plans and regulating emotions.

Because unstructured play involves trying out different strategies without particular goals or serious consequences, children and other animals get to practice different activities during play and see what happens. When Dr. Pellis compared rats who played as pups with rats that did not, he found that although the play-deprived rats could perform the same actions, the play-experienced rats were able to react to their circumstances in a more flexible, fluid and swift fashion.

Their brains seemed more "plastic" and better able to rewire as they encountered new experiences.

Hod Lipson, a computer scientist at Cornell sums it up by saying the gift of play is that it teaches us how to deal with the unexpected—a critically important skill in today's uncertain world.

2. Play activates the entire neocortex

We now know that gene expression (whether a gene is active or not) is affected by many different things in our lives, including our environment and the activities we participate in. Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Washington studied play in rats earning him the nickname of the "rat tickler."

He found that even a half hour of play affected the activity of many different genes and activated the outer part of the rats' brains known as the neocortex, the area of the brain used in higher functions such as thinking, language and spatial reasoning. We don't know for sure that this happens in humans, but some researchers believe that it probably does.

3. It teaches children to have positive interaction with others

It used to be thought that animal play was simply practice so that they could become more effective hunters. However, Dr. Panksepp's study of play in rats led him to the conclusion that play served an entirely different function: teaching young animals how to interact with others in positive ways. He believed that play helps build pro-social brains.

4. Children who play are often better students

The social skills acquired through play may help children become better students. Research has found that the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child's social skills in the third grade. Dr. Pellis notes that "countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less."

5. Unstructured play gets kids moving

We all worry that our kids are getting too little physical activity as they spend large chunks of their time glued to their electronic devices with only their thumbs getting any exercise. Unstructured play, whether running around in the yard, climbing trees or playing on commercial play structures in schools or public parks, means moving the whole body around.

Physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and combats the development of Type 2 diabetes—a condition all too common in American children—by increasing the body's sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

It is tempting in today's busy world for parents and kids to fill every minute of their day with structured activities—ranging from Spanish classes before school to soccer and basketball practice after and a full range of special classes and camps on the weekends and summer vacation. We don't remember to carve out time for unstructured play, time for kids to get together with absolutely nothing planned and no particular goals in mind except having fun.

The growing body of research on the benefits of unstructured play suggests that perhaps we should rethink our priorities.

Not sure where to get started? Here are four People Toy Company products that encourage hours of unstructured play.

1. People Blocks Zoo Animals

These colorful, magnetic building blocks are perfect for encouraging unstructured play in children one year and beyond. The small pieces fit easily in the hands of smaller children, and older children will love creating their own shapes and designs with the magnetic pieces.

People Blocks Zoo Animals 17 Piece Set, People Toy Company, $34.99

BUY


This article was sponsored by People Toy Company. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Dana Dewedoff-Carney has a beautiful family. On paper, she's a mom of three. But in her heart, she has five children. She's had two miscarriages, one last year at five weeks, and another this past summer.

"I lost our son in June. I was 14 weeks pregnant, but he had passed away at 12," she tells Motherly, explaining that she and her husband had already named their boy Benjamin.

He never got a chance to live in this world, but he is changing it. His mama is the force behind Project Benjamin, a photo series that is going viral and changing the way people talk about pregnancy and infant loss.


Dewedoff-Carney started Rise for Women, a New Jersey-based organization dedicated to empowering women and connecting them with the resources they need to thrive. Rise for Women was born out of a painful time for Dewedoff-Carney. She was a single mom of three, and she was struggling, although from the outside she looked fine.

After launching Rise for Women Dewedoff-Carney created the hashtag #StruggleDoesNotHaveALook, which took on a whole new meaning this year after she and her now husband lost their babies. She came up with another hashtag, #TheyMatterToo, to remember them, and invited other moms to join in a photo session.

Each mother had her portrait taken with a chalkboard bearing a phase that someone told her after her miscarriage.

In Dewedoff-Carney's case, a doctor who perhaps meant to be kind told her the baby she lost "was the wrong baby." Other women in the photo series were told they could always adopt, or that they should be happy with the children they already have. Dewedoff-Carney says sometimes people don't realize how much their words cut those suffering a loss.

"I know people are not saying these things to be malicious and hurt us, but if they could just be a support and say, 'I am so sorry for your loss, I'm here for you,' that is so helpful," she explains.

Experts agree. Jessica McCormack is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice at The Self Care Path in Burr Ridge, Illinois. She says parents who've suffered a pregnancy loss don't need people to try to offer solutions or minimize their grief, but just to validate it.

"You aren't trying to fix their emotions, you are simply stating, 'I hear you, that was so hard for you, this really sucks right now.' No need to fix, no need to tell someone it will be okay. It's a time to just give a hug and tell them it's okay to feel how they feel. This often creates comfort just by knowing someone is there for you," she tells Motherly, adding that it is totally normal for parents to struggle after a loss.

"It's a completely normal experience to have a bunch of grief, sadness, depression, anxiety, shame, guilt and jealousy of others with healthy successful pregnancies," McCormack explains.


For Dewedoff-Carney, that's exactly what Project Benjamin is all about. She says too often conversations about the feelings one has after a miscarriage or infant death are happening behind closed doors or in private Facebook groups. She hopes her photo series will help people realize they're not alone, and that the woman down the street (or on Instagram) who seems to have it all may be suffering herself.

By having a very public conversation about pregnancy loss, Dewedoff-Carney and her fellow moms are hoping more people will understand what they're going through, and not try to minimize it.

Ashlyn Biedebach is a Registered Nurse and founder of By The Brook Birth Doula. She says "when a woman suffers a loss, at any gestational age, it is truly a loss, not just of a baby, but of hope and an idea of the future."

Biedebach suggests if parents who've suffered a loss encounter loved ones who don't seem to be recognizing their baby, they try to give them some grace, but that doesn't mean you have to pretend it didn't happen.

"Well-meaning family members may intentionally choose to move past painful experiences, even if you are still deep in the grief of the loss of your baby. Bringing up your loss in a gentle way, or having an intentional conversation with those who are moving on can help, but also talking with a counselor, too."

As a therapist, McCormack agrees. "Since it's roughly 1 in 4 women that have a pregnancy that ends in miscarriage, women need support," she tells Motherly, recommending that women who've had a loss talk to their OB-GYN or family physician and ask if there are any support groups in their community.

If your doctor doesn't refer you to a support group you can find a therapist yourself. McCormack suggests women simply search the psychologytoday.com therapist directory by entering their zip code along with the keywords "miscarriage" and "fertility." The therapy doesn't have to be just for mom, either. Sometimes dads need to talk, too.

"I also encourage couples to go to therapy after something like this, as men tend to feel lost and uncertain as to how to process their own feelings while supporting their partner," says McCormack.

Both McCormack and Biedebach agree that talking about this kind of loss, whether in person or over social media, is important. Biedebach says, for some parents, honoring their baby through a social media post is their way of remembering and recognizing their importance. McCormack notes that a social media post can also be a good way to invite a larger quantity of people to support you in your time of need.

"It also reduces the stigma by bringing to light that it is completely normal for women to experience something like this," she explains.

That's Dewedoff-Carney's goal, and while she can't travel the county photographing mothers herself, she's inviting anyone to join the conversation by taking their own photo, sharing their story and using the hashtags #StruggleDoesNotHaveALook and #TheyMatterToo. Since her photos went viral, women have been commenting and sharing their stories publicly, and it's brought Dewedoff-Carney to tears.

"They're naming the children that they lost," she explains. "They're doing that, they're speaking their truth, and they're letting it out."

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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The other morning, I took my clothes off before stepping into the shower. In my little bathroom, I stopped to check out my mom-of-two body in the mirror. My breasts drooped. My stomach stretched flat until below my navel. There, protruded my kangaroo pouch where my uterus stretched twice for two healthy babies.

Then, my eyes glanced lower to the scar from my first birth—my C-section. The swooping line had faded. The right side seemed darker, but the left side turned light. The scar almost smirks at me now.

While in the shower, I cleansed my scar gently with a lavender loofah. Although the cesarean occurred over six years ago, I always wash it softly. A sense of sadness washed over me—I don't want my scar to fade. My scar reminds me of determination, redemption, and love.

Yes, it was years ago when the doctor took his utensils and sliced me open, but for some reason, I felt like the scar would always look like it was painted on.

My C-section story mimics one of far too many women. I felt like I was bullied into it. I had only labored for 18 hours and was dilated to a seven. "Trust me," my obstetrician said, "I've delivered hundreds of babies. You're not built to have this baby naturally." True, I'm only five feet tall, but I didn't really buy into the lie he was trying to to get me to believe. "Just give me one more hour," I begged, "I'll progress."

"I have eight other babies to deliver tonight," he said.

He wasn't lying.

"A C-section is a routine surgery," he continued.

After more pleading on his part, I finally gave in. The nurse wheeled me into the OR and I delivered my first baby at 9:33 pm on June 12, 2012. The recovery, the breastfeeding—everything about early motherhood—pushed me inches close to depression.

When I went back to see my obstetrician for my six-week check-up my doctor looked at my incision to make sure I was healing okay. "Wow," he said, applauding himself, "who stitched you up? That is one clean incision." From those arrogant words, I made up my mind: My next birth will be a VBAC.

And almost two years later (and working with a new provider), I gave birth to my daughter. I had her vaginally. My strong-willed daughter decided to thunder into this world five days late. And her birth was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.

From start to finish, her labor lasted 50 hours. It was two days of agony, doubt, and full-blooded grit. After pushing for over two hours, I remember looking up at the white clock. I wanted to give up. At that point, I had labored for 49 hours. There is no way I'll be able to mentally recover from another C-section, I thought. Sorrow filled me. I didn't have any will left within me—I didn't think I could push anymore.

I was wrong.

I thought of the arrogance I encountered with my first obstetrician. He took my will away from me. He took my right to a natural childbirth. He even took some of my joy.

But I also felt like I let him.

So, the second time around, I made the decision to push—harder. In a way, that doctor empowered me to speak up for myself and believe in my determination. After another hour—three hours total of pushing—the time had come. At 3:54 on June 25, 2014, my daughter was born via VBAC. Her ferocious cry woke my spirit. As her black hair laid on my chest, we sobbed together—a determined mother and daughter.

So, now that my scar is starting to fade, I feel sad. This scar represents my own grit. My own tenacity. My own stubbornness. Things I now pass down to my daughter. I was not going to allow someone else tell me how my next baby was going to be born. My joy belongs to me. I took control of it, as much as I could.

I used to feel a little ashamed of my scar. To me, it represented my inability to speak up for myself. It represented my weakness. But now, my scar represents strength. So, now that I notice it is starting to fade, I feel like I want to tattoo it on permanently.

I look forward to the day when I'm changing my clothes in front of my daughter and she asks, "Mom, what's on your belly?" I'll tell her, "This scar is where your brother came from—and where our unified courage was birthed."

I hope this scar stays dark just a few years longer. Because it means that I can tell my daughter about her birth story—one where we defied the odds together—as a team.

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On a typical day, my 18-month-old daughter will ingratiate herself with the kids whose mothers thought to bring brightly-colored shovels and Fisher Price dump trucks to the park. I will inevitably come over and make sure to ask if it's okay that my daughter is playing with their toys. The mother will chirp, “Of course!" She will then turn to her brood. “We're sharing our toys with the baby!"

I will retreat to my post. I will watch vigilantly for signs that my daughter may be about to put a pile of gravel into her mouth or launch a handful of the tiny rocks in the air. I will watch as she explores the playground. I will also watch her take a tumble, the other mother jumping to her rescue before she's even landed.

“Oh, honey. It's okay. Your mama's right here." she'll croon, her eyes searching desperately for the child's mother, for me. My daughter, now hysterical, will be in this woman's tentative arms.

I will walk over and take my red-faced child, who will wrap her legs around my waist and bury her face in my shoulder.

“Thank you so much." I will say.

“Oh, it's no problem. I didn't see exactly what happened, but luckily I was right here."

I will return to my perch. My gaze will be fixed on my child but my mind will be fixated on the scene that has just played out.

In the small act of responding to my daughter's fall, this other mother has undermined me—which likely wasn't what she was intending to do, but still, is exactly how it made me feel. She's assumed that the right action was to go with her instinct, to rescue my daughter. Wrapped up in this assumption is the idea that I would've rescued her myself if I had been paying attention—that I would have prevented the fall in the first place if I cared.

I want to tell this woman that I do care, that my aloof exterior belies an infinite reservoir of caring. I want to defend myself and explain what kind of mother I am. I want to tell her that I am a wonderful mother, too.

I'm not the mother who brings a sippy cup of fresh juice and a Tupperware full of cheese cubes and sliced grapes to the park. Random fruit squeeze pouches from our last plane trip litter the bottom of my diaper bag, but this does not make me a bad mother. Of course it doesn't. And it doesn't make Tupperware-Mom the World's Best Mother. We're equal, but different.

I'm not the mother who rushes in when my daughter falls. I rarely get into a child-sized playground structure with her. This does not make me a bad mother. From a distance, I'm vigilant. Could her head fit through the slats in that fence? If she fell, how far would the drop be? How soft would the landing be? Is that structure designed for a toddler or a bigger kid? If I don't need to be next to her, I observe from afar.

It would be so much easier to be by my daughter's side at all times, holding her hand, spotting her as she climbs her way through the park. Though I ache to protect her from every danger, I force myself to hang back. How will she learn what's safe if I'm always protecting her? How will she know how far she can jump if she never falls short?

I want my daughter to love to play for its own sake. I may stand quietly off to the side, but as she zooms down the slide, her mouth open wide in a jubilant smile, my heart rejoices.

This is the kind of mother I am.

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