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Dearest first trimester,

I'm here because someone has to say it.

You suck. Like, a lot.

You make the sanest women go completely crazy. I hear you denying it. I see your coy smile; I hear your whispers about the most magical miracle nature has to offer.

I'm drawn in by the promise of the pregnant lady glow. ✨

I wish I could say this is the first time I have fallen for your charms, but that would be a lie. Between your pregnancy announcement ideas and the claims that the nausea will go away before you know it, any day now, you keep women so wrapped up that few call you out.

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But it needs to be done.

I started planning for you months before you showed up. I counted days, tracked ovulation, held my breath each month waiting for my period to crush my dreams. Then, when my period showed up, I secretly breathed a tiny sigh of relief because as desperately as I longed for a baby, a little part of me was thankful for one more month of freedom before the first trimester took over my life.

Then came the month where my period was a day late. Probably nothing. Just an off month. Then two days late. I finally grabbed my box of $30 pregnancy tests (because the insanity had already begun and I automatically assumed that more expensive meant more accurate).

I sneaked a test into the bathroom for the first morning pee. Took the test. The fancy digital kind. Prepared for two words. After the three longest minutes of my life, one word stared back at me.

PREGNANT.

Wait, what?

Then I took approximately 12 more pregnancy tests, trying different brands and varieties, just to be sure. I'll never be able to send my kids to college because I spent all my money on pregnancy tests, but at least I was almost positive that I was indeed pregnant.

Excitement and horror intermingled and I thought I might be sick. Flashbacks to my first and second pregnancies crippled me with fear. Why would anyone voluntarily make themselves ill for four to nine months? Oh, right. Because I love my babies. But it wasn't until that exact moment that I remembered how desperately I sometimes hate being pregnant.


The next two weeks were a blur of waiting for the worst to come and praying that maybe I'd be one of the lucky ones this time. One of the ladies who gets to say, “Oh, nausea? Well, one time I felt a little sick when I skipped lunch, but then I ate a cracker and felt brand-new!" But I know I will never be one of them.

I felt like a storm watcher tracking tornadoes in Oklahoma. No one knows when the next one will hit, but everyone knows it's coming.

This first trimester madness starts with the underwear check.

No one wants to say it out loud, but every single mama who has recently peed on a pregnancy test and gotten that big fat positive checks her underwear for blood every single time she goes to the bathroom. And sometimes she goes to the bathroom for that purpose only. Like 200 times a day. It's crazy. And it's part of being a mother. Because we already love that tiny microscopic life so damn much that the fear of losing that child is already a part of who we are.

Sometimes we make it through that season of fear and get to the ultrasound, where we see a heartbeat and know all is well. For now. Sometimes we never make it that far and hearts break and grief is our journey.

Around ultrasound time (or for me, long before that time), the exhaustion and nausea set in. For most of us, the exhaustion is all-encompassing and the nausea makes daily life nearly impossible. I see women online doing CrossFit or running marathons through their pregnancies and all I can think is, Someday I'll have the energy to shower.

As the first trimester progressed, my life became filled with rice cakes and ginger candies and peppermint tea. I lost weight. I lost the tiny bit of muscle I had. I scrolled through Facebook and Instagram and envied my friends who were out in public and interacting with real human beings.

I threw up basically always.

This time I had kids who were old enough to follow me to the bathroom, the one with the lock that doesn't work. I threw up daily to a soundtrack of, “Mom! Can I have a snack?" “Mom, when you're done throwing up I really need to show you something!" “Mom, can I sit on your lap?" And on the really lucky days they both crowded around and leaned over my back while yelling, “I WANT TO SEE YOUR THROW-UP!!!!"

I wanted to scream at them. I wanted to tell them to get the crap out of the bathroom. But each time I tried to speak I just heaved and threw up more and more. So with all my dignity gone they discussed the size and color and volume of my vomit. While I wiped sweat from my brow and reminded myself that it was so going to be worth it someday.

You see, my dear first trimester, after four pregnancies, I can say with confidence: You are one of the worst experiences of my life.

You have put me in the hospital multiple times just to keep enough fluids in my body. You have made me so physically weak that I could hardly stand. You have messed with all my hormones and caused me to have panic attacks so severe I was positive I was dying. You have forced me to miss out on multiple weddings for some of my best friends. You have secluded me from real life for months at a time. You broke my heart when I lost a baby I loved so deeply. And I am only one person. I have heard countless stories from other women who have braved your horrors multiple times. Each story is unique but almost always with the same theme. You are hard. You can be miserable and last forever and are too often heartbreaking.

You are the worst.

But you bring the very, very best.

Suffering through you brought me my boys. Choosing you once again gave me the gift of my baby who I never got to hold but who forever changed our family. Today marks the first day of my second trimester with our tiny rainbow baby, and I mean it with all of my heart when I say I hated every second of you this time around also. But I chose you. Because I needed you.

You are awful. But deeply important. And the truth is, I would choose you all over again a million times.

We all would.


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There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

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"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

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Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

News

Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

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Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life
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