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Today was my son Bowie’s due date, which I can’t quite believe.


I often wonder what I’d be doing right now if he decided to arrive when he was supposed to, still content in the womb.

I have a romanticized vision of myself nesting around the house, sipping red raspberry leaf tea, reading a novel, having quiet conversations with baby before settling in for our 3rd nap of the day.

Or taking photos of our finished nursery nook, cleaning the house so guests can visit after the birth, packing our hospital bags with the utmost thought and care. M

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Maybe even some last minute pampering - a pedicure, massage, gentle yoga and long walks under orange October leaves.

If anyone was NOT ready for their baby to arrive a whole month early, it was me!

But like all unexpected circumstances, it makes for a great story.

One that has taken me quite some time to sit down and write—let alone find the time between feedings to piece it all together.

It’s long and detailed and a bit graphic, but I want to be able to look back on this 20 years from now and remember every single moment of the happiest day of our lives.

On September 19th, we attended our friends’ 80’s-themed wedding reception in full costume.

I wore an oversized shoulder-padded blazer over a short sequined mini dress and nude nylons with crimped, teased hair.

Hal wore pegged jeans, suspenders down around his waist, and straightened his hair with a deep side part so it strategically fell over one eye.

We took a few awkward prom pics, danced to the Spazmatics (for as long as I could in 3-inch pointy pumps) and were sitting down for a rest when I felt a small gush in my underwear. I

excused myself to go to the restroom. But the little gush turned into a larger one as I scurried across the dance floor—leaving a trail behind me!

This can’t be my water, it just can’t.

In the bathroom, I stripped down my pantyhose and gushed some more.

I texted Hal: “bring my bag - I think my water broke!”

My heart was racing when we got in the car. Is this really happening?


Panic set in as I listed off all the things we didn’t get done.

The car seats weren’t installed, the IKEA-hack dresser / changing table wasn’t complete, our house was a complete disaster zone.

I lamented over all the business projects I didn’t get a chance to finish.

And tears welled up in my eyes when I thought about the maternity photoshoot we would have to cancel.

Hal convinced me to not jump to conclusions and call the hospital for advice.

So I left them a message and we waited for a response.

At home, I continued to gush on the toilet when our midwife called me back.

Even though I wasn’t feeling contractions, she wanted us to come in to make sure it was indeed my amniotic fluid that was leaking.

If not, she’d send us back home.

But if it was, she said GET READY TO HAVE A BABY TONIGHT! Gulp.

Hal relayed the information to my parents and our doula. I hung up the phone and began to cry.

Please be a false alarm.

Please be a false alarm!

Racing around the house in a packing frenzy, I grabbed the smallest set of newborn pajamas I could find and searched for something to wear myself when I realized I hadn’t done laundry!

Disgusted, I threw some dirty clothes into the bag and tried not to think about the cute birthing outfit, robe, socks and other hospital “essentials” I was planning to acquire later that week.

I hadn’t even emailed the Birth Preferences worksheet to our midwives yet.

So I printed out a few copies to give to the staff upon arrival.

After a nervous 10-minute drive to the hospital, we were escorted to the very last birthing room available. 

Apparently, everyone in Seattle was having a baby that night!

We’d been told just one day prior that they’re rarely at full capacity.

I couldn’t help but wonder what big celestial event was going on to warrant so many babies being born.

As it turned out, that weekend fell smack dab in between the two September eclipses, hmmm.

The nurses hooked my belly up to the monitor and ran a few tests. They concluded that the fluid was definitely amniotic, as suspected.

This is really happening.

Around 10pm, our midwife came in and explained that labor would need to start very soon, because there’s a high risk for infection after your water breaks.

She gave us time alone in the room to see if the contractions would start naturally.

If they didn’t, she recommended Pitocin to get the ball rolling. I wanted a drug-free birth with no interventions, so that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear.

Hal put on some Nina Simone as I paced the room, waiting for contractions to start.

Every now and then, I’d feel some mild cramping, which Hal started timing.

Later, he told me that it was hard to take me seriously walking around with my crimped 80’s hair!

Since I was 4-weeks early, the baby monitor had to stay permanently strapped to my belly throughout the entire labor.

And it wasn’t cordless—so I had to haul it around like a purse everywhere I went, even in the shower or tub.

I remember getting tangled up in it often.

Highly annoying and itchy, but I grew to appreciate it later on as it showed the peaks of my contractions and let us know that the baby was okay.

My parents arrived around this time, but I wasn’t in the best of moods.

I was worried about the potential complications of a preterm birth. Would our baby be fully developed?

Would he have to stay in the NICU? 

Already, nothing seemed to be going as planned. Which is laughable really.

Because if you’ve ever given birth, or know someone who has, you’ll know it very rarely does.

Maybe it was the daily positive conditioning from my Hypnobabies tracks, but not once did I consider how I’d react if the birthing experience was anything other than what I imagined.

Hal took me for a walk around the hospital halls to get my head straight and put things into perspective.

Accept what is.

Let whatever happens happen.

And focus on what’s important—bringing our beautiful boy into the world.

And that’s when I decided to stop letting my fears ruin the experience, as they were no doubt inhibiting my body from doing what it was supposed to.

Around 1am, the midwife checked in on us, suggesting Pitocin yet again.

I refused, knowing deep down that my baby would come when he was ready.

She offered to give us a few more hours.

Perfect.

We set out my mom’s crystals, diffused some lavender essential oil, and settled in for the night.

Hal on the couch, my mom in the rocking chair, and me in the bed with headphones listening to my Hypnobabies tracks.

The threat of being induced motivated me. I remember silently talking to our baby, begging him to make his move sooner rather than later.

He must have heard me.

The mild cramping became stronger, waking me up from a light sleep.

Around 5am, active labor had officially begun!

Hal called our doula, Vivianne, to let her know it was time. She arrived soon after and helped me with the breast pump because nipple stimulation is a great way to speed things up.

I remember being intimidated by the breast pump, not knowing what to expect - my nipples are extremely sensitive!

But it wasn’t so bad, just a strange and slightly irritating sensation.

After a while on the pump, my contractions were definitely getting stronger.

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First I labored in a semi-squatting position on the bed.

They placed a handrail near the foot of the bed so I could hold onto it during contractions.

There was a giant mound of pillows behind my back to lean back on in between.

This felt good for early labor, but the constant squatting eventually got to me.

One thing I wasn’t expecting was the shakes!

My adrenaline was so pumped up, I shivered during most of early labor.

I felt like a newborn fawn whenever I tried to walk to the bathroom to relieve myself.

The nurse kept taking my temperature to make sure I wasn’t getting a fever.

We tried a few other positions to get comfortable.

One was standing up and holding onto Hal for support, but I wasn’t having it.

I felt a strong urge to sit down and lean forward during the pain.

Someone brought in a birthing ball for me to sit on.

This felt wonderful.

During contractions, I’d lean into a pile of pillows on the bed, rotating my hips on the ball.

Around this time, I started to get in a good groove with my support team.

Vivianne was right beside me during each contraction, telling me when they were almost over.

My mom and Hal took turns placing cold washcloths over my neck and bringing me water to sip through a straw with occasional bites of applesauce.

They gave me so much positive encouragement, telling me how strong I was, how proud they were. This was invaluable.

When your water breaks, they try not to check your cervix too often to eliminate the risk of infection.

But after awhile, I got curious about my dilation.

It felt like I was laboring intensely for quite some time - I had to be pretty far along. I requested a check and to my extreme disappointment, I was only 4 cm.

I remember looking at Hal with tears in my eyes, not knowing how I could continue laboring for another 6 cm.

Someone suggested a shower to relieve some pain.

I was ready to try anything. I stripped down and sat on a stool in the shower stall while Hal sprayed hot water on my back.

It felt wonderful.

But that was short-lived. The shower stall was tiny and I was beginning to feel claustrophobic.

After the shower, we found another good position to labor in.

I sat on the foot of the bed and leaned into the birthing ball during contractions, which I noticed were coming less frequently.

I welcomed this break, as I was able to lean back on pillows and fall asleep in between the pressure waves.

I always knew my expert narcoleptic sleeping skills would come in handy!

However, it was a strange sensation because I wouldn’t exactly call it sleep.

I was in a beautiful, spiritual space—peaceful beyond words. That place you go in deep meditation, almost out of body.

The nurses came in to check on us, as they noticed the contractions getting further and further apart.

We were regressing. If they didn’t start speeding up in the next hour, they would need to start inducing.

Again, the threat of Pitocin revved me up.

I played Hypnobabies again using one headphone earbud, while listening to thunderstorms, ocean waves and singing bowls (ASoftMurmur.com) on our bluetooth speaker.

At the same time, Vivianne did acupressure on my hands and feet.

Almost immediately, my contractions sped up.

This is when things start to get a little foggy.

The pain was SO intense with very short breaks in between.

As soon as one contraction ended, another one began with no time to relax.

I remember getting into a powerful rhythmic rocking movement with the birthing ball, swaying from side to side, while Hal and my mom switched off rubbing my lower back.

All my concentration was on the breath.

At one point, I felt a major urge to poo. They told me that was a good sign - that the baby has dropped. So they checked my cervix and I was 7 cm.

Progress! Soon the urge became more than an urge—I felt a strong NEED to push!

They told me not to, because I wasn’t fully dilated. Easier said than done. Not pushing felt nearly impossible. I surprised myself with loud, guttural grunts. He wants to come out now!

Someone suggested the birthing tub, since water slowed things down for me earlier. They would just need 15 minutes to get it ready.

During which time, Vivianne reminded me to focus on my breathing like never before. If I broke concentration for even a millisecond, the urge to push overcame me and I’d be gasping for air.

Instinctively, I moved onto the bed on all fours when the nurses said the tub was ready. The midwife decided to check my cervix one last time and amazingly, I had gone from 7 to 10 cm in those 15 minutes of tub preparation!

We were regressing. If they didn’t start speeding up in the next hour, they would need to start inducing.

She gave me the green light to push.

“You’re having a baby!” she exclaimed.

And I hear Hal break down with emotion.

I never felt so much love for him as I did right then.

He grabbed my hand as I began to push.

And strangely enough, the act of pushing, although painful, was a huge relief from the struggle of not pushing.

In between contractions, I leaned back in child’s pose to rest and muster up enough energy to push some more.

Maybe 10 minutes had passed before I felt the sharp “ring of fire” during crowning.

But it was a temporary pain. And before I knew it, our midwife asked me if I wanted to touch the head. I reached down in between my legs and was amazed by how squishy it felt.

A few more final pushes and one primal roar... his head emerged!

Then his shoulders and body followed. At 12:36 pm, OUR BABY WAS BORN!

I flipped onto my back as they brought him to rest on my belly.

Our sweet beautiful boy.

He was warm and familiar.

Extra alert, taking in the world.

We immediately locked eyes, through tears, communicating love without words.

That moment will stay with me forever.

After delivering the placenta, my mom cut the umbilical cord after it stopped pulsing and they brought him up to rest on my chest.

Hal and I laughed and cried together, marveling over this perfect tiny being we created.

Those long fingers, big ears and wispy blonde hair!

I had a very minor vaginal tear that was stitched up while holding him my arms.

But I was too busy cuddling our babe to care.

When asked his name, I initially told the nurses we hadn’t yet decided between the two we were considering.

We wanted to wait and see what he looked like.

But Hal said he knew.

And with that, so did I. Bowie Ocean was introduced to the world.

Thinking back on this day, I feel empowered and proud.

I trusted and surrendered to my body and my baby.

I found a strength in myself I never knew existed.

And despite his surprise early arrival, we ended up having the birth I had imagined after all - relatively short (7 hours), unmedicated and uncomplicated.

Although weighing only 5 lbs, 14 oz, he was healthy and we were released from the hospital in 24 hours. I feel so very fortunate.

Bowie, if you’re reading this one day—you’ve made your Papa and I the happiest we’ve been.

Thank you for choosing us as parents and allowing us to experience this incomparable, indescribable, unconditional love.

xo

Shannon Eileen is a Seattle-based mama, artist-designer, singer-songwriter, reiki healer and lifestyle blogger at Happiness Is.

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We've all been there. You first hear those cries that don't sound like any other cries and immediately know what's happening. It's like our mama hearts know when our little ones need us the most. Having little ones feeling under the weather is hard. They can't tell you exactly how they feel. You can't explain to them that they'll feel better soon, and all there is for everyone to do is to take it easy and stay cuddled inside until you can get them to the doctor.

The issue, by this point, is that my son is old enough to know what's coming when we open the medicine cabinet, so giving him something for his throat ends up being like a wrestling match without the fun and giggles. My son especially likes spitting out anything as a way to protest how he's generally feeling, so we both end up covered in sticky syrup feeling defeated. Because, seriously, who thought that using a syringe or pipette to squirt out gooey liquid down an unwilling toddler's mouth was a good idea? (Probably not a parent.)

That's why when I found out there was an easier and more fun way to make these dreaded sick days better, I was all about it.

Enter: Lolleez.

Lolleez are organic throat soothing pops for kids—and adults!—that are made with organic ingredients that you can pronounce and understand like honey and natural fruit pectin. Plus, they're non-GMO as well as gluten, dairy and nut-free i.e. worry-free for all kinds of kiddos. The pops help soothe sore throats while acting like a treat for when kids are feeling under the weather. I also appreciate that the pops are actually flat and on a stick, as opposed to a lozenge or round ball lollipop. They were also created by a mom, which makes me feel a million times more confident about them since I know she knows exactly how hard sick days with a little one can be.

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When I introduced my son to Lolleez pops, everything changed. Suddenly the battle to get him to take something to feel better wasn't... well, a battle. In the few times he's been sick since, he's been more than happy to pop a Lolleez, and I've been more than grateful that soothing him is now as easy as peeling open a wrapper. And, since they come in watermelon, strawberry and orange mango—strawberry is the favorite in this household—he never gets bored of getting a soothing lolly.

Also, they're easy to find—you can get them at stores like Target, CVS and online so I never worry that I'll be caught without in a pinch. After the sick days have run their course and my son starts feeling better, there's nothing like seeing that glow in his eyes come back and have him greet me with a big smile when I come into his room in the morning, ready for the day.

While our littles not feeling well is inevitable, as a mama, I'll do anything to make my child feel better, and I'm so thankful for products that make it just a little easier for the both of us. So here's to enjoying the snuggles that come with sick days, while also looking forward to the giggles that come after them.

This article was sponsored by Lolleez. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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Hilaria Baldwin has worn her emotions on her sleeve in recent months sharing the heartbreaking news of her miscarriage and then the happy news of her current pregnancy—and she's all about being her authentic self.

The yoga guru thrives on having her hands full. In fact, on top of raising her four children with husband Alec Baldwin and her work, Hilaria recently decided to foster a new puppy, because what is life without a little chaos!

Motherly caught up with Hilaria this week and she didn't hesitate to dish on a variety of things relating to motherhood. From how she and her husband juggle parenting duties, to how she handled introducing her children to their younger siblings when they were born, and, of course, how she deals with online criticism.

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Motherly: Congrats on the baby news! We loved that you got your four little ones involved with the reveal. Are they excited to have another sibling?

Hilaria Baldwin: They're really, really excited. Carmen is super excited not only because she not only has very much wanted a sister—she has Ireland [Alec's daughter from his marriage to Kim Basinger] but she lives far—so she wants someone who comes and lives in our house.

I've made a lot of people and finally, another one came out a girl. We never [intended] to have a big family… you know, I had Carmen and then I had Rafa and then I got pregnant pretty soon after I had Rafa and it was another boy, and then we said, 'Let's try!' and we had another boy. The three boys are within three years, so they're such a joy to watch [together]. As much as Carmen is a part of their little group, she's always sort of said, 'Hey, I would love to have a little sister.' So, it's been really exciting to see her get excited.

Motherly: So many parents struggle with introducing their kids to their new sibling and deal with the fear of the older child feeling jealous or left out. How did you handle that? Do you have any advice for parents going through these emotions?

HB: I think at this point we have such a crew that like, my kids are just used to a crowd all the time and it's like our house is super fun and there's always something going on. And so, you know, one to two [kids] was kind of difficult. And then for me, three we were a group and then four it was like nothing happened. You know, the kids, they love babies because they've been around so many babies. They love being together as they're always playing together and fight as well.

In terms of like introducing, one of the things that is like a ground rule for me is that— Alec and I have this on our wedding rings so it's long before we got pregnant— [it is the Spanish phrase] for 'We are a good team.' And that's our motto. It's like everything is a team in the house. There's no excluding, there is no toy that particularly belongs to somebody...They will have a blanket maybe that they sleep with or something like that, but it's not off limits to everybody else.

Of course, they break these rules at grab toys and don't want to share to do all the things that normal kids do, but the rule we keep coming to is that we want to keep everyone happy and accepted, so I think that helps. They all call the babies their babies, and I think that that helps, because it's not like mommy comes home and had this new baby and they're excluded.

Like everything else it's just embracing the fact that we're all scared. And kids really follow the guidance of the parents. If you make it fun and special, that we have the baby and it's about them, then they're gonna follow that lead. If you make it like, 'Oh, don't do that [to] baby, don't touch, be careful' and that kind of thing, it's not going to be as much of a group enjoyment thing.

Motherly: Busy Philipps recently opened up about how she almost divorced her husband over uneven parenting responsibilities. How do you and Alec divide the duties?

HB: I didn't hear about that, but I feel like that's very common…I am somebody who takes pride and am very specific about how I want things to be done. Like, I cook for my kids every night. I bathe them morning and night. When somebody gets into a fight, I want to be there to be able to deal with the dynamic. You know, with Alec, he'll sort of roll his eyes because I'm like, 'You're not doing it the way that I want it to be!'

I almost prefer to do it. I'll wake up with the kids at night. It's kind of my personality and I really enjoy it. You know, some people want support by saying, 'Hey, it's your turn to change the diaper.' But what [Alec] does for me that really, really means something is he'll look at me and he'll say, 'You're such a good mommy' and my kids will say that to me, and that's all I want in return. I'm somebody that I don't require a lot of sleep. I'm a busy body. I'm happy to check things off the list. I'm very type A, but I want to be the one who does this because I know how I want it to get done.

Motherly: You're so open about everything on social media. Do you ever feel like you want to hide more or is it therapeutic for you?

HB: I think it's a combination. I think that it's mostly therapeutic. I was always a very open person, and then all of a sudden I joined this really weird public life world and it was a very traumatic experience of everyday people are looking at you trying to find out your business. Alex was like a very old school celebrity in terms of 'this is my private life, close the doors'. We don't [have to] say anything. I mean he has been a little more outspoken than like the average sort of old school celebrities. And I tried to do that for awhile and it made me not like who I was.

And I really just started realizing, I was changing because this is how they're telling me to behave. And so I said, 'You know what, I'm not doing this anymore.' I said, 'I'm going to be open. And people are going to see that.' Once you marry somebody who is famous and your economics change...It doesn't mean that you have to be different.

And, yes, do I have my days where I really kind of want to close down and be more quiet? Sure. But in the end I realized that everybody has those days. And that's one of those the things that makes us common and connected. And that's what I've really enjoyed with this journey that we're on.

Motherly: Do you have ways that you personally deal with online criticism, or do you just kind of turn a blind eye and try to not focus on the negativity?

HB: I think I go through phases and I think a lot of it has to do with your philosophy, your emotions, where you are not just in that phase in your life. I've done things from literally copying the comment and posting it on my story. And I think that using that as a place of saying, 'Hey, this is bullying. This happened to me too and this isn't okay.' And if this person is bullying me, I guarantee you that they're bullying other people. So I'll do that. Sometimes I'll block, sometimes I'll respond.

This lady wrote me last night and [told me] I should be careful because with [yoga] twisting you can cause a miscarriage. And I had just suffered a miscarriage, so I basically should know better, and that that happened to her, that she twisted and then she had a miscarriage … Now, yes, in yoga you should not do the lower belly twists when you're pregnant, but that being said, if you twist, it's not going to cause a miscarriage...And that's one thing that, I mean I responded to her and I just responded to her saying, 'I lost my baby because my baby's heart wasn't good, not because I did something wrong.'

Too often women look at ourselves and point blame, we think, 'Well, we must have done something.' Let me tell you something from having a miscarriage: The first thing that all doctors tell you is, 'I want you to know that you didn't do anything wrong.'

Motherly: Can you tell us a little about how you're dealing with picky eating in your household?

HB: I was dealing with the pickiness of my kids and particularly Rafael, who's like my super, super picky eater. We had to sort of get very creative because he literally would prefer to not need, then to eat something he doesn't want to eat. And he is that typical picky eater where he wants he'll eat like four or five things and you know, they're good things, we're lucky with him, he likes tofu and lentils.

But at the same time, we're constantly trying to think of other things. So, I found Health Warrior bars when he was going through some really picky times and they were great because you can put them in your bag for on-the-go, and he would eat them and it wouldn't be a fight, and I know that they have really good ingredients.

The other thing we discovered from them—because getting kids to eat vegetables is really, really difficult as well —is a protein powder that it's like all plant based. So what I do is I'll make a shake for them every single day that has tons of kale and broccoli and all this kind of stuff in it. I'll put this chocolate protein powder in it and they call it a chocolate shake… So those have been like two life savers and so when they came to me and they said that they wanted to do something together, it just felt very natural and I wanted to spread the word because they've helped our family so much.

For more from Hilaria check out Season 2 of the Mom Brain podcast, co-hosted by Hilaria and Daphne Oz.

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News

After my son was born I found myself thrown into the darkest period of my life, overtaken by postpartum depression and anxiety. My days were awash in panic attacks from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed, with crying spells that hit without warning in between.

Most of my visitors didn't know any of this.

When they stopped by to deliver a meal or meet the baby, most people asked the question we all ask of new mothers: "How are you doing?" I answered with the automatic response we all give when asked this question: "I'm doing okay," adding with a sideways glance and shrug, "Tired, but that's just how it is."

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"How are you doing?" It's a great question to ask when we see a friend on the street or sit down for coffee to catch up on life. But when we ask it of a new mother, we subconsciously ask her to take the complex period after birth, with its hormonal shifts and emotional ups and downs, and boil it down to one sentiment.

The postpartum period deserves a better question.

The reality for each mother is different, and the answer to such a simple question may be kept private for fear of making her visitors uncomfortable if she senses they expect a glowing new mother, drunk on oxytocin.

A better question for any visitor, or even if you see a woman with a new baby on the street, is: "How are you feeling, emotionally?"

This question doesn't just invite a response, it shows a new mother that you are ready and unafraid to hear about her feelings, whatever they may be.

It shows her you understand that she may be delighted in her new baby, but are open to the possibility that she is also feeling grief for her past life, sadness at the lack of support, disappointment in the grueling and unforgiving schedule a newborn demands.

This question is even more important today, where most women are not surrounded by a village following the birth of a baby. They may be alone, doing the hard work with just the help of their partner, or if they're lucky, close friends and family. They may have no space to process what's happened to them and so they begin the habitual process of setting themselves aside for the sake of others.

A few weeks ago I was at a friend's cookout. A woman entered the backyard with a newborn. She sat down and I watched her carefully, as I do all new moms since recovering from my PPD. Scanning for signs that she might be in trouble, or struggling to maintain a facade of togetherness. I didn't see anything, but that didn't matter.

"Hey," I said. "How old is he?"

"Two weeks," she replied, shifting the peacefully sleeping baby from one arm to the other.

"That is such a crazy time," I said, painfully recalling the chaos of my own experience at two weeks postpartum. "And how are you feeling," I ventured. "Emotionally?"

I didn't even know her name. But it didn't matter. I saw a flash of surprise on her face, followed by a faint smile radiating from inside her. And with the door swung wide open, we talked for a long time about what it really feels like to be a new mother.

So how are you feeling today mama, emotionally?


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Life

Yes, it's called the giving season, but who says that “giving" always has to mean toys, clothes or just more stuff? Gifting experiences, from museum memberships to sporting passes, can give your kids more than just another object for their playroom. It can create memories, help build skills and provide fun for the entire family.

#TeamMotherly agrees. We asked what experiences you want for your kiddos instead of toys, and you happily told us. Here are some of the best experience gifts to give:

1. Children's theater season passes

2. Gift card to restaurant for the family

3. Trampoline jump passes

4. Zoo membership

5. Full session for new sport (gymnastics, football camp, etc.)

6. Trip to the bookstore to pick out new books

7. Local + national state park passes for a year

8. Plane ticket to visit someone special (grandma, aunt, etc.)

9. Pass to an art museum

10. Cooking class for kids

11. A farm stay

12. Tickets for child + friend for a local play

13. Pottery making classes

14. Out of country airfare + accommodation (if you want to be truly indulgent)

15. Swim lessons

16. Aquarium yearly pass

17. Subscription box

18. A train ride to somewhere they've never been

19. Musical instrument + lessons

20. Flower or herb seeds to plant a garden

21. Ballet classes + tutu

30. Gift for charity, let the child decide where to give

31. Miniature golf adventure

32. Indoor climbing excursion

33. Mommy + me music classes

34. Tickets for Disney on Ice

35. Passes to the local waterpark

36. A book bundle

37. Music class gift card

38. Camping gear for a weekend away

39. A hot air balloon ride

40. Subscription to Little Passports

41. Year fees for school

42. Whale watching day trip

43. Materials to build terrarium

44. Weekend stay at Great Wolf Lodge

45. Game night bundle

46. Season pass to attraction (Disneyland, Island of Adventure, etc.)

47. YMCA family pass

48. Movie gift card for the local theatre

49. Volunteer trip (Toys for Tots, food bank, etc.)

50. Donation to future college fund

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


Life

The nurses and my husband were pushing the stretcher as I tried to put some makeup on; I have always loved red lipstick and bought a new one for this special occasion. I want to look pretty in the pictures, I can not be seen with this face, I thought.

My brown skin contrasted with the white of the operating room—I was there because twins generally means it's high-risk pregnancy, so this was an extra precaution before starting to push. Doctors were ready; clean and sterilized. My husband was dressed as an astronaut and I? Well, I was disheveled, with huge dark circles and no sleep, but extremely nervous and excited.

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"Push, push, push," they said when everyone was set up, but I was just trying to get my hair in a ponytail. There is nothing glamorous about giving birth.

Labor began shortly before 11:00 in the morning. At 11:04, my daughter was born and by 11:07 my son arrived. The two of them were vaginal deliveries. No cesarean. It was so fast that I didn't have time to put makeup on or do my hair. I had no time to get picture ready even when I had spent 37.5 weeks waiting for this moment.

My daughter cried softly and my son was tiny. I could only hold them for a couple of minutes, just a short skin-to-skin hug before they were taken to the NICU. They needed more oxygen and some tests.

From the operating room, I had time to send photos to the family, give the good news on WhatsApp and post something on Facebook. Their dad ran behind them as they went to the NICU. I was left alone, but not empty. I was happy, proud and full of love; I don't know if the epidural was working its magic, but I was never afraid.

Then I was back in my room. A nurse bathed me, braided my hair and put a little makeup on my exhausted face. My mom came to see me, probably a little disappointed that the twins were not with me. Everything happened so fast. Just half an hour after the delivery, I was in a wheelchair on my way to the NICU to see those little strangers that had formed in my belly.

They were twins, but completely different. My daughter was a brunette, but my son was more likely to be blond; she was fully awake and he was sleeping. You could definitely tell that she would be the one with a strong personality and he would be the sweet mama's boy. They were two tiny individuals that grew together in my belly.

"I'm mom," I introduced myself in a whisper.

It was the second time they saw me and I made sure that I looked a little bit better this time. It was not the makeup or the hair, love made me look pretty and I was full of that wild and inexplicable new emotion.

Then something happened. It was just a second, a click.

We recognized each other and loved each other instantly. My mom told me about that "magical connection" but I never really believed it until I felt it.

I was a brand new mom with no experience at all (I have to confess that I even took classes to learn how to change diapers and use a stroller). And, of course, I didn't know what to tell them or how to lull them; there are no classes to prepare you for that. It was so unexpected that I, a writer and a journalist, was out of words.

I was so in love that I was speechless. They were so tiny and had so many tubes and machines on them that I was afraid to do or say the wrong thing.

So I sang. I sang every single lullaby in Spanish that I could remember while I rocked them to sleep. In the beginning, it was one by one, in their own rooms and then, together, one on each arm, like the family we've been since then.

I spent my first night as a mother away from them, yearning for them and missing them. I spent the second night in a larger room with no crib or babies. The third, the fourth and even the seventh—and others—I spent in the NICU, with them.

Our boy was still in the hospital and our daughter in my arms. I discovered the magic of motherhood amid pediatricians and nurses, pumps and tubes. But, even with all that chaos, I found true joy and the most frightening fear.

It has been five years now. Today they are no longer babies; they say they are a big boy/girl now. I know it's true. Where did the time go?

They have grown a lot, but they are still my babies; they can bathe alone and brush their teeth making circles as the dentist taught them, but they are still looking for my arms, my kisses, my touch and my words of love.

They think they need me, but in reality, I need them more. We're a team; we are family. We love each other, we accept each other, we challenge ourselves, we—almost always—like each other, we push ourselves to the limit, but with the same intensity we love each other.

I'm so blessed to have them in my life. I'm lucky and beyond. I'm so excited to walk with them in this life and I'm so thankful that they chose me to be their mom.

Larga vida, mis cachorros. Los amo.

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