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“The emotional labor pains of becoming a mother are far greater than the physical pangs of birth; these are the growing surges of your heart as it pushes out selfishness and fear and makes room for sacrifice and love. It is a private and silent birth of the soul, but it is no less holy than the event of childbirthperhaps even more sacred.”
—Joy Kusek


A dear friend shared this quote with me about two weeks after I came home with my newborn baby.

My heart was grasping for something, anything, that could help me define what the heck was going on with everything around and within me. This woman’s words defined this sweet and difficult season so perfectly. I became a mother by title when the test turned up positive. I looked like a mother-to-be for the better part of nine months. But I wasn’t a mother in my core—yet.

The fourth trimester (giving birth and the few first months afterward) is a crash course, sink-or-swim, best thing ever but ohmygosh-it’s-hard introduction to motherhood.

Everything explodes: your heart with love, your mind with this new reality, and your body with, well, a baby. As daunting as that sounds, let me reassure you: You will pass the course. You will swim. You won’t sink. And you would not give up this season for the world, even if it comes with tears, hormones and hemorrhoids.


Here’s what you can expect in the 4th trimester. Know you’re not alone in this, mama!

Body

This is pretty straightforward: You are sore. Whether your baby came down the standard exit chute or he was air-lifted from your tummy in a recon-style C-section, there is a large part of you that is very, very sore.

Your stomach collapses a little bit but it is no longer a firm, busting-with-baby tummy. It’s squishy. Maybe even wrinkly. Your boobs start bursting with milk and, if you are small-chested like I am, you found yourself thinking, “Ooh, this is why my friend with huge boobs wears two sport bras—this hurts!”

You are also swollen. Your face, your feet, your hands. You will look at photos of yourself at the hospital and wonder why everything about you looks so round. You will look at yourself in the mirror and fight back tears because sexy is not being brought back any time soon.

Oh, so much about you is different. But hear this—you probably won’t notice any of it all that much.

Before baby, you had plenty of time to look in the mirror and identify all the ways you weren’t perfect.

But with a baby, you just intrinsically know that your time is better spent soaking in all that’s perfect about them: their tiny toes, sweet, gummy smiles and unbelievably soft skin. Plus, that squishy belly makes a perfect place to rest your dear one.

Mind

A few days after we got home from the hospital, my husband found me bawling my eyes out over our baby as I was changing her. “What’s wrong!?” he asked, new-daddy panic creeping into his voice. “What are we going to do if our daughter is bullied in school?” I sobbed. “Or if she’s the bully? And oh my gosh—what are we going to do when she starts driving?!” I cried, convinced that I had to solve each of these problems at that very second or I would fail as a mother.

He was really quiet for a moment and then gently responded, “Babe, I know we’ll handle all of those things when we get there. Could we tackle this diaper rash first?”

All of a sudden, you get why your own mother freaked out when she saw you bolt near a busy street. Or why she turned off the TV when the subject matter got dicey. If you were the type to laugh at friends who insisted on eating farm-fresh non-GMO, organic, practically-still-covered-in-dirt veggies, now you are the type giving the side-eye to anything not from Whole Foods.

Anxiety and fear can paralyze you as you consider all the ways this world is big, bad and scary—and how your sweet, precious baby is about to grow up within it. This can feel absolutely overwhelming.

I promise you that your mind quiets down and you will eventually feel that you can conquer the shadows that feel so dark and colossal.

Heart

Mama, your heart will hurt. And it hurts because a large part of you is dying.

It’s the part that was able to put you first. The you before you had a baby.

You will feel selfish when the baby is crying but all you want to do is stay in bed. You will feel pangs of sadness when you see a group of girlfriends getting brunch or a couple with no kids taking an impromptu vacation. The things we hold so dear—our own time, our own bodies, our desires—will be sacrificed for the sake of another.

It is such a worthy sacrifice. But it’s not easy.

A mother’s heart-change doesn’t happen like a light switch. It is forged in the sleepless nights, in the sweet coos, in the colicky crying, in the moments where this crazy instinct kicks in and you know exactly what to do. It happens when you make sure your baby is okay and you think about yourself later. It happens when the baby needs to nurse again and you act on his need rather than your desire to keep your shirt on. It happens when your heart bursts with pride as you introduce your daughter to your family and friends (even though she just spit up on your shirt). It happens when you experience FOMO as you scroll your Instagram feed but then drop your phone and forget about all of it when you see that your baby needs you.

And slowly, especially during this fourth trimester, you find that the core of who you are has been redefined and restructured. And you love it more than you could possibly imagine. You would never go back, even if you could.

You learn to give yourself grace in the hard moments and how to soak in the sweet ones.

Can I give you some advice? Soak it all in while you can. The rest of us mamas are sorta-kinda jealous of you right now (although you are having moments of “When does chaos this end?!”), and we’re thinking about having another one just to go back to that time.

Welcome to your new normal, dear friend. I promise that it will begin to just feel normal (rather than new) very, very soon.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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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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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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