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I completely understand why all my friends chose to find out their baby's sex via sonogram, before birth.

The middle-aged sonographer thought I was joking when I told her that I didn't want to know. “Really? You're the first person in months to not want to know," she said. But it wasn't that I didn't want to know. I wondered every day. Rather, I was choosing not to know.

As she administered what would be (for that pregnancy) my final prenatal sonogram, this quizzical woman repeated what the sonographers before her had said. “I'm glad you're waiting. That's what we all did when I was young, before you could find out. There is no surprise more worth the wait."

To each her own, I say again. A dear friend was so playfully annoyed that I was waiting to learn the news that she asked if she could come along and have the doctor write it on a slip of paper, so she could start shopping for clothes. I laughed and refused. When this same friend became pregnant a year later, she found out as soon as she could. And halfway through her pregnancy I celebrated the revelation of her child's sex with her. By the time the baby came, she knew the name and had the nursery ready to go.

I delight in planning, in being super-prepared. So why, then, would I choose not to know my baby's sex as quickly as possible?

I can think of plenty of good reasons to find out right away, and friends and strangers alike always ask, “What are you having?" But I think there just might be others out there who would enjoy hearing the story of an expectant mother who waited to find out and would do it again.

Reason #1: The loss of control

You know the very thing I said I revel in? I willingly gave it up. I drove myself crazy... but it was a good crazy. I knew that being a mom would mean a constant loss of control. Why not practice?

After spending nine months totally in the dark about an incredible secret I could have found out, it was like I had endured Control Loss Boot Camp. Not finding out my baby's sex was a way to train myself as a new mom to not freak out on those days when it felt like everything was outside my control.

Reason #2: Loving acceptance

Have you ever noticed that everyone has an opinion on which gender would be better for you to have?

"Ooh, it's probably a girl because you're so girly. I just think you'd take to a girl easier." Uh, I'm sorry. I didn't know the amount of leather or lace I wore affected gender outcome.

"I hope you have a boy. Your husband must want a son more than anything." Did I hear you correctly?

"Hope it's not a girl. They can be so difficult. A girl will give you a hard time, especially when she begins menstruating." Did you really just say that? The child hasn't taken his or her first breath yet.

When you're pregnant, everyone assumes you have a preference. The fact is, I didn't care what I had. I just prayed my baby would be healthy.

But what if you do have a preference, and then find out you are having the opposite? That happened to one of my friends. She spent months worrying that she would not bond with her daughter because she so desperately wanted a son. When she met the baby, she fell in love. Why not avoid the worrying altogether?

First and foremost, your baby is a person, with a unique and beautiful soul. Want to prove that to the world? Wait to find out. Then people will be meeting Baby James with the sparkling eyes and incredible laugh or Baby Alice with the tuft of curls and voracious appetite, and not simply "the boy" or "the girl."

Reason #3: To avoid disappointment + keep unfair pressures off an unborn baby

Some cultures still prize the perceived superiority of sons, and there might be someone in your family, whether or not they admit it to you, who will be disappointed to learn you're having a girl. (There may also be those who are disappointed you're having a boy.) Sure, they may eventually get over it. But why not spare your child being anything but happily anticipated?

Not finding out your baby's sex is a statement, an act of defiance against the temptation (whether yours or someone else's) to "root" for one sex or have preconceived notions about your child's personality. It can also be a way to protect an unborn baby from people's opinions before they are even out of the womb. There will be plenty of time for facing those later.

Reason #4: Green + yellow are cooler than pink or blue

In the words of Gwen Stefani, "Take this pink ribbon off my eye!"Ever get a little sick of bubblegum pink and periwinkle blue? There's a whole color palette to choose from, so why limit yourself? (Even if you learn your baby's gender but break out of the pink/blue thing, prepare for all kinds of pink or blue gifts from others.)

My nursery was seafoam green, decorated with Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck. The clothes my baby wore home from the hospital? A beautiful soft cream onesie with a bunny stitched on the front. All the sweet yellow, green and white outfits looked adorable, and it was fun to go shopping for the more gender-specific clothes after a few weeks of recovery.

Reason #5: You make some people nuts (+ it's fun, right)?

When you might otherwise hear a lecture on what it's like to raise a boy or a girl, complete with "advice," you'll instead hear, "You seriously don't know? It makes me crazy and it's not even my baby." "It's in God's hands," you answer, "not mine." And you reach for more Mexican food. The guacamole tastes even better than usual.

Reason #6: What if the sonographer was wrong?

Think that can't happen? I know someone who thought she was having a girl. But I guess something special was hiding off camera, because lo and behold, she delivered a baby boy last year and brought him home to his pink Disney Princess bedroom.

Sure, it's rare. But can you imagine if they made a mistake? You might feel you were mourning a lost baby you never really had.

Reason #7: Connection to our foremothers + our faith

For almost every generation before ours, women discovered the sex of their babies after delivery. These births had an air of mystery and magic. Loved ones paced outside, awaiting the exciting news, instead of reading about it on Facebook in advance.

Although almost everything about labor and delivery has improved since those previous generations, I like this connection to the sacred mystery of births that came before. Whatever your religion, not finding out your baby's gender is an act of faith, supreme trust that all will be well and that ultimately you will have what you are meant to have.

Reason #8: Giddy anticipation

Remember the feeling of being a kid who couldn't wait to open your Christmas/birthday/holiday present and find out what treasure awaited you? The anticipation is like that, times 100.

My aunt told me, "It helps you push, because you're so excited to find out." And she was right. When my baby was born and I found out, I cried tears of pure joy and amazement. Turns out, it really is the best surprise of your life.

Reason #9: A baby is never the way you would expect, anyway

Knowing your baby's sex might make you think you know what to expect when they're born. Wrong!

Any mom knows that she never could have imagined the perfect and crazy uniqueness that is her baby. Waiting to find out allows you to fall in love with a new baby, rather than the preview report of a gender, which often carries with it stereotypes that your child might transcend.

For example, you might have a rambunctious baby girl who is always getting scrapes, and a cautious baby boy who would rather sit on the sidelines with a board book. We're having people, not pink and blue drones.

Reason #10: It bucks the trend

The big trend these days is finding out. It's so easy—there are sonograms, blood tests and even over-the-counter kits.

If you decide to find out, I totally get it. I almost caved several times, and that would have brought its own excitement, and maybe a gender reveal party. Or there might be a particular reason why finding out makes the most sense for you.

But if you decide to hang in there, I'm right there with you. And we're not alone. If you want to find us, we're the ones with the two names picked out, the frustrated friends waiting with intense curiosity, the ones crying euphoric tears of surprise in the hospital.

Oh, and what did I end up having? Exactly what our family needed... the most beautiful baby my husband and I could have imagined, inside and out.


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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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