A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

8 surprising things first-time mamas should know about giving birth

Postpartum bleeding

“I was surprised by the bleeding after birth. I know now that it’s normal, but it kind of freaked me out at the time.”
—Rachael

Most women bleed for about six weeks after they have a baby. It starts out like a heavy period.

After a few days the bleeding will become lighter in both flow and color, and then turn pinkish, then yellowish, then white and finally clear. The timeline varies for everyone. You may also have a few small blood clots, especially when you stand up after sitting or lying down for a long time.

When to call your provider: If you have several blood clots or a clot the size of a golf ball, or if you fill a pad with blood in an hour or two, call your provider right away (2 am phone call totally justified).

Every birth is different

“I heard so many stories about birth and kept trying to picture what mine would be like based on what everyone else was saying. But I now I realize that every experience is just so different. Honestly, I wish I had focused on me a little more during my pregnancy, and worried less about what everyone else was doing.”
—Renee

You may find that you’re constantly being told other people’s birth stories. And that’s awesome, as long as you’re finding it helpful and inspiring. But if you get to a place where you feel stressed as you’re listening, or are hearing things that make you worry, it’s okay to ask people to save their stories until after your baby is born. Every birth really is unique, so try to focus on what you want your story to look like.

(Need help deciding what you what want from your birth experience? Check out Motherly’s birth class!)

Your nurse = your hero

“One thing I didn’t expect was how important the nurses were vs. my doctor during the labor and birth process. I loved my OB and she was super important during my whole pregnancy, but it was really the nurses who took care of me that got me through it.”
—Kate

If you’re having a hospital birth, there is a good chance your provider will be taking care of multiple women at the same time. So while they should be in to check on you frequently, chances are they won’t be by your side for most of your labor. Your nurse, on the other hand, will probably be taking care of only you, so she’ll be with you for much more of your labor.

What crowning feels like

“I wish I had known what it feels like just before the baby came out, and maybe how to cope with the sensation.”
—Aubrey

During pushing, the time when you can finally start to see the baby’s head is called crowning. It usually lasts for at least a few contractions, and many women describe as an unpleasant burning sensation.

Here are a few things to know:

—The burning sensation is actually your skin naturally stretching around the baby’s head. It is doing exactly what it is supposed to. So while it may not feel awesome, try to take comfort in knowing that it’s very normal (and will be over very soon).

—When the baby is crowning, instead of doing big long pushes, switch to short gentle pushes (and lots of breathing). This will help baby to ease out and give your perineum (the skin on the outside of your vagina) time to stretch.

After-birth cramping

“I didn’t know that I’d have cramping after the baby was born, and it would be a bit uncomfortable.”
—Melissa

After birth, your uterus will start to shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size.

It does this by contracting, or cramping (bonus: it’s also helping to stop the bleeding).

This cramping can be especially intense during breastfeeding: When you nurse, your body releases a hormone called oxytocin, which is the hormone the causes contractions. So while it can be uncomfortable, remember that it is very much on purpose and helping you to heal!

The good news is that this only lasts for about three to five days. Talk to your provider about taking an anti-inflammatory medication for the first few days after birth to help with this discomfort.

P.S. During the first few days after you give birth, your medical team will ask to press on your lower belly periodically. They are checking to make sure your uterus feels firm and healthy. It can be a little uncomfortable, but it’s only temporary.

Remember to plan for you

“I didn’t really plan for taking care of myself after birth—I had everything ready for the baby, but didn’t remember that I’d need some TLC too!”
—Jamie

You’re about to welcome new life into the world, so of course you want to make sure everything is perfect for them.

But remember: YOU are the one who has been growing (and will soon be birthing) that new little being. Factor in some serious healing time for yourself: rest, eat well and nurture yourself. And a big one... ask for help!

See if you can line up people to be on call to help you for the first month after you give birth (send this list of suggestions).

Don't forget why you're here

“The minute my baby was born I was like ‘Ohhhhhhhhh, okay. That was totally worth it.’ I remember my birth, of course, but honestly it was just a blip in time compared to what comes after—and I have to say, it IS totally worth it.” 
—Delia

No comment needed.

If I’ve learned one thing about pregnant women during my seven years as a midwife, it is that pregnant women are planners. We like to anticipate and prepare for everything! But it can be hard to really envision what the whole process is going to be like, and sometimes it’s difficult to even know what questions to ask.

We asked some fellow mamas to share what surprised them most about their births. Here’s what we found out.

You'll still have a belly for a little while

“I thought I’d magically be able to wear regular sized clothes again. It took a good two to three months, and now, almost six months in, my body is still shifting and changing a ton.”
—Nina

It takes a while for your uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy size. And, your body has gone through (and will continue to go through) tremendous changes. You’ll probably be most comfortable in maternity clothes for at least the first month or so after giving birth (or way longer, who are we kidding).

Be gentle on yourself. Remember, YOU JUST MADE A BABY.

(Psst: Check this article out for a little post-baby self-love reminder.)

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Baking Christmas cookies together is a family tradition for many, but the Centers for Disease Control is warning parents that if your recipe contains raw flour or raw eggs, you really shouldn't sneak a bite before it is cooked, and neither should your kids.

The CDC is warning people not to eat raw cookie dough, cake mix or bread as we head into prime baking season.

The agency acknowledges the appeal of a spoonful of chocolate chip goodness but asks that we "steer clear of this temptation—eating or tasting unbaked products that are intended to be cooked, such as dough or batter, can make you sick."

Salmonella from raw eggs is, of course, a concern, and so is the raw flour. According to the CDC, flour needs to be cooked in order to kill germs like E.Coli. That's why the CDC is asking parents to "say no to raw dough," not just for eating but even for playing with.

"Children can get sick from handling or eating raw dough used for crafts or play clay, too," the CDC posted on its website.

On the Food and Drug Administration's website, that agency advises that "even though there are websites devoted to 'flour crafts,' don't give your kids raw dough or baking mixes that contain flour to play with." Health Canada also states that raw flour should not be used in children's play-dough.

The warnings follow a 2016 E.coli outbreak linked to contaminated raw flour. Dozens of people got sick that year, and a post-outbreak report notes that "state investigators identified three ill children who had been exposed to raw flour at restaurants in Maryland, Virginia, and Texas. Restaurant staff had given them raw dough to play with while they waited for their food to be served."

The CDC worries that with flour's long shelf life, products recalled during the 2016 outbreak may still be in people's pantries (although the CDC notes that any raw flour—recalled or otherwise—should not be consumed).

If your kids do have flour-based play dough, don't worry.

Some parents are still choosing to use flour-based craft dough to make Christmas ornaments or other crafts this holiday season and are reducing the risks by A) making sure the kids aren't eating their art, and B) thoroughly washing little hands, work surfaces, and utensils when the dough play is over.

Other parents are choosing other types of craft clay over flour-based dough.


During the 2016 outbreak, the FDA called for Americans to abstain from raw cookie dough, an approach Slate called "unrealistic and alarmist," noting that "the vast, vast majority of people who consume or touch uncooked flour do not contract E. coli or any other infection."

Two years ago, 63 Americans were made sick by E. coli infections linked to raw flour, according to the CDC. We don't know exactly how many Americans ate a spoonful of cookie dough or played with homemade play dough that year, but we do know that more than 319 million Americans did not get sick because of raw flour.

Are there risks associated with handling and consuming raw flour? Yes, absolutely, but it's not something to panic over.

Bottom line: Don't let your kids eat raw dough when they're helping you bake cookies for Santa, and be mindful of raw flour when choosing crafts for kids.

(And if you have just got to get your raw cookie dough fix, the CDC notes that cookie dough flavored ice cream is totally safe as it "contains dough that has been treated to kill harmful bacteria." Sounds like mama's getting Ben & Jerry's tonight.)

You might also like:

Twinkling lights are everywhere I look, and the magic of the holiday season is filling our house. The kids are growing more excited each day anticipating Santa's arrival and gifts are accumulating, ready to be wrapped in beautiful paper and bows.

Elf and The Grinch have been playing on repeat and the nativity scene has found a safe spot among our decorations. It's one of the busiest times of the year and it can be hard to catch your breath in the hustle and bustle of it all.

But then something stops you.

Maybe it's a pang in your heart or a memory of someone dearly missed. Maybe it's a familiar feeling of emptiness—of wanting this person to be a part of this magical, joy-filled time of year.

It's so easy to forget that many people are struck with sadness around the holidays and are longing for someone who's missing from their lives. We give and give to our families and friends and communities this time of year—food for dinners, and toys for less-fortunate children—but people don't always realize that another type of giving is needed.

The gift of comfort.

Because someone who is missing their mother, father, brother, sister, child, friend or spouse needs your connection and warmth. They need a reminder of their loved one is not forgotten, and maybe above all—just needs a hug.

Family traditions are wonderful and cherished, but they can also feel incomplete when someone is missing.

For me, I love the holidays, and watching my kids experience all the joys this season has to offer truly fills my heart. Yet, not a Christmas goes by that I don't think about what Kendrick (my first child lost at 2 months old) would have thought of this time of year.

Would he have loved hot cocoa like his sister and brothers? Would he have gotten into all the ornaments on the tree as a toddler? What toys would he have asked Santa for? What Christmas wishes would he have made for others?

I am left to wonder these things without answer. And even though I fully embrace this time of year and relish the holidays, I can't help but miss him.

I wanted to share my story as a reminder that even though your holiday cup may be filled with joy, someone you know may be wrestling with sadness. With all the merry and bright and cups of cheer, it's important to be mindful of this and to treat people with extra care. Reach out to someone you know who has lost someone, and let them know you're thinking of them. It won't go unnoticed.

Many of us have dealt with loss at some point in our lives, and we've learned to carry these special people in our hearts so that they are always with us. But missing someone never goes away. There are so many experiences in our lives we wish we could just snap our fingers and have them right by our sides—the holidays being one of those.

So as you check off your shopping lists, make your donations, trim your tree, or light your menorah—please don't forget to show care to those who may be hurting a little this holiday season.


They're certainly in a position where they could buy every item on their kids' Christmas lists, but Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher aren't planning on piling up the presents under the Christmas tree this year.

"So far, our tradition is no presents for the kids," Kunis said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. Mom to 4-year-old daughter, Wyatt, and 2-year-old son Dmitri, Kunis says she and Kutcher are determined to not raise entitled kids—and are learning from the mistakes of Christmases past.

“We've told our parents, 'We're begging you: If you have to give her something, pick one gift,'" Kunis said. “'Otherwise, we'd like to take a charitable donation, to the Children's Hospital or a pet... Whatever you want.' That's our new tradition."

The minimalist Christmas that Kunis and Kutcher embrace makes sense on a lot of levels: It teaches kids how to be more mindful consumers, removes the emphasis on material goods... And saves you from those chaotic trips to the mall.

Going without presents doesn't mean going without

Putting a halt on presents these upcoming holidays is one way to reinforce what the season is really about: Spending quality time together as families and cherishing what we already have. But "no presents" doesn't mean "no fun," either.

Some of our favorite non-material gift suggestions include:

  • Experiences
  • Lessons
  • College contributions
  • Coupon booklets
  • Piggy bank donations
  • Gifts for others

Or you could take a cue from Kunis and Kutcher without going all the way: Maybe you only focus on one or two quality gifts. Or pass on anything that will likely get discarded to the bottom of the toy box before next year's holidays.

Think of Christmas gifts for kids kind of like eggnog: A little goes a long way.

[Originally published October 11, 2017]

After feeling alone and suffering silently for years, Gabrielle Union has been very open about her struggle with infertility since her memoir, We're Going to Need More Wine, came out last year. She surprised many by writing about how she'd suffered "8 or 9 miscarriages" while trying to conceive with husband Dwyane Wade, and just over a year later the couple surprised the world again by announcing they'd just welcomed a baby girl via surrogate.

Union's story is incredible, and one so many women needed to hear, and that's why Oprah's OWN network just aired a sit-down interview special with Union and Wade: Oprah at Home with Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade & Their New Baby.

(The audio version of the interview drops in two parts on 'Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations' podcast on Monday, December 10, and Wednesday, December 12.)

The interview, which first aired over the weekend, saw Union open up about how the years of IVF treatments and disappointment left her questioning everything she knew. "I've just always been of the mindset — because this is what people tell you: 'You work hard, you do the right things, you're a good person, it will happen for you,' eventually," Union, 46, told Oprah.

"I could not let go of this idea of creating this life within me," Union explains, adding that she felt the "need to be pregnant for everybody, including myself."

As the medical interventions escalated, Wade became worried. "I'm watching her do things to her body and to herself that it's getting to the point where it's not healthy," he told Oprah, adding that he always told Union that he wanted a baby as much as she did, but that he married her and that she was the most important thing to him.

"So it came to a point where, you know, I started to feel a certain way about that because I didn't want something to happen to her," Wade told Oprah.

So when the couple decided to explore surrogacy, Wade was pleased to see the medical part of his wife's journey come to an end.

When the couple surprised the world by announcing the birth of their daughter, Kaavia James, Union was puzzled by comments that insinuated the skin-to-skin photo she used in the birth announcement was an attempt to "act like" she'd been pregnant herself, or that she really had been pregnant herself.

She notes she never tried to make it seem like she'd been pregnant, as she explained her daughter was born via surrogate in the caption for that photo, which was taken after the surrogate had a C-section.

"Our surrogate went into recovery, and we were able to go immediately into another hospital room," Union told Oprah. "I had one of my New York & Company sweaters on, but skin-to-skin was kind of hard. And because the doctors kept coming in…it was easier to have skin to skin in a hospital gown."

Wade said he found the comments painful. "I think for me the most hurtful thing was once we had the baby, and everyone started talking about why is she in the bed holding the baby, why does she have a gown on, why is she acting that she just had a baby," Wade said.

Union and Wade say they hope talking about their story will help others tell theirs, and know that they are not alone. "So many people are suffering in silence and every time, when we're candid and transparent about our journeys, no matter what those journeys are, you are allowing people to be seen and heard and empowered in ways that they've never been," Union told Oprah.

She may have felt alone during her journey to motherhood, but by telling her story, Union is making sure other mamas don't.

You might also like:

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.