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8 truths about the 4th trimester I wish I had known

6. Little victories are worth celebrating.

8 truths about the 4th trimester I wish I had known

This summer I welcomed my amazing son into the world. Like many soon-to-be parents, my husband and I signed up for our local prenatal class series, confident that I'd leave the course feeling prepared. And I was, in a way.

We learned about the stages of labor, pain relief methods, and emergency C-sections. But almost no time was dedicated to the postpartum period, or the blurry, foggy, overall confusing newborn stage.

In the 8.5 months that I've been a mom, I've by no means become an expert, but I have learned some lessons that have served me well as I navigate this new world. Things that, honestly, I wish someone would have given me the head's up on.

Here they are:

1. Simple doesn’t mean easy.

Feed, change, cuddle, repeat. Bathe occasionally. Clothe. Simple, right?

Caring for a newborn may be simple in theory, but make no mistake— there's nothing easy about it. In fact, it's shocking how difficult it can be. Lack of sleep played a huge role for me in how difficult things often felt, as did my physical recovery, and well, the huge adjustment to being a mother.

2. You’ll recover at your own pace.

After a beautiful, calm labor—the labor I had dreamed of—I was utterly disappointed in myself for recovering so slowly. I knew people who were out and about, jogging with their newborns in their strollers just a few days postpartum.

Me? The journey from the car to our condo unit felt like a marathon. It hurt to stand. It hurt to sit. I was bleeding. I was leaking milk. Taking a shower was terrifying.

In fairness, my delivery was complicated—the umbilical cord was wrapped around my son's shoulder and his heart rate was dropping, so I needed a massive episiotomy and the help of a vacuum to get him out ASAP. But I couldn't believe how long it took me to feel like myself again. I wasn't close to healed by the 6-week timeline—it was more like three months.

I remember thinking, forget about getting my pre-baby body back—I just want a body that functions! But beating myself up wasn't going to speed up the recovery process. It only made me feel worse.

Be kind to yourself. It took nine months (give or take) for your body to grow and birth your baby, and it'll take time for things to fall back into place.

3. Your baby might have recovery time too.

After delivery, my baby had a swollen head from the vacuum extraction and was jaundiced. He didn't exactly look like the sweet, chubby baby I was expecting.

When he cried and was fussy, I had to remind myself that he was healing just like I was. We were in this together, and neither of us was feeling our best.

4. You’ll want someone at your appointments.

Between the sleep deprivation, hormones, and total newness of it all, doctor's appointments can seem like a hazy blur. Recruit your partner, your mom, your sister, or a close friend to come with you. They'll listen, ask questions, and help you remember things after the fact.

I don't know how many times my husband said to me, "Don't worry, the doctor said that's normal," and I thought When the heck did he say that? That's normal, mama. Your body may be working overtime but your mind might feel like it is moving in slow motion.

5. Unexpected people will reach out.

One of the most amazing experiences during my pregnancy and postpartum period was the people who reached out to offer love and support—not just congratulatory wishes but an invitation to talk about how things are really going.

Because those who have gone through it recently know how trying those first few days, weeks, and months can be. If you don't have lots of close friends or family members who are having babies at the same time as you, you can feel extremely alone.

I had a former co-worker who now lives halfway across the country reach out in the most touching way, and she still stays in touch.

When someone holds their hand out, take it—it can be such a wonderful experience. Plus, you may be able to pass it on one day too.

6. Little victories are worth celebrating.

One of the most powerful, important things you can do is celebrate small victories, and be thankful for little joys.

At the very beginning, I tried to do one simple thing every day— cut and file my nails, write a thank you card for a gift I received, drink a hot cup of tea.

Later on, my victories got slightly bigger—meet my sister for lunch, go for a walk with the baby to the grocery store. On more than one occasion, I looked down at my baby when I got home from being out with him and said, "Look at us—look at what we can do!"

When you're a new mom, it's perfectly acceptable to be proud of yourself for getting dinner on the table or running an errand. In fact, you should be beaming with pride. You did it!

7. There’s no shame in asking for help.

When it comes to professionals, there's a wealth of knowledge out there to turn to: breastfeeding specialists, sleep consultants, pelvic floor physiotherapists, postpartum doulas, and so on. But asking for help can also mean asking your mom to come over and hold the baby so you can nap. Or asking your friend to bring a pack of diapers. And of course, seeking support for postpartum anxiety or depression is crucial and can make a world of difference.

8. It gets easier, and it gets better.

I've heard people say, "It doesn't get easier, it just gets different," and I'll let you know—that's not true. It does get easier. Sleep improves, breastfeeding (if you're doing so) gets easier, colic goes away, and newborns turn into adorable, smiley, cuddly little babies. If you don't love the newborn stage, you're not alone, and that's okay!

New motherhood can seem like a long, hazy tunnel, but you'll find your way through it, and at the other side, you'll discover yourself again, along with the sweetest little baby in the world.

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My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

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

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9 products that will help baby sleep better (and longer!)

For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

How do I get my baby to sleep? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among new parents, and it makes sense, given that babies are born with their days and nights mixed up. For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.

$79

Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

Yogasleep hushh sound machine

With three soothing options, this is a perfect solution to help your baby settle when naps are on the go and during travel! I love how compact this noise machine is and that it can run all night with one charge.

$30

Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

Burt's Bees Organic Crib Sheets

With a variety of print options to choose from, these breathable sheets are *so* soft and smooth, even through multiple washes. The luxury fabric keeps little ones warm without overheating—a formula that helps ensure more sleep for everyone.

$32

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

You know what's going to help baby have their best sleep ever? Some quality, super soft pajamas. The timeless (and aptly named!) Perfect Pajama from The Simple Folk are some of our favorites. They last forever and they're made from organic pima cotton that is safe on baby's precious skin. They come in a wide range of sizes so siblings can match and feature fold-over hand covers on sizes up to 12 months.

$37

The Snoo bassinet

Snoo

Designed by expert pediatrician and sleep guru Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo bassinet gently rocks your baby to sleep while snuggled up in the built-in swaddle. Not only does it come with sensors that adjust the white noise and movement based on your baby's needs, there is also an app that allows you to adjust the settings directly from your phone.

While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!

$1295

Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

best baby sound machine

The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.

$59.99

Crane humidifier

Crane Humidifier

The only thing worse than a sick baby is a baby who is sick and not sleeping well. The Crane humidifier helps take care of this by relieving congestion and helping your baby breathe better while sleeping.

Personally, I think the adorable design options alone are enough of a reason to purchase this product, and your child will love watching steam come out of the elephant's trunk!

$46.99

Naturepedic organic crib mattress

Naturpedic Lightweight Organic Mattress

In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.

$259.00

Happiest Baby sleepea 5-second swaddle

best baby swaddle

There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.

$27.95

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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