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There are days I wake up so happy I can feel it in my bones. But on other days I wake up feeling out of sorts, like someone trying to find a light switch in a darkened room.

A year ago, I decided to seek help from a therapist. I never thought about therapy before. I never thought I needed it. I had feelings buried deep inside me at the pit of my core for years that I never talked about, but that's where they lived, and I was okay with that—or so I thought.

Then I became a mother. And my heart cracked open, and a whole flood of emotions and new layers presented themselves.

When my second son was born, I was depressed, anxious—I was falling apart at the seams. Up until that point, I was treading water with my head above the surface because typically it's fine as long as it's fine... until one day it's not.

My therapist was gentle. She guided me. She taught me how to live with my realities and how to work through problems in my life. She helped peel back those layers to reveal why I was feeling what I was feeling and how I could deal with it on a daily basis—and that has saved me.

I had to stop listening to the negative voice inside my head.

We all have that inner voice inside of our heads that makes us question every move we make. That voice creates doubt and insecurity that gets in the way of how we live our lives and it can make you feel like a failure as a mom.

Your house is a complete disaster, fail.

Your baby isn't sleeping through the night yet, fail.

You yelled at your toddler for accidentally spilling milk on the kitchen floor, fail.

All these little moments stack up, and in return you blame yourself. You criticize your mom abilities and from there it snowballs.

But instead of turning those destructive thoughts inward, I practice mothering with a purpose now. I've learned to allow my challenges to serve as lessons—to help me parent with patience, strength and kindness.

I take a breather and walk to the other room, I count to 10 in my head, I journal my thoughts—anything to transfer that energy elsewhere. And when my mind starts to shift, I remind myself that I'm more powerful and that I'm in control of my thoughts.

I had to learn that the other voice reflected my true self.

This is the voice that counters the negative. This voice speaks the truth when I have an opinion and makes the decision when I'm being indecisive. It's my gut feeling and first instinct. It's also the voice I used to question most.

As a mother who struggles with depression and anxiety, I often overthink problems and carry around a guilty conscience— even days after making a mistake. My therapist helped me discover what my triggers are and how my voice can help me through it.

I've learned to be willing to explore things in my past in order to identify how they've affected me today. By strengthening this voice, I've been able to connect with my authentic self and become more mindful of my thoughts, fears, and truths.

Instead of second-guessing this voice, I listen to it now.

I had to learn that my feelings are valid, too.

My therapist doesn't like labels, but she often refers to me as being a protective people-pleaser. I tend to drift through life protecting my loved ones with a shield tied to my arm. I think that's part of the innate nature of a mother though, to take away the worries from her family. To pile the pain. To stack the struggles.

There are days—weeks even—when I feel like I'm taking on water. When I feel like I need to set down the bucket and just float there for a little while. Eventually, the weight becomes unbearable to carry and I've learned that it's okay to empty that bucket.

It's okay to confess that I'm struggling.

It's okay that I'm having a bad day, and it's okay to admit that motherhood is hard. My feelings matter, too.

I remind myself that it is the sum of the days, not just today, that shape my children.

I had to learn the healing power of self-forgiveness.

This was difficult for me.

I was unfairly blaming myself for something I was not responsible for. I was ashamed and I often interrogated myself about things that were all stemming from childhood trauma. Why did this happen to me? Why didn't I say anything? And like other survivors of trauma, I found myself stuck along the way toward healing—in a place where shame and guilt seemed to be blocking the path to happiness and recovery.

Even years later, those feelings crept into motherhood. Talking through these problems with my therapist helped me understand that what I experienced was not my fault. I learned that I needed to show myself compassion and empathy. Self-blame and shame can be toxic, and self-compassion has been the antidote.

I had to learn to be true to myself.

This means putting yourself first sometimes, which has always been tough for me, but it's even harder now that I'm a mother.

This means being completely honest with your thoughts, feelings, and values regardless what others might think of you. This means communicating those feelings wholeheartedly to others, allowing you to be your natural self.

If something is bothering you, speak. It means not allowing others to define you, sway you, or make decisions for you. It means being open-minded and sincere with your intimate thoughts and beliefs. It means standing up for yourself and standing down to no one.

Oftentimes there is a misconception that therapy is for those with bigger problems than our own. While others suffer from much greater issues, ones that require prescription medication or hospitalization, anyone can certainly benefit from talk therapy. Therapy can be painful, uncomfortable, overwhelming and exhausting—but it can also be a lifeline. I know it was for me.

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Is there anything cuter than adorable hairstyles on kids? We love when little ones look put together and a chic hairstyle is the icing on a cake.Mamas have upped their game and are delivering trendy, inspo-worthy looks beyond basic ponytails.

We get that creating no-fuss hairstyles (preferably ones that don't require toddlers sitting more than 10 minutes) isn't exactly stress-free and shelling out cash for a stylist isn't something we'll spring for. But we're all about easy styles that we can practically create with our eyes closed. Say hello to getting out the door faster! To be fair, there are a few here that are a tad complicated, so you'll want to screenshot them and share with your mama friend who is a master stylist.

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To help you nail the best kid hairstyles, we've compiled a list of 41 cool hairstyles for little ones from Instagram:

Pigtail buns

This classic style never gets old. If you're concerned about it being too light, loosen it up a bit by adding volume at the roots.






Criss-cross braids

Add a touch of style to a traditional braid.






Top knot

When rushing and don't have time, just throw up their hair in a top bun.



Side braided ponytail

After a few hours on the playground, braids tend to end up on the side of their heads, so why not create it into a style?



Cornrows

We're not going to front—cornrows are tough to create. But if you can get it, it's a style that will last weeks. Need help? Check out these YouTube videos.






Waterfall braids

To add a little more pizazz to a regular braid, braid hair on the side and loosen it a bit at the root.




Triple buns

A bun is probably the easier hairstyle a mama can create, but throw in a dash of style by adding two more bun. Create the look by securing buns from the top of the head to the nape of the neck.








Bun + bows

Add a bow for instant fun.









Lifestyle

When the Coronavirus (COVID-19) started making headlines in early 2020 the expert advice was simple: Don't panic.

This week the CDC warned that the outbreaks of the virus will very likely happen in the United States, but it's important to know that officials still don't want parents to panic, they just want us to be prepared.

"We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad," the Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, told reporters during a news briefing Tuesday. "It's not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen," Dr. Messonnier said.

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It is totally normal to read this and be concerned mama, but there are several things we need to unpack before we let our anxiety overwhelm us.

Here is what you need to know about the Coronavirus response in the United States:

Top doctors are preparing for this

As the virus has spread rapidly overseas America's top doctors have been monitoring the situation. In not quite two months' time 80,000 people have contracted the illness and fewer than 3,000 of those people have died.

In the U.S., 53 cases have been confirmed (most of those were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan or people who caught the virus while traveling overseas). There have only been two cases of person-to-person transmission on U.S. soil, according to the CDC.

The CDC has more than 1,000 professionals working on the response to this virus, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, epidemiologists, veterinarians, laboratorians, communicators, data scientists and modelers.

"CDC staff members are working with state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments and other public health authorities to assist with case identification, contact tracing, evaluation of persons under investigation (PUI) for COVID-19, and medical management of cases; and with academic partners to understand the virulence, risk for transmission, and other characteristics of this novel virus," the agency states on its website.

And while there have been delays in implementing Coronavirus testing measures in the Unites States, experts are working to resolve issues and make testing more efficient. As the New York Times reports, the health and human services secretary "told a Senate panel that federal and local health departments will need as many as 300 million masks for health care workers."

In other words, the experts in the United States are preparing to fight this virus and they want the American public to be prepared, too.

This could impact school, work and daily life

That's why the CDC is telling us to get ready, not to cause panic or anxiety but just to set the expectation that life could be disrupted by this virus. "Now is the time for businesses, hospitals, communities, schools and everyday people to begin preparing," Dr. Messonnier said Tuesday.

She says schools may have to close or otherwise adjust to an outbreak and students may have to start doing tele-schooling online. She also wants businesses to start preparing to hold meetings remotely rather than in-person and to encourage telecommuting during any outbreak. Community activities like sports and church may also have to be canceled or modified.

As the New York Times reports, "Scientists don't know who is most susceptible to the new coronavirus. Children seem less likely to be infected. Middle-aged men seem to have been disproportionately infected, according to some studies."

This could be really disruptive for families

It is true that the scenario Messonnnier is outlining could be really disruptive for families. No one wants this to happen, but if it does have to happen it's a good thing we are getting the heads up.

Here are some steps you can take to prepare for possible interruptions to daily life:

  • Talk to your workplace about any plans it has for operations during an outbreak.
  • Speak to your child's school or childcare provider about how it plans to operate in a worst-case scenario.
  • Ask your doctor for an extra prescription of any medications your family needs, just in case an outbreak makes going to the pharmacy not possible.

Here's how to protect yourself + your family from the Coronavirus

The CDC does not recommend that we all go buy face masks. Face masks are only recommended for people "who show symptoms of COVID-19...[and] health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility)."

Instead, here's what we can all do to avoid the illness, according to the CDC:

  • "Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe."

We know this is serious and kind of scary, mama. But please, don't panic. Know that pandemic experts are working to keep your family safe. According to the CDC, the "National Institutes of Health (NIH) and their collaborators are working on development of candidate vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19."

On Tuesday, President Trump said the coronavirus is "very well under control in our country" and "is going to go away." The health experts who work for the government are doing everything they can to prove the President right, but they do want the public to be ready in case it doesn't go away as fast as he (and all of us) would like.

News

For nine months, your mother was all you knew.

Before I held you in my arms, your mother held you and never let you go.

Before I sacrificed time for you, your mother gladly sacrificed her body.

Before I consoled you when you were upset, your mother consoled you with just the beat of her heart.

Before I comforted you when you were restless, your mother comforted you with just the sound of her voice.

Before I could do anything for you, your mother gave everything for you.

Your mother is the reason I hold you today.

Before you were even a twinkle in my eye, you were in your mother's heart. Your life, your safety, and your very existence depended on her. Something I'll never be able to repay.

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It will take a long time for you to understand the weight, the depth and the immeasurability of your mother's love for you. But someday, when you have children of your own, you will understand what I now see so clearly.

So, I'll hold you tight. But I'll hold your mother tighter because my love for you grows the more I understand the measure of a mother's love.


This essay was previously published here.
Life

What would bath time be without rubber duckies? Probably not as much fun—but also a whole lot cleaner, according to a study published in the journal Biofilms and Microbiomes.

That's because it turns out those squeaky toys are far from squeaky clean thanks to “potentially pathogenic bacteria" in four out of the five bath toys examined by researchers.

For the study, Swiss and American researchers looked at the biofilm communities inside 19 bath toys collected from random households as well as six toys used in controlled clean or dirty water conditions. They found that all of the examined bath toys “had dense and slimy biofilm" on their inner surfaces. What's more, 56% of the real-use toys and all of the dirty-water toys had fungi build up. ?

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Although the researchers note exposure to bacteria and fungi may have some benefits, the strong existence of grime in bath toys is still concerning. They note, “Squeezing water with chunks of biofilm into their faces (which is not unexpected behavior for these users) may result in eye, ear, wound or even gastro-intestinal tract infections."

Besides tossing all your bath toys, what can parents do?

The researchers say more experimental work is needed. But, for starters, it doesn't hurt to remove water from the toys after usage or give them a good, regular dunk in boiling water. The researchers also said they would like to see more regulations on the polymeric materials used for many bath toys.

There is, however, one simple solution—it just comes at the cost of rubber duckie's squeak. “In fact, the easiest way to prevent children from being exposed to bath toy biofilms is to simply close the hole," the researchers say of toys like this water-tight duck. “But where is the fun in that?"

[A version of this post originally appeared April 13, 2018. It has been updated.]

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