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I finally have the strength to talk about my traumatic birth

One to 5% of women experience a postpartum hemorrhage after giving birth.

I finally have the strength to talk about my traumatic birth

[Trigger warning: This essay describes one woman's emotional journey with postpartum hemorrhage.]

It's my daughter's first birthday, and I haven't written in the journal I bought her since she was born. I picked it up around 20 weeks into my pregnancy when a doctor let it slip that I was having a girl.

Usually, words pour out of me. But the words in this journal start and end a few days before my daughter's birth. I told her I could feel she was ready, and we couldn't wait to meet her. How we would take a picnic blanket to the park and enjoy the blossoms.

But in the one year since her birth, I haven't been able to bring myself to write an additional word. How do I talk about how much I love watching her grow without addressing the shadow that reminds me, "You would have missed this"?

A year ago, I nearly died, and I don't know how to write that into a baby book.

Her birth could be described as everything I hoped for and worked towards. It was the opposite of my son's, which was an induction with heavy Pitocin, episiotomy forceps delivery and manual removal of placenta.

This time, I had the best team imaginable: doula, midwife, spouse and nurse. I was in a coveted room in the birthing center of a hospital in New York City. I had the birth pool, dim lights, hypnosis tracks in my headphones and all the time I needed. I also had the OR just a few floors away. Which is why I am here today.

One to 5% of women experience a postpartum hemorrhage after giving birth (classified as more than 0.5 liters blood for a vaginal delivery and more than 1 liter of blood for a cesarean). Severe hemorrhage is when you lose more than that, and it's the leading cause of maternal deaths worldwide.

Severe in my case was losing more than 2 liters of blood after the second stage of labor—the birth of the baby—and during the manual removal of my placenta (again). The average person carries 4.5-5.5 liters in their body. Such rapid loss of blood means your blood pressure plummets and you lose consciousness. In my case, it dropped to the lowest reading my midwife had seen on an alive person.

Suddenly it was all numbers, questions and beeping machines. All I wanted was to see my baby. There were transfusions, fluids and more numbers. "You're so lucky, you know," they said. "In any other time..." "You scared us." "Don't even think about having any more, okay?"

I was angry.

"Ms. Smith, you buzzed?"

"I just want to see my baby."

"When you are stable."

Let me tell you, there is nothing stable about a woman who can't see her baby.

If birth is primal, this feeling is savage. Twelve hours after she was born, I met her properly. As incredible and smushy-perfect as the pics my husband had been sending while I was in the ICU.

We chose a name that means "alive."

The first few months of her life were blissful and bubble-ish but not the kind I thought I'd journal about. There were no walks and no blossoms. I couldn't leave our 700sq ft walk-up apartment for six weeks. When I did, I bled more and slept for days. Ten weeks later I was craving nature, so took a train out of town only to end up in the hospital again, exhausted, but mostly, deflated. I bled for three months.

But I grew up in a positive mindset household so I switched on the gratitude version of my internal monologue: "I am grateful to be alive on this day. I am grateful that I have been forced to slow down. I am so very grateful to clean this smeary poop. I am blessed to drink this microwaved cup of coffee."

In my healing, I've learned that it's also okay to be sad, and frankly, angry that it happened at all. Bummed that I missed the first day of her life, and was so incapable for two months of my son's. Frustrated that instead of some kind of divine rebirth, the past year has felt like being only half-alive. Sorry that my husband has taken on the full burden of that. Angry there was no warning after my first birth that this could happen. Confused about what caused it. Devastated that if I was to have another baby, it could happen again.

More so, I'm heartbroken that this happens around the world every day. Every day, around 830 women around the world die of childbirth-related complications, 35% of which can be attributed to postpartum hemorrhage.

I can't give blood yet. I can't change the fact that this is such a huge issue around the world. But a year after picking up the pieces, I'm feeling ready to do something. Even if the first step is talking. And digging out the journal again.

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Create a school-ready capsule wardrobe for your kids

Dress for success whether virtual learning or in the classroom!

Tina Meeks

Going "back to school" this year may be less of a literal statement than in years past—but there is just as much reason for your kids to celebrate moving on to new grades. Just like in every new school year, a big part of the fun is refreshing your kids' wardrobe with clothes that allow them to express themselves.

Even if finding back to school clothes this year doesn't include a trip to the mall, you can still make an event of it by shopping H&M's kids collection from your computer. Pull up another chair for your shopping buddy and get the cart started with these fave capsule wardrobe options we've already scouted.

Here are our favorite picks:

A t-shirt made for play

H&M t-shirt

Call them essentials, not basics. A graphic t-shirt aces the test when it comes to being perfect for school. And because your little student will probably want to wear something that expresses their personal style as often as possible, it's great to know the shirts can stand up to school time, playtime, downtime and everything in between!

$4.99

Dressed-up casual shorts for total comfort

H&M boy shorts

Whether pulling up a chair for a virtual meeting with the class or heading back to the school for in-person learning, some comfortable, yet stylish, shorts will help your kid focus on the real tasks at hand: learning—and having fun while doing it!

$19.99

Layers for when seasons change

H&M sweatshirt

When it comes to feeling comfortable at school, layers are the MVPs. Whether the AC is blasting or the day started off cool and is warming up quickly, having a unique sweatshirt to shed or add will help your kid look cool while staying warm.

$9.99

A bit of flair with distressed denim

H&M distressed jeans

A school staple for generations, denim is both classic and continually fashionable with updates like distressing and new wash colors. If you're shopping online for jeans this year, take note of H&M's generous return policy—your kids can try on the orders at home and return anything that doesn't fit without a trip to the store.

$24.99

A fashion statement piece

H&M girls skirt

What's better than expressing yourself through a stylish outfit when school is back in session? Still feeling perfectly comfortable and ready to tackle anything the day holds while looking so good. With so many fashion-forward looks available at budget-friendly prices, H&M's children's collection means every kid can find an outfit that speaks to them.

$14.99

Some comfy kicks

H&M boys shoes

A sure way to put a little pep in your child's step this year, cool and cozy shoes are a staple on all back-to-school shopping lists for good reason. (Plus, it's fun to compare them to last year's shoes to see how much your kid has grown!)

$19.99

Anything-but-basic blouses

H&M girls blouse

Whether in the classroom or showing up for a video call with the class, a styling blouse or button-down shirt is a great way for your student to comfortably dress up the day. Better yet? Style doesn't have to come at the expense of comfort with so many made-to-move tops designed just for kids.

$14.99

A shirt ready to go whatever the day holds

H&M boys shirt

With "going to school" meaning anything from showing up in the classroom to doing a virtual session, it's important to have clothes that are perfect for anything the day holds. A classic, cotton shirt with a fashion-forward design is a great way to keep your student feeling ready to start the year with an A+ attitude.

$9.99

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

Our Partners

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

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Two weeks. I cannot believe that it has been two weeks since my second son was brought into this world. Two weeks since my husband and I welcomed baby Simon, the final piece of our little family.

But, here is the whopper: It has been two weeks since I have been the mom of a toddler and a newborn. I am now responsible for taking care of two tiny humans.

It absolutely blows my mind how much my life has changed in the last two weeks. It's definitely not all rainbows and unicorns around here, but things are going pretty well. This is me being cautiously optimistic.

What I have done is learned a lot about myself, my kids and my new life in the last two weeks.

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