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How I learned to use my anxiety to become a better mom

I could use it as a tool rather than as something that would hold me back.

anxiety in motherhood

By the time I became a mother at 30, I was well-versed in healing my personal anxiety. I began teaching myself mediation through books I found in the library and then when I was 19 I met my yoga teacher who also taught Zen meditation. My first experience with Zen meditation was powerful. After I got past the discomfort of stillness and silence I began having powerful visions—some I still remember to this day.

When I had my first child, I was well-practiced in maintaining my anxiety and being aware that, while it would probably never go away, it didn't have to be something that would hold me back. Instead, it could become an asset.

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Anxiety could be a spiritual antenna for me to pay attention to what circumstances don't work for me, especially in motherhood. I could use it as a tool rather than as something that would hold me back.

In some ways, motherhood was its own spiritual awakening for me. During my pregnancy, I was also closing my business of five years and wrapping up a divorce―on top of feeling totally nauseous the whole time. It was the perfect storm to trigger anxiety.

Despite those challenges, pregnancy, birth, and motherhood felt so natural to me. This was what I was supposed to be doing―it was like the sun was rising and leaving all that destruction behind.

Of course, meditation was a huge help. But as a mother, your meditation practice changes so much. During my pregnancy, I was so nervous about not having that time to myself―and for the first few years, I never really had 20 minutes to sit in silence and stillness (as any new mom knows!). So if I did get time during one of my daughter's longer naps, it was cherished.

I went from having a regular meditation practice to having a "meditate when you can" practice, and the sporadic schedule made my meditation an even more honored practice. It was something I got to do instead of something I just did.

Motherhood made me show up for meditation more presently―it became something I really worked at.

As a result, I felt myself becoming a more present mother and feeling more attuned to the energy of my child. In that first year, so many developmental changes are happening, and my meditation gave me a sensor to read into those changes. I even felt like it made up for the loss of sleep in a lot of ways.

I really feel as though motherhood itself is a meditation. Whether you get to sit in silence or not, you are so present―so aware of this kid―you are already in this state of awareness that meditation brings. Just by being a mom, you are meditating enough.

Whenever I'm able to find peace and stillness―no matter what may be happening in our lives―the practice kicks in. I take a deep breath and drop whatever I was doing before to be more present with my daughter. I grant myself grace when I have to multitask because I always know I can come back to that presence. For me, part of meditation is noticing that I need to take a moment to check in with myself, take a deep breath and recenter.

The good part of meditation is that there's always more to learn. I'm continuously growing―both as a mother and a person. Even in the most chaotic moments of motherhood, there's always a place of stillness I can come to.

The moment I became a mother was such a beautiful one―like waking up and knowing this was what I was meant to be doing. And just like meditation, it's a practice that brings me peace every day.

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After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.

$200

Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

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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There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

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Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

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

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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