The mother in us is born, too

Mothering must rise up in us, not be scripted onto us.

The mother in us is born, too

I used to think the mother in me was born when I had my first child.

My first thought waking up after her birth was, “I’m a mother now.” My next thought was, “Where is my baby?!” When we assume responsibility for raising a child, the ignition of strong emotions such as alarm, joy, anticipation and apprehension all serve to signal something significant is underfoot. Our attention becomes preoccupied, if not hijacked, by all matters related to caretaking.

Despite the feelings of caring and responsibility that sink deeply into us, it is not our child’s arrival that gives birth to the mother in us.


You might think that finding out one is pregnant or deciding to adopt a child is the birthplace of motherhood. While we may make a commitment to have a child, it is not here where we first discover mothering. And for those who were robbed of holding their babies through miscarriage or illness, the instincts to mother did not disappear with these losses either.

The capacity to mother—to care, protect, nourish, guide and to cherish someone is first revealed in the hours we spent in play as a child.

It is here where we practiced protecting our babies, animals, younger siblings, insects to inanimate objects. It was in our play where we experimented with what it means to be responsible and to step into a caretaker role. It was in our pretend world, created from our imagination and emotion, that we took our first steps towards revealing the mother in us.

Despite the parenting we may have received, it was in play where our instincts and emotions to care for another were preserved and nurtured. It is in play where we were free to make mistakes, to get frustrated and to walk away from it all.

Play provided a rehearsal space where no one was really hurt or ever worried if we got it right. No one was really judging our actions and nor did we believe knowledge was required to take care of something.

In play our care taking was innate, instinctive, and lacked words or insight—it was just in us.

In play, the mother in us was drawn to the surface but when a “live” or “real” child was handed to us, this play stopped and the work of mothering began. The ability to make mistakes became too costly as did one’s “take it or leave it” stance. But as we turned ourselves over to the work of mothering, we somehow became disconnected from the instincts and emotions that guided us once so freely in play.

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Perhaps it is because giving ourself over to motherhood has the power to strike fear into our hearts and stir up feelings that we are not good enough, or that we don’t know enough, or are not ready for it all or we feel at loss for answers. Perhaps it is because being a mother feels all too real sometimes. Just ask the mother worried about her child being bullied at school, or the mother of a child who is sick and needs care or the mother who watches her adult child leave home to venture out on their own. It sometimes feels too much when you have had little sleep, have outside work responsibilities to balance with home or when your child is having a tantrum when you want one of your own.

When we played at mothering it was OK to perform and to take for granted that things would work out.

In play we never had to commit and it never felt so raw or real. What mothering requires us to do is to claim our rightful place in our child’s life with pride, confidence, and vulnerability.

The good news is that the mothers in us were born long ago and the instincts and emotions that guided us in play can lead us today.

What our children need is already inside of us to give. It is in the transition from “mothering play” to “mothering reality” that allows the caretaker in us to arrive in solid form. It is when we accept the emotions that come with being a caretaker that our shape solidifies and our identity is transformed in the process.

Being a mother is not about the performance we give—but something that should come deep from within us. We cannot find the mother in us by following someone else’s directions, mantras or pretending that we are in the lead. All the time we look to the external world to steer us, we do not find what is already within. While the mother in us was born in play, it is with our children that we become the caretaker they need.

Mothering must rise up in us, not be scripted onto us.

We are made into mothers when we vulnerably accept the emotions and feelings that come with this role. There will be frustration to joy, apprehension to exuberance. It is these feelings that will wash over us, turn us upside down, inside out and that share—at their core—the power to transform us into the mothers that only our children can make us.

To all the mothers that feel the weight of the reality that comes with this role, this is not a mistake in you nor does it mean you are doing it wrong. When mothering isn’t a mask or a performance you put on, you will feel much and it can feel messy. But it is from these instincts and emotions where your children will be nourished from the deepest of wells.

Yes, you will be tired, and yes, it will feel too much sometimes, but what I know about mothering well is this—somehow you find a way to dig a little deeper.

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.


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.


Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

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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