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I didn't know how badly I wanted a natural birth until it wasn't an option

I have never wanted to try anything as much as I wanted to try natural childbirth.

This makes no sense. I don't run 5Ks, I don't play sports, I don't really do anything that involves me breaking a sweat. Mostly I live in my mind, and my mind views my body as a merely satisfactory co-worker: It usually gets the job done, but we're not super close.

When I became pregnant with my first son, I didn't give a lot of thought to the idea of childbirth. For one thing, the reality of it was months away which helped soothe my anxiety about it. Also, the necessity of childbirth makes sense to me—the baby was inside and would need to come outside. Few medical experiences are that straightforward.

So there I was, not thinking too much about actual labor, when I went to my five-month ultrasound and was diagnosed with placenta previa—a condition that means your placenta is laying on top of the cervical opening, blocking the baby's exit route. It's a condition that marks your pregnancy as high-risk, and possibilities like moving the mother-to-be into the hospital are discussed.

Faced with a choice like that, and advised to schedule a C-section at 37 or 38 weeks (if I made it that far), you let go of most of your previous plans. And it wasn't until my husband and I dashed out to buy a few baby necessities in case I started bleeding or went into labor early (two of the condition's risks), did I realize I wouldn't get to apply anything I'd already read about natural childbirth.

I burst into tears.

It was only then that I knew why I hadn't been afraid of labor. It was because I really, really wanted to try laboring.

But, life goes on. I was lucky enough to make it to 38 weeks and had a successful C-section that resulted in me giving birth to a healthy boy. So all was well, right?

Well, kind of. I was thankful my problem had been diagnosed, and I was thankful to have gone nearly full-term. My incision healed well and eventually its pain lessened, but I still somehow felt that I had missed the transition from healthy pregnant woman to strong nurturing mother.

My next pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. But my third pregnancy was healthy, without any complications and my obstetrician and I made plans to try for a VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section).

Although I was now 39 and again considered high risk due to my advanced maternal age, my doctor was optimistic that I could experience vaginal childbirth. I was thankful for this vote of confidence and immediately felt the same deep thirst to try and help my baby make his transit out through the birth canal.

And once again I almost didn't get the chance.

When my due date came and went, my doctor demanded that I schedule a C-section at 41 weeks. I did so, begrudgingly, and then went home and promptly set about doing anything and everything I could to induce labor.

At 6 am on the Sunday morning before my Monday C-section appointment, I had a second healthy boy. Once again things were complicated—my "natural" labor ended in an epidural (not for pain relief but because the doctor thought a C-section might become necessary) and doctors using the vacuum extraction tool to help ease my son out the final distance.

Did it hurt? Yeah, it hurt. Did it leave me with some lingering physical issues? Yeah, it did. But would I ever give the experience back? Not on your life.

That first night my youngest son and I lay in our respective hospital beds, staring at each other, and I swear we shared the same thought: "Wow. We have really been THROUGH IT." My husband was snoring where he lay folded up on the uncomfortable couch in our room. I missed my older son at home.

But I was awake and ecstatic. I had done something physical that I had never done before, and I had a new baby with big brown eyes. It was one of the most thrilling nights of my life.

Everything about having children has surprised me. I was surprised when I was pregnant to feel my babies' movements, so distinct, within me. I was surprised to find what a body can endure during any process of birth, and what they endure in the weeks afterward—on no sleep, while still bleeding.

I have been surprised at how pleasurable it is to care, physically, for tiny human beings: to keep them clean, warm, fed, and soothed. My children have given me so many things. But perhaps the thing I am most thankful for is how they taught me to really own my body. My body that seems to just give and give everything I ask of it and more.

Even when my boys are too big to gather into my lap, or carry through crowds, I will still hug them, or sling an arm around their shoulders. And when I do, it will remind me of the two miraculous occasions on which my body, my unpredictable co-worker, paid no attention to my plans but still managed to exceed all my expectations.

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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This month isn't just the start of a new year, but the start of a new life for those due in 2019. If you're expecting a baby this year you've got plenty of celebrity company, mama.

Here are some fellow mamas-to-be expecting in 2019:

Alexa and Carlos PenaVega 

The Spy Kids actress and mom to 2-year-old Ocean will soon have to get herself a double stroller because PenaVega and her husband Carlos are expecting again.

"Holy Moly!!! Guys!!! We are having another baby!!!!" captioned an Instagram post. "Do we wake Ocean up and tell him??!! Beyond blessed and excited to continue growing this family!!! Get ready for a whole new set of adventures!!!"

Over on Carlos' IG the proud dad made a good point: " This year we will officially be able to say we have 'kids!' Our minds are blown," he write.

Jessa Duggar and Ben Seewald

In January Counting On Jessa Seewald (formerly Jessa Duggar) announced via Instagram that she is pregnant with her third child with husband Ben Seewald.

We love that she was able to make the announcement in her own time, not worrying about speculation about her midsection. She's been over that for a while.

[Update: January 18, added PenaVega]

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