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

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.

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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Including a battle plan for clogged ducts!

When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

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Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

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Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

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Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

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boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

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Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

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Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

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Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

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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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5 brilliant products that encourage toddler independence

Help your little one help themselves.

One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

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Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

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Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

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Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

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Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

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BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

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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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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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Life