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I learned how strong I really am when my birth plan went out the window—twice

Even though nothing went according to plan, it was, undeniably, a time of miracles.

I learned how strong I really am when my birth plan went out the window—twice

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of planning, it was the age of spontaneity, it was the season of control, it was the season of chaos, it was the epoch of predictability, it was the epoch of fluctuation.

We had everything before us, and even though nothing went according to plan, it was, undeniably, a time of miracles.

“Well, I'm so glad we did this ultrasound. He's breech," the midwife informed me nonchalantly as if confirming that my baby did indeed have two feet. I was 36 weeks pregnant with my first baby, and I had no clue what that even meant.

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“You'll need a C-section," she continued, before giving me the brief rundown of risks and statistics.

Tears streamed down my face as I quickly grieved the birth plan I was giving up. The birth plan—that, up until that point—had been incredibly flexible. It was so flexible, in fact, I hadn't even bothered to write it down.



My birth plan was simple: Go as long as possible without drugs. Attempt a water birth. If I start saying bad words, bring me the drugs ASAP.

See? Simple. There was no five-page plan, no birth playlist, no list of demands. And yet, upon hearing that my easy-breezy birth plan was not going to be the plan, I was nothing short of devastated.

I took home a pamphlet titled, “How To Flip Your Baby" or something of that nature. It was a tri-fold full of safe home remedies a pregnant woman could attempt in hopes of turning her baby around. I hoisted myself into the car, big pregnant belly pushed up against the steering wheel, and let warm tears fall all over the brochure while I called my husband and told him the news.

The next 24 hours looked like something out of a sitcom. Picture me lying upside down on an ironing board propped up against the couch with a bag of frozen fried rice on the top of my belly, a heating pad on my pubic bone, and a pair of headphones streaming loud music tucked into my underwear.

My husband shined a flashlight at my belly button and held an empty paper towel roll between his mouth and my lower stomach. His voice boomed into the paper towel megaphone, “Baby, it's your father. Come down here. Step into the liiiiiight!!"

The whole scene was equal parts hilarious and pathetic.

When I wasn't lying upside down on the ironing board, I was doing cat-cow exercises and various yoga poses. I cried on and off all night, desperately trying to keep my hormones in check and my optimism high.

“Do you want to take a bath? It might help you relax," my husband suggested.

I followed his advice and immediately burst out laughing when I stepped into the tub. He had taped a picture above the faucet, an illustrated baby in the head down position with the caption, “C'mon baby! You can do it!"

The next day we returned to the birth center to see if our home tricks had worked. They hadn't. We met the doctor for an external cephalic version treatment, which is a fancy way of saying she tried to turn the baby manually with her hands.

It was just as painful as it sounds.

The doctor, God bless her, pushed as hard as she could. I closed my eyes and breathed through the pain, saying turn baby turn in my head with each exhale. I watched the doctor's face and could tell it wasn't working. I cried, again.

The doctor measured the baby's head size and quickly ruled out the option of a vaginal delivery. She recommended a scheduled c-section at 39 weeks, and that was that.

On May 7th, my son was born, cut straight from my body and immediately placed on my chest. I have never cried so hard in all my life.

It was a miracle.

When I got pregnant with my second baby, I opted for a repeat C-section. Nobody was more surprised about this decision than I was. Me, the girl who spent an entire night lying upside on an ironing board with headphones in her pants, all to avoid a C-section, was willingly asking for another one.

I did heaps and heaps of research about VBACs vs. repeat C-sections, and I spoke to friends who had done both. I talked to the doctors and midwives about all of my concerns, the biggest of which is my first child's head size, which was 98th percentile at 39 weeks.

Could I even do a VBAC? What if my second baby went to 41 weeks and had an off-the-charts head size? What if I labored all day and ended up in a C-section anyways?

Lots of people had lots of opinions, but after reading my fair share of statistics and speaking with the midwives, I had to combine the research with what was in my heart.

And in my heart, the shocking truth was: I had no desire to try a VBAC.

As strange as it sounds, I longed for the same birth experience I had already endured: the oasis of that familiar operating room, a numb body that felt no pain, the magic moment of having a baby placed on my chest within a blue curtain cocoon. I wanted the method that felt comfortable, safe, recognizable. I desperately wanted a repeat of the only birth experience I had ever known. Another C-section didn't scare me at all, but the thought of doing a VBAC was terrifying—just thinking about it gave me anxiety.

So, we unabashedly decided on a C-section and announced the date to all our friends. Our second baby would be born on October 27th. I circled the date in my day planner and drew little hearts in the box.

I arranged for the house to be professionally cleaned on the 26th, and we lined up childcare for our 2-year-old. I scheduled one last hair appointment, and we made a plan to go to Costco the weekend prior to stock up on things like toilet paper and laundry detergent. Check, check, check; all my ducks were in a row.

I felt confident, peaceful, totally in control of my own life.

Which is why, three weeks before my scheduled C-section, when I started feeling Braxton Hicks on an otherwise normal Friday night, the possibility that I was going into labor hadn't even occurred to me.

(Insert pity laughter here.)

As it turned out, those Braxton Hicks were real contractions, and pure chaos ensued. The birth center instructed us to come in, my friend scrambled over in her pajamas to watch our 2-year-old; I took a shower, and we were out the door. My husband didn't bring so much as a change of clothes.

We arrived at the birth center at 1:00 am looking like a couple of lost teenagers. A nurse named Antoinette took pity on our panicked faces, and, after checking me, gently informed us of the unthinkable: “You're a three. This baby is coming tonight."

What followed might as well have been a scene from that TV show I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant. We had signed up for birth classes with the first pregnancy, but only attended one class before receiving the breech diagnosis. We decided it would be a waste of time to go to the rest.

Birth class dropouts, my husband and I had never skimmed a single birthing book. The closest thing I had seen to a live birth was a couple of YouTube videos, and that Katherine Heigl scene from Knocked Up.

My husband kept asking if I wanted music, which only made me angry. I didn't know what I wanted. I didn't know what I was doing. So I walked around the room groaning and almost hyperventilated a few times because I wasn't breathing properly, as Antoinette kindly informed me.

Again, it was all so hilarious and pathetic.

A couple of hours later, the nurse checked me again and told me it was time to push.

“WHAT?" I yelled. “Can I still get drugs?"

She assured me that I could, but they never came. Within the hour, my body writhed with unspeakable pain and did the thing I guess it was capable of doing all along. On October 4th, one whole month before his due date, my second baby came out the old-fashioned way and was immediately placed on my chest. I have never screamed so loud in all my life.

It was a miracle.

I'm far enough removed from both experiences now to simply laugh at the irony: my planned water birth turned into a C-section, and my planned C-section turned into an all-natural VBAC.

Essentially, neither of my births went according to plan.

And you're supposed to have a plan, right? You can hop on Pinterest and find everything from "What To Pack In Your Hospital Bag" to charts debating the Bradley Method vs. Hypnobirthing. With the help of the Internet, you can easily learn how to write the perfect birth plan, how to create the perfect birth environment, and how to train the perfect birth coach.

And while I do believe in planning (Monica Geller is my spirit animal), sometimes I wonder: Are we placing too much focus on planning the “perfect" birth? Is the pressure of birth empowerment consuming more of our time and energy than the actual transition of becoming a mother for the first or second or even fifth time?

I think planning a birth is kind of like planning a wedding. Hop on Pinterest, and it's over. You could spend 400 hours searching for the perfect invitations, the homegrown bouquets, the DIY table numbers made out of distressed barn wood. You could drive all over town trying on dress after dress, shoe after shoe, lipstick shade after lipstick shade. You could easily spend an entire year of your life planning the perfect wedding, and of course, there is nothing (inherently) wrong with that. But is it possible, that sometimes, amid the mason jar candles and DIY dreamcatchers, that the whole point of the wedding, the actual marriage itself, gets a tiny bit…..lost in translation?

Just like a birth plan gone amiss, our perfect wedding plans often go off course. Maybe it rains, or maybe the food order gets mixed up, or maybe Uncle Bobby gets drunk and hits on all the bridesmaids.

But when all is said and done, no matter what happened, no matter what the weather looked like or who got the wrong meal or who had to deal with Uncle Bobby barfing in the potted plant, the endgame is the same: You married your best friend. The wedding is only the first day of a life-long commitment to one another.

And giving birth? It's kind of like that. It's the very first day of a life-long commitment to raising and loving a child. It is an important day, it is a special day, it is absolutely a day worthy of your best plans.

But if your plans go awry….if all the water tubs are full, if your baby is breech, if your baby is early, if your baby is late, if you need the drugs after you swore you wouldn't, I want you to know this: motherhood is so much more than the day your baby is born. Motherhood is…..forever.

In some ways, your birth experience is the perfect prelude to a lifetime of learning this lesson over and over again: Some things are simply not in your control.

So make your plans, pack your bag, and get that playlist ready. It's okay to dream and strategize, to prepare and make lists. We can celebrate a birth gone according to plan, just like we can grieve a birth plan gone wrong. But let's give our birth experience the weight it deserves: our birth story is always significant; it is rarely definitive.

Let's not let the pressure of one day overshadow the miracle of an entire lifetime.

This is only the beginning.

This story was originally published on Coffee + Crumbs. Check out their book, The Magic of Motherhood, for more heartwarming essays about motherhood, love, and the good kind of heartache.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

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

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

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

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

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$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

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com 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 supporting 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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