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Becoming a mother can be a vulnerable time. It's even been described in literature and research as a time of crisis.

So much changes—our identity may be confused, our body undergoes a huge transformation, family dynamics shift, sleep is interrupted—and yet we're left with little support and false promises that "this will be the best time of your life."

So what happens when it's not?

Shame arises. It fills our brain with ideas of who we are as people. I imagine this is why so many women go undiagnosed and untreated when they truly need a village of supporters. It can also be hard to distinguish what's normal and what's not.

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New motherhood is full of emotions. We've all heard the well-intentioned explanations by those in a new mom's life: "It's just the baby blues!" and "Your hormones are all over the place right now."

But when do these comments become harmful? When do these comments actually stop a mother from further exploring her emotional pain because she's chalking it up to hormones?

Let's take a look at postpartum mental health. Mama, you are not alone.

What are the baby blues?

The baby blues are a common experience. In fact, 50-80% of new mothers will experience the baby blues. Women with the baby blues may experience the following symptoms:

  • Crying
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Acute sleep deprivation and fatigue
  • Being emotionally reactive
  • Mood swings

Despite these symptoms, the mother's general mood tends to be happy, and her symptoms mild.

Baby blues is not a psychiatric condition. It's postulated to be due to hormonal withdrawal after delivery. It's time-limited, in that it presents a few days after delivery and lasts no longer than 2-3 weeks postpartum. It resolves spontaneously in most cases.

What is a postpartum mood disorder?

What does this mean for the mothers who continue to struggle beyond the point of a few weeks? Well, it could mean that something else is going on, and it's worth investigating. It's estimated that only 40% of all cases of perinatal depression are detected, and 60% of those detected cases get treatment.

It's important to know what to look for. Women experiencing postpartum depression often report:

  • Sadness
  • Increased tearfulness
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Loss of interest
  • Poor concentration
  • Changes in appetite and sleep
  • Unexplained physical ailments
  • Having a hard time caring for oneself (or baby)
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Suicidal thoughts*
  • Feelings of "this doesn't feel like me,"
  • Irritability and anger

*If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or someone else, call 911 or go to the emergency room right away.

Not every symptom needs to be present. Some women experience more of an irritable depression where the simplest things may trigger anger and agitation.

What are the differences between the baby blues and postpartum depression?

Severity, timing and duration.

The baby blues are mild, occurs within days of delivery, and last no more than a few weeks.

Postpartum depression can be increasingly severe, can present at any time during pregnancy and throughout the first year postpartum, and may persist for a longer duration, especially if left untreated.

Depression doesn't necessarily present alone. In many cases, women report comorbid anxiety symptoms. A mother experiencing anxiety may feel like she is on high alert at all times. She may develop excessive concern for her own health or the health of her baby. These thoughts can keep her up at night and even result in developing behaviors she believes are protective (i.e., checking on the baby, cleaning excessively, disinfecting, etc.)

What many people do not realize is that postpartum mood and anxiety disorders include:

It's during this postpartum period that women may be at greater risk of experiencing a mental health condition than at any other time in their lives. It's important to be mindful of changes in mood, to discuss changes with those we trust, and to advocate for ourselves.

If this is you—if you are struggling to feel like yourself during pregnancy or postpartum, I assure you that you are not alone. There is help out there, and you can feel better. I encourage you to connect with a provider you trust. This can be your obstetrician, midwife, doula, lactation consultant, primary care physician, or pediatrician.

If you do not feel comfortable with your provider(s) or feel like your attempts to seek help have been dismissed, I encourage you to call Postpartum Support International (PSI) at 1-800-944-4773 or go to postpartum.net. You will find local resources for individual therapy, medication management, support groups (both in-person and online), as well as resources for partners.

You may not feel like yourself right now, but you can feel like yourself again. You mattered before; you matter now; you'll matter always!

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There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

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"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

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Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

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Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

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Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life
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