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Giving birth was nothing like what I expected

Like many moms, I had a birth plan, but that plan went flying out the second story hospital window when the maternity unit team informed me that I had an infection commonly contracted by women in labor.

Giving birth was nothing like what I expected

I became a mom for the first time in the winter of 2014. My daughter, Victoria, came screaming into the world at 6:14 p.m. on a cold December evening, weighing six pounds, two ounces. The pains of labor have long since been forgotten, but the rest of that day, and the months following it, are forever etched in my memory.

I have had many ups and downs since giving birth, but I would not change these experiences for anything. They are what made me who I am, and who I hope to be as a parent.

Like many moms, I had a birth plan, but that plan went flying out the second story hospital window when the maternity unit team informed me that I had an infection commonly contracted by women in labor. I developed a fever and my blood pressure spiked out of nowhere. I was still in active labor and had not even begun to push yet when I was informed that I would need to be put on antibiotics, and that my newborn would as well once she arrived, which meant getting to know the ins and outs of the NICU.

Early in my pregnancy, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. Having adjusted to this reality with relative ease, I thought I had everything under control. But here I was at 39 weeks, with a full term baby headed to the NICU. I got to see my precious bundle of joy a mere 10 seconds before she was whisked down to the NICU and had to wait an hour to visit her while she got set up and cleaned.

I had every intent to breastfeed for as long as my body would allow. But life had other plans. After meeting with two lactation consultants and offered completely polar opposite strategies by each, I realized this would be more challenging and exhausting than I ever expected. I watched my sister-in-law breastfeed and pump like a champ, yet I could not get my daughter to latch, and I barely pumped an ounce.

After 48 hours, we brought our daughter home. During those two days, I'd spent more time in the NICU than I did in my own bed. At home, I spent many nights awake in tears because I wasn't able to breastfeed, and I felt like my body had failed, which translates into feeling like a failure as a mother.

Over the course of the next two weeks, I transitioned my daughter to formula, but I was never given instructions on how to do so due to the hyper-focus on “breast is best." My daughter's first pediatrician chided that I simply wasn't trying hard enough, which exhausted me more, and I damn near tore my hair out.

This would later turn into postpartum depression, but I would not realize this until much later. My mother started to notice my decline and suggested I get another opinion from a different pediatrician. I took her advice. It was this second pediatrician who saved my sanity and got my little one on the right track.

It turns out I was feeding her too much formula, and she'd developed a severe gas issue. Being a new mom, I had no idea. This new pediatrician helped me develop a healthy feeding schedule and prescribed gas drops to put in her bottle as we transitioned to a formula designed for gas relief. He showed me the proper burping techniques, something neither the NICU nor the first pediatrician had managed to do. Within a week, my daughter's gas was under control.

It was around this time that I decided to seek help for myself. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and scheduled to attend weekly individual sessions and bi-weekly group therapy. Through this I learned that my difficulties did not make me any less of a mother. It took me some time to realize this, but when I did, I no longer feared feeding time with my baby. Feeding ultimately became the bonding experience I'd hoped for. As long as I loved my daughter and kept her safe, fed, and happy, I was succeeding as a mom.

My daughter just celebrated her second birthday this past December. She is a smart, healthy, beautiful girl. She is all I could ever hope for.

So my one piece of advice to new moms out there: Don't be afraid to ask for help, whether it be from family, friends, a spouse, or a professional. Because it just might save your life.

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

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Sorry, you can’t meet our baby yet

Thank you for understanding. ❤️

In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

Lately, the range of emotions and hormones has left me feeling nothing short of my new favorite mom word, "hormotional." I'm sure that's normal though, and something most people start to feel as everything suddenly becomes real.

Our bags are mostly packed, diaper bag ready, and birth plan in place. Now it's essentially a waiting game. We're finishing up our online childbirth classes which I must say are quite informational and sometimes entertaining. But in between the waiting and the classes, we've had to think about how we're going to handle life after baby's birth.

I don't mean thinking and planning about the lack of sleep, feeding schedule, or just the overall changes a new baby is going to bring. I'm talking about how we're going to handle excited family members and friends who've waited just as long as we have to meet our child. That sentence sounds so bizarre, right? How we're going to handle family and friends? That sentence shouldn't even have to exist.

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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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