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No more shame: Even ‘good moms’ like me face postpartum depression and anxiety

For #MotherlyStories | The first thing I want you to know is that I am okay. Or, by common measurements, beyond okay. Successful. Fulfilled. Sane. I do doctor’s appointments, the school schedule, I am on time, I cook real meals, pick raspberries, read books, counsel businesswomen, run companies, manage employees, craft products, design packaging, fill kiddie pools, pick tomatoes, water the garden, go grocery shopping, take care of grandmothers in nursing homes, recycle, and have happy kids. I even sleep well.

The second thing I want you to know is I know fear: the paralysis of breath, the spinning mind, the utter overwhelm.

When my daughter was turning two my brain began to unravel. As the story always goes, you couldn’t tell from the outside. I appeared to hold it (whatever “it” is) together. It was a caustic mix of situational (husband away for work, living on a small island), familial (my grandmother died, my mother and I had stopped speaking) and hormonal (weaning my daughter). It was the hardest time of my life, in my head. And yet, everything was fine.

We were all healthy, fed, employed. I woke up each morning to the most gorgeous of toddlers: golden hair, bright blue eyes and a sweet temper. I lived on the beach. The sun shone, and the birds sang me awake. But every morning, as consciousness stirred, dread rose like bile. I was scared of being scared. I didn’t feel like myself—or like I thought I should. My body was on high alert. Never focused, anticipating the earth’s movement, warning, warning. I felt powerless. And not in a vague way, I mean empty of power. Fear had filled up every space in my being. My breath, my belly, my muscles.

In truth, I had no reason to be as paralyzed by fear as I was—and that realization made me even more worried. I searched for a reason. I wanted a playbook of these feelings. I needed to know why some days were better and some worse. Something I ate? The alignment of the planets? Why was “it” so unpredictable? If I could just find the cause, I thought, I could make it go away. I’ve never been without anxiety. But until then it had been contained. No longer. Now it sloshed over the edges and spilled onto everything and everyone.

Thoughts became sudden truths. “I’ll never be able to parent.” “I am not capable of this.” “What if I can’t do it?” Sitting in the car with my sleeping child while my husband grocery shopped, I can barely breathe. I think I am going crazy. I grip my cellphone in my hand and can’t push the buttons. My daughter plays in a kiddie pool. I am sleeping at my aunt’s house while my husband is working. I am afraid to drive; I am afraid to be alone. I no longer trust myself. I can’t wait any longer for these feelings to go away. There is never going to be a break. There is never going to be space to breathe. I am fighting it, pushing against this feeling every moment. Measuring this thing, owning it: “My Anxiety.”

And then I started to pick up the pieces. On the floor of one of two therapists’ offices I realized I wasn’t going to be able to wait until I had no anxiety and then do the things that were my life. I was going to have to learn to be anxious and do life anyway. It was hormonal and temporary and would pass, but I had to live through it anyway. Because. So my mantra became: tolerate.

I had to tolerate, and dare I say it, accept, these truly horrendous feelings and still live my life. Enter coping mechanisms. I cut the 10mg tablet of Prozac into two pieces, then four. It was almost physically impossible. It was crumbles. I was terrified. I took me hours to take it. And then for days and days I worried more. Every blip I felt, I overanalyzed. Was that the Prozac? Will I be hospitalized? Will they take my daughter? Why am I a failure? Postpartum depression and anxiety with a two-year-old? What is wrong with me?

Mild medication helped, maybe. But the questions and fears began to fade as I created an arsenal of coping mechanisms: Things to lean on and things to help me tolerate myself instead of fighting. I am type A, loud and flashy and fast and organized. Classic overachiever. Letting go and treating myself gently isn’t my thing. I’d rather lean in, push hard and barrel through. That “gentle” talk sounds useless, and balance is something no one taught me in school.

Unfortunately, there aren’t Ten Easy Tips To Beat Anxiety and Depression and Other Postpartum Nonsense. There is no easy, and there is no magic. I had to be willing to dig deeply into my reserves and to bear witness to intense emotional storms. I built a toolkit. Acupuncture calms my fight-or-flight responses and helps balance my hormones. Massage works out the muscle tension created by holding fear. Baths connect me with water. Food grounds me and keeps my hormones and blood sugar stable. Meditation teaches that whatever I feel is a wave I can weather. Exercise moves stale hormones out of the body and releases endorphins. Nature changes neuropathways. Herbs build strength and calm. Support systems remind me that asking for help is okay, and that I am never alone. There are so many tools. Three years old, this arsenal. Every day I add to it. Every day I stand up stronger.

Fast forward to today. I am sitting here in my office, writing, and it is cold and dry from the AC and my throat is scratchy and my husband is out of town for a week and I only have two more hours of child care and this week will be in the mid 90s and that two-year-old turns five soon. And I have a new two-year-old who is about to wean and my grandfather just died and I am scared that anxiety is closing in on me again. This week I count the hours until I’ll see another adult. My heart pounds for no reason, and I am overly tired. Despite all that, I can feel my feet on the floor under my desk, on the hardwoods, and I am typing fast because the end of my work day is closing in but there is still more to do. But I am here. I am present. I am alive. The big eternal life-and-death questions are still there, but something inside me has shifted.

When I get home from work today, I’ll kiss my kids and lie on the rug in front of the AC, guilt-free. If I am anxious, my daughter will say “stop overthinking,” and we’ll meditate together. They know some yoga already, herbs are a regular part of their life, they know the acupuncturist by name, they remember that the potty in my therapist’s office is blue. They are here, watching me build my toolkit—and hopefully tucking some tricks aside for later in their own lives. In my darkest moments, I would remember my mom putting me to bed at night and talking me though what I now know to be a progressive relaxation technique. Starting with my feet, we’d intentionally relax each body part. Then she’d go have a beer. We each build our coping mechanisms. Now that I have my own, no longer does anxiety call my entire being into question. No longer does anxiety call my parenting into question. No longer does it destroy the way I live—and no longer am I scared to love so deeply.

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Baby stuff comes in such cute prints these days. Gone are the days when everything was pink and blue and covered in ducks or teddy bears. Today's baby gear features stylish prints that appeal to mom.

That's why it's totally understandable how a mama could mistake a car seat cover for a cute midi skirt. It happened to Lori Farrell, and when she shared her mishap on Facebook she went viral before she was even home from work. Fellow moms can totally see the humor in Farrell's mishap, and thankfully, so can she.

As for how a car seat cover could be mistaken for a skirt—it's pretty simple, Farrell tells Motherly.

"A friend of mine had given me a huge lot of baby stuff, from clothes to baby carriers to a rocker and blankets and when I pulled it out I was not sure what it was," she explains. "I debated it but washed it anyway then decided because of the way it pulled on the side it must be a maternity skirt."

Farrell still wasn't 100% sure if she was right by the time she headed out the door to work, but she rocked the ambiguous attire anyway.

"When I got to work I googled the brand and realized not only do they not sell clothing but it was a car seat cover."

The brand, Itzy Ritzy, finds the whole thing pretty funny too, sharing Farell's viral moment to its official Instagram.

It may be a car seat cover, but that print looks really good on this mama.

And if you want to copy Farell's style, the Itzy Ritzy 4-in-1 Nursing Cover, Car Seat Cover, Shopping Cart Cover and Infinity Scarf (and skirt!) is available on Amazon for $24.94.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy.You've got this.

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Daycare for infants is expensive across the country, and California has one of the worst states for parents seeking care for a baby. Putting an infant in daycare in California costs $2,914 more than in-state tuition for four years of college, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Paying north of $1,000 for daycare each month is an incredible burden, especially on single-parent families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as costing no more than 10% of a family's income—by that definition, less than 29% of families in California can afford infant care. Some single parents spend half their income on day care. It is an incredible burden on working parents.

But that burden may soon get lighter. CBS Sacramento reports California may put between $25 and $35 million into child care programs to make day care more affordable for parents with kids under 3 years old.

Assembly Bill 452, introduced this week, could see $10 million dollars funneled into Early Head Start (which currently gets no money from the state but does get federal funding) and tens of millions more would be spent on childcare for kids under three.

The bill seeks to rectify a broken childcare system. Right now, only about 14% of eligible infants and toddlers are enrolled in subsidized programs in California, and in 2017, only 7% of eligible children younger than three years of age accessed Early Head Start.

An influx of between $25 to $35 million dollars could see more spaces open up for kids under three, as Bill 452, if passed, would see the creation of "grants to develop childcare facilities that serve children from birth to three years of age."

This piece of proposed legislation comes weeks after California's governor announced an ambitious plan for paid parental leave, and as another bill, AB 123, seeks to strengthen the state's pre-kindergarten program.

Right now, it is difficult for some working parents to make a life in California, but by investing in families, the state's lawmakers could change that and change California's future for the better.

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When a mama gets married, in most cases she wants her children to be part of her big day. Photographers are used to hearing bride-to-be moms request lots of pictures of their big day, but when wedding photographer Laura Schaefer of Fire and Gold Photography heard her client Dalton Mort planned to wear her 2-year-old daughter Ellora instead of a veil, she was thrilled.

A fellow mama who understands the benefits of baby-wearing, Schaefer was keen to capture the photos Mort requested. "When I asked Dalton about what some of her 'must get' shots would be for her wedding, she specifically asked for ones of her wearing Ellie, kneeling and praying in the church before the tabernacle," Schaefer tells Motherly.

She got those shots and so many more, and now Mort's toddler-wearing wedding day pics are going viral.

"Dalton wore Ellie down the aisle and nursed her to sleep during the readings," Schaefer wrote on her blog, explaining that Ellie then slept through the whole wedding mass.

"As a fellow mother of an active toddler, this is a HUGE win! Dalton told me after that she was SO grateful that Ellie slept the whole time because she was able to focus and really pray through the Mass," Schaefer explains.

Dalton was able to concentrate on her wedding day because she made her baby girl a part of it (and that obviously tired Ellie right out).

Ellie was part of the commitment and family Dalton if forging with her husband, Jimmy Joe. "There is no better behaved toddler than a sleeping toddler, and she was still involved, even though I ended up unwrapping her to nurse her. I held her in my arms while my husband and I said our vows. It was really special for us," Dalton told POPSUGAR.

This is a wedding trend we are totally here for!

Congrats to Dalton and Jimmy Joe (and to Ellie)! 🎉

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The internet is freaking out about how Peppa Pig is changing the way toddlers speak, but parents don't need to be too worried.

As Romper first reported, plenty of American parents have noticed that preschoolers are picking up a bit of a British accent thanks to Peppa. Romper's Janet Manley calls it "the Peppa effect," noting that her daughter started calling her "Mummy" after an in-flight Peppa marathon.

Plenty of other parents report sharing Manley's experience, but the British accent is not likely to stick, experts say.

Toronto-based speech and language pathologist Melissa James says this isn't a new thing—kids have always been testing out the accents they hear on TV and in the real world, long before Peppa oinked her way into our Netflix queues.

"Kids have this amazing ability to pick up language," James told Global News. "Their brains are ripe for the learning of language and it's a special window of opportunity that adults don't possess."

Global News reports that back in the day there were concerns about Dora The Explorer potentially teaching kids Spanish words before the kids had learned the English counterparts, and over in the U.K., parents have noticed British babies picking up American accents from TV, too.

But it's not a bad thing, James explains. When an American adult hears "Mummy" their brain translates it to "Mommy," but little kids don't yet make as concrete a connection. "When a child, two, three or four, is watching a show with a British accent and hears [words] for the first time, they are mapping out the speech and sound for that word in the British way."

So if your baby is oinking at you, calling you "Mummy" or testing out a new pronunciation of "toh-mah-toe," know that this is totally natural, and they're not going to end up with a life-long British pig accent.

As Dr, Susannah Levi, associate professor of communicative sciences and disorders at New York University, tells The Guardian, "it's really unlikely that they'd be acquiring an entire second dialect from just watching a TV show."

It sure is cute though.

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