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Q&A with bestselling author Rebecca Walker on motherhood, identity + courage

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Rebecca Walker is a rare writer—an author who displays such honesty and courage in her work, as shown in the New York Times bestseller Black, White and Jewish which documented her lonely and complex adolescence, and more recently with her memoir Baby Love which gives us a peek into her journey of becoming a mother. We got the chance to chat with Rebecca about losing herself in motherhood, reconciling her relationship with her own mother, and how you know you’re ready to have a baby.


In your memoir you say,

“But there was something else, too, a question common—if not always conscious—to women of my generation, women raised to view motherhood with more than a little suspicion. Can I survive having a baby? Will I lose myself—my body, my mind, my options—and be left trapped, resentful, and irretrievably overwhelmed?”
Do you feel that you have lost yourself within motherhood?

Oh but this an essential but impossible question!I have lost and also found myself within motherhood. I have lost—or should I say, I have temporarily suspended—a kind of willful freedom.

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I find I cannot ever let go completely the way I once did; Tenzin is always on my mind. I need to know where he is, that he is safe.

I need to know he is psychologically stable. I need to know that he has eaten enough food, is being treated fairly, is developing appropriately, is becoming more and more competent each day. I need to know his character is on track for goodness. That he never loses his compassionate nature. Though I am far from being a helicopter mom, I consider each decision that will effect his life carefully—food and friendship, education and spirituality, fashion and social consciousness, and so much more.

This all takes a tremendous amount of energy and so in that regard, the amount I have in this life for everything else—myself, my work, my relationships, my need to roam without a tether, is greatly diminished. And yet, motherhood has been a massive rite of maturation: I truly understand it is not all about me, my ego, my needs. And so as a human being I think I am larger, with a real sense of being connected to all the mothers, and all the children of the world. Does that sound saccharine and easy? Perhaps, but it is true.

Motherhood has taught me how to love unconditionally, and in many ways it has taught me how to love—to put the needs of someone else before my own.

I also now understand the fascination (and deep satisfaction) of observing the persistence, the determination, of genes. I am enjoying the undeniable archetypal power of having a role—or series of roles–in an unfolding, multigenerational story. And I am amazed, too, by how much I know, literally how much information I hold, that seems specifically for him. I think—where would the fruits of all of this living go, if not to him? What is it for, except to pass on, and how else than through the intimate channel between mother and child?

You write about how you were freaked out and anxious about becoming a mother—even though you were excited and really wanted to have a child. I think a lot of women feel this way at first. What would your advice be to the woman who is newly pregnant and trying to wrap her head around all of it?

Don’t worry! Really. I worried way too much. You know more than you think you do, I promise. First of all, you don’t need very much. You don’t need the expensive stroller or the seductive, beautifully designed toys that promise to boost your two year old’s IQ.

Your child will only want you in the first years, they won’t notice all the rest. They are absorbing more than judging, and what they need to absorb most of all is YOU, your tenderness and devotion, your responsiveness and enthusiasm, your unique passions and gifts.

The culture puts so much pressure on mothers, I think best to ignore most of that. Take your vitamins, play music, find cute clothes that make you feel good, go swimming if you can, make love a lot, laugh as much as possible.

Pregnancy can be wonderful if you relax into it. Powerful. There is nothing else like it—and I say this as someone who gives birth to books and might say something about the similarities. But no. Believe it: there is nothing like being pregnant with a child. Cherish the moment. You’ve gotten on the ride, all that’s left is to experience it fully. It will be over in a blink.

Oh! And have the epidural on hand, even if you are absolutely opposed, or don’t think you will need it. TRUST ME ON THIS.

At some point, I think every childless woman feels the clock ticking—whether she’s sure she wants kids, sure she doesn’t want kids, or is somewhere in the middle. What’s the one most important question you think this woman needs to ask herself to see if she is ready to take the leap into motherhood?

Do you have enough energy, and I mean that in the broadest way—psychic, emotional, physical, intellectual—to give a substantial amount of your reserves to another human being? And if you do, do you want to give that energy away, or do you need it for your own growth, your own process of becoming the person you want to be, your own work you need to do in order to feel successful in this life.

After having my son and truly understanding what motherhood is, I feel strongly that if you have doubts about becoming a mother, real doubts that are organic to you and don’t come from others, tread carefully.

Motherhood is a game of stamina and endurance. Your desire to become a mother is the fuel, the energy, the food, that gets you to the finish line. Without it, I worry about the outcome.

Are you currently still estranged from your mother? In what ways has this impacted your relationship with your son? In what ways has your relationship with your mother and the way you were raised, impact the way you are raising your son?

I am no longer estranged from my mother, and this is a tremendous relief. We have missed each other, and I am exceedingly happy that her relationship with her grandson is deepening every day. 

They need each other in ways I cannot fully understand, but profoundly respect. Perhaps we are each born with seeds that cannot take root unless recognized and tended by someone who knows them intimately, in a place beyond words, and denying the primacy of this bond does not serve any of us.

In terms of parenting styles, I am probably a little more hands on than my parents—but this could also just be a sign of the times. I suppose I worry more than they did, and keep my son a little closer to me. And even though he tires of my questions, I ask about his feelings a lot.

I want to stay involved, connected with what is really going on for him, even when it involves anger or resentment toward me. I expect him to come to me with problems and issues, and I take on the responsibility of working them through as best I can until they are resolved.

This means I am always cultivating this kind of relationship, this trust. I can’t say this is all good, though. Sometimes I can be too involved and this carries with it the potential to infantilize, and rob him of his own experience. I try to find the balance, and hope to get it right fifty one percent of the time.

Your mother, Alice Walker, is the acclaimed author of The Color Purple for which she won the Pulitzer Prize. Has your mother influenced your career as a writer? Do you look up to her professionally—as an author?

This is a straightforward question that could have a long answer, but the true, basic, simple answer is yes and yes. I am very fortunate.

I am a writer by nature and nurture.

My father is also part of this equation. He is a lawyer by profession, but a tremendous writer of plays, and even his legal briefs are elegant and artful. Both of my parents have influenced me. I admire them both. I am grateful for both.

How did you get the courage to write such an open and honest memoir? Are you happy you did?

Another good question with a complicated answer I will attempt to distill.

I feel deeply connected to Baby Love, even though I think it is the least known of my work. The book captures my pregnancy and all its attendant issues, fears, hopes, and dreams accurately.

What helped with Baby Love, if we are speaking of courage, also helped with Black, White and Jewish: I knew, I can’t say how, that many women would benefit from the book, that many women were looking for it or something like it. I was propelled by that sense of purpose and connectedness. I was…encouraged.

Am I happy I wrote the book? Well. I felt I had to write it in order to be true to myself and my process. But also, and I imagine many writers have this, I have in my mind the sense of a queue of books to be written, and am certain that if I do not write the one at the head of the line, it will hold up all the rest.

So I can say definitively that I am happy I did not let fear get the better of me and jam the queue. But really who knows what to say about all of it? How to judge? I think best to keep moving. There are other books in line, and time is running fast...

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.


Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

This article was sponsored by Pipette. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Here's how Halloween unfolds in most households I know: Mom spends weeks—even months—planning the perfect costumes for little ones. Then Halloween creeps up and they realize they need an outfit to coordinate with the kids' get-ups. What's a mom to do?!

Thankfully, there's no need for fear or pressure: There are so many ideas for parents that are easy to make and still super clever.

Here are a few ideas for coordinating with popular baby costumes:

1. Sloth and tree 

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My little one is going as a sloth this year—and given the fact that one of us will more than likely be wearing him Halloween night, we've decided to coordinate his costume by being a tree. All you need is a brown outfit paired with a DIY leaf hat or headband.

2. Taco and hot sauce 

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I'm not sure if there's anything cuter than a baby taco and you can totally rock a hot sauce costume to go with. Black leggings, red top and green beanie make for a great hot sauce costume.

3. The Addams Family 

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All you need is some creativity with your wardrobe, but I bet you have all these things already.

4. Bee and the bee catcher

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If your little one is going as a bee this year dressing as a catcher is easy, well, can bee! ?

5. Rock, paper, scissors

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You'll need some paper, scissors and... sharpies!

6. Fish and fisherman 

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Every fish needs a fisherman...

7. Cop and robber 

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Turn the tables and let your little one keep you in line.

8. A bag of Jelly Beans

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I mean, how cute is this?

9. Farmer and piglet or cow, chicken or pony

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If you little one's rocking a farm animal costume this year you can tag along as their farmer. Blue jeans, boots and a flannel and you'll blend right in!

10. Avocado and toast 

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Go as your favorite breakfast combo!

11. A circus lion and a trainer 

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12. Spider and web 

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If you are baby-wearing this Halloween, dressing your little one as a spider and you as a web is simple and so clever!

13. Lion and safari guide 

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If you little one is rocking a roaring lion costume this year, going as a safari guide is the perfect ensemble!

14. Mother of dragons

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Except these are the cute kind of dragons!

15.  Sun and moon 

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​Take your costume game out of this world. 🚀

16.  Hawaiian shirt and pineapple 

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This may be the easiest yet: If baby is going a pineapple or other piece of tropical fruit, just throw on a Hawaiian shirt and pretend you're attending a luau!

17. Bakers and donuts

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Who said you can't use floaties in the fall?

18.  Shark and surfer 

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Baby shark this Halloween? Dress as a surfer with board shorts and flip-flops. Add some fake blood if you have a baby Jaws.

19.  Burger and fries 

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Nothing goes better together than a burger with a side of fries and a baby burger will have everyone's taste buds going this Halloween. Add a side of mom or dad fries to the mix and you've got a tasty Halloween costume!

20.  Fire fighter and Dalmatian 

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If your little one is rocking a puppy or firefighter costume this year, you can go as the opposite. We all know firefighters and pups go hand in hand!

21.  Football player and football 

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Gooooo, team!

22.  Red riding hood and the big, bad wolf 

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Little Red Riding Hood always needs a big, bad wolf following her around. Buy or make a wolf mask and you will be the perfect pair!

23.  Dorothy, Tin Man, Lion or the Scarecrow 

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There are some great costume options to mix and match from The Wizard of Oz. And you know everyone will get the reference!

24.  Elephant and ringmaster 

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That cute little elephant could use a ringmaster on Halloween night. All you need is a red blazer and bow tie.

25.  Milk and cookie

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Got a baby cookie this Halloween? A refreshing glass of milk will pair nicely with it. Make carton of milk out of a cardboard box.

26.  Ice, ice baby 

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Dress as two bags of ice... And a baby. This costume is perfect for those teeny tiny babies that you want to keep indoors on Halloween night. Clear trash bags make for great "ice" bag costumes!

27.  Mouse and cheese 

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If you've got a mouse running loose this Halloween, lure them in with a slice of cheese. One of those cheese slice hats makes for a great cheese costume!

28.  Owl and Harry Potter 

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If baby is going as an owl this year you could go as one of Gryffindor's finest by breaking out an old graduation gown.

29.  Fox and hound 

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A baby fox isn't complete without his hound pal. Paint your face a puppy and add some ears.

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According to the American Psychiatric Association, ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is a mental disorder that affects more than 8% of children. The primary symptoms are inattention (not being able to keep focus), hyperactivity (excess movement that is not fitting to the setting) and impulsivity (hasty acts that occur in the moment without thought.

Even though ADHD is a condition that most everyone has heard of, there are a lot of misconceptions about it. The problem with these beliefs is that they add to the existing stigma around mental illness and make it harder for kids to get the treatment they need. Understanding how to parent or teach a child with ADHD requires knowing how the condition works.

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Here are eight common and dangerous myths about ADHD:

Myth #1: ADHD isn't real.

You'll sometimes hear people say that ADHD isn't a real condition, that the increase in diagnoses in recent years is part of the larger phenomenon of overmedicalization in our society. However, a consensus has existed within the medical community that ADHD is real and can be serious. Brain imaging scans show differences in brain development among children with ADHD, and research suggests that the condition can be inherited.

Skeptics question the authenticity of ADHD in much the same way they question the authenticity of other mental disorders. For instance, most people will experience symptoms of depression at some point in their lives. Does that mean most people are clinically depressed? Of course not. Similarly, even though many people find it difficult to focus on a task on occasion, only those with ADHD experience the spectrum of symptoms as a feature of their daily lives.

When people express doubts about the existence of ADHD, they reinforce the feeling kids have that there is something wrong with them they cannot fix or change. Acknowledging the condition helps kids externalize it as a set of symptoms that they can work to address and that explain why certain tasks are more difficult for them.

Myth #2: Kids with ADHD are poorly behaved.

Adults may see a child with ADHD talk out of turn or grab a toy from a playmate and conclude that the child is poorly behaved. This type of judgment overlooks the reality that kids with ADHD struggle with impulse control. In other words, they probably know that blurting out the answer in class is "wrong," but they may be unable to stop themselves from doing so. It shouldn't be assumed that kids who act out have ADHD, though. While ADHD can contribute to disruptive behaviors, it is never the sole determinant.

Myth #3: Kids with ADHD aren't as smart as their neurotypical peers.

The fact that kids with ADHD can have a harder time keeping up in school doesn't mean they're less intelligent than their classmates. They just process information differently. For example, kids with ADHD tend to be visual learners, which means they learn best when they can see the idea being explained, either in their heads or on a screen or piece of paper. Visual learners should be encouraged to take lots of notes or draw the things they're learning.

Myth #4: Kids with ADHD can't pay attention.

The mostly true stereotype about ADHD is that it makes it hard for kids to focus. When kids with ADHD find an activity that captures their interest, however, they can become engrossed in it. This can be a problem when a parent or teacher wants a child to move on to a new task because children with ADHD struggle with shifting their attention.

For example, a parent might find it impossible to pull their child away from a video game or TV show. On the other hand, a child might become hyperfocused on a productive activity such as an art project or a sport.

Myth #5: Kids with ADHD aren't trying hard enough.

Along with people who don't believe that ADHD is real, there are some who think that kids with ADHD need to try harder to pay attention in class or sit still at the dinner table. They see kids who are disorganized and unmotivated as lazy or undisciplined. Misunderstanding children with ADHD in this way can prevent them from getting the treatment and resources they need to thrive. It can also lead to the kind of harsh parenting or teaching that causes poor self-esteem and makes kids feel like something is wrong with them.

Myth #6: ADHD is only a problem for boys.

When people think of a kid with ADHD, they might picture a boy who is loud and a constant blur of activity. While the condition is indeed more prevalent among boys, many girls suffer from it, too. Compared to boys, girls with ADHD may appear spacey and off in their own world. They can be especially sensitive and emotionally reactive. They may also be more talkative than their peers and prone to interrupting others. In some cases, parents and teachers are not as well attuned to the symptoms of ADHD in girls and it often goes undiagnosed.

Myth #7: Medications for ADHD are gateway drugs.

Central nervous system (CNS) stimulants are the most commonly prescribed class of ADHD drugs. These drugs include amphetamine-based stimulants (Adderall, Dexedrine, Dextrostat), dextromethamphetamine (Desoxyn) and methylphenidate (Concerta, Daytrana, Metadate, Ritalin). There's an idea that kids who take medication for ADHD are more likely to abuse illicit drugs in their teens and beyond. But in reality, the opposite is true: Kids who take medication for ADHD are less likely to engage in substance abuse than kids whose condition goes untreated.

Myth #8: Medication is the only remedy for ADHD.

While the medications for treating ADHD in children have been proven to be effective and safe, there is no miracle drug. Children with ADHD will likely have to try varying combinations of medications and therapies before settling on the right one. In the area of emotional regulation, practitioners have found success with video games that incorporate biofeedback, as well as relaxation strategies such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. It's important that parents and teachers be flexible in their understanding of what works and appreciate that every kid is unique.

The bottom line: ADHD is treatable. When kids with ADHD receive the proper treatment (like psychotherapy, behavior therapy and stimulant and nonstimulant medications), they experience improved self-esteem, feel more at ease among their peers and family members, and are better equipped to lead happy and successful lives. If you think your child has ADHD, meet with a doctor or psychologist to determine the best way to proceed.

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Learn + Play

It's not quite Halloween yet but that doesn't mean we're not ready for holiday movies. Netflix just released its 2019 Holiday movie lineup (and if you think that's early, consider that Hallmark dropped its Countdown to Christmas more than a month ago) and we're ready for Holiday-themed rom-coms and family-friendly movie nights.

Netflix is serving up a mix of recycled Christmas content as well as brand new original movies and series.

The streaming service is kicking off the season with a Netflix Original movie, Holiday in the Wild, starring Kristin Davis and Rob Lowe on November 1.

Netflix Family on Instagram: “Rom coms. Seasonal baked goods. Shirtless Rob Lowe. There’s a little something for all of us this holiday season.”

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Other Netflix originals include Let it Snow (a teen comedy about how a snowstorm on Christmas Eve impacts a group of high school seniors) on November 8, and Klaus, an animated movie that will be a hit in any Minions-loving home as it is by the co-creator of Despicable Me on November 15.

Klaus | Official Trailer | Netflix youtu.be

And the highly anticipated second sequel to a breakout Netflix Original drops on December 5. The first A Christmas Prince was an unexpected viral hit, the second captured Royal Wedding fever and now the third, The Christmas Prince: A Royal Baby is coming to your Netflix account.

Here's the rest of the holiday lineup:

November 1

  • NETFLIX ORIGINAL Holiday in the Wild
  • Christmas Break-In
  • Christmas Survival
  • Elliot the Littlest Reindeer
  • Holly Star
  • Santa Girl
  • The Christmas Candle
  • Christmas in the Heartland

November 4

  • A Holiday Engagement
  • Christmas Crush
  • Dear Santa

November 8

  • NETFLIX ORIGINAL Let it Snow
  • The Great British Baking Show: Holidays Season 2

November 15

  • NETFLIX ORIGINAL Klaus

November 21

  • NETFLIX ORIGINAL The Knight Before Christmas

November 22

  • NETFLIX ORIGINAL Nailed It! Holiday! Season 2

November 26

  • NETFLIX KIDS Super Monsters Save Christmas
  • NETFLIX KIDS True: Winter Wishes

November 28

  • NETFLIX ORIGINAL Holiday Rush
  • NETFLIX ORIGINAL Merry Happy Whatever

November 29

  • NETFLIX ORIGINAL Sugar Rush Christmas

December 1

  • A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish

December 2

  • NETFLIX KIDS Team Kaylie: Part 2 Holiday Episode

December 5

  • NETFLIX ORIGINAL A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby

December 6

  • NETFLIX ORIGINAL Magic For Humans Season 2 Holiday Episode
  • NETFLIX ORIGINAL Spirit Riding Free: The Spirit of Christmas

December 9

  • NETFLIX KIDS A Family Reunion Christmas

December 24

  • NETFLIX ORIGINAL Lost in Space Season 2

December 30

  • NETFLIX KIDS Alexa & Katie Season 3 Holiday Episode

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My love,

Hang in there with me. These days are hard—so hard. We work tirelessly every day to raise our four kids under five. We're at the stage of life with little ones where no matter how hard I try to look presentable, get out the door on time or keep everyone's schedules straight, I somehow manage to feel like I've dropped the ball on something. It always feels like chaos.

I know my hair is a mess, the state of the house isn't much better. Sometimes I haven't showered in three days, and don't get me started on the last time the house was vacuumed. I walk barefoot and cringe, then put shoes on so I can ignore the floors for one more day.

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Most of the time I'm grumpy because young kids require a lot. A lot of attention, a lot of direction and a lot of hand-holding (despite our best efforts to help them learn to do for themselves). I'm hormonal, resentful burnt out, and experiencing some bouts of depression. Most days I feel like I don't like you (or anyone, really.)

And yet, despite being angry one minute and fine the next, I need you more than ever. My harsh words are simultaneously meant to sting and act as a cry for help. I'm fearful that I'll never get back my old life, let alone my old body. I often don't feel like myself. While I'm physically feeding this new human (that happens to be hungry every three hours), I'm battling these hormones that have me gazing at our new baby in wonderment one minute and crumbling to pieces the next.

I long to reconnect with you again. I long to put that stellar dress and heels back on. But I feel like leaky breasts are probably the least sexy thing, right?

These days, I choose sleep over date night. I choose a "night in" over a fun time with friends. I obsess over feeding schedules. I constantly Google my fears. I cry over the crib. I'm mourning the loss of my old life and trying to figure out this new one. This new beautiful chaos that we created together.

I don't feel like the old me and that's scary, but I know there is hope that things will get better. As it gets better it will be different. We're evolving together as a unit that created an entirely new life. Our old life a thing of the past.

I just ask that you love me until I'm "me" again.

Don't stop.

I'm trying to remember that these challenges are not forever. The late nights up with a newborn won't be forever. The hormones will resettle, and I won't be so weepy all the time. My breastfeeding journey will eventually come to an end. Our children will grow, become more self-sufficient and eventually need us less and less.

I know I will start to feel like a whole person again. I may even feel like exercising again. Just hang in there with me. Hug me when I'm crying for no reason. Bring water while I'm breastfeeding. Tell me I'm beautiful as I am (even with my new flabby stomach).

Love me through my postpartum phase of mourning and depression when it rears its ugly head. Love me through it all because that's why we fell in love in the first place. Love me until I'm me again because even if I don't feel it now or show it right now, I'm still in there.

I wouldn't want to do life with anyone else except you.

Love,

Your postpartum wife

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