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Relax, your body knows *exactly* what to do during birth

So calm your brain and watch what your body can do.

Relax, your body knows *exactly* what to do during birth

Editor’s note from Motherly and our Birth Editor, Diana Spalding CNM: We understand that there are medical conditions that arise during labor and birth that are unavoidable. This piece doesn't seek to diminish those challenges, but to empower women to understand the mind-body connection present in birth, even in the event of medical complications. All birth is beautiful and all mothers are warriors.



It might take you a long time to have your baby. Way, way longer than you think it should take.

It’s a once (maybe more) in a lifetime opportunity where you get to bring a brand, new human into being. Through your body. When I put it into those terms, does it start to make sense how it might take a little while?

We live in an age where our television is on-demand and our home goods can be delivered to us in two days, less if we splurge for overnight shipping. Information—all of it—is available at the touch of a button. We’ve become accustomed to life happening at the speed of now and we just don’t have much collective patience for the things that really count anymore.

Therein lies the problem. Not that birth might take a long time, but that we freak out when it does.

When we’re in freakout mode over something we cannot control (like birth, for instance) we take a process that’s physical in nature and exquisitely designed to work just about every single time, and move it out of our body and into our brain.

Don’t get me wrong—I love the brain! I love how it acts like it knows everything. I love how it interacts and reacts to outside stimuli. I love how it tries to tell our bodies a story that may or may not even be true. I love to watch how our bodies respond to that story. I really do love the complex interconnectedness of the brain and the body. But the brain needs to stay out of the whole process.

The uterus is made of smooth muscle tissue, the same kind of muscle tissue that is present in other pre-programmed organs like the esophagus and the stomach. These are two organs that don’t ever need to be told what to do.

When you eat a sandwich, you don’t have to tell your esophagus to begin to contract and break down the bites of food into smaller bits and then move them down into your stomach. Once there, you’re not required to tell your stomach to release acid and begin to further break down food into the nutrients that are kept for your body and the waste products that are to be expelled.

Your body just does it—because it already knows how.

The same is true for your uterus. It’s designed to hold your growing baby, up to a point. Then it’s designed to begin to contract and bring your baby down the birth canal and into this world. Without a whole lot of input from your brain, I might add.

When a mama is calm, cool and collected—meaning her brain has been lulled into a state where it's either pleasantly neutral or otherwise distracted and decidedly not in freakout mode—she creates the perfect environment for two hormones called oxytocin and endorphins to work their magic during birth. Together, they are unstoppable.

Oxytocin fuels the contractions and keeps the contractions going, while the body’s natural pain-killers, endorphins, increase over time to help the birthing woman meet the challenges of her labor. They’re like two gorgeous dance partners, stepping in perfect unison with each other, anticipating each other’s next move.

When our birth doesn’t go according to plan (labor is too early or too late, too long or too short, too complicated, too painful)—basically, not what our brain expected it to be—our brain starts to tell our body a story. And it’s usually not a good one:

“Attention body! Listen up! This is not a drill! This is an emergency! Somebody needs to make it stop! And stop now! I’m scared! I’m not in complete control! And I don’t know what’s happening to me!”

Such a negative story. And, unfortunately, the body listens to every single word.

The body starts to buy into this story. It starts to believe what the brain is saying. And the body starts to react.

When our brain stages a birth coup, our body pays the price because everything we wish was moving faster can’t help but begin to slow down. When the brain is in freakout mode, there’s another hormone, called adrenaline, that starts to mess up the love fest going on between those two other hormones, oxytocin and endorphins.

When the body reacts to the negative story our brain is telling, Adrenaline gets released into our bloodstream. Adrenaline is like the obnoxious guy who jumps in between the close dancing partners, oxytocin and endorphins, and shouts: “Hey, can I dance with you guys, too? I’m really, really good!”

Oxytocin and endorphins want nothing to do with this guy, adrenaline. They run away in opposite directions, leaving the confused body to wonder, “What just happened?” That awesome blood flow and oxygen that had been pumping into the uterus to help it do its thing, seems to shut down almost completely—to the point of the uterus not functioning very well.

And then, what story does the brain try to tell the body?

“See what I told you? You can’t do this thing… Nobody can. It’s too hard, it’s too long, it’s too dangerous, it’s too whatever.” The body doesn’t want to believe, but…

It is possible to work with your brain to help it calm down.

Learn to calm the beast within before labor even begins.

Anytime you feel anxious, worried or frightened, check in with your body and try to gauge whether or not the situation sincerely calls for an adrenaline dump. Here’s a hint to figuring this out: If you’re not actively being chased down by a deadly predator, then the answer is most likely, “Not really in need of much adrenaline at this time. But thanks for the offer, brain. Catcha later.”

Then see if you can calm yourself through breathing. Close your eyes if you have to, and take in nice, deep belly breaths through your nose to a slow count of four “In - 2,3,4” and then exhale through your mouth, “Out - 2,3,4” and do this for a couple of minutes just to see what happens.

The body sometimes forgets its ability to reverse the effects of a brain takeover. Once the brain settles down and realizes that it's not actually in any real danger, the body can continue to go about its business without interruption.

Our brain is like a toddler in full tantrum when it’s in freakout mode. Logic very rarely works to calm a screaming toddler. In fact, sometimes it only makes the screaming louder! The same is true with your brain. But holding a calm, quiet space while breathing can really help. It settles the brain and cuts off that flood of adrenaline to just a slight trickle.

There’s good reason for adrenaline to be hanging around. When it spikes right before the actual birth of the baby, it’s ends up being really beneficial. It helps to heighten awareness and can assist in initial bonding between mamas and babies. adrenaline isn’t bad. In birth, it’s all about striking the right balance between these three hormones: oxytocin, endorphins and adrenaline.

It’s not necessarily an easy thing to do, but it sure is simple: Calm your brain and watch what your body can do.

We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!


A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.

$239.99

A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.

$219.99

A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.

$379.99

A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.

$29.99

A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.

$99.99

A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.

$15.99

A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.

$79.99

A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.

$99.99

An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.

$24.99

A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.

$59.99

And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

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

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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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Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

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