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From one sleep-deprived mama to another, please rest

While sometimes it can feel selfish or even indulgent to take time for ourselves, no one wants a sad, broken mama. We need to take time to do the things that heal us.

From one sleep-deprived mama to another, please rest

Every once in a while—probably on the rare days when I remember to match my socks and put on mascara—another mama will see me with my four children and get the (mistaken) impression that I know what I'm doing. Sometimes they ask me things I know the answers to, like what aisle the diapers are in at our local grocery store. But other times the question they ask me is hard.

The other day, I got one of these questions. A friend had just been through five days (that is not a typo) of labor and had finally delivered a beautiful baby, her first. She asked me if I could recommend anything, herbal or the like, that would increase her energy so she could heal and take care of her baby and her house and do all of the other things that a regular life requires.

When I read her email, it sounded frantic and stressed to me. I worried for her. In my opinion, she was a superhero, and yet in hers, she was falling short. When I walked away for a while and came back to reread it, I realized her tone was normal. That frantic voice had been my own. Her email had hit a nerve with me, because while her circumstances were different, her situation was universal.

This is what we do, isn't it? We try so hard, and want to do so much. When we fall short of our own expectations, we adjust us instead of adjusting the expectations. We go to bed later, or set the alarm earlier. We sacrifice our yoga class or our ladies night and trade it for an extra load of laundry or yet another trip to the grocery store. We become martyrs.

I saw myself doing this recently. Life had become especially stressful and overwhelming, as it does, and I decided that a daily workout was in order. It's healthier than wine or a pint of ice cream in front of Netflix, I reasoned, so I started to set the alarm earlier and earlier.

When it went off, I resented it. I would still put my feet to the hardwoods and lay out my mat, but my breathing was stiff and my moves lacked heart.

I was so tired.

And I couldn't focus. I was there on my mat, only feet from my washer and dryer, thinking, Maybe I should just throw a load of laundry in, or, If I skip this and unload the dishwasher, I can leave for work five minutes earlier, or If I got in the shower right now, I might even have time to shave my legs!

Eventually, I'd give up trying and go find a chore, thinking I would thank myself later on the backend for the work I did on the frontend.

There's a problem with that though: there will always be another chore.

I've yet to find the last one myself. They keep popping up like a game of Whac-A-Mole. I fold and put away the last load of laundry and return to find the basket full of that day's clothes. I clean the kitchen to a shine and, five minutes later, greasy fingerprints smear along each cabinet at four different heights.

I can safely say that there has never been a time in recent memory when I have settled onto the couch after a long day and thought, "Whew! That was a tough day. But at least everything is done."

I also have a nagging suspicion that if, by some miracle, I did finish it all, it would be sort of anti-climatic. I doubt Ed McMahon would ring my doorbell, holding balloons and an oversized check. And that is probably a good thing, as I would not be wearing a bra or decent pants.

I thought for a long time before I responded to my friend's email.

I thought about how I drink too much coffee in the mornings, chasing wakefulness, but finding jitteriness instead, and then drink calming tea in the afternoons to bring my heart rate back down to a reasonable level. I thought about the evenings when I sometimes drink too much wine, chasing relaxation, and wake up instead with a headache, needing more coffee, and a full repeat of the cycle.

I thought about one of my lifelines, an ongoing group text with close friends, where we each can find each other saying things like, "Is it okay to not shower and spend three hours watching Netflix in my bed on a Saturday afternoon?" Everyone inevitably answers, "YES! Absolutely," giving each other permission to relax freely, even when we struggle to give that permission to ourselves.

The more I thought about that woman who labored for five days, the more I wanted to tell her what a hero I thought she was. Because it's important to think about how much we have achieved instead of how much we haven't.

When one of the girls in my group text wrote, "Is it okay if…" I immediately told her she was a hero, too, just for getting out of bed each morning when she didn't really feel like she could.

Later, when I shared my chocolate with my 4-year-old, even though I really wanted the whole thing for myself, I thought, Well, now I am kind of a hero, too.

If we want to keep saving the world, us heroes have got to rest. While sometimes it can feel selfish or even indulgent to take time for ourselves, no one wants a sad, broken mama. We need to take time to do the things that heal us.

When I finally sat down to write that new mother back, I said this:

"I know just the thing for you! It's a widely known remedy that can heal or at least put a dent in almost anything that ails you. It's free, and anyone can do it, regardless of athletic ability. This miracle, sweet mama, is rest. Give yourself permission to honor your body's needs, because you just came through battle, and you are a hero."

And then I took my own advice.

Sometimes I still wake early and do sun salutations until my arms shake and sweat drips onto my mat. Other days, my alarm goes off and I make my way downstairs, unfurl my mat, lie down on it, place a blanket over my body, and go back to sleep.

Because sleep is good. And I'm a hero.

They say necessity is the mother of invention—and nothing makes you more inventive than motherhood.

Sometimes that means fashioning a diaper out of paper towels and your older child's underpants (true story). Sometimes that means creating an innovative and life-changing weighted baby sleep sack and totally crushing it on Shark Tank. Tara Williams is the latter.

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Why do all of my good parenting or baby-focused inventions come after they've already been invented by someone else? Sigh.

Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

But it hasn't been. It's been more—as one of my favorite memes says—difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Because until this towel hit the bathtime scene, there was no easy-peasy way to pick up your squirming wet baby without drenching yourself and/or everything around you.

Plus, there is nothing cuter than a baby in a plush hooded towel, right? Well, except when it's paired with a dry, mess-free floor, maybe.

Check out our favorites to make bathtime so much easier:

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This viral post about the 4th trimester is exactly what new mamas need right now

"We are alone. Together. You are surrounded all the other mothers who are navigating this tender time in isolation. You are held by all of us who have walked the path before you and who know how much you must be hurting. You are wrapped in the warm embrace of mama earth, as she too settles into this time of slowness and healing."

Artist and teacher Catie Atkinson at Spirit y Sol recently shared a beautiful drawing of a new mom crying on a couch—leaking breasts, newborn baby, pile of laundry and what we can only assume is cold coffee, included. Everything about the image is so real and raw to me—from the soft stomach to the nursing bra and the juxtaposition of the happy wallpaper to the palpable vulnerability of the mother—I can almost feel the couch underneath me. I can feel the exhaustion deep in this woman's bones.

My heart feels the ache of loneliness right alongside hers. Because I remember. I remember the confusion and uncertainty and love and messy beauty of the fourth trimester so well. After all, it's etched in our minds and bodies forever.

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