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For most of my adult life, I’ve struggled with varying degrees of depression. It’s not something I talk about often because it’s not in my nature to make a big fuss over (what I perceive as) my flaws or weaknesses.


I’m also extremely fortunate that my depression tends to be cyclical and relatively moderate. And I’ve been through the cycles often enough that, even at my worst, even when I might not believe it in the moment—part of my mind always knew that at some point there would be light at the end of that dark and lonely tunnel.

Then I had a baby. And suddenly I found myself walking that tunnel not alone, head down and determined to power through to the end, but carrying precious cargo, unable to stop and address my own wounds because, well, I had more important things to focus on.

In some ways, it was good. I couldn’t wallow or exaggerate my problems in my own mind—to me, they just weren’t as important as whatever my baby needed. But, in other ways, it made things so much harder.

I couldn’t pause and practice self-care the way I would in the past because, well, to me, that just wasn’t as important as whatever my baby needed.

Postpartum depression (thankfully!) gets a lot of attention these days, but for millions of mamas, the dark days don't end after their baby's first (or third…or eighth...) birthday. So, to the mama whose depression struggles started long before that plus sign on the pregnancy test and will continue long after, I want you to know:

You are not alone.

You are not alone in those dark, disquieting thoughts. For me, depression brain is a voice whispering at the back of my mind as my husband and I watch a movie before bed: “He knows your flaws…how could he want to stay married to you?”

Depression brain is a voice whispering at the back of my mind when I see my friend’s post from a girls’ dinner on Instagram: “They didn’t invite you because you’re so boring now.”

Depression brain is a voice whispering at the back of my mind after I snap at a tantrum: “You should have handled that better. You are a terrible mother.”

Depression brain is a voice whispering at the back of my mind in the middle of one of my 2-year-old's famous bear hugs: "I wonder when she'll stop loving you?"

That voice is one we all hear, saying different things, but all with the same message: You are failing and unlovable. And it lies to all of us, mama.

You are not alone in the moments of pain. When your body feels so heavy you think your clothes might actually be made of lead. The physical implications of depression are so real. And for every time you curl up in bed thinking you just can’t do another day, I promise you another mom is feeling the exact same way.

But isolation is not your friend, so reach out to someone. Find a small circle of people you feel safe talking about your depression with, and give them the language you need to express when you are going through a low. (I.e. "I'm not feeling like myself lately..." or “Remember a few months ago when I was having a hard time…it’s happening again.”)

You are not alone in the loss. In the moments when you don't or can't answer "What's wrong?” because if you start to talk about it, you'll start crying and you may never stop. Talking about it will help, mama, so do your research and find a professional you can meet with. But there are also many things you can do for yourself to help take care of yourself.

Journal your feelings, book an exercise class, plan a relaxing evening at home, take a bath, prepare a nutritious meal, schedule a night out—whatever you know will help you feel cared for and strong.

You are not alone in the moments of anger. When you snap at your husband, resentful that he can't make you happy or that he seems so light while you squirm under this boulder of sadness, praying for rescue. Or maybe you snap at your mom. Or your friend. Or, perhaps worst of all, your child.

While you don’t want to get comfortable losing your temper on whoever is in front of you, carrying the burden of guilt for not being perfect isn’t helping you heal. Take a moment to breathe and try to come back to the conversation from a place of empathy. Try saying: “I’m sorry I said that. I’m feeling sad (or stressed) today, but I shouldn’t take it out on you.”

You are not alone in the moments of guilt. Guilt—heavy as an actual weight on your chest—that your child will remember her mom as sad. That she will remember her mom as sad all the time.

On my worst days, this thought guts me. I want to raise my daughter as positive and confident and happy, and every day that passes under a cloud of depression, I worry that I’ve already messed it all up. But I know it’s important to remember that, if I learn to deal with this (and my family deals with this) in a positive way, there’s a good chance she will learn to deal positively too.

And pretending that everything is great all the time wouldn’t be setting her up to deal with anxiety or depression or even just run-of-the-mill sadness she might/will experience in a healthy way. So I try to keep the dialogue honest: “Sometimes Mama feels sad or anxious without any clear reason, but we should always feel safe to talk about how we feel and try to find ways to help each other feel better.”

And I always remind her that she is so deeply loved no matter what.

Depression is often not visible. Especially as a mom, it’s often not days spent in a dark room or hours and hours of crying in the shower. We are pulled back into the world by our children, and so our suffering is usually much better hidden—or at least more easily missed.

Depression as a mother can mean days of weighted down hopelessness, extreme insecurity and feelings of being unloved or unlovable.

But remember, mama, you are neither of those things. And you are never, ever alone.

If you’re struggling with depression, know you can always get help. Call The National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 to talk to someone today.

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The temperatures are dropping and that can only mean one thing. Whether we like it or not, winter's cold chilly months are upon us. As a born-and-raised Alaskan, and mama of three, I've got a lot of cold weather experience under my belt, and staying inside half the year just isn't an option for us. As my husband likes to say, "There's no bad weather, just bad gear."

Here are some of my favorite picks to keep your family toasty warm this winter.


1. Bear bunting

This sherpa bear bunting wins winter wear MVP for being a comfy snowsuit for your littlest babe, or base-layer under another snowsuit for the chilliest of winter outings. Bonus: your baby bear will never look cuter!

Sherpa Hooded Bunting, Carter's, $15.20

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2. Patagonia Capilene base-layers

Speaking of base-layers, for any prolonged winter activity outside in the cold, it's best to layer up to create air pockets of warmth. These moisture wicking base-layers are a family favorite.

Baby Capilene Bottoms, Back Country, $29.00

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3. Arctix Kids limitless overall bib

These adjustable snow pants keep kids warm and the bib style keeps snow from going down the back of their pants. Bonus: the price is excellent for the quality and they can grow with your child. The Velcro strap also makes bathroom breaks for kids so much easier.

Arctix Kids Limitless Overall Bib, Amazon, $14.99-$49.99

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4. Hooded frost-free long jacket

Keep your little one warm and stylish in this long puffer jacket. Great for everyday outings.

Hooded Frost-Free Long Jacket, Old Navy, $35.00

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5. Patagonia reversible jacket

This jacket is windproof, waterproof and the built-in hood means one less piece of gear to worry about (or one more layer for your little one's head). It's a best buy if you live with cold winter temperatures for many months of the year and still love to get outside to play. It also stays in great condition for hand-me-downs to your next kid.

Reversible Down Sweater Hoodie, Nordstrom, $119.00

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6. Under Armour Decatur water repellent jacket

Made of waterproof fabric and lined with great insulation, kids will no doubt stay warm—and dry—in this. It features plenty of pockets, too, so mama doesn't always have to hold onto their items. We love that the UGrow system allows sleeves to grow a couple inches.

UA Decatur Water Repellent Jacket, Nordstrom, $155.00

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7. Stonz mittens

Ever tried to keep gloves on a 1-year-old? It's a tough task, but these gloves make it a breeze with a wide opening and two adjustable toggles for a snug fit they can't pull off! Warm and waterproof, and come in sizes from infant to big kids.

Stonz Mittz, Amazon, $39.99

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8. Sorel toot pack boot

Keep their little toes warm with these cozy boots from Sorel. With insulated uppers and waterproof bottoms their feet are sure to stay warm. They're well constructed and hold up over time, making them a great hand-me-down option for your family.

Sorel Kids' Yoot Boot, Amazon, $48.73-$175.63

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9. Stonz baby boots

These Stonz stay-on-baby booties do just as their name says and stay on their feet. No more searching for one boot in the grocery store parking lot!

Stonz Three Season Stay-On Baby Booties, Amazon, $29.99-$50.29

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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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We make a lot of things this time of year. Gingerbread houses. Christmas cards. New traditions. Babies.

Yes, December is peak baby making season. It's a month filled with togetherness and all the love felt in December is what makes September the most statistically popular month for American birthdays.

According to data journalist Matt Stiles, mid-September is the most popular time to give birth in America. He did a deep dive into the birth stats from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Social Security Administration collected between 1994 and 2014 and found that the most common American birthdays fall on September 9, 19 and 12. In fact, 9 of the 10 most popular days to give birth fall in September.

If we turn the calendar back, we're looking at Christmas time conceptions. Stiles illustrated his findings via a heat map, which presents the data in a visual form. The darker the square, the more common the birthday.

The square for August 30 is pretty dark as it is the 34th most common birthday in America. It's also 40 weeks after November 23, and the unofficial beginning of the United States' seasonal baby boom.


And while the Christmas holidays are common times to conceive, they're not common days to give birth, for obvious reasons. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Day and the fourth of July are all represented by light squares on Stiles's data map, meaning they're among the least popular days to welcome a little one into the world (Boxing Day is just a smidge darker, still a pretty rare birthday).

OB-GYNs are not likely to schedule C-sections on major holidays, so that might point to the low birth rates on these special days.

As for the September baby boom, it probably has less to do with the magic of the holiday season and more to do with the fact that many Americans take time off work during the holiday season. It's not that mistletoe is some magic aphrodisiac, but just that making babies takes time, and at this time of year we have some to spare.

This Christmas be thankful for the time you have with your loved ones and your partner. That time could give you a gift come September.

[A version of this article was originally posted November 21, 2018]

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When I gave birth the first time, I had two doulas—one for me, and one for my husband. (I wasn't messing around!) They worked hard to support me in what ended up being a long labor. About 20 hours in, I remember hearing my doulas whisper to my exhausted, hard-working husband, “Go lie down. We can take care of her."

This was absolutely true. They were more than capable of helping me through contractions, which up to this point I'd been handling really well. So upon their urging, my husband walked about three feet away and lay down on the daybed in the labor and delivery room. And then the strangest thing happened—

I completely lost my rhythm and my ability to breathe through contractions. It was as though I'd lost my way. The next handful of contractions were unbearable and caused me to cry out in anguish. My husband hurried to my side and held my hand once more.

And then, just as quickly, I found my rhythm, my breathing returned, and I was able to to handle my contractions until I gave birth several hours later.

In a recent study published in Nature, it was discovered that when a partner held the hand of a woman during labor, the couple would begin to synchronize their breathing and heart rate patterns, otherwise known as physiological coupling.

In addition, the women reported that their pain lessened while holding hands with their partners. If they were just sitting next to one another, but not holding hands, their pain levels weren't affected.

This study has obvious implications for the families I teach in my Childbirth Preparation classes, and it's important to share this news far and wide:

Everything you do for your partner while she's in labor makes a difference. Even if all you do is hold her hand.

Labor is not just something that a birthing woman experiences. Her partner experiences labor too, just in a very different way. For far too long, we've either diminished or ignored the partner's experience of labor—to everyone's detriment.

I realize that it makes sense to pay close attention to how a woman moves through her pregnancy, labor and birth. But if we're not paying equal attention to her partner's experience, we're not setting this new family up for success. In fact, we might be doing the exact opposite.

If partners don't realize the importance their words, actions and touch can have on the laboring woman's experience, many may freeze up and feel helpless as they witness the power and intensity of labor and birth. They may end up feeling as though all of their efforts and suggestions for comfort measures are without any effect. But this couldn't be further from the truth!

Every little thing a partner does to make the laboring woman more comfortable matters immensely. Every sip of water offered, every new position suggested, every word of encouragement, every reminder to breathe, every single touch, provides comfort to the laboring woman. And partners need to know this and believe in the power that their undivided attention and connection can bring to the laboring woman.

Here's why I think the findings from this latest study are so important—it's that feeling of shared empathy between the laboring woman and her partner that causes the physiological coupling and pain relieving effects that help a woman when she's experiencing pain.

That's why I've always told the partners in my classes that even if they hired an army of the world's greatest labor doulas, their unwavering, focused and empathetic attention during birth, is the reason why she'll tell everyone that she couldn't have made it through labor without her partner! Even if all they did was hold her hand.

It's a conundrum many parents wrestle with: We don't want to lie to our kids, but when it comes to Santa, sometimes we're not exactly giving them the full truth either.

For Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, lying to daughters Lincoln, 5, and Delta, 3 just isn't an option, so everyone in the Bell-Shepard household knows the truth about Santa.

"This is going to be very controversial," Shepard told Us Weekly earlier this month. "I have a fundamental rule that I will never lie to them, which is challenging at times. Our 5-year-old started asking questions like, 'Well, this doesn't make sense, and that doesn't make sense.' I'm like, 'You know what? This is just a fun thing we pretend while it's Christmas.'"

According to Shepard, this has not diminished the magic of Christmas in their home. "They love watching movies about Santa, they love talking about Santa," Shepard told Us. "They don't think he exists, but they're super happy and everything's fine."

Research indicates that Shepard is right—kids can be totally happy and into Christmas even after figuring out the truth and that most kids do start to untangle the Santa myth on their own, as Lincoln did.

Studies suggest that for many kids, the myth fades around age seven, but for some kids, it's sooner, and that's okay.


Writing for The Conversation, Kristen Dunfield, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Concordia University, suggests that when kids come to parents with the hard questions about Santa, parents may feel a bit sad, but can take some comfort in "recognizing these challenging questions for what they are—cognitive development in action."

Kids aren't usually the ones who are upset when they figure it out, researchers note. Typically, kids are kind of proud of themselves for being such great detectives. It's the parents who feel sadness.

Some parents may not choose to be as blunt as Shepard, and that's okay, too. According to Dunfield, if you don't want to answer questions about Santa with 100% truth, you can answer a question with a question.

"If instead you want to let your child take the lead, you can simply direct the question back to them, allowing your child to come up with explanations for themselves: "I don't know, how do you think the sleigh flies?" Dunfield writes.

While Dax Shepard acknowledges that telling a 3-year-old that Santa is pretend might be controversial, he's hardly the first parent to present Santa this way. There are plenty of healthy, happy adults whose parents told them the truth.

LeAnne Shepard is one of them. Now a mother herself, LeAnne's parents clued her into the Santa myth early, for religious reasons that were common in her community.

"In the small Texas town where I grew up, I wasn't alone in my disbelief. Many parents, including mine, presented Santa Claus as a game that other families played," she previously wrote. "That approach allowed us to get a picture on Santa's lap, watch the Christmas classics, and enjoy all the holiday festivities so long as we remembered the actual reason for the season. It was much like when I visited Disney World and met Minnie Mouse; I was both over the moon excited and somewhat aware that she was not actually real."

No matter why you want to tell your children the truth about Santa, know that it's okay to let the kids know that he's pretend. Kristen Bell's kids prove that knowing the truth about Santa doesn't have to make Christmas any less exciting. Pretending can be magical, too.

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