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To the mama battling postpartum depression: You are stronger than you realize

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I think, in looking back, I’m thankful I went through postpartum depression.


It’s a strange thing to say, I know. And if you are currently going through it, please don’t hate me. But as someone who survived postpartum depression (PPD) and came out on the other side, I can honestly say that—on some level—I’m glad that chapter of my life occurred.

Today, I cherish my children in a way that I would have never thought possible in my darkest hours of PPD, when I literally wished that my now 5-year old daughter did not exist. When I would gaze longingly at my front door and fantasize that someone, anyone, would come and take her away and make this nightmare of motherhood end. When my husband would have to gently take my arm and pull me out of bed every morning before leaving for work, because I was paralyzed with dread and sadness about the day ahead.

These are the kinds of toxic and intrusive thoughts that plague your mind when you experience a perinatal mood disorder (PMD), which can include depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive tendencies, rage, and posttraumatic stress, among other symptoms. And while I often tell people that I would not wish this illness on my worst enemy, at the same time—I have come to a point in my journey where I can say I am in good company of other warrior mamas who have made it through the storm like me.

To be clear: every single mom I know is amazing in their own way and loves their child unconditionally. I do not mean to imply that mothers who have experienced a PMD are somehow better or more loving than those who don’t. But we have had to fight for our love, in a way, and I think that means something.

When my daughter, Hannah, passed away from a congenital heart defect five years ago, I thought my own life was over. Not because I had any intention of hurting myself, but because I was broken inside and didn’t know how I would be able to move forward and function on a daily basis.

I all but stopped eating, because I had no appetite. I would vomit out of sheer panic and anxiety. I had to muster every ounce of energy I possessed to brush my teeth each day. Sometimes, I didn’t even get that far.

You would think I would have latched on to Hannah’s surviving twin sister, Elizabeth, but the opposite happened. I felt a complete disconnect from my daughter, and while I managed to meet her basic everyday needs—providing food via nursing, changing diapers, etc.—I loathed every second of being a mother and deeply resented my new life.

Through private therapy, medication, the support of family and friends, and my faith, I eventually got better. After enduring many months of overwhelming sadness, lethargy, and self-doubt in my role as a new mom, things started to click, and I finally fell in love with my daughter. Not quite two years later, I was blessed enough to have another child, my daughter Maggie.

Today, I am a co-founder and coordinator of a support group for women experiencing perinatal mood disorders in the Cleveland, Ohio area. We are part of a larger statewide organization called POEM, which stands for Perinatal Outreach and Encouragement for Moms. We have had tremendously positive feedback from the community.

On more than one occasion, women have told us that this group saved their life. I have witnessed incredible bonds and friendships form. A woman once shared that she cried tears of joy the entire drive home after her first meeting, because of the immense relief she felt from realizing that she wasn’t alone and that there was hope for her to come out the other side of this illness.

And so, in a way, I am glad I experienced postpartum depression. Because otherwise, I would not have had the opportunity to help lead this group of brave women. I would not have had the honor and privilege of meeting the strong, amazing women who continually come to us week after week and allow us to accompany them on their journey in becoming the mom they want to be.

Without postpartum depression, I would not know to ask new moms how they are really doing after childbirth. To not just assume that motherhood is all rainbows and unicorns.

I would not be cognizant of the fact that, so often, especially in those early days and months of sleep deprivation and hormonal fluctuations (and the general upheaval of your life) that mark the arrival of a newborn—a mom is at her lowest and frailest, both mentally and physically speaking.

Without postpartum depression, I would not have the passion and empathy I have now to serve other mothers who also experience this debilitating nightmare that is perinatal mood disorders. To raise awareness by raising my voice in order to destigmatize these illnesses. To better understand mental health in general and recognize the painful struggles and challenges faced by those courageous individuals who deal with mental illness every day.

Lastly, without postpartum depression, I would not be the mom I am today.

I would not have discovered the strength, resilience and inner warrior I had hiding within myself—ready to battle.

I would love my daughters no matter what; they are my entire world and represent a source of pure and never ending joy in my life. But without postpartum depression, I would not know what it means to have to work for that love. To claw your way out of the blackest of holes and emerge victorious, ready to give everything you have to your child.

I am a proud survivor of postpartum depression, and I have a message for any woman who is going through this illness: You are not alone. You are not crazy. You are not a bad mom. You are stronger than you think, and I promise things will get better. You will not feel this way forever. I promise.

I know it can be hard to admit you need help, but please consider reaching out to a trusted healthcare provider to start a treatment plan, whether that be counseling, medication, a support group, or a combination of all these tools.

You deserve it, and so does your family.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

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

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We are almost into Pumpkin Spice season—this summer, this month and this week have flown by! But don't worry, we've been taking note of the good news stories you need to read when you have a moment to slow down.

Grab a coffee and get comfortable, mama, because these are the headlines that made us smile this week:

This kindergarten father is total #dadgoals

As Today reports, dad Jamie DeSpain is going viral for making his kindergarten daughter's day by taking her stuffed cat, Sophia, to work with him and putting her to work.

DeSpain's oldest daughter, Hadley, had been taking Sophia the cat with her to school as she made the big leap into kindergarten this month, but last week her dad realized she'd forgotten Sophia in the van when he'd dropped her off at school. DeSpain didn't want to cause an interruption at school, so he just brought Sophia into work with him and began texting his wife, Erica, photos of Sophia doing work around the office.

"I kind of have a goofy streak and Hadley really appreciates goofiness," Jamie DeSpain, who lives in Madison, Alabama, told Today Parents. "Combine that with her love for stuffed animals...[it] made for the perfect dad setup."

He took pics of Sophia taking phone calls, doing emails, having coffee and even having a pensive look out the window, which DeSpain captioned: "wondering what Hadley is doing."

When dad got home, his daughter was thrilled with her stuffed animal's big day out and was happy to be reunited with both her father and Sophia. Hadley was so thrilled with the experience that she asked her dad to repeat the mission the next day with her stuffed dog, Mocha. The cotton-filled canine was spotted doing various office tasks and, of course, drinking some coffee. 😂

Hadley's mama says her husband's antics were a welcome bit of fun and helped the family remember that while kindergarten is a big step, Hadley's still a little kid (and it seems her dad is too, at least at heart).

"Sending Hadley off to kindergarten has been a big transition for us as a family, but this activity reminded us that she's still little," Erica DeSpain said."We want to soak up that childlike wonder as much as we can, and this activity was a great way to do just that."

We think office buildings are about to see an infestation of stuffed animals!

This father's viral Instagram video is total #dadgoals

Father Jimmy Howell has gone viral for giving his 9-month-old daughter Kensley an adorable pedicure.

"She got a little crazy with me today due to the fact that I was filing her nails a little too rough, y'all see why I can't do anything for free, I'm charging her next week, just watch," he captioned the video he posted to Instagram.

"Kensey, this is free," He jokes in the video after Kensley seems to protest the spa service for moment. 😂

With the power of dad humor, Howell not only got the baby's toes clipped (which is hard to do!) but got her laughing, too. He says he has weekly "spa talks" with his daughter, so it's no wonder his baby nail skills are so on point.

Viral kindness: "Please ask me if I have sunscreen" 

We have all been there—sometimes you're the one who needs an extra diaper and sometimes you're the one who has one to give. The point is, every parent needs help sometimes and most are happy to pay it forward when it is their turn to give a diaper to a stranger in need.

Wisconsin mom Shelby Beck captured this perfectly in a Facebook post this week after she went to the park with her daughter and a fellow mama had to ask her for a favor.

When the stranger approached Beck, she could tell she was uncomfortable. "She shrugged her shoulders and quietly said 'I'm embarrassed to even ask, but do you happen to have sunscreen we can use?' As if she was somehow ashamed that she forgot to pack sunscreen today." Beck wrote.

She continued her Facebook post with an open letter to parents who find themselves in the same situation as the sheepish stranger.

"Dear fellow mamas,

Please ask me if I have sunscreen. Ask if I have baby wipes, diapers or even extra snacks.

Ask me if your toddler can sit down and play with us while you find a shady bench to nurse your newborn.

Hand me your phone and ask me to take a picture of you with your sweet babies - we all know mamas aren't in enough photos.

Ask for help. Ask for love. Ask for anything.

Even though we are strangers, please ask me.

It's not easy being responsible for little humans but it's easier if we help each other out.
We're all in this together.❤️"

We could not agree with Shelby more. Mamas helping mamas is a beautiful thing (and asking for sunscreen could even lead to making a mom friend!).

Oh, and one last thing...

Oh, and if you need a good cry this weekend, check out this viral Michael Bublé video that has parents everywhere crying about our kids growing up. Team Motherly could not get through it without sobbing! Just like summer, their childhoods will be over before we know it so take some time to connect with your babies this weekend. They're off to kindergarten today—off to college tomorrow! 😭


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Discovering the best foods for lunches and snacks is an important step in back to school preparation. But with new routines and packed schedules on the horizon, finding time to think about what to pack for back to school lunches can be a challenge. Some kids are super picky and won't eat anything but grilled cheese. Others could eat endless amounts of nutritious snacks all day, everyday. Regardless of where your child falls on the food spectrum, we're here to help you find what works best for your family.

We asked #TeamMotherly to share their favorite go-to lunches and snacks for the back to school season. Mix it up and add some variety in there and you'll be good to go! Here's what they had to say:

1. "Cubed ham, cheese, cut grapes, yogurt covered raisins."—Tiffany S.

2. "Granola bars, carrots or cucumbers and ranch, peanut butter crackers, fresh fruit."—Melissa B.

3. "For me? Wine."—Nicole N.

4. "My little one loves to take tuna or chicken salad with grapes and crackers, yogurt and ice water with fresh cucumbers and garden tomatoes or chicken Alfredo with toast and veggies or peanut butter celery tomatoes cucumbers chips and water."—Jackie P.

5. "The cafeteria!"—Toni H.


6. "Once a week, it's usually ham and cheese sandwich with raw baby carrots and grape tomatoes. And for dessert, I do yogurt or fruit. It doesn't really matter if it's always the healthiest or the best lunch, what I find really good is alternating and rotating and trying to get creative."—Erica W.

7. "Bananas, string cheese, blueberries, apple sauce, raspberries."—Melina S.

8. "Cut strawberries or cut apples & peanut butter for snacks! & Sandwich with ham or turkey, tomato, lettuce, & mayo separately! And yogurt."—Melodi B.

9. "I roll a hotdog in a flour tortilla and toast it in a skillet until crispy. Like a hot dog burrito."—Elda E.

10. "Sandwiches (meat or sunbutter and jelly), quesadillas, hummusdillas (hummus in tortilla), leftover pizza, bean salad with tortilla chips, boiled eggs/cheese, pesto pasta salad, yogurt and granola, bagel with cream cheese, empanadas (bean and cheese or meat). And always fruit/veggies as sides."—Tran L.


11. "I make a sandwich with hummus then pack carrots, applesauce, Z-Bar and some crackers."—Suzanne W.

12. "Vary it between ham sandwiches, dairylea dunkers, breadsticks and then healthy snacks and juice box. [I also include] water in a sports bottle for during the day."—Danielle B.

13. "Gluten-free pretzels and peanut butter, ham and cream cheese rolls, GF tortillas with PB & J."—Heather T.

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Learn + Play

If Amazon is a large, impersonal department store filled with endless inventory and unlimited choices, Hullabaloo Book Company is a sweet, curated boutique where you know you'll find something that's just a little bit more special and a little more meaningful.

It's a new children's book gifting site you need to know about, mama.

Hullabaloo treats books as the ultimate experience gift. Each book you buy comes packaged up in a beautifully designed canvas bag with a personalized letterpress bookplate. It honestly makes my bookworm heart soar seeing how thoughtful the experience is for both the gift giver and receiver.

The only thing I never feel guilty buying too much of for my 3-year-old son is books, and books are also one of my favorite things to gift. But as he gets older, I find myself turning to books not just to entertain him, but to also open up his mind, explore new feelings and understand that we have shared experiences as people.

My favorite part of this site is the way they categorize their books by "Amazing Attributes." Parents (or aunts or grandparents or friends) can shop for books curated by these qualities. For example, "Kind Hearts" is a collection of books that "teach the importance of understanding and caring for family, other children, and our communities" and "Big Feels" is a collection of books that "focus on helping kiddos learn emotional intelligence."

If you're shopping on price alone, they also offer a tiered set of gift collections starting at $29. It's such an easy and brilliant way to find a special birthday or baby shower gift.

SHOP

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When you're a mama on the move, safe car seats are a necessity but can be a budget buster, especially if you're looking to upgrade or have to furnish multiple cars. Luckily, Target is here to fix that.

Target is bringing back their popular car seat trade-in program from Tuesday, September 3 – Friday, September 13.

Just bring your old car seat to the recycling bin near Guest Services and a Target team member will give you a coupon for 20% off a new a new car seat, booster seat, car seat base, travel system or stroller. And the coupon can also be applied to select baby gear, such as high chairs, swings, rockers and bouncers. 👏

The coupon is eligible through Saturday, Sept.14, 2019, so if you don't see the seat of your dreams in store when you drop off your old one, you'll want to check out the online selection and act pretty fast.

With the exception of the small format stores, all Targets will be taking car seats between September 3 and 13. (You can find a participating store near you here.)

Target has held several of these car seat trade-in events since 2016 in an effort to help parents recycle the seats, which are not eligible for curbside recycling and take up a lot of space when sent to landfills. The retailer hands over all the old car seats to Waste Management, and the materials are recycled to make grocery carts, plastic buckets and construction materials like steel beams.

The event is really a win-win—we get to keep our kids safe while giving the car seats that protected them a second life. Just another reason to love Target.

[A version of this post was originally published April 18, 2018. It has been updated.]

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