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We've seen Tully—and we've got some real concerns

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Spoiler alert: This is about the entire movie, not just the trailer. Additionally, this article contains information and opinion about maternal mental health and may be upsetting for some individuals.


When the trailer for Tully first came out, I was beside myself. Finally, a movie about what motherhood is really like. I couldn't wait to see it.

In Tully, Charlize Theron plays Marlo, a mom of three who hesitantly accepts the help of a night nanny to get through the famously rough fourth trimester, after her youngest daughter is born. The movie is named for the night nanny, Tully, who is played by Mackenzie Davis.

Tully depicts an image of motherhood never before seen in a movie like this. Marlo has leaking breasts, a postpartum belly and a messy house—definitely not the glamorized version of motherhood we are used to seeing. We also see a lot of very familiar scenes, such as when Marlo accidentally spills a bag of freshly pumped breast milk, and the pure heartache that ensues from that.

Marlo's husband, played by Ron Livingston, is a fine husband and dad—definitely present and "trying" but certainly not as engaged or aware as we'd like him to be.

So far, I was on board with the plot.

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Enter the night nanny, who comes into Marlo's life and starts making everything better. She connects with the baby right away, helps Marlo get her house organized and eventually becomes her confidant and friend.

Things take a turn for the huh? though, when Tully sleeps with Marlo's husband—while Marlo is watching and "telling her what he likes."

The climax of the movie comes when Tully and Marlo go out for a night and find themselves drunk in a bar in Brooklyn. Tully tells Marlo she can't work for her anymore, which greatly upsets Marlo. They end up driving back home together, but Marlo is drunk and falls asleep at the wheel—and they get into an awful car accident.

When Marlo regains consciousness, she is in the hospital, with her husband by her side. We learn from a doctor that Marlo has been suffering from postpartum depression.

We also learn that Tully is not real. Tully is actually Marlo's younger-self, who Marlo has imagined into an actual walking-talking person. The movie ends with Marlo's husband stepping up and helping around the house a bit more, and it is unclear if Marlo receives treatment—the movie definitely does not show her doing so.

I am not a movie critic, so I can't speak to the cinematography and acting—though from a non-expert POV I thought that was all really good. The actors all did tremendous work, and I was really impressed.

I am, however, a midwife. And as a maternal health provider, I have some very real concerns about Tully.

Postpartum depression is mentioned in the movie (once when we find out Marlo had it after her first baby was born, and once at the end when the emergency room doctor asks her husband if she's had a history of mental health issues).

The problem is that Marlo does not have postpartum depression—she has postpartum psychosis.

Postpartum psychosis (PPP) is rare, impacting about one or two out of 1000 women. Symptoms include:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Periods of extreme activity
  • Anger
  • Paranoia
  • Trouble communicating

As with all mental illness, it's essential that we do not make any blanket statements about women with PPP because everyone's story is different. That said, postpartum psychosis "can lead to devastating consequences in which the safety and well-being of the affected mother and her offspring are jeopardized," according to Dr. Dorothy Sit and colleagues.

From hallucinating a personified version of her younger self (including "helping" her have sex with her own husband), to nights filled with frantic cleaning and cupcake baking, to a spontaneous night out where she ends up driving home drunk, Marlo exhibits many of the signs of PPP.

I am not sure if this was intentional, or if the film-makers did not realize that the character they created had PPP. Since they acknowledge that she has postpartum depression, though, I am surprised that they seem not to have consulted with a therapist to ensure that the topic was handled appropriately, whatever their intention was.

My issue with the movie is not that it is about a woman with postpartum mental illness—indeed we need many, many more movie about postpartum mental illness.

My issue is that in not addressing the fact that Marlo has a postpartum psychosis, the rampant problem of unaddressed maternal mental health concerns is perpetuated.

The reason that people are so excited about Tully is because they feel like it is the first time that true motherhood is being portrayed on the big screen—but this is not true motherhood. Motherhood is hard, yes, but it is not this. This is mental illness. Brushing aside her mental illness again refuses to give it the attention it deserves.

Marlo needs immediate mental health treatment, and there is no direct acknowledgment in the film that she is getting it. Yes, a doctor tells her husband that she has PPD. Perhaps we can assume that means she's getting help?

Here's the thing though—all too often in mental health we assume that someone is fine and getting the care they need. So we don't do anything or say anything.

We need to create a culture that is done assuming and starts ensuring.

My strong concern here is that this movie which presents itself as validating the experience of motherhood is sending the message that these symptoms are normal. They are common yes. But they deserve to be respected and attended to, not dismissed.

Twice in the movie, Marlo talks about suicide. Once in the beginning when she says (to her entire family), "I want to kill myself," and her husband tells the kids that she's only joking, "like a clown." And then later Tully jokes that Marlo wants to murder her—since Tully is really Marlo, murdering her means killing herself.

In neither of these instances does anyone do anything to help her. Yes, this is a movie—but real women are suffering from this very real problem. Normalizing suicidal ideation is simply not okay.

Carolyn Wagner, a maternal mental health therapist based in Chicago told us: "The reality of postpartum psychosis is that it is extremely serious and presents a grave danger to mom and infant. It does not involve fantastical imagined friend and caregiver, and it is certainly nothing to be made into a plot twist.

"Additionally, I am concerned about the impact the storyline will have on postpartum mood disorder survivors who are not aware before going into the movie what they are going to see. The promos do not even hint at the twist, so moms are likely to be caught totally unaware which can be really upsetting and potentially damaging."

I find myself wondering about responsibility. Does the film industry have a responsibility to address mental illness appropriately? I'm not sure that they do.

But I see such a missed opportunity in Tully. Had the movie been just a bit longer, perhaps they could have shown Marlo receiving help—how amazing would it have been to see Hollywood take on the stigma of maternal mental health and turn it on its head? Instead, we leave with the notion that this is just "how it is" for moms.

So for what it's worth, to anyone out there suffering, please know it doesn't have to be like this. You have done absolutely nothing wrong, and you are not alone. There is very real help available to you.

You are so worth it.

If you're experiencing feelings or thoughts that concern you, contact your medical provider or a therapist who can help you find the right treatment plan. If you want to hurt yourself or your child, please call 911 or go to the emergency room where they can help you. For a description of postpartum mental illness symptoms, please visit Postpartum Progress.

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Did you hear that? That was the sound of Nordstrom and Maisonette making all your kid's summer wardrobe dreams come true.

Nordstrom partnered with Maisonette to create the perfect in-store pop-up shop from May 24th-June 23rd, featuring some of our favorite baby and kids brands, like Pehr, Zestt Organics, Lali and more. (Trust us, these items are going to take your Instagram feed to the next level of cuteness. 😍) Items range from $15 to $200, so there's something for every budget.

Pop-In@Nordstrom x Maisonette

Maisonette has long been a go-to for some of the best children's products from around the world, whether it's tastefully designed outfits, adorable accessories, or handmade toys we actually don't mind seeing sprawled across the living room rug. Now their whimsical, colorful aesthetic will be available at Nordstrom.

The pop-in shops will be featured in nine Nordstrom locations: Costa Mesa, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Chicago, IL; Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; Bellevue, WA; Seattle, WA; Toronto, ON; and Vancouver, BC.

Don't live nearby? Don't stress! Mamas all across the U.S. and Canada will be able to access the pop-in merchandise online at nordstrom.com/pop

But don't delay―these heirloom-quality pieces will only be available at Nordstrom during the pop-in's run, and then they'll be over faster than your spring break vacation. Happy shopping! 🛍

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

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For decades, doctors have prescribed progesterone, one of the key hormones your body needs during pregnancy, to prevent a miscarriage. The hormone, produced by the ovaries, is necessary to prepare the body for implantation. As the pregnancy progresses, the placenta produces progesterone, which suppresses uterine contractions and early labor.

But a new study out of the UK finds that administering progesterone to women experiencing bleeding in their first trimester does not result in dramatically more successful births than a placebo. Yet, for a small group of mothers-to-be who had experienced "previous recurrent miscarriages," the numbers showed promise.

The study, conducted at Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research at the University of Birmingham in the UK, is the largest of its kind, involving 4,153 pregnant women who were experiencing bleeding in those risky (and nerve-wracking) early weeks. The women were randomly split into two groups, with one group receiving 400 milligrams of progesterone via a vaginal suppository, and the other receiving a placebo of the same amount. Both groups were given the suppositories through their 16th week of pregnancy.

Of the group given progesterone, 75% went on to have a successful, full-term birth, compared to 72% for the placebo.

As the study notes, for most women, the administration of progesterone "did not result in a significantly higher incidence of live births than placebo." But for women who had experienced one or two previous miscarriages, the result was a 4% increase in the number of successful births. And for women who had experienced three or more recurrent miscarriages, the number jumped to a 15% increase.

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Dr. Arri Coomarasamy, Professor of Gynecology at the University of Birmingham and Director of Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research, said the implications for that group are "huge." "Our finding that women who are at risk of a miscarriage because of current pregnancy bleeding and a history of a previous miscarriage could benefit from progesterone treatment has huge implications for practice," he said.

It's estimated that 1 in 5 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. And while even a spot of blood no doubt increases the fear in every expectant mother's mind, bleeding is actually a very common occurrence during pregnancy, Coomarasamy said. Still, first trimester bleeding is particularly risky, with a third of women who experience it going on to miscarry.

So for women who have been through it multiple times, Coomarasamy's findings are an important avenue to explore. "This treatment could save thousands of babies who may have otherwise been lost to a miscarriage," he added.

The study is among a number of recent groundbreaking discoveries made by doctors looking to further understand what causes miscarriages and what can be done to prevent them. While about 70% of miscarriages are attributed to chromosomal abnormalities, doctors recently learned that certain genetic abnormalities, which exist in a small group of parents-to-be, could be discovered by testing the mother and father, as well as the embryo.

Doctors have also discovered that even knowing the sex of your baby could predict the complications a mother may face, thus helping medical professionals to assist in keeping the pregnancy viable.

But while there is no sweeping solution to stop miscarriages, for some couples, the use of progesterone does offer a glimmer of hope. "The results from this study are important for parents who have experienced miscarriage," Jane Brewin, chief executive of Tommy's said. "They now have a robust and effective treatment option which will save many lives and prevent much heartache."

Brewin added that studies like this one are imperative to our understanding of how the creation of life, which remains both a miracle and a mystery, truly works. "It gives us confidence to believe that further research will yield more treatments and ultimately make many more miscarriages preventable," she said.

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It's never easy to give up a career and launch a whole new one, but when I decided to end my time as an opera singer and move into the field of sales, I knew I could do it. After all, I had the perfect role model: my mom.

When I was growing up, she worked as a dental hygienist, but when I started college, she took some courses in sales. She was single with two kids in college, which was a driving force to make more money. But above that, she truly had a passion for sales. In no time, she got jobs and excelled at them, ultimately earning her the title of Vendor Representative of the Year at her electronics company.

When I entered the field of sales, an unusual and unexpected twist followed. Several years into my career, I was hired by a different electronics company. My mom and I ended up selling similar products to some of the same businesses. (Neither of our companies realized this, and we have different last names.)

But rather than feeling uncomfortable, I saw this as a great opportunity. She and I were both committed to doing our best. More often than not, she beat me when we went after the same piece of business. But in the process, I learned so much from her. I was able to see how her work ethic, commitment and style drove her success. I had even more to emulate.

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Here are some of the biggest business lessons I learned from my working mom:

1. Use your existing skill set to differentiate yourself.

As a dental hygienist, my mom knew how to talk to people and make them feel comfortable. She had also served as a youth leader at three different churches where my dad preached. In each town, she found at-risk kids, brought them together and developed programs for them. She had learned how to help people improve themselves and make their lives better.

In sales, she did the same thing, focusing on how the products or services she was selling could genuinely make a difference in the lives of her customers. Those skills translated seamlessly into her new career.

2. Start strong from day one—don't wait for permission to launch your full potential.

From day one at a job, my mom showed up with energy and vigor to get going. She didn't take time to be tentative. Instead, she leaned into her tasks—the equivalent of blasting out of the gate in a race. Having seen how well this worked for her, I strive to do the same.

3. Have empathy, it's essential.

Many women have been falsely accused of being "too emotional" in business. However, empathy is a necessity and drives better results. As a businesswoman, my mom set herself apart by demonstrating genuine empathy for her clients and her colleagues. She loves getting to know people's stories. That understanding is a key component in her finalizing deals and helping her company reach higher levels of success.

4. Learn often—you're never done building your skill set.

My mom is the reason I spend at least three months out of each year getting a new certification or learning a new skill. She's always working to improve, harness new technologies or develop new competencies—and she's passed on that eagerness to learn to me. She knows that to stay on top, you have to keep learning.

5. Bring on the charm.

By nature, I'm analytical. I like to present the numbers to clients, showing the data to help sway their decisions. And that has its place, but charm is universal. Being someone people want to do business with makes a huge difference. If I had a nickel for every time a prospect told me, "I love your mother," I could retire now! Business, especially sales, is about the connections you make as much as the value you bring.

Our paths have taken our careers in different directions, but along the way, I've done my best to incorporate all these skills. Thank you, mom, for teaching me all this, and much more.

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Every mom has her own list of character traits each of she hopes to instill in her children, but there is one that stands out as a big priority for the majority of millennial mothers.

Motherly's 2019 State of Motherhood survey revealed that kindness is incredibly important to today's moms. It is the number one trait we want to cultivate in our children, and according to stats from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, this emphasis on kindness couldn't come at a better time.

In recent years kids and parents have been straying from kindness, but these Ivy League experts have some great ideas about how today's moms can get the next generation back on track so they can become the caring adults of tomorrow.

Between 2013 and 2014, as part of Harvard's Making Caring Common project, researchers surveyed 10,000 middle and high school students across the nation. They found that no matter what race, class or culture the kids identified with, the majority of the students surveyed valued their own personal success and happiness way more than that of others.

Why do kids value their own success so much more than things like caring and fairness? Well, apparently, mom and dad told them to.

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Eighty percent of the 10,000 students said their parents taught them that their own happiness and high achievement were more important than caring for others. (So much for sharing is caring.)

The folks at Harvard say that valuing your own ambition is obviously a good thing (in moderation) in today's competitive world, but prioritizing it so much more than ethical values like kindness, caring and fairness makes kids more likely to be cruel, disrespectful and dishonest.

So how do we fix this? Here's Harvard's four-step plan for raising kinder kids.

1. Help them practice being nice

Giving kids daily opportunities to practice caring and kind acts helps make ethical behavior second nature. They could help you with chores, help a friend with homework or work on a project to help homelessness.

All those tasks would help a child flex their empathy muscles. The key is to increase the challenges over time so your child can develop a stronger capacity for caregiving as they grow.

2. Help them see multiple perspectives

The researchers want kids to “zoom in" and listen closely to the people around them, but also see the bigger picture. “By zooming out and taking multiple perspectives, including the perspectives of those who are too often invisible (such as the new kid in class, someone who doesn't speak their language, or the school custodian), young people expand their circle of concern and become able to consider the justice of their communities and society," the study's authors' wrote.

3. Model kindness

Our kids are watching, so if we want them to be kinder, it's something we should try to cultivate in ourselves. The Harvard team suggests parents make an effort to widen our circles of concern and deepen our understanding of issues of fairness and justice.

4. Teach kids to cope with destructive feelings

According to the researchers, the ability to care about others can be overwhelmed by a kid's feelings of anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings. They suggest we teach our kids teach that while all feelings are okay to feel, some ways of dealing with them are not helpful, or kind (for example, “Hitting your classmate might make you happy, but it won't make them happy and isn't very kind. Counting to 10 and talking about why you're mad is more productive than hitting.")

While the folks at Harvard are concerned that so many kids are being taught to value their own happiness above all, they were also encouraged by the students who do prioritize caring and kindness. One of the students surveyed wrote, “People should always put others before themselves and focus on contributing something to the world that will improve life for future generations."

If we follow the advice of Harvard researchers, the world will see more kids that think like that, and that's what future generations need.

[A version of this post was originally published November 8, 2017. It has been updated.]

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These days more women are having babies into their 40s, but the idea that women are facing down the biological clock is pretty pervasive—once you're over 35, you automatically receive that "advanced maternal age" classification, while your male partner's age may never even be mentioned. The pressure on older moms is unfair, because according to new research from Rutgers University, men may face age-related fertility decline too and America's dads are getting older.

It's a new idea, but this finding actually takes 40 years worth of research into account—which, coincidentally, is around the age male fertility may start to decline. According to Rutgers researchers, the medical community hasn't quite pinpointed the onset of advanced age, but it hovers somewhere between ages 35 and 45.

The study which appears in the journal Maturitas, finds that a father's age may not just affect his fertility, but also the health of his partner and offspring.

Based on previously conducted research, the team behind this study found evidence that men over 45 could put their partners at greater risk for pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Babies born to older fathers also have an increased likelihood of premature birth, late stillbirth, low Apgar scores, low birthweight, newborn seizures and more. The risks appear to exist later in life, too: Research suggests children of older fathers have greater risk of childhood cancers, cognitive issues and autism.

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There's been plenty of studies surrounding advanced maternal age, but research on advanced paternal age is pretty slim—scientists don't quite understand how age correlates to these factors at this point. But researchers from Rutgers believe that age-related decline in testosterone and sperm quality degradation may be to blame. "Just as people lose muscle strength, flexibility and endurance with age, in men, sperm also tend to lose 'fitness' over the life cycle," Gloria Bachmann, director of the Women's Health Institute at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, explains in a release for this news.

As we've previously reported, more and more men are waiting until later in life to have children. According to a 2017 Stanford study, children born to fathers over 40 represent 9% of U.S. births, and the average age of first-time fathers has climbed by three-and-a-half years over the past four decades —so this research matters now more than ever, and it may represent the first step towards setting certain standards in place for men who choose to delay parenthood.

The biggest thing to come out of this research may be the need for more awareness surrounding advanced paternal age. This particular study's authors believe doctors should be starting to have conversations with their male patients, possibly even encouraging them to consider banking sperm if they're considering parenthood later in life.

Women certainly tend to be aware of the age-related risks to their fertility, and many regularly hear that they should freeze their eggs if they're not ready for motherhood. And while it's still too early to say whether we'll ever examine paternal age this closely, this research may set a whole new conversation in motion.

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