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[Trigger warning: This essay discusses one woman's journey with pregnancy loss.]

This is the postpartum no one talks about.

Rapid weight loss because literally nothing sounds good and you have no appetite. But your breasts are full — full of milk — milk that isn't going to your babe, but to another one. A sore, tender, fourth C-section scar that aches now more than ever before, almost like it knows its occupant was vacated 17 weeks earlier than he should have been.

Meds to help the pain, but merely only dull it, because nothing can ever fully take away the lingering ache in your belly. Dark circles under your eyes from not sleeping, longing to have just one sleepless night due to a hungry, screaming babe but instead you're restlessly awake, mind racing and yearning for what could have been. Tears that flow like endless waterfalls, triggered by the littlest of things that set you into an emotional tailspin.

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It's been four weeks since our son passed away at 22 weeks. Four weeks. Twenty-eight days. Six hundred and seventy-two hours. Forty thousand and three hundred twenty minutes. And every single one of them I've spent thinking about our baby in some capacity.

Missing him tremendously. Missing carrying him. Missing hearing his heartbeat on my doppler. Missing seeing him on the ultrasound screen. Missing the dog snuggled up nestled sleeping on my growing belly.

Missing making plans for his late February arrival. Missing his big brother and sisters talk about their new little brother coming soon. Missing everything about him.

Why do we tend to only share the happy when it comes to having babies? Sometimes the happy is shattered and devastation happens and that can't be ignored or glossed over—it needs to be shared too.

And that fourth trimester—that postpartum period for mom—is seldom talked about because everyone's focus is on the new baby.

But what about when there is no baby?

You're still dealing with all of the hormonal shifts, the night sweats, the leaky boobs, the excessive bleeding, the extreme fatigue and soreness yet there's no baby there to take care of, to have your energies focused on. Instead, you have a tremendous hole in your heart, and every possible postpartum feeling is exacerbated times a thousand because that's all you can focus on.

Postpartum recovery after loss is quite possibly the most devastating event a woman can go through.

But it's something that a staggering amount of women endure and yet, so many of them experience wordlessly; they grieve in silence for what they'll never get back all while in the depths of postpartum.

Sharing this part of life is something I felt like I needed to get out. People need to see it, need to hear my words, need to perhaps feel uncomfortable to the raw and real postpartum that is rarely shared. This is why I share my postpartum after loss story.

I want them to know they are not alone. That it's okay to talk about, share, cry, be angry, be sad, feel whatever they need to feel, and do it out loud if that's what they want.

In breaking that silence and talking about my experience, I have found that support pours in from places and people I never would have expected. Long-lost high school friends dropping off cookies and a warm meal, Facebook mom groups rallying together to pool money to send flowers, a breast pump company reaching out to send a free pump, cards pouring in in droves from people I haven't heard from in 20 years, and so much more.

Opening myself up to this support network has been a glimmer of hope in a dark and shadowy time. I have reconnected with old friends, made new ones, and most importantly, felt that I have not been alone in this loss journey.

Navigating the unknowns of the every day and what is to come has been made so much easier with the community of support behind me. Behind us. And all because I broke the silence and vulnerably opened myself up to talk about something that is far too much kept as a hidden secret for many.

So, grieving mama, speak up, share your story, and know that you are not suffering alone. It might just bring you some light in a very dark time.

You might also like:

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

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


Our Partners

DIY beauty products have been used as an alternative to big name beauty brands for years. Their effectiveness is powerful and you can get the same results—if not better—from household items. As we continue to quarantine for the foreseeable future, mamas are looking to homemade alternatives to keep their hair healthy. The good news is that you don't have to be a DIY enthusiast to create hair care products. They are easy to create and inexpensive.

Here are a few DIY hair mask and oil recipes we love—no stove or mixer required:

1. Moisturizing hair mask

Benefits: Adds moisture, antioxidants, reduces breakage and is rich in vitamins.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of whole milk
  • 1 banana
  • 2 tbsp of honey
  • 3 tsp of avocado oil
  • 5 drops of Gotu Kola extract

Directions:

  1. Blend all ingredients into a bowl and apply on gently shampooed hair. Work from the ends up the hair shaft and scalp.
  2. Leave on for 30 minutes with a plastic cap. Shampoo for a second time and style as usual.

Mask from Ona Diaz-Santin, celebrity hairstylist + salon owner of 5 Salon + Spa

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2. No-frizz hair oil treatment

Benefits: Instantly adds shine and prevents frizz and flyaways.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp argan oil
  • 1 tbsp jojoba oil
  • 5 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 5 drops ylang ylang essential oil
  • 2 drops lavender essential oil
  • Optional: 1⁄8 teaspoon sea buckthorn oil

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a measuring cup and stir with a spoon.
  2. With funnel, pour into a glass bottle and close with an eyedropper.
  3. Use on wet or dry hair or as needed.

Oil treatment by Jana Blankenship, author of Wild Beauty.


3. Strengthening hair mask

Benefits: Relieves dry scalp, minimizes frizz and encourages hair growth.

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cup olive oil

Directions:

  1. Crush up a banana, avocado and some olive oil and smash it into an oily cream.
  2. Apply to the ends and the mid lengths sparingly to dry or damaged hair. A little goes a long way! The best way to apply is rub through with your fingertips.
  3. Wrap your hair in a damp tea towel to stop the goop from drying out.
  4. Leave the masque on as long as you can, it looks yucky but does the job.
  5. Shampoo out and condition as normal.
  6. This is a one every couple weeks mask because it is so concentrated and not as simple as a store-bought mask. Apply now, and your hair will be radiant and soft as you head into the long weeks ahead.

Mask from hair stylist Kevin Murphy, founder of Kevin Murphy.

4. 2 in 1 exfoliating hair mask

Benefits: Repairs dry, brittle hair, helps balance ph level and removes product build up.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • aloe vera stem
  • castor oil
  • 1 lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

Directions:

Hair repair mask:

  1. Crack the 2 large eggs into a blender, add the stem of aloe vera, add 2 tbsps of castor oil.
  2. Apply to hair from mid-shaft to ends. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
  3. Rinse off and use a fiber towel to limit the frizz and not damage the strands.

Exfoliating scalp mask:

  1. Use the same ingredients mentioned above and add the lemon juice and brown sugar.
  2. Gently massage into the scalp and let it sit for 15 minutes before rinsing it off.
  3. Shampoo and condition as normal.

Mask from Ada Rojas, founder of Botanika Beauty.

5. Rosemary + mint hair oil treatment

Benefits: Antibacterial and helps control dandruff.

Ingredients:

  • sterile glass jar
  • unrefined cold-pressed coconut oil
  • fresh or dried rosemary
  • fresh or dried mint

Directions:

  1. Sterilize your jar by pouring in boiling water, then letting it air dry completely.
  2. Gather your herbs, if they are fresh—make sure that they are fully dry.
  3. Fill your container with the herbs and top off to fully cover with the coconut oil.
  4. Seal and set in a warm spot for two weeks, shaking often to release the essential oils.
  5. Strain out the herbs and reserve your oil to use in hair treatments.

Oil treatment from Ada Rojas, founder of Botanika Beauty.

Now that you've created your masks + oil treatments, here are a few additional hair care tips from the pros:

1. Do as little as possible.

"The best way to take care of your hair at a time like this is to do as little as possible. No tension, not too much washing, no styling. We should all take this time to give our hair a breather. It will really help with overall health, in addition to doing deep conditioning treatments and even hot oil treatments for the curly girls with dry hair."—Celebrity hairstylist Sabrina Porsche.

2. Let hair masks sit.

"After applying a hair mask, allow it to sit for 20 minutes with a processing cap. The heat from your head will help to open your cuticle and maximize the penetration of the treatment. Rinse these with cool water to jump start the sealing of the hair cuticle. Treatments help fill porous portions of your hair shaft." — Emerald Fox, a stylist at Ian McCabe Studio.

3. Be kind to your body first.

"Whatever you put into your body reflects your outsides. Drinking plenty of water, and eating proper foods such as fish, nuts and eggs helps to keep hair shiny. Biotin is a natural supplement that many people don't get enough of and that could be a contributing factor to dry, brittle hair. I always tell my clients to take biotin year round to maintain a strong, healthy glow to their hair and it also helps with split ends." —Lucy Garcia Planck, a stylist at John Barrett Salon at Bergdorf Goodman.

4. Use argan oils, too.

"Argan oil moisturizes the ends of your hair without leaving your hair oily. Use only a very tiny amount (pea-sized). If your hair is fine, use a static guard sprayed in your hairbrush and brush your hair to keep static away. For those with thicker hair, the argan oil will help keep your hair moisturized and reduce flyways."—Lucy Garcia Planck

Lifestyle

"I just want to cry," I told my wife on Friday morning.

I had just gotten off a work call and my brain was ticking through follow-up items, adding to a long list of untouched to-dos. My wife, meanwhile, was multitasking an onslaught of work questions while also trying to manage "homeschool" time with our son—but he refused to participate. Instead, he huddled in an increasingly secure couch fort, refusing to do anything—color, read, go outside, talk to his teacher—besides sit in silence in the dark or watch his iPad. (Today, he opted for sitting in silence in the dark).

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"Are we permanently ruining and psychologically damaging him?" my wife pleaded with me.

We both felt guilty for the work we were not doing—and aching for the way our son was struggling and needed us to be present and calm. But that's exactly what our current schedule prohibits, as we run back and forth between work calls, requests, and parenting. (Later, as I took over the homeschool shift and he stormed upstairs to cry, he told me it was because I had stopped smiling at him. Knife, meet heart.)

This is really hard.

What's amazing to me is how consistent this struggle is among every parent I talk to. The texts and social media posts bouncing around my circle all echo each other. We feel like we're failing at both parenting and working. Our kids don't just need us—they need more of us. Our kids are acting out, abandoning the routines they already had, dropping naps, sleeping less, doing less—except for jumping on top of their parents, which is happening much more. We're letting them watch far greater amounts of screen time than we ever thought we'd tolerate. Forget homeschooling success—most of us are struggling to get our kids to do the basics that would have accounted for a Saturday-morning routine before this pandemic.

The particular struggle reflects the most privileged perspective—that of two fully employed adults, sharing the burden, without fear of losing our jobs. Put another way, I'm not worried about how I'm going to feed my family—I'm just worried about getting my son to eat something besides a donut for two days straight.

But it's precisely the privilege of this vantage point that in a way makes it so stark. This is the best-case scenario?

Viruses, or in this case, global pandemics, expose and exacerbate the existing dynamics of a society—good and bad. They are like a fun-house mirror, grossly reflecting ourselves back to us. One of those dynamics is the burden we put on individual parents and families. We ask individuals to solve problems that are systemically created.

There's a subtle expectation that parents must find creative ways to handle this on their own. My inbox, social media feeds, and countertops are filled with creative ideas for educating and caring for your kids. Workbooks, games, creative projects and experiments, virtual yoga, virtual doodling, virtual zoo visits, virtual everything.

I honestly am too tired and stretched thin to read the suggestions, let alone try them. The few I have tried have been met with astounding and fierce rejection by my son.

I see these "helpful suggestions" alongside reminders to be gentle on ourselves. "Embrace imperfection!" "Lower your standards!" To be clear—my family's standards at this point are simply to get through the day, ideally with my son doing something besides watching TV, and us not utterly sabotaging our work.

But what's missing in all these cloistered parent texts and Facebook groups, all these helpful tips, is acknowledgement that this situation is fundamentally farcical. And individual solutions don't—and won't—work.

I thought by the fourth week of social distancing we would have all settled into the new norm a bit. But for my family (and others I've spoken to) that is not the case—things are harder than they were at the beginning. Harder because we've all accrued anxiety, stress, and sadness over this period. My to-do list is longer and further untouched; my guilt and anxiety for the ways my son is not being engaged enough is greater; his apparent sadness for his whole world shifting is intensified as he regularly acts out; and our collective exhaustion grows deeper.

This cannot be solved by tweaks to the schedule, helpful routines, and virtual activities. We have to collectively recognize that parents—and any caregivers right now—have less to give at work. A lot less. The assumptions seem to be that parents have "settled into a routine" and "are doing okay now."

To be clear, parents are not doing okay.

Everyone is grieving and struggling right now. When I'm not pulling my hair out, I'm trying to be grateful that I am with my family, they are healthy and safe, and I am not enduring this period in total isolation. But this pandemic is highlighting all that is wrong with our systems set up to support families.

It exposes everything from the lack of paid sick leave and parental leave to the fact that the school day ends at 3 pm when the typical workday goes several hours longer—yet aftercare is not universally available. And that says nothing of our need for universal health care, irrespective of employment. Parents pour endless energy into solving for systems that don't make sense and don't work.

It's always been a farce to think about caretaking and family responsibilities as "personal life decisions" that get handled outside of work hours. From getting kids to pediatrician appointments to the onslaught of sick days when cold season hits to school closures and parent-teacher conferences. In my son's first year of day care, I didn't work a full week for months. Yet we just hide it better and make it work. And again, "making it work" is only true for those with the most privilege among us.

This current situation is almost prophetically designed to showcase the farce of our societal approach to separating work and family lives. We are expected to work from home full time. And care for our children full time. And we cannot have anyone outside our immediate household help. It can't work and we all are suffering at the illusion that it does.

Our kids are losing out—on peace of mind, education, engagement, the socialization for which they are built.

Our employers are losing out, too. Whether the office policy is to expect full-time work or whether, like in my experience, we are offered a lot of flexibility—work is less good, there is less of it, and returns will be diminishing the longer this juggle goes on.

To be honest, I'm not sure what the solution is. But unless we step back and redefine where the burden of responsibility lies in providing care for our most vulnerable and reprioritize what work matters, we are going to emerge from this pandemic with some of our most powerful forces—parents and young people—not up for the task of rebuilding a better future.

And in the meantime, remember this: Parents are not okay.

[This post was originally published on Medium and has been republished with permission from the author.]

Life

Over the last few weeks, many of the things we used to take for granted have been taken or transformed due to the coronavirus pandemic and grocery delivery is one of them.

The old days of having your food delivered or your click-and-collect order ready for pick up an hour or two after selecting your groceries through an app are gone (for now), but grocery delivery isn't. We just have to do things a little differently.

Parents have been frustrated—and sometimes even frightened—by the lack of grocery delivery options (especially when one of America's top doctors is saying now is not the time for parents to go grocery shopping) but thankfully, entire industries are pivoting to meet the new demand for home delivery.

If you haven't been able to get groceries delivered lately, new options are springing up to serve you, mama.

Here are some of the new ways to get food without going out:

Call a cab:

In many communities in North America, taxi companies are pivoting to food delivery as they've now got so few people to ferry about. Call your local cab companies and ask if they do food delivery. They may not be able to do the shopping for you, but if your grocery store offers curbside pick-up or click-and-collect they can save you the trip.

Use Door Dash or Postmates:

if you're just trying to get some paper towels or a few smaller items to get you through to your next large grocery shop you can use Door Dash, previously best known for delivering takeout restaurant food, to order staples like diapers, boxes of cereal, milk, sugar and eggs from convenience stores.

Postmates, too, is pivoting into the grocery game and can deliver things like diapers, dog food, fresh fruit and baking powder through its Postmates Fresh service (depending on your area). In some areas you can even use Postmates to place an order from Duane Reed or Walgreens.

Your local markets may be delivering:

It's worth calling your local independent grocery stores to see if they are delivering—many smaller businesses are now offering delivery services as a way to keep customers during the pandemic. It takes some work to call around and find out what the options are in your community but it's totally worth it to get your groceries delivered (with the bonus of supporting your local businesses).

Small specialty stores are also getting into the delivery game:

Don't ignore the specialty shops. Many little butchers, bakeries and natural food stores are willing to deliver to customers right now. This pandemic is forcing us apart but in some ways it's also forcing us to connect with our communities in ways we have not done before.

Make the most of weekly produce boxes:

If you've never signed up for a veggie co-op (sometimes known as community supported agriculture boxes) now is a great time to check them out. Around the country farmers, farmers markets and organic retailers offer weekly or bi-weekly delivered boxes of locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables delivered to your door.

If that sounds too fancy for your budget right now check out the Misfits Market box, which offers slightly ugly fruits and veg for 40% less than grocery store prices (just pop your zip code in to see if they deliver to your area.

Ask for help:

Delivery fees can add up, so if that's not in your budget right now you can contact your local government, community groups and churches for leads on grocery delivery help. You can also try using Facebook's new Request Help feature to ask others in your community to add your grocery pick up to their run.

An update on standard grocery delivery options:

Instacart's just launched new features to try to get groceries to you faster 

Instacart

When the pandemic confined us to our homes the demand for grocery delivery overwhelmed stores and services that previously offered it, but several companies tell Motherly things are getting back to normal.

While many parents have found it nearly impossible to get groceries via Instacart. the company just launched a couple of new features to help speed things up. The new features are called "Fast & Flexible" and "Order Ahead."

Fast and Flexible "gives customers the option to have their order delivered by the first available shopper, rather than schedule it for a specific delivery window," Instacart states in a news release.

Order Ahead allows customers to now place orders up to two weeks in advance, something that could be really handy as we're all a bit more practical with our menu planning now that we can't run out to the store.

While labor concerns have been an issue for Instacart (and customers who are concerned about the well-being of the people delivering groceries), the company says it has "worked over the last several weeks with several third-party manufacturers, in consultation with medical and infectious disease experts, to source and develop new health and safety kits for shoppers that include face masks, hand sanitizer and thermometers."

Walmart + Amazon are also ramping up delivery capacity

In a statement to Motherly, a Walmart spokesperson explained the company is obviously seeing a huge increase in demand for pickup and delivery services and is trying to offer time slots as soon as possible, but within a shorter time frame than usual.
"It will allow us to better serve our customers during this busy time. We're continuing to work hard to add more availability for pickup and delivery," they explain.

Amazon, too, is making changes to increase capacity, including suspending it's third-party delivery service to focus more on fulfilling essential household deliveries.

News

Of course we're all struggling during the coronavirus quarantine but we might think celebrities aren't in the same boat. Surely they're not struggling too. It's probably a total walk in the park for them.

Well, recently, Jennifer Lopez opened up about her new normal on the at-home edition of The Ellen DeGeneres show and revealed that she's having some difficulty, too. On the show DeGeneres asked who in their household homeschools their four children and the singer shared that she was doing the majority of it—but it hasn't been easy.

"Honestly, I think we're all like, what is this? I'm not a teacher, and also, have you seen the math that they make the kids do now? It's a new math," she said. "Half the time I'm like, 'Okay, yeah, let's look up that word. It's been an experience, for sure."

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The lockdown isn't only adding a bit of anxiety around teaching her kids, but it's also affecting her wedding date—just like many others around the world. "Honestly, I really don't know what's going to happen as far as [wedding] dates or anything like that. We're just kind of in a holding pattern like the rest of the world. So again, it's something we will have to wait and see in a few months how this all pans out."

We stand with you, JLo. We'll get through it, mama.

News
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