Print Friendly and PDF

[Editor's note: This story is a an essay about a women and her husband. While this is one example of one type of relationship, we understand, appreciate and celebrate that relationships come in all forms and configurations.]

The first birth I ever witnessed took place at home. It was my sister's fourth and by this point she was an old hand, as was my brother-in-law. There were two licensed midwives standing by, but they didn't get to earn their keep because my brother-in-law provided nearly 100% of the emotional support, coaching and delivery assistance. He was the one who caught my nephew and put him on my sister's chest. He, not a paid medical professional, was the first one to see his newborn son's face.

FEATURED VIDEO

This all happened long before I even met my husband, but I always kept that image in the back of my mind as my ideal birth experience.

We've come a long way from the days when fathers were relegated to waiting rooms, pacing and smoking helplessly until the medical powers-that-be decided they were allowed to see their own wife and child. In the US it wasn't until the 1970s that it began to be considered normal for fathers to be present during delivery.

Fathers finally taking their rightful place by their wives' sides during childbirth prompted an exploration of what a father's role in the delivery room could or should be. While many fathers attended their child's birth as little more than a white-knuckled spectator, some fathers embraced a more hands-on role.

Dr. Robert Bradley, author of Husband-Coached Childbirth, developed the now-famous “Bradley Method" in which husbands are taught how to support and coach their wives through the childbirth experience. Many men got on board, successfully ushering their newborns into the world from hospital rooms or even at home, like my brother-in-law.

When we found out we were expecting our first child, I thought that was what I wanted. I dove head-first into the process of childbirth education, reading everything I could get my hands on, and writing and re-writing my birth plan obsessively. One night over dinner I was waxing eloquent about my new obsession with placentas when I realized that my husband was just not as interested in all this medical minutiae as I was. In fact, it was putting him off his dinner.

Slowly, I began to come to grips with the reality that my husband was just not my brother-in-law. My brother-in-law had assisted in delivering calves in his teenage years and the blood and guts of birthing had never phased him. My husband, on the other hand, when asked to watch Call the Midwife, looked at me as if I'd invited him to join in a Saw marathon.

I may have pictured a husband-assisted delivery as my ideal childbirth experience, but to him it was a worst nightmare. While I was imagining him coaching me through breathing exercises, tenderly cutting the umbilical cord and basically doing everything but pushing the baby out, he was psyching himself up to just get through the experience without vomiting on the floor.

As I got closer and closer to the big day, my own views on what kind of support I wanted from my husband during birth changed, too. Although I definitely wanted my husband there, both for support and so he could be present to welcome our child into the world, I didn't know how much I actually wanted him to be the one “coaching" me through childbirth.

It wasn't about not wanting my husband to “boss me." He's the one who taught me how to throw a Frisbee, shoot a bow, and use tons of obscure Excel functions. (I still find it hilarious that he set up an Excel spreadsheet to time my contractions during early labor.) But childbirth is a uniquely female experience, and I realized that for me it was important to be surrounded by female support, preferably from women who had gone through childbirth themselves.

We ended up having a doula: a friend of a friend who had had three children herself. My husband was there every step of the way, but Amy was the one who assured me over and over again that my body was doing exactly what it was supposed to do. Amy was the one who knew just where to apply pressure to counter the pain of the contractions.

Not only did she coach me, she coached my husband on what he could do to help me: sometimes supporting me in a standing position through an intense contraction, sometimes helping me remember to drink water when my body gave me a break. I wouldn't have wanted to go through childbirth without my husband, but Amy—calm, experienced, and a veteran of childbirth herself—was the right person to have at the helm.

Even without being a “Bradley Method Husband," the birth was a hard experience for my husband to go through. The blood and the fluids and the mess weren't easy for him to deal with. What's more, seeing me go through pain that he couldn't take away was so draining that he felt physically ill as soon as it was all over.

While I was enjoying my birth high, he was feeling sick as a dog as the adrenaline subsided and the whole experience caught up with him. But the point was that he was there, and he was there when it wasn't easy to be.

We're expecting our second now. This time, instead of jumping into a birth plan that assumed my Excel-sheet-loving husband would suddenly morph into Dr. Bradley himself, I sat down and said to him: “I know the last birth was hard for you. Be honest: Do you want to be there this time?"

He said yes. A little wooziness wasn't going to stop him from being at his baby's birth.

Birth is an individual experience, and it is different not only for every woman but for every couple, too. A husband-assisted birth is a beautiful experience, but it is not for everyone. I didn't marry a birth coach, I married my husband, and I wouldn't trade him for 10 Dr. Bradleys.

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.
Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Thanks for subscribing!

Check your email for a confirmation message.

There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

FEATURED VIDEO

"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

FEATURED VIDEO

Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

FEATURED VIDEO

Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

News

Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

FEATURED VIDEO

Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.