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Cesarean sections often symbolize some kind of failure or unhappy ending of a story. My first c-section was the scary emergency kind, but my second was planned. Both times, they felt like a relief.

I’m one of those strange people who enjoys being fussed over, especially by doctors. One of my secret wishes (before I had children) was to have something very serious but not life threatening happen to me that would cause everyone to be concerned and require that I be nursed back to health in a very luxurious, spa-like rehabilitation center. I blame the children’s book, Madeline – particularly the part where Madeline gets her appendix removed and receives a beautiful dollhouse and becomes the envy of all 11 of her schoolmates.

And then, in college, my Madeline fantasy came true when I had an emergency appendectomy. It was certainly not the spa experience I had been hoping for, but it gave me some insight as to what abdominal surgery is like. So the possibility of a c-section was kind of like “the devil you know” scenario while a vaginal birth remained a horrifying and foreign concept.

My water had broken at 5am on a Monday, and by 8am on Tuesday I still had not fully dilated. The doctor explained that after a woman’s water breaks, it leaves the baby more vulnerable to risk – especially with all the foreign bodies being put into my vaginal canal to check the baby’s heart rate after a scare the night before, and to check my cervix. Even with Pitocin, my stubborn cervix hovered at 9 cm for hours without budging. My doctor felt that my body would not dilate further if it hadn’t dilated by then, and to wait would be too risky for the baby. The expert had made her decision. I was having a c-section. And I was secretly thrilled.

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Seeing my baby after the surgery for the first time was mind-blowingly awesome, but the part after that -- after my husband and baby were escorted to another room and they began to close my incision -- was awful. To this day I hold fast to the idea that I was not drugged enough and that I could feel EVERYTHING. I still remember the feeling of my insides being cauterized, my arms shaking in their loose shackles in crucified Jesus position, and asking if anyone in the room wouldn’t mind holding my hand while I shook and cried.

I don’t know if it was the trauma of surgery, wacky hormones, not having been on any antidepressants during pregnancy, or something about giving birth in general, but from the moment they sewed me back up it was like a light had gone out inside of me.

For the week that I was in the hospital, I was horrified by and mainly obsessed with my post-surgery body and the way that my stomach didn’t shrink but got bigger and bigger from all the fluids and gasses. The fact that I was very constipated weighed heavily on me, literally and emotionally.

On one particularly low point, I spent an hour or two trying to force some movement in that department, and ended up with a ton of fluid accumulating under the surgery area from my efforts of bearing down. When I stood up in front of the enormous mirror in the bathroom, I realized that my vagina appeared to now be twenty times its original size. I ran around the room screaming wildly for a doctor. When one did not come immediately, I settled on the first person in a uniform to enter the room and asked if I could show him my vagina but then realized it was the guy who empties the trash cans. My husband tried to calm me down but I was not reachable. I flipped out so badly I refused to nurse my crying, hungry newborn, insisting irrationally that my husband nurse him (which he did figure out how to do, via a tiny tube hooked to some formula). I felt like a monster and was convinced I would never look like a normal person again. The Monster Vagina went away over the next few days, but the monster inside me was still there.

The short version is I had clinical postpartum depression and thought my baby was evil and trying to kill me. Thankfully Zoloft worked like a magic pill, and I emerged, finally, a normal person with normal mom feelings and a much more normal stomach.

Two years later, I was pregnant with my second son. My doctor felt very strongly that my body is the kind of body that would never dilate fully. If I had been born in the time of more crude medical practices, I would be the woman who had to have the baby ripped from her womb and bleed out on the table. We decided on another c-section. She explained that having an emergency c-section is extremely traumatic for the body, because the body has already been hard at work laboring and trying to squeeze out a baby, and then after it’s been working for hours, it gets opened up and its insides get messed with. An elective c-section would be much more civilized than my first horrific experience.

And it was. My Type A personality enjoyed knowing exactly what day I would be having my baby, being able to pack for the occasion, and making sure that we had care in place for our toddler son. I walked myself into the operating room and watched the entire medical team calmly prepare to bring my baby into the world. In the two years since I had had my first, the hospital had changed its policy about allowing the partner to stay in the room while the woman gets sewn back up, so I had my husband to hold my hand. My doctor made sure to pump me full of medicine and I didn’t feel a thing. I was so high off of how easy the whole thing was, and the drugs, that I was recommending c-sections to anyone I encountered in the hospital who was of childbearing age.

This time I did not obsess over my stomach, and calmly accepted that everything would go back to its normal place eventually. I did not get depressed this time – and I think that the combination of being more in control of my birth and also staying on anti depressants throughout the pregnancy had a lot to do with it.

I fell in love with my baby immediately and to this day am completely intoxicated by his smell and on some days feel I could run away to a desert island with him as my only companion and be happy.

When I talk about my c-sections to people, I find myself readying to say something along the lines of “yeah, I’m disappointed I’ll never get to experience a vaginal birth” but that would be a lie. I remind myself that not all things that can be humanly experienced must be endured. I also remind myself that in both cases, I got the births that I wanted. If I could do everything over again, I would still choose the same path. I am more than OK with my c-sections. I am grateful.

Image source: “Big Yawn” by Flickr user Björn Rixman under a Creative Commons license.

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As mamas, we naturally become the magic-makers for our families. We sing the songs that make the waits seem shorter, dispense the kisses that help boo-boos hurt less, carry the seemingly bottomless bags of treasures, and find ways to turn even the most hum-drum days into something memorable.

Sometimes it's on a family vacation or when exploring a new locale, but often it's in our own backyards or living rooms. Here are 12 ways to create magical moments with kids no matter where your adventures take you.


1. Keep it simple

Mary Poppins may be practically perfect in every way, but―trust us―your most magical memories don't require perfection. Spend the morning building blanket forts or break out the cookie cutters to serve their sandwich in a fun shape and you'll quickly learn that, for kids, the most magical moments are often the simplest.

2. Get on their level

Sometimes creating a memorable moment can be as easy as getting down on the floor and playing with your children. So don't be afraid to get on your hands and knees, to swing from the monkey bars, or turn watching your favorite movie into an ultimate snuggle sesh.

3. Reimagine the ordinary

As Mary says, "the cover is not the book." Teach your child to see the world beyond initial impressions by encouraging them to imagine a whole new world as you play―a world where the laundry basket can be a pirate ship or a pile of blankets can be a castle.

4. Get a little messy

Stomp in muddy puddles. Break out the finger paint. Bake a cake and don't worry about frosting drips on the counter. The messes will wait, mama. For now, let your children―and yourself―live in these moments that will all too soon become favorite memories.

5. Throw out the plan

The best-laid plans...are rarely the most exciting. And often the most magical moments happen by accident. So let go of the plan, embrace the unexpected, and remember that your child doesn't care if the day goes according to the schedule.

6. Take it outside

There's never a wrong time of year to make magic outside. Take a stroll through a spring rainstorm, catch the first winter snowflakes on your tongue, or camp out under a meteor shower this summer. Mother Nature is a natural at creating experiences you'll both remember forever.

7. Share your childhood memories

Chances are if you found it magical as a child, then your kids will too. Introduce your favorite books and movies (pro tip: Plan a double feature with an original like Mary Poppins followed with the sequel, Mary Poppins Returns!) or book a trip to your favorite family vacation spot from the past. You could even try to recreate photos from your old childhood with your kids so you can hang on to the memory forever.

8. Just add music

Even when you're doing something as humdrum as prepping dinner or tidying up the living room, a little music has a way of upping the fun factor. Tell Alexa to cue up your favorite station for a spontaneous family dance party or use your child's favorite movie soundtrack for a quick game of "Clean and Freeze" to pick up toys at the end of the day.

9. Say "yes"

Sometimes it can feel like you're constantly telling your child "no." While it's not possible to grant every request (sorry, kiddo, still can't let you drive the car!), plan a "yes" day for a little extra magic. That means every (reasonable) request gets an affirmative response for 24 hours. Trust us―they'll never forget it.

10. Let them take the lead

A day planned by your kid―can you imagine that? Instead of trying to plan what you think will lead to the best memories, put your kid in the driver's seat by letting them make the itinerary. If you have more than one child, break up the planning so one gets to pick the activity while the other chooses your lunch menu. You just might end up with a day you never expected.

11. Ask more questions

Odds are, your child might not remember every activity you plan―but they will remember the moments you made them feel special. By focusing the conversation on your little one―their likes, dislikes, goals, or even just craziest dreams―you teach them that their perspective matters and that you are their biggest fan.

12. Turn a bad day around

Not every magical moment will start from something good. But the days where things don't go to plan can often turn out to be the greatest memories, especially when you find a way to turn even a negative experience into a positive memory. So don't get discouraged if you wake up to rain clouds on your beach day or drop the eggs on the floor before breakfast―take a cue from Mary Poppins and find a way to turn the whole day a little "turtle."

Mary Poppins Returns available now on Digital & out on Blue-ray March 19! Let the magic begin in your house with a night where everything is possible—even the impossible ✨

After a pregnancy that is best described as uncomfortable, Jessica Simpson is finally done "Jess-tating" and is now a mama of three.

Baby Birdie Mae Johnson joined siblings Ace and Maxwell on Tuesday, March 19, Simpson announced via Instagram.

Simpson's third child weighed in at 10 pounds, 13 ounces.

Birdie's name is no surprise to Jessica's Instagram followers, who saw numerous references to the name in her baby shower photos and IG stories in the last few weeks.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to experts.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

At this moment in time, Simpson and her husband, former NFL player Eric Johnson, are probably busy counting little fingers and toes , which is great news because it means Simpson's toes can finally deflate. She's had a terrible time with swollen feet during this pregnancy, and was also hospitalized multiple times due to bronchitis in her final trimester.

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We're so glad to see Simpson's little Birdie has finally arrived!

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Spring is officially here and if you're looking for a way to celebrate the change in the season, why not treat the kids to some ice cream, mama?

DQ locations across the country (but not the ones in malls) are giving away free small vanilla cones today, March 20! So pack up the kids and get to a DQ near you.

And if you can't make it today, from March 21 through March 31, DQ's got a deal where small cones will be just 50 cents (but you have to download the DQ mobile app to claim that one).

Another chain, Pennsylvania-based Rita's Italian Ice is also dishing up freebies today, so if DQ's not your thing you can grab a free cup of Italian ice instead.

We're so excited that ice cream season is here and snowsuit season is behind us. Just a few short weeks and the kids will be jumping through the sprinklers.

Welcome back, spring. We've missed you!

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The woman who basically single-handedly taught the world to embrace vulnerability and imperfection is coming to Netflix and we cannot wait to binge whatever Brené Brown's special will serve up because we'll probably be better people after watching it.

It drops on April 19 and is called Brené Brown: The Call to Courage. If it has even a fraction of the impact of her books or the viral Ted talk that made her a household name, it's going to be life and culture changing.

Announcing the special on Instagram Brown says she "cannot believe" she's about to be "breaking some boundaries over at Netflix" with the 77-minute special.

Netflix describes the special as a discussion of "what it takes to choose courage over comfort in a culture defined by scarcity, fear and uncertainty" and it sounds exactly like what we need right now.

April 19 is still pretty far away though, so if you need some of Brown's wisdom now, check out her books on Amazon or watch (or rewatch) the 2010 Ted Talk that put her—and our culture's relationship with vulnerability and shame—in the national spotlight.

The power of vulnerability | Brené Brown

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If Marie Kondo's Netflix show got people tidying up, Brown's Netflix special is sure to be the catalyst for some courageous choices this spring.

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My husband and I recently had a date night that included being away from our son overnight for the first time since he was born three years ago (but don't let your heads run away with a fantasy—we literally slept because we were exhausted #thisiswhatwecallfunnow). It was a combination of a late night work event, a feeling that we had to do something just for the two of us, and simple convenience. It would have taken hours to get home from the end of a very long day when we could just check into a hotel overnight and get home early the next day.

But before that night, I fretted about what to do. How would childcare work? No one besides me or my husband has put our son to bed, and we have never not been there when he wakes up in the morning.

Enter: Grandma.

I knew if there was any chance of this being successful, the only person that could pull it off is one of my son's favorite people—his grandmother. Grammy cakes. Gramma. We rely so much on these extended support systems to give us comfort and confidence as parents and put our kids at ease. Technically, we could parent without their support, but I'm so glad we don't have to.

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So as we walked out the door, leaving Grandma with my son for one night, I realized how lucky we are that she gets it...

She gets it because she always comes bearing delicious snacks. And usually a small toy or crayons in her bag for just the right moment when it's needed.

She gets it because she comes with all of the warmth and love of his parents but none of the baggage. None of the first time parent jitters and all of the understanding that most kids just have simple needs: to eat, play and sleep.

She gets it because she understands what I need too. The reassurance that my baby will be safe. And cared for.

She gets it because she's been in my shoes before. Decades ago, she was a nervous new mama too and felt the same worries. She's been exactly where we are.

She gets it because she shoos us away as we nervously say goodbye, calling out cheerfully, "Have fun, I've got this." And I know that she does.

She gets it because she will get down on the floor with him to play Legos—even though sometimes it's a little difficult to get back up.

She gets it because she will fumble around with our AppleTV—so different from her remote at home—to find him just the right video on Youtube that he's looking for.

She gets it because she diligently takes notes when we go through the multi-step bedtime routine that we've elaborately concocted, passing no judgment, and promising that she'll follow along as best as she can.

She gets it because she'll break the routine and lay next to him in bed when my son gets upset, singing softly in his ear until she sees his eyelids droop heavy and finally fall asleep.

She gets it because she'll text us to let us know when he's fallen asleep because she knows we'll be wondering.

She gets it because just like our son trusts us as his mom and dad, Grandma is his safe space. My son feels at ease with her—and that relaxes me, too.

She gets it because when we come home from our "big night out" the house will be clean. Our toddler's play table that always has some sort of sticky jelly residue on it will be spotless. The dishwasher empty. (Side note: She is my hero.)

She gets it because she shows up whenever we ask. Even when it means having to rearrange her schedule. Even when it means she has to sleep in our home instead of her own.

She gets it because even though she has her own life, she makes sure to be as involved in ours as she can. But that doesn't mean she gives unsolicited advice. It means that she's there. She comes to us or lets us come to her. Whenever we need her.

She gets it because she takes care of us, too. She's there to chat with at the end of a long day. To commiserate on how hard motherhood and working and life can be, but to also gently remind me, "These are the best days."

After every time Grandma comes over, she always leaves a family that feels so content. Fulfilled by her presence. The caretaking and nourishment (mental and food-wise) and warmth that accompanies her.

We know this is a privilege. We know we're beyond lucky that she is present and wants to be involved and gets it. We know that sometimes life doesn't work out like this and sometimes Grandma lives far away or is no longer here, or just doesn't get it. So we hold on. And appreciate every moment.

As Grandma leaves, I hug her tight and tell her, "I can't thank you enough. We couldn't have done this without you." Because we can't. And we wouldn't want to.

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