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When I was pregnant, my inclinations and needs felt magnified. Whether it was what I wanted to put in my mouth, how much I needed to sleep, or how intense it felt to enter my closet and feel dismayed by what no longer fit, everything felt intense. Most women will commiserate on how overwhelming the whole experience can feel physically and emotionally. But in most cases, the rollercoaster of needs and desires can be managed by finding a healthy way or place to satisfy them.

I’m convinced that some of the mystifying fog of desires pregnant people experience is that we just don’t know how to fulfill our own needs! So here’s a list of the top five needs I experienced physically and emotionally while pregnant, and the places in which I was able to satisfy them. Warning: some of this is pretty personal and a little detailed, but I have a feeling you will relate.

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1. You're craving: Food, food and more food.

Here’s how you can satisfy it: Indulge...responsibly.

Like many Mamas to be, the cravings grabbed a hold of me and wouldn’t let up. What did I want? Dairy. Dairy. With a side of Dairy. Luckily, I’m not vegan but I am committed to eating as organic as possible. So I did my best to get my fix in the healthiest way I could. So…for my milkshake cravings, I went to Bareburger. They use all organic ingredients such as the made in Brooklyn, Blue Marble Ice Cream. I often visited my favorite neighborhood food spot called The Commons Café. They serve up homemade comfort food and often use local (and thus inherently organic) ingredients. Their grilled cheese (local cheddar cheese on a rosemary focaccia bread) is like biting into heaven! It’s true, you’re eating for two but sometimes the cravings are so overwhelming, so do your best to satisfy them in the most conscious way possible.

2. You're craving: Undergarments that work!

Here’s how you can satisfy it: Find an expert and make an investment.

There is nothing more shocking than watching your breasts begin to burst out of your bras. On one hand, you seek comfort and support on the other hand, you don’t want to give yourself over to the dark side of unsexy undergarments. Does it pay to buy larger regular bras or do you succumb to the nursing bra before you actually have to use them? All of these questions were answered with love and encouragement at my favorite lingerie store Sugar Cookies, located in the heart of Chelsea. Owner Susanne Alvarado and her side-kick Christine always met me right where I was emotionally and physically and helped me find just the right undergarments to help me feel supported (literally) and still sexy as I expanded. Though the store is small, they have a surprising array of nursing bras (my favorites were by Elle MacPherson) as well as sexy, yet stretchy, undies that grew with me. (sigh). For a feminine and lovely experience for what you wear underneath, Sugar Cookies is what got me through!

3. You're craving: Pregnancy and postpartum clothes for your old stuff in bigger sizes just doesn’t cut it.

Here’s how you can satisfy it: Buy some of the amazing maternity and nursing brands out there!

I resisted this one until the day I could no longer feel human walking down the street. Maternity wear, I realized, has its place as you don’t just get bigger, your proportions really change and what feels comfortable shifts entirely. Those last few months are delicate emotionally and in order to stay afloat, you need some key pieces that make you feel stylish and put together. The items I purchased during my pregnant months were pretty basic but I’ve discovered some gems since that I would love to share. And you can be certain that if I have baby number two one day, they will be my go to stops. There’s Bump Brooklyn (founded by two fashion conscious moms who recognized the lack of stylish and chic maternity wear) and Hatch Collection (every piece is designed to be elegant, modern and comfortable). For nursing wear? I’ve met the amazing Emily Hsu at one of my events, a mom who designed an brilliant line of nursing tops. Check out Emily’s company Au Lait. These tops are sleek, modern, and spell contemporary mom doing it all.

4. You're craving: Some body indulgence.

Here’s how you can satisfy it: Treat yourself to facials and luxe skincare products.

Finding the right pampering moments and products become really important when you’re pregnant. You need to continue to feel special and comforted in a vulnerable time! While I love getting massages, prenatal massage is a particular technique and you need to seek out a therapist you feel comfortable with so I didn’t do it just anywhere. For me, getting facials was the perfect pampering activity. It was something I could do for a girl’s spa day and walk away feeling glowing and pampered. Check out Great Jones Spa (I love the organic Jurlique products they use as well as their gentle, sweet aestheticians). If you’re looking for something even more healing, perhaps try Pratima Ayurvedic Spa to cater to exactly the needs of your pregnant body (they have consultations for pre and post natal). My favorite skin care line is Tata Harper, gorgeous and all natural. I’ve recently befriended another amazing NYC Mom-preneur who created Nine Naturals, a company offering safe beauty products for moms to be. Check this line out, its pretty beautiful and incredibly conscious.

5. You're craving: Community.

Here’s how you can satisfy it: Find some other mamas or mamas-to-be.

This is a big one. Perhaps the biggest, as it inspired me to launch an entire network around connecting NYC Moms. As we begin the journey of motherhood (which frankly begins the minute you begin trying to make a child) we desperately need one another for validation, friendship, collaborations, connections, encouragement, inspiration and more. We will often feel lost or lonely (and due to the extreme emotional highs and lows of pregnancy) sometimes those emotions can feel very extreme! Who can better understand than your fellow mamas? Seek out women who are also pregnant to commiserate with (a great reason to take a prenatal yoga class) and turn to friends or family who have been pregnant before. But one of the most invigorating aspects of entering motherhood is the community you’re yet to meet. You will grow and change as your body and your baby grows and changes. Entirely different things will inspire you and your conversations will change. Stay open to new ideas and people who you connect with. The moments can seem lonely on this journey but the incredible women you can meet as you evolve is life altering.

One major lesson I learned on the path of pregnancy and continue to be reminded through being a Mom is that there is no phase that lasts very long. Sleepless nights dissipate into sleeping steadily; emotional lows lead to ecstatic joy. Trust that you will navigate the journey because you have the tools to do so and when you really need or want something to get you through a moment, find the best and most balanced way to do so. For more on navigating motherhood happily and healthily, tap into the Beyond Mom community at www.randizinn.com.

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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.

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"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!

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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.

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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."

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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).

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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.

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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
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