Lifestyle

6 New (or Nearly New) Pregnancy Books That Make Life Better

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When I was around 20 weeks pregnant with my first child, a friend gave me a copy of What To Expect When You’re Expecting. A page in, I got so overwhelmed by the breadth of information I had already missed, I stood on my couch and shoved the book as high up on the bookshelf as I could manage, hoping never to lay eyes on it again. Whether you’re working full time outside the home or full time at home, and whether you’re on your first, second, even third pregnancy, making time to educate yourself on what’s happening to your body during pregnancy can feel not only indulgent, but panic-inducing, if not impossible. But as hospitals sweep aside maternal care in favor of infant care, pregnancy books and prenatal education are now more important than ever. Rather than rely on overworked midwives and doctors who hardly have time to do more than weigh us, check our blood pressure, check the baby's heartbeat and ask us if we're feeling OK before sprinting out of the room, we can take control. We can become experts on our own needs, our own bodies, and, in turn, find ways to make our pregnancies and births more manageable, maybe even – huge gasp – enjoyable? These 6 books for preggos – five of which were published this year – offer the kind of insight, humor, and/or relief I so craved during my last pregnancy. Luckily, 31 weeks into my second, it isn’t too late to read up and try again! The Big Fat Activity Book for Pregnant People by Jordan Reid and Erin Williams This book was just a pure and hilarious pleasure. The intro alone lowered my blood pressure! Many of us spend at least half our pregnancy trying really hard to be our healthiest best selves and the other half feeling guilty about all that we aren’t doing right. But the physiological benefits of laughter and of a witty, grown-up equivalent to Highlights magazine should not go unsung! This book provides both, in spades. It’s a perfect gift for showers or, better yet, for yourself. Reid’s and William’s super entertaining puzzles, activities, and laugh-out-loud pregnancy commentary is an ideal relief from a long commute on the train, or for that quiet time after dinner when your partner is doing the dishes and you are sitting at the table staring off into space--or for those dreaded middle-of-the-night wake-ups when all you can think about is how necessary it is to choose a bassinet right now. I cracked up at illustrations like Things That Will Make You Cry Uncontrollably (list includes tiny shoes and an empty donut box), A Kitten For You To Color While You Sit Around Constipated, and the Bad Baby Names word search, which, if you’re wondering, includes the names Murl and Dock. The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth by Genevieve Howland As someone who reads more fiction than non-fiction (if I can keep my eyes open for more than half a chapter), I love how manageable this comprehensive pregnancy bible is. Each week’s entry is only a few pages long, but includes only the most relevant information on where your baby’s at and where your body is at, as well as a “Nom of the Week” (like cherry chocolate trail mix, chia seed pudding, and, YES, chocolate placenta truffles). It also includes a Mama To-Do list, and suggestions and anecdotes for what to stay on top of, be it essential registry items, whether you’re a candidate for a VBAC, or when to stop flying on airplanes and why. I caught up on a handful of the 30-odd weeks I’d missed and was pleasantly reminded of all that I'd forgotten since my first pregnancy, like how great eggs are for my unborn child’s brain health and the benefits and logistics of hiring a birth photographer. The brevity of Howland’s chapters made me feel like I’d accomplished something major without exhausting myself! This is ideal for busy mamas who aspire to treat their bodies with the utmost care during pregnancy and those curious about attempting an informed drug-free labor. How Not To Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jancee Dunn Veteran magazine writer and bestselling author Jancee Dunn’s writing is simultaneously self-deprecating and self-assured, which I appreciated as a feminist and as someone who isn’t necessarily proud of how annoyed I’ve gotten with my own husband about something as trivial as where he stored the measuring cups. Citing more than a handful of recent studies, Dunn explains how frequently husbands inadvertently eschew household responsibilities after baby is born, as well as how unresolved parental squabbling has neurological effects on children. Her book is an attempt to prevent the latter by dealing with our wonderful but often confused husbands. We follow Jancee and husband Tom’s funny and moving emotional maturation, learning techniques like mirroring and allowing effective pauses, how to fight fairly (using non-judgmental I statements), and how to encourage both husband’s and children’s help around the house. Dunn is not embarrassed to tell us how pissed she gets, but she’s never holier than thou (or her husband). Though her advice is sound and concrete, the book is a breezy page-turner, a comedy of manners (and errors), and a treat to get lost in each night. Debunking the Bump: A Mathematician Mom Explodes Myths About Pregnancy by Daphne Adler I was shocked by how hard this book was to put down! Harvard-educated mathematician and mother, Daphne Adler, has painstakingly researched and assessed every pregnancy taboo. Her work is backed up with over one hundred fifty pages of explanatory appendices on her methodology and that sounded (to me anyway) like dry, nerve-wracking data overload. Except…it’s not! Adler’s writing is pithy and her discoveries, illuminating, and often a great relief (like, for example, that sushi is so low-risk, you’d be silly not to eat it). Adler organizes her findings into concise, often just one or two page risk assessments of potential dangers, including perfumes, rice cereal, driving, hot tubs, and sex, to name a few. She concludes each section with the threat level of that particular risk, or, in the case of Chapter 5, the benefit level of things like prenatal vitamins and music exposure in the womb. For those who crave the most informed pregnancy possible and those who take comfort in statistics-backed science, this book will both assuage your anxieties and provide a strong argument for the few truly taboo foods/practices to be avoided during pregnancy (like driving, lunch meat, and lead). Feng Shui Mommy by Bailey Gaddis Trained in HypnoBirthing, author Bailey Gaddis’s soothing narration cultivates positivity and freedom from fear, which is refreshing at a time when we're so often barraged with stories of impossibly tough pregnancies and horrific births. Three years ago, I listened to Hypnobabies tracks during my first pregnancy, as well as my early labor, and I’m fairly sure that work (plus my paralyzing fear of needles)contributed to a drug-free labor for me. Though the book is organized by trimesters, including the oft ignored fourth trimester (featuring a guide to nursing and the postpartum recovery process, both mental and physical), you can really bounce around. Gaddis covers the benefits of doulas, the nitty gritty of water birth, and also includes a chapter on nontraditional pregnancies, like those of adoptive parents. I particularly enjoyed her illustrated yoga poses for relief from pregnancy aches and similar illustrations of helpful birthing positions. Each chapter ends with a link to relaxation recording downloads online and a call to pleasure: unconventional but calming to-do lists for mamas-to-be who want to maintain balanced minds and bodies throughout pregnancy and beyond. 9 Months by Courtney Adamo and Esther Van de Paal, illustrated by Lizzy Stewart I’m always impressed and charmed by children’s books that aren’t only for children and 9 Months fits the bill beautifully. It’s a marriage of vivid and whimsical illustrations with the story of gestation, warmly told using questions and answers, all addressed directly to young siblings-to-be. Adamo and Van de Paal explain how mama is feeling each month, a gentle way of reminding little ones that their mothers might be sleepy or sick or achy and that that’s normal. There are also a host of surprising animal facts, for example, that elephants are born covered in hair and that chipmunks only carry their babies in the womb for a month (oh to be so lucky)! This is one I want not only on my own shelf, but that I’d love to send to friends as soon as I hear they’re expecting a second. I wish I could’ve read 9 Months to my son during my rough first trimester earlier this year as a way of easing his worries, but there’s still time for me to use this lovely celebration of becoming a mother to help make the imminent arrival of our new roommate a little less scary.

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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!

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.

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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).

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.

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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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