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Maybe you and I have different ideas of what qualifies as a “good” day. For you, perhaps a good day includes unbearable pain, bloodletting, strangers in surgical gloves poking and prodding you, and visits from your relatives while your boobs hang out as you attempt breastfeeding for the very first time. For me, well, I’m a simple gal. If someone tells me my hair looks nice, it has been a good day. But please, nothing involving blood. This is why I don’t understand why so many women carry on this notion of the day that they gave birth as having been one of the best of their lives.

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The day I gave birth to my son was definitely not the best day of my life. Not even close. It happened on a Monday morning, when my wonderful and gifted OBGYN expertly pulled my son out of me via cesarean section. My baby was placed on my chest for a quick family photo, before being wheeled away along with my proud but dazed husband. My doctor then proceeded to put my guts back into my body and sew me back into a whole human again. I still swear to this day that I could feel everything she was doing, down to the burning sensation of when she was cauterizing my insides. My body shook for a full hour after the surgery, from all the adrenaline and the drugs running through my system. I passed out and was wheeled to a recovery area where after an hour or so I woke up groggy and confused to see my father in law standing uncertainly at the foot of my bed. Does this sound like the best day ever yet to you? Me neither.

By late morning, I had hosted about 20 members of my extended family in the small partitioned area of the hospital room that I shared with another mom who had just given birth to her second baby and who was already packing to go home (I’m sure she appreciated all the extra company). My mom visited and, as usual, complained of the traffic. She was hungry and wondered what kind of snacks I might have on hand for her to nibble on, as if we were home and in my own kitchen and she had been expecting me to have prepared a nice spread. I had to explain multiple times, to multiple family members, the importance of hand washing before holding my newborn child who, just hours before, had been protected in my womb by mucus membranes. And no, a squirt of Purell did not count.

Bringing a new baby into the family is as much about other people’s egos as it is about a major life change of your own. Did you know that? I didn’t. You will find that some family members will ponder, often aloud, “How does your new baby affect ME?” In the hospital room, I found some family members openly wondering not only, “How does this baby resemble me?” but also, “What does the baby’s name have to do with me?” and even better, “How can I somehow impart some wisdom onto you and also tell you a funny baby story about me?” It is all very exhausting when you’ve just gone through major surgery and haven’t slept since your water broke, 24 hours before.

My family, though generally decent when it comes to reading social cues, looked puzzled when the nurses came to check on “the surgery site.” This sounded very proper and hygienic when a medical professional was saying it to a roomful of cousins and grandparents, but the nurse was essentially trying to say: “We need to look at this here lady’s vagina and also at the gaping wound above it. So could y’all step out a sec please, thanks?”

And when it came time to breastfeed, I had to endure the very uncomfortable looks on my mother’s face – as if I had just jumped onto my hospital bed to perform a sexy burlesque routine instead of struggling to feed my hungry newborn.

By the afternoon, a Facebook photo that my aunt had posted of me sitting topless in the hospital bed while awkwardly trying to nurse the baby for the first time had nearly gone viral. After my sister alerted me, my husband had to catch my aunt before she left for San Francisco to ask her to kindly take the photo (which I know she only posted with love and pride) down from the Interwebs.

So all this time, a new mother is supposed to rest and get some sleep, but that is fucking impossible with visitors coming round the clock to see the baby; plus all the nurses checking on the wounds and the catheter; plus my topless photo situation (FML!). Then, I attended a breastfeeding class, where I sat in a cold hospital chair in some kind of meeting room with other weary postpartum women. I was wearing my husband’s oversize sweatshirt over my hospital gown, bleeding buckets of post-surgery slash post-labor blood into what was basically an adult diaper. This day was still not going down as one of my best.

After the last visitor said goodbye, my husband spent some time with the baby and me before going home. This was the deal we made: he would go home and recharge so that he had the energy to help me and the baby during the days at the hospital (and with a c-section, there were many). So after he left, it was just me and this little new guy.

This part of the day – or evening rather – was actually good. Great, even. I stared at my baby’s face, amazed that he was here, that I had something to do with shaping him. The day of his actual birth had been so busy, I hadn’t had a moment to process his arrival, to even look at his face, or to take it in.

“Oh, hey you,” I whispered to him. “When did you get here?” I nursed him in the quiet hospital room, alone for the first time, and closed my eyes, focusing on the feeling of this little life in my arms tugging on my breast and on the little whimper sounds he was making. It was all so new and wonderful, and I had almost let it all pass me by without a moment of being present. I felt like a bride who had been so swept up in all the things that had been going wrong or right on her wedding day that she had forgotten to look at her husband and listen to the music and just feel the good and the love of being there together.

That little newborn boy just turned five years old, and we have had so many awesome days since that first day together. And though the day he was born was special and one I will never forget, there have been far better ones, full of wonderful memories where I was much more present (and much more clothed!) and more engaged. A lot of our best days happen in the quieter moments and on much smaller scales than one might expect: sitting on the curb eating a snack from a vending machine talking about a weird dream he had the night before, watching him enjoy the thrill of jumping over the waves at the beach for the first time this past summer, or seeing him smile with satisfaction at the end of a particularly good bedtime story that I’ve just told him on the fly. Best days don’t always have to be epic ones.

And, call me weird, but my best days most often do not include trips to the hospital or peeing through a catheter. Maybe yours do. And if that’s the case, that’s cool. I won’t judge. You do you.

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I've always been a bit of a workout snob. I had strict, unflinching rules about what constituted a "real" workout for years—and I scoffed at anything that came up (in my mind) as inadequate. First, a real workout lasted at least an hour and had better leave me dripping in sweat. It required putting on workout clothes and going to a gym or boutique studio and resulted in muscle soreness that made it difficult to wash my hair in the shower the next day.

To some degree, I saw my workouts as a punishment for whatever bodily sins I had committed earlier in the day, like eating a cookie. The horror.

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As I got older, though, and thankfully worked through a lot of my body issues, my idea of what made a "real" workout started to shift. I started to find ways of moving my body that were enjoyable as well as strengthening, and exercise became my version of therapy, something that helped me feel more centered mentally as much as physically.

One rule remained, though: I was not a home-workout kind of girl.

To be fair, I thought I had tried. But after a few unsuccessful attempts at getting a sweat on with a DVD in my living room, I quickly dismissed the idea that you could get a real workout at home.

Then I had a baby.

Suddenly, scheduling a spin class in the city became impossible (unless I wanted to add babysitting expenses to my already hefty gym membership dues). As I took my 6-week exercise hiatus post-labor, I would sometimes crave a workout and wonder, "What am I going to do now?"

And while I stumbled across a few videos with instructors I liked that challenged my body, it wasn't until I met Karena and Katrina that something really clicked.

Fitness trainers and real-life best friends, Karena and Katrina are two California girls who co-founded Tone It Up and started posting workout videos on the beach—only to find that they soon had an insatiable social following.

From those few free online videos, they've built a fitness empire that extends into videos, workout gear and apparel, nutrition, and, recently, an online nutrition program and studio accessible through an app (monthly membership costs $12.99, or you can sign up for the year for $83.99—a much lower cost than most studios or gyms).

I've done a lot of TIU videos in the last two years because I love the way the girls talk about our bodies (and how actually challenging the workouts are), but recently I decided to try the membership to see if it really did help me create a better routine for my fitness.

I committed to five consecutive days of workouts, telling myself that that was the minimum amount of time I would have to dedicate to see any kind of result, physical or mental. And, you know what? Something interesting happened.

For one, it was much easier than I anticipated to stick with my goal.

Most of the live studio workouts are about 25 minutes, and they're offered every hour or half hour (depending on the time of day) so it's easy to find one that works for you. If for whatever reason I wasn't able to make a live class, they have dozens of on-demand videos (some that are eight minutes or less!) that it's easy to mix-and-match into a full 20- to 30-minute workout. There's even a TIU Pregnancy channel with prenatal-friendly workouts that can be subbed in if needed.

Each morning of the five days, I would wake up, have a small snack, drink a glass of water, and take my TIU class. The time flew by, thanks to the trainers' bubbly (but not annoying) personalities and the quick pace of the workout. Before I knew it, I was hitting the shower and getting on with my day.

After only five days, I knew I had found something I could stick with.

For one, the app makes it incredibly easy to fold a daily workout into your routine. You can look at the studio classes for the week and "sign up" for the times you want to take, and then your phone will alert you when it's time to sign in—no "I got distracted and forgot" excuses!

For another, the incredible variety of classes ensure that not only do you work out your entire body every few days, but it also makes it really hard to get bored. Instead, I found myself looking forward to seeing what the girls had in store for me each day. I even found the workouts easy to do with my busy toddler nearby—sometimes she even joins in, hopping around the living room with me or performing her own adorable squats and pushups.

Plus, it's hard to beat the emotional encouragement.

The trainers are all women with their own fitness stories and journeys, and their goal is to help you feel strong and healthy and enjoy the process—not just feel like you need to lose weight or like you're being punished for something. At the end of each workout, I felt proud and powerful for what I had just done—and I couldn't wait for the next one.

Most importantly, I love the example my home workouts help me set for my daughter.

Fitness is a regular part of our lives, not because we need to change ourselves or because we're paying some penance, but because it keeps us healthy, strong, and confident. Moving our bodies feels good, and every time she sees me make time for my own health, I know I'm setting the tone for how she should treat herself for the rest of her life.

Plus, the new muscles that have started to peek through my arms and shoulders? Those don't hurt either.

Life

Self-care is one of the most important things pregnant women and new mothers need to focus on for so many reasons. If we don't look after ourselves, we have nothing to give to others.

Now that you are pregnant, there is no better time to begin thinking about your long-term health and happiness (I know you have already been thinking about baby's, after all).

If our car's gas tank is empty, we don't expect it to run... we head to a gas station and fill it up! This is exactly what we need to do for ourselves. We need to fill ourselves up before we can give to others—including a baby.

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Our lives are moving at an alarming pace and very often self-care is seen as selfish.

I know this firsthand because I did it for years. During my pregnancy I was incredibly healthy but I did it all for my baby and not for myself. I only realized this after I had my son.

After his birth, I completely neglected my self-care and myself, which did not help my postpartum depression. During my recovery, I realized that self-care is not only important, but essential. We so freely give everything to our children.

My plea for new moms is to value your own care just as much as that of your new child. During pregnancy, self-care is important for both mom and baby. This philosophy should be carried through post birth.

After your baby is born, it's so important to eat well, rest when you can, and stay hydrated. As soon as you feel ready, get out for some fresh air with baby. Just remember not to push yourself too hard. Your body is still recovering!

Keeping stress low and practicing daily happiness habits are also important.

Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in everything we are doing wrong as a mom, so I like to keep a gratitude journal to remind me of the good things I have, and the amazing things I have done as a new mom. It helps to keep me focused on the positives in my life. No matter how bad my day is there is always something to be grateful for.

Once I started to value myself enough to eat well, exercise, talk kindly to myself, and practice daily happiness habits, I began to understand the power of self-care and what it truly means not only for ourselves, but for those we love.

I now have more time (believe it or not), patience, energy and vitality for my son and my life.

Practicing self-care does not mean you are shirking your responsibilities.

As a parent, there is no better way to instill confidence and self-esteem into your kids than to be a happy and healthy role model.

Rome wasn't built in a day and sometimes we need to learn (or re-learn) to like ourselves and value ourselves when we become new moms.

The small changes I have made over the past few years have led me on a path of wellness and true contentment—a feeling I have always craved but was never able to find.

After I had my son, I stopped hinging my worth on external things like property and job status. I started to look within and face my fears. It's been a rocky road—some days fraught with fear and others filled with bravery. But, I have been giving life my best shot.

Life

Each day, licensed clinical social worker Ofra Obejas has appointments with a number of parents—with the idea that this is a designated time for them to decompress, turn their attention inward and concentrate on the counseling session. Yet, Obejas says she has noticed a disappointing trend: Many clients don't disconnect for that brief period.

"Parents have sat in therapy session with me and checked every time their phone alerted them, 'In case that's my kid calling me,'" she tells Motherly. "The smart device allows parents to never be away from the child."

Unlike in generations past, today's parents can be always "on" due to everything from high-tech baby monitors to a stream of pictures and updates sent to their phones. That's what we at Motherly have termed "continuous parenting," and the risk is it not only sets parents up for fatigue, but also sends children unhealthy messages about their own boundaries.

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The answer isn't to erase our kids from our minds every so often—because that simply isn't possible. But we can benefit from making the effort to step back from actively "parenting" every now and then.

Parents spend more time than ever with their kids

According to a recent study from The Economist, American moms now spend twice as much time with their children compared with women 50 years ago. That works out to be an average of 125 minutes per day of devoted mom-child time. (Kudos to dads, too: Since 1965, they have tripled the time spent with their kids. It's now up to an average of 59 minutes daily.)

Experts credit this to increasingly flexible work schedules and options to punch in from home. Likely also at play is the fact that the newest generation of moms and dads are embracing the duty like few before, with 99% of millennial parents reporting they truly love parenting.

We're leaning into parenting—but are we overdoing it?

It's one thing to identify first and foremost as a parent and take pride in that role. It's another thing, however, to confuse our sense of worth with our children's accomplishments, which is something former Stanford University dean of freshmen Julie Lythcott-Haims says was commonplace among the parents she encountered.

"When I ask parents why they participate in the overprotection, overdirection, hand-holding frenzy, they respond, 'So my kid can be happy and successful,'" she writes in How to Raise an Adult. "When I ask them how it feels, they respond, 'Way too stressful.'"

This constant investment in children's lives can take a toll on the parent-child relationship when the parent doesn't take time for him or herself, too. "The parents feel that they 'sacrificed' their own time for the benefit of the child, even though during much of that time there was no direct engagement with the child," Obejas says of those hours spent shuttling kids around town or waiting outside the doctor's office. "The parents' own emotional and mental cup becomes empty, and when the child asks for more attention, the parents feel like they have already given enough."

The expectation of constant contact 'is draining for the brain'

Even outside the category of helicopter parents, the expectation that we should constantly know what our children are doing is problematic. "'Always on alert' didn't start with children," says Obejas. "It started with devices and apps designed to be addictive. It overtaxes our fight or flight response and leads to toxic stress when levels of cortisol and adrenaline don't ever subside."

Compared with the days when it was the norm for kids to roam free until the streetlights came on, it's commonplace today for parents to expect regular updates of their kids' exact whereabouts either by texts or GPS tracking tools.

"While this can be a safety backup, it increases the type of hypervigilance we know is draining for the brain," says Urszula Klich, licensed clinical psychologist and president of the Southeast Biofeedback and Clinical Neuroscience Association. "[This] can also cause incredible anxiety as parents hear and read things they wouldn't normally be subject to, that is, let's face it, a normal part of kids growing up."

Roles have reversed

Not so long ago, parents would go to the store or out on a date only with the faith that everything was fine at home. Now? That's almost unthinkable—as we've instead shifted to the mentality that our children or their responsible caregivers should be able to contact us at any given moment. Despite the good intentions at play here, this comes at an expense.

"In what other job do you never get a break? It is truly exhausting to never get to turn off the parent brain," says LMHC Jasmin Terrany, author of Extraordinary Mommy: A Loving Guide to Mastering Life's Most Important Job.

Driving this is the trend toward maternal gatekeeping, which describes the subconscious desire to micromanage child care even when someone else is perfectly capable of holding down the fort. As uncomfortable as this may feel, it's healthiest for everyone when parents can hand over the reigns on occasion.

"We must have regular practices to refuel," Terrany tells Motherly. "We don't need to feel guilty about taking this time for ourselves—our kids will not only learn that self-care is essential, but when we are good, they will be good."

This is also how we let our children know another adult can attend to their needs, which is an important step in fostering their sense of independence and confidence. As Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity, previously told Motherly, "Let your partner actually figure it out on their own and know that the system survives even when you are not there."

Being 'always on' can degrade quality time, too

Much of being "always on" is a two-way street: Not only do we bring our children into our work days and social lives, but we also bring other obligations home with us in the form of emails sent to our smartphones and mid-playtime breaks to check social media.

"Our children need us, the parents to be 'there,'" says Tom Kersting, licensed psychotherapist and author of Disconnected: How To Reconnect Our Digitally Distracted Kids. "They need us to talk to them, play with them and be present with them. This is literally impossible if we are multitasking between the iPhone and our interactions with them."

As expert as we may consider ourselves at multitasking, there is also something to be said for setting boundaries. "In today's world it's become difficult not to carry that phone around you all the time, even more so when your job is tied to it," says Klich. "Set boundaries for yourself for when you will check, even if it's once an hour, and stick to that making it clear to the kids what you are doing and why."

And when we're away from the kids, remember this hack: Calls from favorite contacts can still come through when you're on do not disturb mode. So tell your partner or your babysitter or your kids to call if it's a true emergency—and then allow yourself to go off the clock. You'll be better for it.

[This post was first published June 25, 2018.]

News

A short work week provides the perfect opportunity for us to teach our children about kindness—and to look at the world around us and see all the beautiful things others are doing.

Whether it's standing up for ourselves against unfair criticism (we see you, Meghan Markle!) or wishing good things for people all around the world, there's good happening out there. Mothers are making things happen for their kids every day despite a lack of support from society—and there are people seeing the pressure society is pushing on new moms and saying "no, this is not okay."

And to prove that, here are the stories that went viral this week:

This mama perfectly sums up what everyone gets wrong about maternity leave

I took four and a half months away from work after I gave birth to my twins. And yes, those days were full of sweatpants and dirty hair and Netflix and couch cuddles—but make no mistake: They were grueling. They were mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting. And they were certainly not a vacation.

Of course, that didn't stop the comments about how I must be "getting so bored" or questions about how I was "passing the time." Because we have this weird societal idea that parental leave is a vacation. And newsflash: It's not.

That's why we're applauding Anna Whitehouse, the founder of Mama Pukka, for posting about this very idea. "A reminder to businesses: Maternity/ paternity leave is not 'a holiday'. It's not 'a nice break' and it is not time off," Anna writes in a LinkedIn post.

"It's a heady cocktail of anticipation, expectation, arrival and survival. It's stripping yourself back to a primal state and nakedly navigating blocked milk ducts, torn stitches, bloody sheets, broken minds, manically Googling blackout blinds," the mother continues. "You are needed. Every second you are needed—if not in person, in mind. It is a job. Without sick days. Without fair remuneration. It is the most privileged position in the world but it takes balls, guts (often with no glory), boobs and any other extremity you can put to work."

👏👏👏

Maternity leave is the perfect representation of motherhood's demands: You're in pain, recovering from serious physical trauma, dealing with an unfathomable hormonal shift—but you can't really stop to take care of or even check in with yourself because there's a little person (or a few little people) who depend on you for survival. And the weight of that? It can feel crushing.

Maternity leave is a perfect exercise in selflessness and tenacity. It's certainly not the stuff vacations are made of, that's for sure.

So thank you to this mama for making a truly important point. Because there is this unfair idea that mothers have a few weeks or months to simply check out...when in reality, that's simply not the case. Maternity leave is demanding. It's hard. It's isolating. It's essential. It is so many things happening all at once...and none of them feel anything like a break.

This viral video shows a mama helping her baby walk for the first time 

A beautiful 4-year-old girl named Kinley and her mama are inspiring people everywhere with an incredible viral video in which Kinley learns to walk. Kinley was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects motor skills, at age 2.

Kinley's mom, Shanell Jones, shared the footage of her daughter walking in January of 2019 and another video a year later—and the progress is remarkable. The post has been viewed nearly 3 million times.

"It brings joy to my heart that my daughter is bringing hope to people," Shanell tells Good Morning America. "People reached out saying, 'I didn't feel like my child was ever going to walk, but this video helped me have faith.'"

It's not just the progress the little girl is making that inspires. It's also her mother's constant encouragement. We love listening to this mama cheer on her beautiful daughter. What an amazing, inspirational duo!

This viral hospital sign shames parents for phone use when we really need empathy

Think back to when you first welcomed your baby. Do you remember how you felt? How exhausted, how dazed, how vulnerable you were in those early days? If you've been through it, you know that the last thing a new parent needs is to feel shamed...especially a new parent who is still at the hospital.

Unfortunately, parents at one hospital likely did feel shame...and it's thanks to a very questionable sign posted on its wall. British parent Dr. Ash Cottrell posted a photo of the sign Twitter...and let's just say it's rubbing users the wrong way.

"I'm on SCBU [special care baby unit] with my 5 day old. This poster makes me sad…," he writes alongside the photo of the sign.

The printed sign essentially shames new parents for looking at their phones.

"Mummy & Daddy . . . Please look at ME when I am feeding, I am much more interesting than your phone!!! Thank you," the signs reads.

The special care baby unit is for babies who don't need the NICU but still aren't well enough to go home. A baby may go to the SCBU to be put on oxygen or a feeding tube or to treat low blood sugar or jaundice. It's a stressful time for parents who might want to send updates to family or just check their feed for a moment of relief.

"When your baby is in SCBU you have no option than to sit and look at your baby. All day. For hours. You can't take them home & cuddle & snuggle & be mum. If, for some of those hours, you look at your phone to relieve the tedium of hours on the ward, nobody should tell you off." one Twitter user replies.

This sign is SO not what a new parent needs to see—especially a hormonal mom who is likely putting immense pressure on herself already. So mama, take it from us: You're allowed to look at your phone. Because you're human.

News
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