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As a certified nurse midwife, I take a lot of time with my women to explore the challenges they’ve overcome in their lives and to channel that energy if they face obstacles during labor and birth. I have them go back to their power. I want their mind to shift from thinking “Birth is going to be really difficult” to “This is challenging, but wow—this is incredibly empowering. I can do this!”


Part of the challenges women face in preparing to give birth is that we separate ourselves from other birth stories we’ve heard, or other experiences we’ve taken on as our own—specifically from the women typically closest to us, like our mothers, sisters and best friends.

As providers, we need to strive to have close relationships with our patients. If that’s not necessarily possible, then we must at least be intuitive and listen well. I work with women and hear what they say, paying close attention to the language they use.

Here are 6 questions I often get from women about their mothers’ experiences with labor and birth.


1. My mother had complications during labor. Will I have them, too?

She’s your mother and you love her, but you don’t need to unconsciously re-create her birth story—especially if it was a difficult birth. Our minds are very powerful, and we can cleverly re-create the trauma our own mothers experienced. But your mother’s birth(s) had to do with what was going on in her day-to-day life at the time—what her health was like, her relationship with her doctor, what was going on in her personal life, etc.

If your mom has mentioned that she experienced complications, ask her exactly what they were and what possibly caused them. It’s not enough for her to tell you, “This happened to me.” You have to ask her specific questions.

Let’s start with one example. If your mother had preterm labor, will you?

Well, what was her amniotic fluid like at the time she went into preterm labor? What was her stress level? Was she working a job that required her to be on her feet 40 hours a week? That can certainly trigger preterm labor. There are specific reasons why your mother had the complications she did, and it doesn’t mean you will, too.

2. My mother had a C-section. Will I have one?

So many women have asked me this question. The answer is no, not necessarily. Do you and your mother have the same body type? Is your mother 5 feet tall and your father 6 feet tall? Did your mom have a baby who weighed 10 pounds?

A situation when the baby’s head circumference may be too big for the diameter of the mother’s pelvis size and shape is called cephalopelvic or fetopelvic disproportion. If this occurs and a baby is unable to descend through the pelvis due to a narrowing of the mid-pelvis or pelvic outlet, then a medically indicated C-section is appropriate.

There are four types of pelves, but we often see a mixture of characteristics. So even if you have the same type of pelvis as your mom, the size and position of your baby will be unique for you—so you can understand how we can’t let your mom’s delivery outcome predict yours.

Many women ask me whether their pelvis is an adequate size. Forty-one to 42% of women have a gynecoid pelvis, with diameters quite optimal for vaginal childbirth. An extremely narrow pelvis, also referred to as male or android, where the front of the pelvis is narrow (about 32.5% of white and 15.7% of nonwhite women have this type) does make it more difficult for a good-size baby to navigate through. The rare platypelloid pelvis, which occurs in less than 3% of women, is characterized by a wide front diameter and shallow depth from front to back. It makes a vaginal delivery unlikely. The good news is that labor and birth are about movement, and babies are resilient, with heads designed to mold through delivery.

When the health care provider understands the mother’s pelvic size and structure as well as the baby’s position and size, the timing of labor and repositioning the mother in a knee-chest or left side-lying position can make all the difference in assisting the baby through.

A woman needs to labor and be pushing for several hours to determine whether the baby is unable to emerge under the pubic arch. This is definitely a subject to discuss with your health care provider. It is difficult to know all the circumstances of your mother’s C-section that contributed to her outcome.

3. Can I prevent any of the complications my mother experienced?

Yes. Make sure you’re eating well, staying hydrated and communicating openly and often with your health care provider. I also recommend seeing a chiropractor to make sure your pelvis is aligned. This gives the baby more room to move and adjust.

I had a woman transfer to me late, at 33 weeks—her baby was high and she wasn’t doing any exercise. I recommended she visit a chiropractor regularly. And sure enough, when the time came, she had a three-hour labor where her baby descended nicely.

4. Can my sister’s birth experiences tell me anything about what mine will be like?

Yes. Not necessarily physically, but psychologically.

I had a client in labor who kept saying things like, “I can’t believe it, I know I’m going to need a C-section.” I looked at her and asked her why she was talking out of such fear. It all finally clicked and I said, “This isn’t you you’re talking about, is it?” And she told me it was her sister she was talking about. She was subconsciously taking on her sister’s negative birth experience as her own. So I worked with her in labor to guide her through extreme birth counseling.

When we talked about her relationship with her sister, I learned she didn’t even like her sister’s ideas about birth. So I asked what made her different from her sister. She said she was holistic, and her sister was not. I asked her to repeat after me—“I am holistic. I am not my sister.” And that is what her birth mantra became.

With this mantra she was able to validate that she was different from her sister, and just because her sister had Pitocin and then a C-section didn’t mean that she had to have it too. She did have Pitocin to augment her contractions, which had spaced out, but I helped turn the face-up baby and then she had a beautiful vaginal birth.

This could happen with any woman you’re close to—your mother, mother-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, best friend, etc. That’s why it’s so important to have the right provider guiding you.

5. My mother/mother-in-law had big babies. Could that determine my babys size?

While there could be some genetic connection for large gestational size babies, what I really believe is that your mother or mother-in-law could have been eating lots of carbs or foods high in sugar, and she might have had undiagnosed gestational diabetes. You have to know your clients, and quite often I have to be a sneaky detective to find out what she’s eating.

But keep in mind: I would much rather deliver a 9-pound, 5-ounce baby than a 6-pound, 5-ounce baby. Bigger babies are often well positioned—they don’t get into unusual positions that could cause complications. For example, a smaller baby can spin around during labor and cause a longer labor, and if you’re in a more conservative hospital or have a more traditional health care practitioner, they may not let you wait around to progress from 4 cm to 8 cm and instead suggest a C-section. But it all comes down to understanding fetal positioning.

6. What questions should I ask my mother?

I always ask the women I work with: What messages has your mother given you about birth? Does she talk openly about it?

If you’re pregnant and your mother seems to be avoiding talking about her own pregnancies, it’s likely for one of these reasons: She had a traumatizing experience; it’s just her nature not to share; or she doesn’t want to interfere because she doesn’t want to scare you.

If you’d like to talk to your mother about her birth experiences, here are a few questions to review on your own and with your mom.

Reflect on personally...

—Do I have the same pelvis as my mother?

—Do I have the same build as my mother?

—How do I differentiate myself from my mom and/or my sister(s)?

Discuss with Mom...

—What was the position of your baby? Was I/were my siblings face-up or posterior?

—Did you have a C-section? Do you know why?

—Were you stressed during your pregnancy and/or labor? What was going on in your life at the time?

—How much weight did you gain during your pregnancies?

—Do you remember the name of who delivered me?

—How long did you push?

If you have fears that aren’t alleviated by talking with the women close to you and reflecting personally, talk about them with your health care provider or find a therapist who specializes in pregnancy. If you don’t talk about your fears, they can surface during labor and delivery and possibly sabotage your birth experience. A prepared birth is best.

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The temperatures are dropping and that can only mean one thing. Whether we like it or not, winter's cold chilly months are upon us. As a born-and-raised Alaskan, and mama of three, I've got a lot of cold weather experience under my belt, and staying inside half the year just isn't an option for us. As my husband likes to say, "There's no bad weather, just bad gear."

Here are some of my favorite picks to keep your family toasty warm this winter.


1. Bear bunting

This sherpa bear bunting wins winter wear MVP for being a comfy snowsuit for your littlest babe, or base-layer under another snowsuit for the chilliest of winter outings. Bonus: your baby bear will never look cuter!

Sherpa Hooded Bunting, Carter's, $15.20

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2. Patagonia Capilene base-layers

Speaking of base-layers, for any prolonged winter activity outside in the cold, it's best to layer up to create air pockets of warmth. These moisture wicking base-layers are a family favorite.

Baby Capilene Bottoms, Back Country, $29.00

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3. Arctix Kids limitless overall bib

These adjustable snow pants keep kids warm and the bib style keeps snow from going down the back of their pants. Bonus: the price is excellent for the quality and they can grow with your child. The Velcro strap also makes bathroom breaks for kids so much easier.

Arctix Kids Limitless Overall Bib, Amazon, $14.99-$49.99

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4. Hooded frost-free long jacket

Keep your little one warm and stylish in this long puffer jacket. Great for everyday outings.

Hooded Frost-Free Long Jacket, Old Navy, $35.00

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5. Patagonia reversible jacket

This jacket is windproof, waterproof and the built-in hood means one less piece of gear to worry about (or one more layer for your little one's head). It's a best buy if you live with cold winter temperatures for many months of the year and still love to get outside to play. It also stays in great condition for hand-me-downs to your next kid.

Reversible Down Sweater Hoodie, Nordstrom, $119.00

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6. Under Armour Decatur water repellent jacket

Made of waterproof fabric and lined with great insulation, kids will no doubt stay warm—and dry—in this. It features plenty of pockets, too, so mama doesn't always have to hold onto their items. We love that the UGrow system allows sleeves to grow a couple inches.

UA Decatur Water Repellent Jacket, Nordstrom, $155.00

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7. Stonz mittens

Ever tried to keep gloves on a 1-year-old? It's a tough task, but these gloves make it a breeze with a wide opening and two adjustable toggles for a snug fit they can't pull off! Warm and waterproof, and come in sizes from infant to big kids.

Stonz Mittz, Amazon, $39.99

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8. Sorel toot pack boot

Keep their little toes warm with these cozy boots from Sorel. With insulated uppers and waterproof bottoms their feet are sure to stay warm. They're well constructed and hold up over time, making them a great hand-me-down option for your family.

Sorel Kids' Yoot Boot, Amazon, $48.73-$175.63

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9. Stonz baby boots

These Stonz stay-on-baby booties do just as their name says and stay on their feet. No more searching for one boot in the grocery store parking lot!

Stonz Three Season Stay-On Baby Booties, Amazon, $29.99-$50.29

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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We make a lot of things this time of year. Gingerbread houses. Christmas cards. New traditions. Babies.

Yes, December is peak baby making season. It's a month filled with togetherness and all the love felt in December is what makes September the most statistically popular month for American birthdays.

According to data journalist Matt Stiles, mid-September is the most popular time to give birth in America. He did a deep dive into the birth stats from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Social Security Administration collected between 1994 and 2014 and found that the most common American birthdays fall on September 9, 19 and 12. In fact, 9 of the 10 most popular days to give birth fall in September.

If we turn the calendar back, we're looking at Christmas time conceptions. Stiles illustrated his findings via a heat map, which presents the data in a visual form. The darker the square, the more common the birthday.

The square for August 30 is pretty dark as it is the 34th most common birthday in America. It's also 40 weeks after November 23, and the unofficial beginning of the United States' seasonal baby boom.


And while the Christmas holidays are common times to conceive, they're not common days to give birth, for obvious reasons. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Day and the fourth of July are all represented by light squares on Stiles's data map, meaning they're among the least popular days to welcome a little one into the world (Boxing Day is just a smidge darker, still a pretty rare birthday).

OB-GYNs are not likely to schedule C-sections on major holidays, so that might point to the low birth rates on these special days.

As for the September baby boom, it probably has less to do with the magic of the holiday season and more to do with the fact that many Americans take time off work during the holiday season. It's not that mistletoe is some magic aphrodisiac, but just that making babies takes time, and at this time of year we have some to spare.

This Christmas be thankful for the time you have with your loved ones and your partner. That time could give you a gift come September.

[A version of this article was originally posted November 21, 2018]

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When I gave birth the first time, I had two doulas—one for me, and one for my husband. (I wasn't messing around!) They worked hard to support me in what ended up being a long labor. About 20 hours in, I remember hearing my doulas whisper to my exhausted, hard-working husband, “Go lie down. We can take care of her."

This was absolutely true. They were more than capable of helping me through contractions, which up to this point I'd been handling really well. So upon their urging, my husband walked about three feet away and lay down on the daybed in the labor and delivery room. And then the strangest thing happened—

I completely lost my rhythm and my ability to breathe through contractions. It was as though I'd lost my way. The next handful of contractions were unbearable and caused me to cry out in anguish. My husband hurried to my side and held my hand once more.

And then, just as quickly, I found my rhythm, my breathing returned, and I was able to to handle my contractions until I gave birth several hours later.

In a recent study published in Nature, it was discovered that when a partner held the hand of a woman during labor, the couple would begin to synchronize their breathing and heart rate patterns, otherwise known as physiological coupling.

In addition, the women reported that their pain lessened while holding hands with their partners. If they were just sitting next to one another, but not holding hands, their pain levels weren't affected.

This study has obvious implications for the families I teach in my Childbirth Preparation classes, and it's important to share this news far and wide:

Everything you do for your partner while she's in labor makes a difference. Even if all you do is hold her hand.

Labor is not just something that a birthing woman experiences. Her partner experiences labor too, just in a very different way. For far too long, we've either diminished or ignored the partner's experience of labor—to everyone's detriment.

I realize that it makes sense to pay close attention to how a woman moves through her pregnancy, labor and birth. But if we're not paying equal attention to her partner's experience, we're not setting this new family up for success. In fact, we might be doing the exact opposite.

If partners don't realize the importance their words, actions and touch can have on the laboring woman's experience, many may freeze up and feel helpless as they witness the power and intensity of labor and birth. They may end up feeling as though all of their efforts and suggestions for comfort measures are without any effect. But this couldn't be further from the truth!

Every little thing a partner does to make the laboring woman more comfortable matters immensely. Every sip of water offered, every new position suggested, every word of encouragement, every reminder to breathe, every single touch, provides comfort to the laboring woman. And partners need to know this and believe in the power that their undivided attention and connection can bring to the laboring woman.

Here's why I think the findings from this latest study are so important—it's that feeling of shared empathy between the laboring woman and her partner that causes the physiological coupling and pain relieving effects that help a woman when she's experiencing pain.

That's why I've always told the partners in my classes that even if they hired an army of the world's greatest labor doulas, their unwavering, focused and empathetic attention during birth, is the reason why she'll tell everyone that she couldn't have made it through labor without her partner! Even if all they did was hold her hand.

It's a conundrum many parents wrestle with: We don't want to lie to our kids, but when it comes to Santa, sometimes we're not exactly giving them the full truth either.

For Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, lying to daughters Lincoln, 5, and Delta, 3 just isn't an option, so everyone in the Bell-Shepard household knows the truth about Santa.

"This is going to be very controversial," Shepard told Us Weekly earlier this month. "I have a fundamental rule that I will never lie to them, which is challenging at times. Our 5-year-old started asking questions like, 'Well, this doesn't make sense, and that doesn't make sense.' I'm like, 'You know what? This is just a fun thing we pretend while it's Christmas.'"

According to Shepard, this has not diminished the magic of Christmas in their home. "They love watching movies about Santa, they love talking about Santa," Shepard told Us. "They don't think he exists, but they're super happy and everything's fine."

Research indicates that Shepard is right—kids can be totally happy and into Christmas even after figuring out the truth and that most kids do start to untangle the Santa myth on their own, as Lincoln did.

Studies suggest that for many kids, the myth fades around age seven, but for some kids, it's sooner, and that's okay.


Writing for The Conversation, Kristen Dunfield, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Concordia University, suggests that when kids come to parents with the hard questions about Santa, parents may feel a bit sad, but can take some comfort in "recognizing these challenging questions for what they are—cognitive development in action."

Kids aren't usually the ones who are upset when they figure it out, researchers note. Typically, kids are kind of proud of themselves for being such great detectives. It's the parents who feel sadness.

Some parents may not choose to be as blunt as Shepard, and that's okay, too. According to Dunfield, if you don't want to answer questions about Santa with 100% truth, you can answer a question with a question.

"If instead you want to let your child take the lead, you can simply direct the question back to them, allowing your child to come up with explanations for themselves: "I don't know, how do you think the sleigh flies?" Dunfield writes.

While Dax Shepard acknowledges that telling a 3-year-old that Santa is pretend might be controversial, he's hardly the first parent to present Santa this way. There are plenty of healthy, happy adults whose parents told them the truth.

LeAnne Shepard is one of them. Now a mother herself, LeAnne's parents clued her into the Santa myth early, for religious reasons that were common in her community.

"In the small Texas town where I grew up, I wasn't alone in my disbelief. Many parents, including mine, presented Santa Claus as a game that other families played," she previously wrote. "That approach allowed us to get a picture on Santa's lap, watch the Christmas classics, and enjoy all the holiday festivities so long as we remembered the actual reason for the season. It was much like when I visited Disney World and met Minnie Mouse; I was both over the moon excited and somewhat aware that she was not actually real."

No matter why you want to tell your children the truth about Santa, know that it's okay to let the kids know that he's pretend. Kristen Bell's kids prove that knowing the truth about Santa doesn't have to make Christmas any less exciting. Pretending can be magical, too.

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