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My C-section scar is evidence that pain can fade

When I look at my scar now, I see my body's ability to heal, to survive.

My C-section scar is evidence that pain can fade

My husband rubs my lower back as I cradle my 36-week pregnant belly in my arms. I'm on my side focusing on waves, the sound of them crashing ashore and then being pulled back out—a rhythmic sound meant to calm and soothe.


"How is this working?" he asks.

"It's perfect. Bring on the contractions because I am ready to do this!"

My enthusiasm stems from birthing classes and the high I experienced while writing my birth plan. It was nestled in my overnight bag with everything else I'd need, and now all I needed was for my body to go into labor.

The practice scene with my husband was as close as I'd ever get to the kind of labor I envisioned. Four weeks later, I entered a sterile operating room where doctors worked for 45 minutes to dislodge my breech-positioned daughter, Wren, my strong-willed little bird.

I tried not to think of my forgotten birth plan or all the ways I had encouraged Wren to flip. I held her and was enchanted, shifting my mind from birthing to mothering.

I finally acknowledged my C-section scar weeks after my daughter arrived. It wasn't as long as I thought it would be. There was skin hanging over the horizontal line, as if the scar had its own awning protecting it from the upper half of my body.

"War wound," I mouthed to my reflection, trying to give it a title that would make me proud. It didn't work.

I didn't hate the scar, but my relationship with it was complicated. The pink wound felt like a sign of defeat, and I felt guilty for even acknowledging that truth. I didn't think other women who had C-sections had been defeated, but I couldn't extend any grace to myself.

My daughter was out in the world and safe. A C-section was the reason. Still, I eyed the scar skeptically, and for months when I caught a glimpse of it in the mirror as I dressed, I not so kindly murmured, "It'll be different next time."

***

A little over two years later, I was in the same operating room where my daughter entered the world. My son, Sam, staged a 43-week sit in, and time was up. He was surgically retrieved in time for Christmas. I held back bitter tears as my lower half went numb.

Two weeks after we left the hospital, Sam reentered it because he developed pneumonia. By the time we returned home with his tiny lungs clear, my incision site ached because I ignored all recovery instructions while Sam teetered in the gray land between life and death. The incision area stayed pink and angry—throbbing for weeks.

My scar represented pain and fear. It brought back the feeling of standing next to an intensive care unit crib stroking my son's face with one hand while cupping my incision site with the other thinking, I can hold us all together if I just try hard enough.

When Sam was 6 months old, I feel like that's when I really noticed my scar again while pulling on my shorts. I hadn't studied it in ages, and just looking at it made me remember how much it used to ache. The scar was pale and thin, just a shadow of the rage that once existed.

My pain, both physical and emotional, had followed the same pattern. My fears were fading. For once, I felt a strong connection to this line that once only represented defeat. It was now a representation of the passage of time, the evolution of my emotions. The scar was physical evidence that pain can fade.

***

"You're having identical twins," my OB announces.

"What?"

"You're having another C-section, mama. They are sharing a placenta."

I hoped that finally making peace with my C-section scar would open me up to the possibility of a vaginal birth. But no one, from my OB to my high-risk doctor, would discuss anything but a surgical delivery. I have to concede that with twins and no prior labors, it's not worth the risks.

"You get a tummy tuck with this one," my doctor joked while prepping me for my third surgery in four and a half years. "The scar will be larger because there are two babies, but we will roll the other scars into it. It will look clean and precise."

Clean, precise, surgical—as all of my births had been.

I know, too, that my births have been miracles, ending with new life, with birth stories representing my kids' personalities.

When my kids ask me for the stories of their births, they instinctively glance to where my scar sits beneath my clothes. I explain that it's where they came from, that it's a sign of life. For me, it marked the end of certain dreams, but it brought forth the reality of countless others.

When I look at my scar now, I see my body's ability to heal, to survive.

I see journeys of both the physical and mental variety, with success waiting at the end—even if it wasn't the end I expected.

More than anything, though, I see grace. The grace I finally learned to give myself when plans changed and I adjusted accordingly, emerging stronger than ever before.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

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Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

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Detective set

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This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

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Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

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Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

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Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

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Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

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Wooden rocking pegasus

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Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

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Croquet set

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The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

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Wooden digital camera

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Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

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Wooden bulldozer toy

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Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

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Pull-along hippo

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There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

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Baby forest fox ride-on

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Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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