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Lying on my back, face turned to the ceiling, I could feel my husband’s warm hand tighten in mine. Every other time I’d done this, my body had been twisted as far as possible to see the screen next to me, eager to catch a glimpse of the baby inside me.


This time was different. This time I was terrified of what I would see or, rather, what I wouldn’t see. I’d been waiting 24 hours for this moment, but had I been able, I would have stopped time so it never arrived.

The cold gel on my stomach jerked me back to reality.

“How many weeks along are you?” asked the clinician standing next to me, her face a blur, her voice gentle and sympathetic. I told her I thought I was around five weeks pregnant. Or not pregnant.

“Hmmm, that’s early. We might be able to see something, we might not.” I closed my eyes and thought about this strange place I occupied, this place between being pregnant and not being pregnant. Between motherhood or not. This space between one life or another, this path or that one. It’s a space that is sometimes easier to be in than not. At least when you don’t know, there’s still hope.

It had started the day before, as it starts for so many, with blood in my knickers and the feeling that I was dropping from a great height, my stomach left behind. My legs turned to jelly.

How much blood? Was I still bleeding? What color was it? The questions went through my mind, but as soon as they entered, they left again. The answers didn’t seem to matter. All that mattered was that there was blood.

I had only known I was pregnant for a week or two. It was spring and, by my calculations, the baby would be born in December. I had imagined bringing her – or him, probably a him, I thought – home to a house full of sparkly lights, a decorated tree in the corner, and the smell of spices in the air. It would be cold outside and cozy in, our first Christmas as a family of four.

When I saw the blood, the twinkly lights in my mind started to go out.

Shaking, I pulled up my underwear and went to find my husband. We were due to go for a picnic that morning and planned to take our 18-month-old daughter to a playground. She’d just started to come down slides on her own and to clamber over climbing frames. I had been looking forward to playing with her, but now I knew I wouldn’t be enjoying anything about that day.

“I’m bleeding,” I told my husband, my hand laying protectively over my stomach, wanting to shelter the tiny grain inside that we had already started calling Basmati after the rice. Or Mattie for short.

“Do we need to go to the hospital?” he asked. I didn’t know, I had never been in this situation before. I decided to call the midwives. Unfortunately, they weren’t much help.

“Keep an eye on it and call again if you keep bleeding,” they told me. Apparently bleeding at this stage is quite normal. It might not mean anything, and it might mean everything. This wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I wanted to know that I would be fine, that my baby would be fine, that we would be a family of four at Christmastime.

But for now, we were just three, and I had to continue as if nothing was wrong. So we set off for our picnic. At the playground, my daughter scrambled on the equipment.

“Careful not to fall!” I cautioned her as she balanced precariously on the metal bars of the climbing frame. I tried to appreciate the watery spring sunshine, but all I could think about was whether more fluid was seeping out onto the pad between my legs. I didn’t want to go to the park’s public toilet to find out. I wanted to keep hold of the fantasy of another child for as long as possible.

We walked through long grass, jumped over cow patties. I discovered when we got home that my daughter had picked up a tick and was trying to decide whether to call the hospital again. The bleeding hadn’t stopped. I pulled the tick off her skin and felt relieved that at least I could protect one of my children.

This time when I called, they asked me to come in. We had no one to watch our daughter, so she came with us. My husband took her to play at one end of the waiting area, while I sat at the other – just me and a terrified-looking Asian woman, who didn’t seem to speak any English. I smiled at her but feared she could tell I didn’t feel much like smiling. I was sure she felt the same.

Finally, my name was called. The duty doctor who saw me was a young man, distracted, hours of non-stop work etched into his face. Maybe it was the fatigue that made him uncomfortably direct. When I told him what had brought me in on a Sunday, he was dismissive. It “happens a lot,” he told me. It’s “normal.”

I could guess that he had never been pregnant or had ever imagined what life would be like with a Christmas baby.

In the end, they booked me in for a scan the next morning, and I was sent home. I knew that in the grand scheme of things I was not an emergency. I was not important. I was not dying. There were far worthier patients than me. But to me this wasn’t just about a tiny grain inside me, it was about carrying my new baby through the snow in December, watching my two children play in the stream together when the summer came, my husband helping them both to pick blackberries in the fall. Now I had to wait until the next day to learn whether that life still existed. I had to stay another night in the space between.

But to me, this wasn’t just about a tiny grain inside me. It was about carrying my new baby through the snow in December, watching my two children play in the stream together when the summer came, my husband helping them pick blackberries in the fall. Now I had to wait until the next day to learn whether that life still existed. I spent another night in the space between.

I spent another night in the space between.

***

The sonographer moved the magic wand over my stomach.

“Let’s see, are we going to be able to find anything?” she asked quietly, concentrating on her job. Her tone was so different from the male doctor last night. I thought about how many women had laid exactly where I was, waiting to hear the news they either long for or dread. How many times a day did she have to carry this responsibility on her shoulders?

I could bear it no longer and turned to see what she was doing. As always, the fuzziness was hard to interpret. But suddenly there was a flashing light. A flashing, sparkling, twinkling light. A heartbeat. A Christmas heartbeat.

“There it is!” The sonographer echoed my relief. “You must be slightly further along than you thought. You wouldn’t normally see a heartbeat this early. By my reckoning you’re probably around seven weeks pregnant.”

She paused, smiled. “And that’s a strong heartbeat. I think you’ll be fine.”

We left the hospital for home – for me to carry on being pregnant and for us both to plan for the time when our family would grow from three to four. We were told that the most likely reason for the blood was implantation, bleeding that occurs when the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the mother’s womb. A cause so common, I was sent home overnight to wait to see if I was still pregnant. So common that I didn’t seem worthy of sympathy from the busy doctor who first saw me.

I knew this stage isn’t really considered “proper” pregnancy by some, but I also knew how many would disagree. Every dark line for every wanted baby is special. As soon as that line appears, the child is a part of you, present and future.

And should it turn out that this time it isn’t meant to be, if you leave the space into darkness, we pack that child away somewhere and keep it safe forever in our memories – as I had started preparing myself to do.

My pregnancy ended successfully, with the birth of a beautiful girl on December 11. We bought a tree a few days after bringing her home and spent an exhausted, sleep-deprived Christmas day with my family. It wasn’t quite the sparkly, twinkly event I had imagined – but it was nevertheless a happy ending.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

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A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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