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What Happened When I Had the Kind of Birth I Thought I Wanted

Two weeks before I gave birth to my second son, I was wrapped up under a blanket on my couch – eyelids heavy and a beleaguered throw pillow between my knees – listening to a guided meditation track specifically designed for those of us terrified by surgery. I took slow breaths. I did not think about needles or internal organs. My heart beat at a steady rhythm. Everything was going to be great.


For my entire pregnancy, I’d had a low-lying placenta stubbornly situated 1.4 centimeters from my cervix. According to my doctor/midwife practice, and approximately one million Internet message boards (yes, I read them all), such a placenta would make a vaginal birth too risky to attempt. After several weeks – er, months – of denial and terror, I’d made a kind of peace with the situation, downloaded Peggy Huddleston’s surgery prep MP3s, ordered those really soft C-section recovery underwear, pored over an Instagram account featuring harrowing yet beautiful pictures of gentle cesareans, and decided I wanted Johnny Cash playing in the operating room when the surgeons got down to business.

A week later, an ultrasound technician took one last measurement of my jerk of a placenta. I dubiously watched the TV screen in the cramped exam room, scraping ultrasound jelly off the edge of my t-shirt. Then, I noticed a number. Two. Then another. 2.14. 2.05. Things, I realized, had shifted. My placenta had somehow moved the requisite two centimeters away (though the tech betrayed not an ounce of surprise or hopefulness, well-trained tech that she was). Four days later, my OB popped breezily into another exam room, where I braced myself for the news that I had grossly misread the ultrasound or that two centimeters was still too close for comfort or that now there was some other good reason for me to not give birth the way I had the first time. “So I saw the scans,” the doctor said, waving a folder at me excitedly. “They looked great. Looks like you’re good to go for a vaginal birth!”

“Okay!” I said to my grinning doctor. Okay. Okay. That was when I yanked those invisible strings you yank when you know you’re supposed to be smiling but it just isn’t happening naturally. “Great! What a relief!”

It was then that I realized how I’d not only accepted what had originally been a bewildering twist in my birth plan, I’d gotten profoundly attached to the idea.

Okay, I’ll just say it: I wanted a C-section. I wanted a medicated surgical birth. I was told I had to have it and so I had subconsciously figured out a way to want it with every fiber of my being. I couldn’t say this out loud though, not yet, I couldn’t even acknowledge it to my self. So instead, when the “good news” about my placenta came up with friends and family, I’d quickly add in, “You never know, I might need an emergency C-section! So, we’ll see, right?”

A week later, I was at last able to articulate the truth, to put into words what I really wanted this birth to be. Of course I happened to be lying sideways on a hospital bed, having rapidly dilated to 9.5 centimeters and also having halfheartedly turned down the epidural just a few hours earlier. But I said it. I finally said it.

“I WANT THE C-SECTION! I CAN’T DO THIS! GIVE ME THE C-SECTION!”

My first birth, three and a half years earlier, involved 24 hours of labor and concluded with some dramatic fanfare: the vacuum extraction of my baby after three hours of pushing. I’d opted not to have an epidural, as my overwhelming fear of needles beat out my fear of pain. And yeah, it hurt, but the whole thing moved like a car in midtown Manhattan around 5 p.m. (nice and slow), so I never felt out of my depth, never cursed out the universe, never imagined being anywhere but exactly where I was. At the end, even before my placenta had cleared the decks, I was making jokes. I felt a thousand pounds lighter, figuratively and literally. I couldn’t stop grinning. And it turns out that the elation I felt seeing my swollen son on the examining table across from me was a birth high that for me wouldn’t be replicated.

My second birth was, on paper, exactly what I wanted – before my low-lying placenta scrambled my brain. Again, I perhaps foolishly turned down the drugs. I went from four centimeters cm to 10 centimeters in less than four hours. I pushed for just 20 minutes. I left my apartment at 7:30 a.m. with manageable cramps and had a slippery baby on my chest by noon.

It was fast and straightforward and nearly without injury, but ultimately the whole thing felt to me like a rickety rollercoaster I had not wanted to get on and could not get off of. Turns out that what looks good on paper is not necessarily relevant when you’re on hands and knees on the floor of the triage room, barking at the nurse “No, there is simply no way I will be able to stand up and be wheeled to the delivery room. SORRY.”

I wanted to believe – don’t we all – that there was a perfect birth for me and, if I played my cards right, such an experience was mine for the taking. But even if that’s true, which I doubt, what does a perfect birth ultimately mean? Does it ensure a perfect baby, a perfect toddler, a perfect mother child relationship, a perfect life? Seems unlikely!

As I write this, I wait for my nearly four-week-old to wake up at any moment, obliterating this perfect chunk of writing time I’d so carved out so carefully for myself. I wait, too, for him to start sleeping more than two hours at a time. I wait for my breasts to stop leaking milk at inopportune moments (like every time I leave the house without those bra pads in). I wait for the shape of my new life with two children to emerge in front of me so that I may know what to call it, as though by saying its a square or a triangle, it will suddenly make sense and be manageable.

It is my most recent birth that reminds me that while I wait for things to sort themselves out into what I want them to be, my older son is telling me a weird and incredible story about how to hide graham crackers in pieces of chocolate and my younger son is not screaming and my husband has procured dinner and we are all okay and together and that is in fact exactly and all I want.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

We've had some struggles, you and me. In my teens, we were just getting to know each other. It was a rocky road at times, like when people referred to you as "big boned." I was learning how to properly fuel you by giving you the right foods. How to be active, to keep you strong and in good shape. I wish I knew then what I do now about you and what a true blessing you are. But that's something that has come with the gift of motherhood.

In my 20's, we became more well-acquainted. I knew how to care for you. After I got engaged, we worked so hard together to get into "wedding shape." And, looking back now, I totally took that six pack—okay, four pack—for granted. (But I have the pictures to prove it.)

Now that I'm in my 30's (how did my 30's happen so fast, btw?) with two kids, I'm coming to terms with my new postpartum body.

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If there are two things a mama is guaranteed to love, it's Target plus adorable and functional baby products. Target's exclusive baby brand Cloud Island has been a favorite destination for cute and affordable baby clothing and décor for nearly two years and because of that success, they're now expanding into baby essentials. 🙌

The new collection features 30 affordable products starting at $0.99 and going up to $21.99 with most items priced under $10—that's about 30-40% less expensive than other products in the market. Mamas can now enjoy adding diapers, wipes, feeding products and toiletries to their cart alongside clothing and accessories from a brand they already know and love.


The best part? The Target team has ensured that the affordability factor doesn't cut down on durability by working with hundreds of parents to create and test the collection. The wipes are ultra-thick and made with 99% water and plant-based ingredients, while the toiletries are dermatologist-approved. With a Tri-Wrap fold, the diapers offer 12-hour leak protection and a snug fit so parents don't have to sacrifice safety or functionality.

So when can you start shopping? Starting on January 20, customers can shop the collection across all stores and online. We can't wait to see how this beloved brand expands in the future.

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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Many people experience the "winter blues," which are often worst in northern climates from November to March, when people have less access to sunlight, the outdoors and their communities. Another 4% develops Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a form of clinical depression that often requires formal treatment.

If you have the winter blues, you may feel “blah," sad, tired, anxious or be in a worse mood than usual. You may struggle with overeating, loss of libido, work or sleep issues. But fear not—it is possible to find your joy in the winter, mama.

Here are eight ways to feel better:

1. Take a walk

Research has shown that walking on your lunch break just three times per week can reduce tension, relax you and improve your enthusiasm. If you are working from 9 to 5, the only window you have to access natural sunlight may be your lunch hour, so head outside for a 20 minute brisk but energizing walk!

If you are home, bundle up with your kids midday—when the weather is often warmest—and play in the snow, go for a short walk, play soccer, race each other, or do something else to burn energy and keep you all warm. If you dress for the weather, you'll all feel refreshed after some fresh air.

2. Embrace light

Research suggests that a full-spectrum light box or lamp, which mimics sunlight, can significantly improve the symptoms of the winter blues and has a similar effect to an antidepressant. Bright light at a certain time every day activates a part of the brain that can help restore normal circadian rhythms. While light treatment may not be beneficial for everyone (such as people who have bipolar disorder), it may be a beneficial tool for some.

3. Plan a winter trip

It may be helpful to plan a getaway for January or February. Plan to take it very easy, as one research study found that passive vacation activities, including relaxing, "savoring," and sleeping had greater effects on health and well-being than other activities. Engaging in passive activities on vacation also makes it more likely that your health and well-being will remain improved for a longer duration after you go back to work.

Don't overschedule your trip. Relax at a beach, a pool, or a cabin instead of waiting in long roller coaster lines or visiting packed museums. Consider visiting or traveling with family to help with child care, build quiet time into your vacation routine, and build in a day of rest, recovery, and laundry catch-up when you return.

4. Give in to being cozy

Sometimes people mistake the natural slowness of winter as a problem within themselves. By making a concerted effort to savor the slowness, rest and retreat that complement winter, you can see your reduction in activity as a natural and needed phase.

Research suggests that naps help you release stress. Other research suggests that when your brain has time to rest, be idle, and daydream, you are better able to engage in "active, internally focused psychosocial mental processing," which is important for socioemotional health.

Make a "cozy basket" filled with your favorite DVDs, bubble bath or Epsom salts, lemon balm tea (which is great for “blues,") or chamomile tea (which is calming and comforting), citrus oils (which are good for boosting mood), a blanket or a favorite book or two. If you start to feel the blues, treat yourself.

If your child is napping or having quiet time in the early afternoon, rest for a full 30 minutes instead of racing around doing chores. If you're at work, keep a few mood-boosting items (like lavender spray, tea, lotion, or upbeat music) nearby and work them into your day. If you can't use them at work, claim the first 30 minutes after your kids are asleep to nurture yourself and re-energize before you tackle dishes, laundry, or other chores.

5. See your friends

Because of the complex demands of modern life, it can be hard to see or keep up with friends or family. The winter can make it even harder. While you interact with your kids throughout the day, human interaction with other adults (not just through social media!) can act as a protective layer to keep the winter blues at bay.

Plan a monthly dinner with friends, go on a monthly date night if you have a partner, go to a book club, get a drink after work with a coworker, visit a friend on Sunday nights, or plan get-togethers with extended family. Research suggests that social interactions are significantly related to well-being.

Realize that given most families' packed schedules, you may need to consistently take the lead in bringing people together. Your friends will probably thank you, too.

6. Get (at least) 10 minutes of fresh air

A number of research studies have shown positive effects of nature on well-being, including mental restoration, immune health, and memory. It works wonders for your mood to get outside in winter, even if it's just for 10 minutes 2 to 3 times per week. You might walk, snowshoe, shovel, go sledding or go ice-skating. If you can't get outside, you might try these specific yoga poses for the winter blues.

7. Add a ritual

Adding a ritual to your winter, such as movie night, game night, hot chocolate after playing outside, homemade soup on Sundays, or visiting with a different friend every Saturday morning for breakfast, can add beauty and flow to the seemingly long months of winter. Research has suggested that family rituals and traditions, such as Sunday dinner, provide times for togetherness and strengthening relationships.

8. Talk to a professional

Counseling, which helps you identify the connections between your thoughts, feelings and behaviors, can be extremely helpful for the winter blues (especially when you are also experiencing anxiety or stress). A counselor can assist you with identifying and honoring feelings, replacing negative messages with positive ones, or shifting behaviors. A counselor may also help you indulge into winter as a time of retreat, slowness, planning, and reflecting. You may choose to use the winter to get clear on what you'd like to manifest in spring.

The opposite of the winter blues is not the absence of the winter blues—it's taking great pleasure in the unique contribution of a time of cold, darkness, retreat, planning, reflecting, being cozy and hibernating. Nurturing yourself and your relationships can help you move toward winter joy.

Weary mama,

You are incredibly strong. You are so very capable.

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