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Yesterday, I looked at a cross-section of myself.


Hundreds of them, actually. It was like a digitized version of that plastinated human body exhibit by scientist Dr. Gunther von Hagens. Except my cross-sections were horizontal as if I’d been sliced like a salami from sacrum to sternum. It’s a strange thing to flip through monochromatic sections of your torso like an anatomical deck of cards.

“Body Echo” motion tests from Jeremy Cox on Vimeo.

What I saw made me wonder how my liver and kidneys still manage to keep me alive. I saw cysts, hundreds of them, probably thousands, bubbling up around and inside both kidneys and colonizing my liver like an invading army.

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“Where’s the healthy tissue?” I asked my hepatologist, who sat next to me in the examination room reviewing my CAT Scans.

He pursed his lips. “Well. Here…and here, and you can see this area over here…”

It was like looking at a bunch of grapes, some of them plum-sized, and trying to focus on the spaces in between the fruit – the residual gaps, the mean, irregular vestiges of unaffected cells, which have to work so much harder now to make up for the loss of the rest.

“How do they even…function?” I faltered.

“The human body is an amazing thing,” he replied.

This did not come across as a comforting statement, although it really should, because it’s what I’ve got going for me as I contemplate the second half of my life as a PKD patient.

PKD stands for Polycystic Kidney Disease. It’s a hereditary condition in which fluid-filled cysts grow throughout the kidneys, supplanting healthy tissue, and eventually causing kidney failure.

PKD can affect other organs as well, including the liver, pancreas, spleen, ovaries, large bowel, brain, and heart. If it affects the heart, valves malfunction, causing heart murmurs, or worse. If it affects the brain, an aneurysm is likely, resulting in stroke or death.

Considering all that, the ways in which the disease has compromised my liver seem less dire – even though it’s three times the size of a healthy liver and spreads across my entire abdominal region, filling my body cavity like spray foam insulation fills the gaps in a stud wall. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for other useful viscera, like the uterus, the stomach, or the intestines.

My period seems to last twice as long. Digesting food amounts to a protracted, squelchy, uncomfortable process. After eating, I appear to be well into my second trimester. Strangers happily inquire if I’m expecting. My two sons, who have been begging for a little sister for years, will say, “Mumma, is there another baby in your belly now?”

“No,” I explain. “My belly looks this way because my liver and kidneys have cysts, which makes them bigger than usual. It’s like I have cyst babies that grow inside me, but unfortunately, never get born.”

So we call them that now – my cyst babies. It helps me laugh about it. “Your cyst babies look weird,” my boys say.

“They sure do,” I agree.

When compressed, I can’t breathe very well, or at all. In the yoga studio, I need to take a break between Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana so my lungs have the space to take in some air. My teacher will notice me there, slumped, limbs slack, swollen back heaving.

“You okay?” she whispers.

“Cyst babies,” I say on an exhale. She’s used to it now.

The whole compression thing also applies when crouching over little shoelaces or Lego kits spread out on the living room floor. It applies to stomach sleeping, which I can’t do anymore and miss like hell on nights when my neck is stiff and insomnia seeps in. It feels like I’m tightly packed, which changes how I sit, how I walk, how I laugh, how I hug. If people felt as compelled to feel my belly now as they used to when I carried my sons, they would be surprised at how taut it is, like an over-inflated kickball.

It’s also extremely tender, so when my kids want to wrestle or play Mom Sandwich or come bounding toward me headlong for high-impact hugs, I use my forearms as padding or go concave to avoid a painful collision.

My dad, who suffered from the same disease which took his life a year ago, used to do the same. I’d watch him put his arms out as his grandkids approached him, as much to deflect as to receive – to protect his (not quite comically) distended, Humpty Dumpty midsection without making anyone feel he was pushing them away.

 

 

I sat quietly as my doctor flipped between the scans from two years ago and the scans from last month. I didn’t need him to explain what we were looking at, but I let him do it anyway on the off chance that he would point out some positive indicator, some encouraging sign.

“As you can see,” he said, with practiced reserve, “this area had plenty of regenerative hepatocyte function a couple years ago. Now that same area…”

“All cyst,” I said, flatly.

“Yes, but your numbers look good. You still have relatively high kidney function. And because the liver regenerates, you are not yet in danger of liver disease.”

“Really!?” I laughed, then tried to turn my incredulity into a joke. “So what would you call that liver? Disease-ready?”

“You don’t have Fibrosis or Cirrhosis. You are maintaining.”

“But I want to do more than maintain,” I pressed. “I want to fight this. I want to do my research and understand my options. And no offense, but I’m a second-opinion kind of gal.”

He clicked over to my bloodwork results and pointed to a series of numbers next to a stack of medical acronyms. “When I see those numbers change, we can start talking about more aggressive treatment…cyst decapitation or even transplant. Meanwhile, keep hydrating, eat well, stay active, do your yoga.”

Then he reminded me, as he so often does, that to undergo invasive surgery of this kind, the pros absolutely need to outweigh the cons. “And right now, I can’t promise you they do. These are complicated procedures.” Then his expression changed, from bedside-clinical to something a little more kindly.

“Things can go wrong,” he said. “You can die. Think about the quality of your life right now, your life with your husband and kids. Then ask yourself if your day-to-day is compromised to the extent that you’re willing to take that kind of risk.”

“I hear what you’re saying.” And I really did. I hear it every time I look at my peculiar profile in the mirror.

“But why not get ahead of the game? Why wait until I have twice as many cysts as I have now? My father got to the point where surgery was no longer an option; his body couldn’t withstand it. I don’t want to wait that long. The healthier I am, the greater my chances for recovery. And if the cysts are the disease, why not get in there and remove as many as you can? Wouldn’t that be less taxing for my organs over time? Then in five years, we can do it again if necessary.”

Also,” I added, less casually than planned, “I’ll look less like a pear on stilts.”

The doctor blinked at me. “Promise me you won’t take this the wrong way,” he said, patting my knee. “You are a young, beautiful woman. I know it’s uncomfortable to see your body change. Is it possible that the reason you’re interested in surgery has more to do with how you look than how you feel?”

Now it was my turn to blink at him, and at his hand, which he removed. The words I wanted to say ran through my mind: I have a chronic terminal disease, for chrissakes! What I may look like on the outside has nothing to do with what’s happening in my abdominal cavity, you creepy, patronizing, outmoded piece of….

Or maybe our outsides have a lot to do with our insides. I can often guess when my yoga friends are at the end of an Ayurvedic cleanse. Their gait is light and easy, the whites of their eyes brighten, their skin glows, their hair shines.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve watched bodies become addicted to heroin, deplete and die of alcoholism, contract ulcers and shingles from sheer exhaustion and stress. I saw the change in my favorite aunt’s eyes after she endured a massive brain stem stroke. I sat by my father as his liver finally let go. Each of these maladies manifested itself visibly, as plain as the nose on your face, transforming once beautiful, vibrant people into husks of their former selves.

So maybe my doc’s borderline sexist remark was at least well-founded if poorly delivered. Maybe he meant that my physical appearance is an accurate indicator of my renal and hepatic health. It would help me to know that he’s not just placating me when he says I’m doing a good job of managing my illness, in spite of inevitable organ failure.

Later that night, as my bowels slowly churned my dinner down, my stacked deck of deformities flashing through my mind, I looked at my husband across the table. “You need to live a long time, okay?” And then losing all composure: “Please stay alive as long as you can for the boys.”

There’s a 50 percent chance both of my sons have inherited the disease because the gene for PKD is dominant. “The prospects are similar to the flip of a coin,” states one article (a bit too trivially). Never once did these odds make me question whether to have kids in the first place though. As far as diseases go, it’s one you can live with, and for a long time, too. We could get the boys tested, but given the lack of preventative treatments, I’m not sure the knowledge would help us at this stage.

My childhood was mercifully free of any awareness that I might have a genetic defect. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that I first experienced the symptoms full on. I remember my dad apologizing to me as I lay in a hospital bed packed in ice with a 104 temp and an infected cyst the size of a grapefruit.

“What a shitty situation,” he said, gripping my hand. “I’m so sorry…this damned disease.”

“Aw, c’mon, Dad. It’s not as if you decided to give it to me.” Tears welled in his eyes then. It was one of the few times I ever saw him cry. I think to ease his burden, I added, “I did somehow end up with all your weird traits though – the scrawny legs, the bunions, the crappy eyesight.”

“And my fabulous sense of humor, too, my dear.”

Now, at 42, I have a far more acute awareness of how PKD will impact the length of my life, and, in turn, how the length of my life will impact the lives of my sons. I can even see, with a fair amount of accuracy, how I might die. But so what? Today, I am alive. If anything, my explicit mortality has helped me live more fully. More gratefully.

For many years, I held onto this idea that I was headed somewhere else, still traveling toward another way of being. When I got there, everything around me would reflect my achievements. My consummate arrival. Likewise, my goals have always been futuristic, elaborate, manifold, involving exotic places, extreme adventure, and New York Times Bestseller fame – as bright and far away as the sun.

Now I have one goal. It’s as close as the thump of this heart in my chest, and all the others have been form-fit to fall within this one: to extend the life of my organs by whatever means necessary. There is no cure for Polycystic Kidney Disease (yet). There are no proven treatments or definitive action steps. But I know what I need to do.

When you see yourself vividly – in cross-section, or at the sheer edge of a cliff at night, or sitting in a deck chair surrounded by your grandchildren – you realize there is no more waiting for life to happen. You realize life is this breath only.

And now it is this breath.

It is not what happens tomorrow. Not the list of house projects yet to be done, or the imagined landscaping you will probably never be able to afford anyway. It is not even that dream of a simpler life on the other side of the world: of that little cabin on a beach by the Tasman Sea, with only your boys and some boats and stories by the light of a fire to fill your days.

When you weren’t looking, that idea of “someday” zoomed in to close range, like Grover right up close to the camera and all out of breath as he illustrates the considerable difference between NEAR and FAR. Someday is like that, right here, staring you down, and a little exhausted by your inability to grasp it, even after all these years.

“I know we’re dealing with a lot these days,” my husband texted from on location this morning, “but this is it. This is what we’ve got. I love you.”

He’s right, of course. We’ve got only this one life. It’s already all around us, waiting for us to notice it, to fill it, to love it. What a tragedy it would be to miss it worrying about death.

And just now the sun has spilled into the room, changing everything. The chimes out the window are signaling in the wind, and the bird that just landed on the end of that rafter tail is cocking her head as if to say, “So what are you doing here?”

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Pop quiz, mama! How many different types of car seats are there? If you guessed three, you're partially correct. The three main types are rear-facing car seats, forward-facing car seats, and booster seats. But then there are a variety of styles as well: infant car seats, convertible seats, all-in-one seats, high-back booster seats, and backless boosters. If you're not totally overwhelmed yet, keep reading, we promise there's good stuff ahead.

There's no arguing that, in the scheme of your baby and child gear buying lifetime, purchasing a car seat is a big deal! Luckily, Walmart.com has everything you need to travel safely with your most precious cargo in the backseat. And right now, you can save big on top-rated car seats and boosters during Best of Baby Month, happening now through September 30 at Walmart.com.

As if that wasn't enough, Walmart will even take the carseat your kiddos have outgrown off your hands for you (and hook you up with a sweet perk, too). Between September 16 and 30, Walmart is partnering with TerraCycle to recycle used car seats. When you bring in an expired car seat or one your child no longer fits into to a participating Walmart store during the trade-in event, you'll receive a $30 gift card to spend on your little one in person or online. Put the money towards a brand new car seat or booster or other baby essentials on your list. To find a participating store check here: www.walmart.com/aboutbestofbabymonth

Ready to shop, mama? Here are the 9 best car seat deals happening this month.


Safety 1st Grow and Go Spring 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

walmart-best-baby-carseat

From rear-facing car seat to belt-positioning booster, Grow and Go Sprint's got you covered through childhood. Whether you choose the grey Silver Lake, Seafarer or pink Camelia color palette, you'll love how this model grows with your little one — not to mention how easy it is to clean. The machine-washable seat pad can be removed without fussing with the harness, and the dual cup holders for snacks and drinks can go straight into the dishwasher.

Price: $134 (regularly $149)

SHOP

Baby Trend Hybrid Plus 3-in-1 Booster Car Seat in Bermuda

walmart-best-baby-carseat

When your toddler is ready to face forward, this versatile car seat can be used as a five-point harness booster, a high-back booster, and a backless booster. Padded armrests, harness straps, and seat cushions provide a comfy ride, and the neutral gray seat pads reverse to turquoise for a stylish new look.

Price: $72.00 (regularly $81)

SHOP

Baby Trend Hybrid Plus 3-in-1 Booster Car Seat in Olivia

walmart-best-baby-carseat

Looking for something snazzy, mama? This black and hot pink car seat features a playful heart print on its reversible seat pad and soft harness straps. Best of all, with its 100-pound weight limit and three booster configurations, your big kid will get years of use out of this fashionable design.

Price: $72.00 (regularly $81)

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Evenflo Triumph LX Convertible Car Seat

walmart-best-baby-carseat

This rear- and forward-facing car seat keeps kids safer, longer with an adjustable five-point harness that can accommodate children up to 65 lbs. To tighten the harness, simply twist the conveniently placed side knobs; the Infinite Slide Harness ensures an accurate fit every time. As for style, we're big fans of the cozy quilted design, which comes in two colorways: grey and magenta or grey and turquoise.

Price: $116 (regularly $149.99)

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Disney Baby Light 'n Comfy 22 Luxe Infant Car Seat

walmart-best-baby-carseat

Outfitted with an adorable pink-and-white polka dot Minnie Mouse infant insert, even the tiniest of travelers — as small as four pounds! — can journey comfortably and safely. This rear-facing design is lightweight, too; weighing less than 15 lbs, you can easily carry it in the crook of your arm when your hands are full (because chances are they will be).

Price: $67.49 (regularly $89.99)

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Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

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We know it's hard to imagine your tiny newborn will ever hit 100 lbs, but one day it'll happen. And when it does, you'll appreciate not having to buy a new car seat if you start with this 4-in-1 design! Designed to fit kids up to 120 lbs, it transforms four ways, from a rear-facing car seat to a backless belt-positioning booster. With a 6-position recline and a one-hand adjust system for the harness and headrest, you can easily find the perfect fit for your growing child.

Price: $199.99 (regularly $269.99)

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Graco SlimFit All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

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With its unique space-saving design, this 3-in-1 car seat provides 10% more back seat space simply by rotating the dual cup holders. The InRight LATCH system makes installation quick and easy, and whether you're using it as a rear-facing car seat, a forward-facing car seat, or a belt-positioning booster, you can feel confident that your child's safe and comfortable thanks to Graco's Simply Safe Adjust Harness System.

Price: $149.99 (regularly $229.99)

SHOP

Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 Platinum XT Infant Car Seat

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Making sure your infant car seat is secure can be tricky, but Graco makes it easy with its one-second LATCH attachment and hassle-free three-step installation using SnugLock technology. In addition to its safety features, what we really love about this rear-facing seat are all of the conveniences, including the ability to create a complete travel system with Click Connect Strollers and a Silent Shade Canopy that expands without waking up your sleeping passenger.

Price: $169.99 (regularly $249.99)

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Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 Elite Infant Car Seat

walmart-best-baby-carseat

With just one click, you can know whether this rear-facing car seat has been installed properly. Then adjust the base four different ways and use the bubble level indicator to find the proper position. When you're out and about, the rotating canopy with window panel will keep baby protected from the sun while allowing you to keep your eye on him.

Price: $129.99 (regularly $219.99)

SHOP

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

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Kid's birthday parties can be great: There's lots of playtime for little ones to wear themselves out, the entertainment is free and it's the perfect time to bond with other mamas. But when it comes to gift-giving, everyone's interpretation of these unwritten rules is different which can create unwanted stress.

You know the scene: Some mamas prefer to give handmade gifts, others like buying popular toys and some only contribute to the child's college tuition.

If you haven't already heard, the trending theme for kid's birthday parties is "the fiver" and it takes the guesswork out of gift-giving. Rather than spending $20 on a toy they probably won't play with in a month the hosts ask for a $5 bill. The money is pooled together and can be put towards one big, much more significant gift, instead of many smaller, less meaningful things. The idea is simple, and it turns out, hosting one is similar to throwing a traditional birthday party.

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Here are six ways to throw a seamless (and fun!) fiver party:

1. Don't do it alone

Many moms tend to plan everything for their kids' parties all by themselves. They write down a list of things that they need to do and feel accomplished after checking off every single item. But, when the special day finally comes, moms stress over the details for fear that something might go wrong.

When planning a fiver party, delegate tasks and responsibilities during the planning process. Having a helper or two for the big day cuts down on having to clean up a big mess afterward.

2. Create a distraction-free environment

Though this sounds like a tip for doing homework, it applies to throwing a party, too. If you book a show for 3- or 4-year-olds, it's better to hide all the toys and snacks beforehand so they can sit longer and focus better on the activity you planned. Best of all, with fiver parties, you don't have to worry about designating an area to open a bunch of gifts.

3. Remember that hand painting is better for toddlers

Many children like to get their faces painted for their birthdays or for special events. Though face painting is a popular activity, children who are less than 4 years old will often start moving, fidgeting or crying in the middle of it and turn the beautiful butterfly on their faces into a mess. Because of this, try hand painting for the younger ones.

4. Always keep them busy

Fill your fiver party with activities so that the guests will always have something to do. Maybe this sounds a bit difficult, but you don't necessarily need to book 10 shows for one party. Simply prepare a few easy games (like a treasure hunt, musical chairs and sack race) for them to play beforehand. Keeping the children occupied will make your fiver party fun and memorable.

5. Less is more

A shortlist of guests will keep your little one from feeling overwhelmed by the attention. For toddlers, a party that lasts about an hour and a half is perfect. If they're a bit older, add another hour. Just remember children don't need much to feel happy and loved.

Bonus! Here are two ways to save money while making your kids' fiver party memorable:

1. Host the party at home.

Sure, venues are great, but they can be pricey. Having a party at home is inexpensive and intimate. Also, kids are more likely to interact with each other if the space is smaller.

2. Only serve snacks.

A common way to stay on budget is to invite people between meals and prepare snacks, not a full meal. Most kids are usually so busy playing they'll just graze anyway.

This article was originally published on Partify by Natalie Wong and it has been republished with permission from the author.

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Learn + Play

When your toddler is screaming for milk, a toy or a snack in the middle of the grocery store, it may feel like your world is closing in on you. It might not seem like it in the moment, but tantrums are a normal part of your child's development—it's a child's way of expressing how they feel.

But regardless of why little ones throw fits, it can be tough to navigate. We looked to the parenting threads on Reddit where mamas discuss the ins and outs as well as ups and downs of child-rearing. We were all ears.

Here's the best tantrum advice Reddit mamas swear by:

1. Wait it out

"Tantrums are a toddler's way of venting excess frustration, energy and emotion. Just wait it out and once it's dying down, offer some comfort. After, talk with them and verbalize and validate their emotions."— StayAtHome478936

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2. Don't entertain it

"Do not engage with them at all during a tantrum. It's tempting to try to calm them down and introduce some reason to the situation, but don't give in to that. Screaming is a one-way ticket to being completely ignored. They're allowed to be frustrated and upset, but you're not obligated to listen to it."— VoteyDisciple

3. Give yourself a mommy break

"I give myself mommy time outs if I'm getting frustrated or angry and even though no one is enforcing me, I still get the benefit of calming myself down, and my daughter sees me proactively taking care of my mood/behavior."— ChandrikaMoon

4. Let them explore their world

"If you have patience with misbehavior, you open the door to your child escalating until she has your full attention. I let my toddler explore her world and do anything I deem safe, but I am strict about enforcing safety rules and I do not allow her to misbehave without consequences."— soMuchToFind

5. Focus on the real issue

"Rather than punishing the symptom of the issue, work on the actual issue. For my 4-year-old son we are working on breathing and counting as a coping mechanism for when emotions become too overwhelming. For him, it works well. He responds to most minor and medium emotions by breathing now."— Hiitskai

6. Say 'no' less

"There is a school of thought that if the child reacts terribly every time you say 'no,' say 'no' less. Instead of no cookie you say you can have carrots or cheese now. Always offer one or two good choices when you can and it will head off at least some of the fits."— toasterchild

7. Take away things

"My kid started showing signs of being low-level obsessed with a game so we took it away cold turkey. We explained that the game makes him behave in a way we don't like, so we are going to take a break. Sure he wasn't happy about it, but we are the adults and he is entitled to feel any way he wants to."— greenpotatoes9

8. Offer breaks

"Daycare helped us so much with tantrums. They taught her the phrase 'I need my space.' So, when she has her tantrum, she goes away for a moment, and then comes back in a calmer state of mind. Often, the more we try to help her, the worse it gets."— dave moe dee

9. Play music

"The main thing that almost never fails is listening to music during a tantrum. I'm really into music myself so I guess this is no huge surprise but my girl just cannot cry while Beyonce is playing."— PavLovesDogs

10. Do something unrelated

"As long as the kid isn't actively endangering themselves while throwing the temper tantrum, I completely ignore it. I make a point of going about my business and doing something wholly unrelated to whatever lead up to the tantrum. It didn't take long for my kid to learn that the screaming and fussing won't get them what they want."— PerestroikaPal

11. Compromise

"If you give into a tantrum, find a way to make it seem like you're compromising for some other reason, but not because of the tantrum. I always tell my 3 year old 'You know how to ask. If you want something, use your words, ask nicely."—athaliah

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Learn + Play

When kids enter puberty we warn them about the change. We tell them their bodies are changing and that it's normal and natural and they're beautiful just as they are. But when women become mothers and their bodies—and brains—change, we are not offered the same affirmations and comfort as adolescents. Society tells children to accept the ways their bodies stretch, grow and shift to carry them through adulthood, but it tells the women who carry these children in their own bodies to fight change at all costs.

Luckily, that is changing. Women are standing up and saying what society should have been telling us all along: Yes, motherhood changes your body, but that change is beautiful.

And now, in a brilliant move that is both excellent marketing and empowering, hundreds of women are putting their postpartum bodies on display. The act is a powerful statement to themselves and to other mothers: Our bodies are meant to evolve and change, and you are normal and natural and beautiful just as you are.

Knix is selling underwear, but the brand is also creating real change with a project called The Life After Birth Project, which saw 250 photos of real moms exhibited in an NYC gallery before rolling into Knix's hometown, Toronto, Canada, this week.

The photos are refreshingly real and exactly what women need to see in 2019.

The Life After Birth Project shows the beauty and reality of postpartum healing 

One of the most damaging myths about postpartum recovery is that it is quick. It isn't. It actually takes about six to eight weeks for the uterus to shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size. The bump doesn't instantly disappear because it took 9 months to grow. A mother's body needs time to heal after birth, whether it was a vaginal delivery or a C-section, but too many mothers aren't given that time.

In the United States, so many working moms are back at their job within five weeks of giving birth, and even if paid work isn't a factor, unpaid labor and family obligations can have mothers doing too much too soon.

As Diana Spalding, midwife and Motherly's Digital Education Editor and Birth Expert, has said, "You would never expect someone to clean their house a few days after having surgery, or to run errands when they are getting over the flu—so why do we expect ourselves to snap out of giving birth? Pregnancy and birth are not ailments, but they are the real deal. Be gentle on yourself, and allow your body to heal."

Mothers should not be embarrassed by their changing bodies 

A recent survey found more than a third of women (37%) felt embarrassed by what their body was going through after birth. This is not okay, and it is why we need more projects like the The Life After Birth Project and more companies doing what Knix is doing.

That is why celebrities like Jillian Harris, pictured above, stepped up and shared photos of their own postpartum experiences for the Life After Birth project.

Yes, Jillian is wearing mesh panties and a giant pad in the above photo. But that's part of the journey and nothing to be embarrassed about.

We need to see our stories represented and know that this is normal.

More photos from #LifeAfterBirth

Four pregnancies in four years. This mama has been through so much and has some serious advice: "I wish our always busy culture recognized it more and gave new mothers patience and grace."

So do we Amy, so do we.

See the gallery in person

The Life After Birth Project is currently in Toronto but the next stop is Los Angeles on October 24.

The gallery will keep touring the US, too.

Stops are planned in Portland, Seattle, Dallas, Austin, Denver, Minneapolis. if you want to submit your own photos, tag @lifeafterbirthproject on Instagram and use the hashtag #LifeAfterBirth, or email your photos to lifeafterbirth@knix.com.

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News

You know that moment when you find yourself standing in line at the grocery store next to the "All-Together Woman"? Come on, you know the one.

She very well may have just stepped out of a magazine centerfold, while you are fairly certain you resemble something more along the lines of a real-life muppet. This woman is flawless. Her makeup is spot-on, her clothes are wrinkle-free. Her toes are manicured and her fingernails look like they never once, in the course of her what-must-be-a-dream-life, scrubbed a single dirty bathtub, poopy toilet or messy kitchen floor.

Okay, seriously, I know you know what I am talking about now.

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But, here's the thing. I don't hate her. I don't even envy her. Because I don't know her. I have no idea what her personal struggles are. I applaud her for her obvious fashion skills and mad makeup abilities. I will probably even tell her I love her hair. Or her shoes. Or her something.

And, for all I know, while I am admiring her trendy jacket and cropped top she very well may be admiring my children and my life. Maybe, just maybe, she thinks my yoga pants paired with a hoodie and clean-ish Converse shoes along with my ridiculously huge diaper bag that seconds as my purse and kitchen fridge on-the-go are totally adorbs!

I will most likely scrounge up the courage to drag myself to a mirror sometime in the next hour or so just to see what exactly I looked like next to this magical being. Chances are I had green and blue fruit loops bits stuck somewhere between my teeth, a messy bun that closely resembled a bird's nest and overly unplucked eyebrows. Chances are also extremely high there was not a lick of makeup to hide my exhausted, sleep-deprived eyelids, either. My breasts will still be saggy and my tummy will still be loose.

Listen, my seasons will change. All too soon my kids will be older and I will have more energy to prep myself before going out in public. I will be more rested and will probably (hopefully) have lost some pre/post-baby weight. I won't be rushed to pick up peanut butter and milk after school drop-off but before nap. Brushing my teeth in the morning will no longer seem like a luxury. I may even become the "All-Together Woman."

But, in this season, today, I am going to tell myself "I am enough."

Because I AM enough.

My babies don't see her, they see ME, their mommy and #1 person. They love me unconditionally. And I am enough.

My husband respects me as his partner and the mother of his children. He tells me I'm beautiful and loves my body, including all of the wreckage and battle scars left behind from eight babies. And I am enough.

My friends see me for who I am. They know I'm clumsy, goofy and imperfect. And they don't even care that I wear Pajama Jeans. And I am enough.

It is easy (entirely too easy) to look at ourselves as the lesser version of our reality. We can be our biggest critics and shamers. Our own worst enemies.

It's so important that we begin teaching our daughters that they are enough. That who they are in the inside will manifest itself into what they are on the outside. Let's teach our girls, together, to claim their beauty, their strengths and their sense-of-self from within. First and always.

Everything on the outside is literally just the surface. It's time, ladies. And I know you can do it. Because you are enough.

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