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It was the the summer of 2010 when we first moved to Florida with our baby twin girls. I became a stay-at-home mom after having worked full-time my entire adult life. I lost my friends, my family, and my support system.

I lost my identity and the ability to work outside of the home. I lost the life path I had been on. I had nothing left but my immediate family and my online world, which was sparse at best.

I freaked out.

It was LiveJournal that saved me – an old, out-of-date social media site. I wrote there quite often about my new life and role. I made more and more mother friends from across the globe. Attachment parenting moms, helicopter moms, free-range moms, woo moms, religious moms, working moms: you name it, we had it.

Under the guise of our chosen screen names, we told each other about our mistakes and foibles, our successes and failures. We told each other about our anger and sadness, our joy and our boredom. Nothing was too great or small to post about, and as such, we got to know each other extremely well. We were all friends, all in it together, supporting each other and helping each other through each day. Until we went anonymous.

Mommy wars is a term that seems almost facetious, but when you’re in the thick of it, it’s truly serious. Whether to breastfeed or bottle feed can bring women to online blows. My girls were premature, and I struggled for months to exclusively breastfeed. Of course, I wanted the best health for my babies, but I’d be lying if I told you the internet mothers didn’t help feed my fervor.

I couldn’t let them down. I couldn’t be “one of those formula moms.” Nearly three months in, with little ones inching ever closer to the dreaded “failure to thrive” moniker, my own mother shook me out of it. I was so tired I could barely walk from the living room to the kitchen, pumping exclusively all day, every day. I’d try to feed them by breast even though they had come so early they couldn’t latch. My husband would joke, “which one is going to be starving today?” meaning, which one was I going to torture with my full-of-milk breast for 20 minutes while the other got a bottle of pumped milk.

I made my family miserable because I was sure if I only tried hard enough, I could make breastfeeding work for us. The pro-breastfeeding communities are very supportive. They give you recipes for cookies you are too exhausted to make. They encourage the use of flax seed, which you can never find in the grocery store. They have miracle anecdotes, and you become convinced you can do it too. Until you just can’t.

Thankfully, I learned (after collapsing and beginning to supplement with formula) that there’s an equally strong contingent of formula feeding mothers, who fight back as hard as they are fought against. I became a formula feeding warrior, always with a helpful defense of a mother who couldn’t or wouldn’t breastfeed.

One day a friend of mine whom I had met on LiveJournal asked me if I would help her moderate an anonymous community there for mothers; for, essentially, our group of friends. It was to be a place where women could leave their names behind and talk about things they felt they’d be judged for under their moniker, or things they needed to unburden without fear of retribution of any kind.

If a mom got frustrated and spanked her child although she was typically a loud proponent of hands-free discipline, this would be the place for her to talk about it and how she was coping with her own break of character. If someone found her sister high and didn’t know if she should call Child Protective Services to help the children involved, she could go there to ask without having anyone know who it was. That’s what the place was supposed to be.

Instead, the judgment was tenfold. People gathered within the community not to unburden themselves but to skewer their fellow moms — their friends – in the light of day. Almost immediately, the place became a resting spot for malicious gossip about other members, hearsay and rumors, and outright lies.

“Anons” came out of the woodwork to call so-and-so’s child ugly, to ask if this person’s baby had mental disabilities or if her parents simply neglected her. They called people’s houses filthy and were merciless to those who looked or acted any different from their particular brand of normal. They threatened to call bosses, to call CPS, to call the police on any and all users they disagreed with, sleuthing as hard as they could to find “proof” for their claims. Or they’d simply go around calling their friends bad mothers, laughing at tragedies in their lives. Anything that could possibly hurt another person was fair game.

And unlike the more public trolling we have all witnessed on social media channels, in this community, we all knew secrets about each other. The anons had more to go on than just a sentence or one opinion. They had troves of personal information from hundreds of women they called their friends. They put pieces together like so many internet detectives, figuring out which vegan ate a hamburger. Or worse, going off a false heroin rumor, trying to place the issue on someone they knew.

Other people’s drama, real or pretend, helped them escape their own lives. 

My volunteer moderator duties included wading through the muddy waters of vicious, cutting deceit and ad hominem attacks and screening them, all day long. All of this showmanship, I soon learned, was not directed at the victim, but at the community. Its purpose was not to stop individual behavior through ridicule, but to use that behavior as a jumping board for gravitas.

In real life and on the internet, stay-at-home moms are pitied and judged. Working moms are pitied and judged. Moms who spank are judged. Moms who use positive discipline are judged. Cry it out? Judged. Co-sleepers? Judged. Women, in general, are pitied and judged.

This narrative is so ingrained within us, that when our autonomy is further infringed upon by a tiny being, we take that narrative and try to wield it ourselves. It seems as if convincing the nameless masses that we are better than her, or her, or her over there, will somehow mean we’re good enough.

What we’re searching for is someone who can simply tell us it will be okay; that we are okay. But no one does. So we settle for someone else being worse off. This goes on day in and day out in countless internet threads. It’s bad enough with full Facebook names. Try adding anonymity.

In between loads of laundry, a woman with three small kids at her feet would attack her fellow online members in an elaborate game full of speculation, gossip, and strategic moves and comments to shred another’s credibility. Punch after blow after kick. They were careless words typed frantically in between feeding babies or cleaning bathrooms.

We kept that community running for more than two years, each day combing through the confessionals and complaints to scrub the forum free of malicious gossip and hearsay. Once, when we didn’t act fast enough, a member did find the personal information of another member who’d been talked about and called that person’s workplace to complain, resulting in her firing.

I was indirectly responsible for someone losing her job, her ability to feed and house her kids. I had made a huge mistake in my life. I achieved the opposite of my aim in agreeing to be part of that community.

Eventually, our strict rules against talking about others and our continual deletion of comments not conforming to that rule wore on the anons. They left our forum and made their own community, one where they could get as nasty and specific as they wanted without fear of being “censored.”

We thought it would fail. We believed the best in our members; that they weren’t really looking to wreak havoc on their friends and other mothers, but that just a few bad apples were ruining it for everyone. We were wrong.

We soon realized we didn’t even like running an anonymous community. It was hard, soul-sucking work for no payoff. We stopped posting. The anonymous community I once ran with hundreds of daily comments sits in a dark corner of the Internet, dusty and forgotten. No one has been there since 2012. But that woman still lost her job. Countless tears were still cried. Dozens of mothers questioned their abilities and strength. And for what? For the jolly of trolling?

Research suggests otherwise. Women may be more sensitive to social exclusion, and they experience it more than men throughout their lives. This phenomenon happens within the framework of competition, something sitting at the core of the Mommy Wars. In order for some not to feel excluded, they move aggressively to exclude others by pointing out weaknesses or differences, essentially ostracizing individuals or entire groups.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of mean comments, or even actions, do not engage. A troll’s words aren’t intended for the person to whom they are directed. Instead, they are intended for the others in the community. Trolls are showing off for each other. It’s a game where getting a response from whomever the troll targets in only half of the reward. Ultimately, this mean-spirited exchange is just a twisted and sad way for an unhappy person to be recognized for her mental acuity and ability to twist words to fit her own end.

We waste so much time shouting into the abyss that it almost doesn’t matter what we are saying. All we are really saying is “HEAR ME. I EXIST. I REALLY EXIST.” The irony, of course, is that we forget others exist, too – and that our words can wound them.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Sometimes it's easy to overlook this amazing work we are doing, my love. On the surface, our lives couldn't be less extraordinary. We work our jobs, we care for our children—we embody a simple life. (Though, don't get me wrong, we love every second of it!)

But especially when I think about the work you do for our family, work that largely goes unsung, I'm reminded that, really, it's my job to make sure you know how much it's appreciated.

We both came into this marriage so young, so untested, and so blissfully unaware of the hardships that would come our way through the years. As we grew up together, we weathered our own storms before finally realizing we were ready to expand from a party of two to a party of three.

You were more nervous than I was, but you stayed strong for me, making me feel stronger and shouldering my own moments of uncertainty like the hero I needed.

When our daughter was born, pink and sweet and impossibly small, I never felt safer than when I saw her in your arms. From her first breath, you were there, ready to give her the world if she asked. Your dedication to her, to me, and to this family we continue to build never wavered from that moment forward. From the first moments, you were an incredible parent.

But life has a way of distracting us—blinding us to the everyday heroism even when it's right under our noses. As Edna Mode sagely reminded us in The Incredibles 2, "Done properly, parenting is a heroic act", and I see your heroism.

So thank you, my love…you are incredible to me.

Thank you for stretching to pick up my slack, even when you’re just as tired as I am.

Somedays you walk through the door from work, and you were slammed all day and your commute took an hour longer than it should have, and you're immediately bombarded by a needy toddler and an (almost) equally needy wife. But when I watch you shake off the day in an instant and throw your arms around us both, ready to help, I don't think words can truly express how grateful I am.

Thank you for being strong in my moments of weakness, even if no one else ever knows about them.

I play it so strong all the time, but you know the truth. You know the moments I'm about to break or the days when I truly can't take on another thing. And how do you respond? You make it okay. You let me crumble, you let me whine, you let me cry when I need to. You make it a safe space where I don't have to be #supermom, if even just for a moment. You are my safe space, and I love you for that.

Thank you for the thousands of practical, “little” things you do every week.

From taking out the garbage to changing the lightbulbs to actually remembering to replace the toilet paper roll (something even I forget to do!), those little things don't go unnoticed—even if I often forget to thank you in the moment.

While I may take on the bulk of housework as the stay-at-home parent, you do your part in little ways I never forget. Those little things? To me, they are incredible feats, trust me.

Thank you for being the incredible father I always knew you would be.

I wouldn't have married you if I didn't think "Dad" was a mantle you could take on successfully, but it still makes my heart burst every time I see you excelling at this difficult role. You make our daughter feel supported, safe, and loved every single day, and I'm so, so happy that you are the person I chose to do this life with. Your instincts and commitment to our children amaze me every day.

So for all the million things you do—and for all the millions of times I forget to say it—I thank you. For all the million things you have yet to do for us—I thank you.

You're our hero, and you're pretty incredible.

This article is sponsored by Disney/Pixar's The Incredibles 2 on Digital October 23 and Blu-ray Nov 6. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

As I sit here and write this, I kind of feel like I'm just waking up from a newborn fog myself—like I had been living in a dream and a nightmare all at once. With all the highs and lows of newborn parenthood—I'm realizing that literally nothing could have prepared me mentally or emotionally for it. How could it have?

It's like—how do you prepare the sweet baby you're growing inside you for the warmth of the sunlight they'll feel on their cheeks or the sound of the birds chirping in the spring? Nothing you could ever say could prepare them for that kind of simple wonder.

And nothing I can tell you will prepare you for the simple wonder of being present in the first moments of your baby's precious and irreplaceable life.

Take a mental snapshot of your home as you leave for the hospital. It will never be the same again. Try to remember the way the light poured in through the windows, the way the air felt on your face. I'm thankful I was able to remember to do this myself. Months from that day when the light pours in and the air brushes against your face in a similar way you'll be filled to the brim with heartwarming nostalgia of the day your sweet baby was born.

There is nothing I can say to you that can prepare your body for the excitement, the nerves, the exhaustion, or the hard work that is giving birth. The inexplicable awestruck wonder of your baby's first breath, their first blink, their first cry. The first time you meet them—the only person in the world that knows your heart from the inside. You will be the most beautiful sight they have ever seen, as they will be yours.

There are no words for those moments. But there are actions.

Take a picture in the hospital holding that sweet soul—a picture that includes you. The postpartum you with no makeup on, your hair disheveled, your hospital gown draped over your tired body. Don't wait to be "ready."

Take the picture. I wish I had.

There aren't any words to describe your first night home and the first weeks to follow. They'll be some of the most emotional days of your entire life—highs and lows of epic proportions—waves of pride, frustration, invincibility and defeat. Take them all in and let them shape your experience.

Trust the process. I wish I had been more trusting.

Breastfeed if you want to. Formula feed if you want to. That is your choice. Make it for the right reasons. Don't do either because someone else wants you to.

Make the choice that makes you and your sweet baby happy, healthy and able to be present. I wish I had.

Don't let anyone pressure you into decisions. Don't let anyone make you feel less than for the first choices you'll make as a mother. There is no one on the earth that knows your son better than you. Yes, the diaper is on right. No, the swaddle isn't too tight.

Be confident in your abilities and instincts. I wish I had been more confident.

With that said, be open to support from those around you—particularly from the women in your life. Accept and embrace your vulnerability and surrender, at least for a little while, to the hands of your village.

My mother-in-law told me on the way home from the hospital that she was never more grateful for the presence of her mother than in the days and weeks after my husband was born. She said I would feel the same. And she was right.

Let your mom or mother-in-law or a mother figure of sorts come to your rescue. Let her put cream on your back after the shower and stroke your hair as you take a nap. Be her baby. Now you'll understand the depth of her love for you.

Try to enjoy the moments right from the start. Rock your baby to sleep. Smell their precious newborn scent. Snuggle them endlessly. Let them fall asleep on your chest and keep your skin touching theirs as much as you can. All of this will be pretty difficult as you run on likely very little sleep, so don't be hard on yourself when you feel overwhelmed (we all feel that way at times!).

But as you can— try to be there in those moments. I wish I had been more present.

Know that the first weeks and first months come with a lot more exhaustion than you could ever really imagine—but then they will end. They. Will. End. The sleepless nights eventually become more restful and your days a little more routine.

For many weeks, your nights and days will be mixed up and your schedule shot. Try your best to roll with it. Don't try to force a routine or a schedule—it will re-establish itself in time.

Have faith in those chaotic moments that things will settle. I wish I had had more faith.

Things started to get really fun for me and my son at three months and things seemed to feel like my "new normal," my body included, around five months.

In time, your sweet baby will let you put them down. They will eventually get the hang of eating. There will come a moment where your baby takes a nap in the crib. Life on this side of the womb takes a little practice. Your baby will get the hang of it, mama.

Don't worry about it. I wish I had worried a little less.

Cry with your partner when you have to. Laugh together when you can. Take too many pictures. Have patience with each other. Try to hug every single day—sneak quiet moments together when you can. Try to step back from it all and observe it quietly.

You'll be amazed at yourself, at your partner, at your new family. I wish I had stepped back more often.

…And then one morning you'll wake up from a good night's sleep. You'll wake up from that sleep and you'll sit down to HOT coffee again and you'll realize the fog has cleared a bit.

You'll see that your life is forever changed. You'll realize now that when you gave birth to your baby, you also gave birth to a mother and a father, too. You'll realize now the magnitude of what you've done.

When the fog clears and you realize the enormity of this accomplishment, I hope you reflect back on your experience and marvel at the gift you have been given and also at the gift you have given to the ones you love.

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A new mother looked at me recently during a conversation we were having about sleep deprivation during the beginning of baby's life.

As a postpartum advisor and doula, I talk to a lot of new mamas.

But I hear all the time from women in the midst of transition to motherhood who are struggling to get their little ones to sleep and to respond to the demands of infant life.

This mama looked at me in desperation and asked, “So do you just not get anything done then??"

Mamas, I want to tell you the truth. Here it is:

You will not get anything done when you are home with a baby.

And anyone who told you otherwise is not being very forthcoming (or perhaps they just have a lousy memory).

You might get yourself fed.

You might get yourself dressed (then again, you might not).

You might take a walk (it makes baby happy).

You might have a short phone conversation or start a load of laundry, neither of which you will finish.

This is your new-mom normal.

So what are you doing all day?

Not much that can be measured, really.

You're simply responding appropriately and with patience (through fatigue) to smiles, to tears, to hunger cues and to drowsiness, teaching your baby how to navigate this complex and (to a baby) highly emotional and raw world.

You are keeping your baby clean, which on some days involves more costume changes (for both of you) than any non-mother can begin to fathom.

You are teaching a tiny, helpless person all about the world—at least the important parts, like how we treat each other and what it means to be connected to a family.

You are creating a foundation of love and trust between you and your baby, one that will help you set your parenting compass, inform your future interactions, and provide a basis for the way your child relates to the larger world.

You may be breastfeeding your baby—another time-consuming task (though once established, it takes less time than bottle feeding) that reaches forward through time to heal and protect your child, and simultaneously reduces your risk of disease.

Oh, and you're becoming a mother.

It started the day your baby was conceived, and it continues beyond birth.

Your baby is stretching and growing into this new body, and you are too.

But that's about it, really. That's your day.

Our culture doesn't have a good way to measure what you are accomplishing.

Your baby will grow and meet milestones: check.

To the untrained eye, most of this work, at the end of the day, will look like nothing.

But we know better.


There is no greater task than the "nothing" you did yesterday, the "nothing" you are doing today and the "nothing" you will do tomorrow.

Caring for a baby is all about the immediate experience, yet the first two years are all about investment.

It's give, give, give and give some more.

These are hard-fought, rough-and-tumble years that can cut us down to our core and take us soaring high above the clouds, all in the space of five minutes.

And yes, as you do the hardest work of your life, it will seem like you're not getting anything done at all. Crazy, huh?

But here's where it gets interesting...

As much as you need and want a break now (and you should take one whenever you can), no mother has ever looked back on this time and thought, I wish I had held my baby less.

You will not remember the dishes that didn't get done, the vacuuming that you just couldn't make happen or the dirty clothes you wore more often than you'd like to admit.

You will remember the first smile, the first belly laugh, the first words, the first steps.

You will remember the way you looked at your baby and the way your baby looked at you.

So the next time you find yourself wondering how another day is gone and nothing is done, stop.

Hold your baby—feel the way that tiny body strains to contain this giant soul—complete and full of potential all at the same time.

Take a deep, slow breath.

Close your eyes and measure your day not as tasks, but as feelings, as sounds, as colors.

Exhaustion is part of it.

And it's true, you will get "nothing" done.

But the hard parts will fade.

The intense, burning love is what remains, and it is yours to keep forever.

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