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As I write this, I’m in my seventh month of pregnancy. My torso is roughly the size and shape of a pumpkin ready to be plucked from the vine. I feel bigger by the day.

Before I can mentally acclimate to each day’s increased girth, I must physically adjust to what feels like an ever-widening circumference and the ways in which I must fill and move through space differently: new maneuvers to roll out of bed, a wider stance when bending over my son’s crib in the morning to greet him. It is a distinct state of being a woman that I have, in all honestly, cherished.

I’ve observed such women my entire life. We live with these bodies, these fecund distortions of what is the typical body – what a first-grader might draw if that is her only instruction – as evidence of the miracle of nature and reproduction. That a woman can house a growing other within herself for 40 weeks, and that her body can adapt to the requirements of such a task – no, that her body is designed to do just that – is a miraculous truth of nature and of our lives.

I, as such a woman with an odd-looking, yet ordinary changing daily shape, am never far from this wonder as I encounter myself in the mirror in the morning, or in a window reflection on my way into the grocery store, or as I contort to navigate around desks in my classroom. My body – the strangeness of it, the unwieldiness of it, the incredible gravity of it – is always on my mind.

I highly doubt that my size and shape is much on the minds of anyone else I may interact with these days, but I have not gotten used to the ways in which I am exposed as a pregnant body while in public. Unless I go to great efforts, I cannot hide this detail from the world. 

As a woman who also walks around with a particular ring on a particular finger, I don’t feel the threat of judgment that some pregnant women might, for example. But I am insecure at times. I do, however infrequently, wonder about judgments being placed on me.

Does the grocery store employee judge me for the six-pack of Fat Tire, marshmallows, and Ben & Jerry’s that comprise my order? Does something inside her wonder if the beer is for me and if she should make a joke about ice cream for dinner, hoping it will make me reconsider having ice cream for dinner for the sake of my unborn child who has no choice in the matter? Do the people at the gym consider my 30 minutes on the elliptical and 30 minutes throwing weights around as allowing my vanity to put at risk the “delicate” life I carry?

As a member of the majority class and race for my entire life, I have rarely, if ever, experienced such corporeal exposure. Sure, I had a period of neon pink hair in my teens, but, if I ever felt the need to retreat from whatever it was that my hair announced to the world, or whatever category it placed me in, it was easy enough to put on a hat. If I ever felt ridiculed, ostracized, or particularly burdened by this physical characteristic – one that I chose – I could always just dye it back to a color that did not elicit questions. Problem solved.

My body, and the fundamental shapes and colors that comprise it, has never been notable, has always fallen within the realm of “same,” “us,” “normal,” and, therefore, unremarkable. Because I have never really been the physical “other,” I’ve rarely had to confront just what it means to be the “same.”

Now, in this short window of time in which my midsection stretches skin forward like a bullfrog throat filling with air, I am, in the smallest of ways, experiencing being the physical other. The cultural context of this fact is mingled with a social and political discourse that I cannot believe. That America is in desperate need of a movement called Black Lives Matter is, in itself, sad for those of us who agree with the sentiment and see recent injustices against the black community as direct results of pervasive institutionalized racism.

It is unbelievable to me that America is empowering a political demagogue who dog whistles to those who sympathize with the worst of our nation’s history: the Ku Klux Klan. I cannot compare how I feel about my pregnancy in this writing to the deeper implications of how the poet Sharon Olds describes a young black boy on a subway as “wearing / red like the inside of the body / exposed.”

I cannot compare how I feel about my pregnancy in this writing to what I read on the pages of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ sobering book “Between the World and Me” as he instructs his teenage son, and me, about the assaults against the black body in America. In this way, my consideration of the current state of my body and the ways in which it exposes me pales, mightily, in comparison to those who exist bodily and hourly as “other.”

But still. My changing form, my enlargement, my sense that I have lost any control I once had over the shape of my body, has allowed me to consider what it might be like to be in a state of constant physical exposure. To have a body, a physical presence, a set of features or characteristics that are not so temporary or easy to hide or change or predict reactions to.

It also allows me to consider, daily, what is causing this change to my body. There is an entity pushing itself forward against its protective sac, the three layers of my uterine wall, and the fat and muscles between the outermost layer and my belly skin. It claims more room as its own body changes, becoming more and more the shape that we all recognize as fundamentally human. More than just human, my son, like his mother and father, will most likely enter this world with the characteristics of a person who fits most easily into it. He will fall within the realm of “same,” “us,” “normal,” because he will be male, middle-class, white and, as such, unexposed.

Knowing the very little that I know about the experience of black Americans, I can only make assumptions about what it must feel like to be always visible. I can only make assumptions about the weight and consequence of that visibility, one in which what is seen is unknown or misunderstood at best; feared or hated at worst.

How do I prepare the son harbored inside me for a world that already has rules about the shapes and colors and features he will carry through it? How and when and why and to what degree do I share with him the realities of his world that I do not fully know myself and that he is unlikely to be confronted with because he is not black and he is not other? Why is it so important that I do so?

My husband and I were playing with our 22-month-old in our backyard the other day. We reached the property line behind our house, which is a paved alley that separates ours from the next backyard. A teenaged boy, maybe 13, was walking up the alley, and we both noticed him. He was black, and in that moment I had to wonder if I noticed him because of that fact.

As I watched him pass, I simultaneously wondered who he was and where he was going, and questioned myself for doing so. If he were white, would I have spent any mental energy on him at all, or would he have occupied my observations as a bird does, a presence that is so commonplace in my world – the world of my backyard, the world of my daily life – that it requires no extra thought, that it appears, but nearly invisibly so? My additional attention to this black boy made my fourth thought one of guilt, but it did not erase whatever had shaped my first three curiosities.

After my son is born, I will return to the size and shape that have so far protected me from judgments, perceived or real, and that carry me through life relatively unexposed and, therefore, complacent in my sameness. But I should remember, for the sake of both of my sons, what it feels like to be other in this world into which they will grow.

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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.


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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