This is: Birth

We started our curated This is: Birth film series to give representation to the many varied ways that women give birth. Shot by talented independent videographers, these birth films can be a resource for the expecting mama or anyone who is curious to see what birth really looks like.

This is birth: A surrogacy journey

Watch the amazing journey between a surrogate and the family she carried four children for.

"This is the story of their family, how they were able to bring children they so very much wanted into the world." -Videographer Jennifer Hamilton / Mamarazzi Photography

Read more about their journey here

This is birth: A C-section story

"On the day that our son was born via C-section, I witnessed a whole new level of strength and bravery come over my wife. A level that I will never be able to experience. All I could do was hold her hand while they put her under. Then it was my turn to be strong and brave—not just for her, but for our son. I held him in my arms, telling him, 'mom will be here soon.'"

C-section birth story: Watch the intimate, beautiful way that No Way Jose Photography documented him and his wife becoming parents.❤️👩👩👦

This is Birth: Bekah Martinez's serene + empowered waterbirth

Bekah Martinez's birth story: After 28 hours of laboring at home, the Bachelor star welcomed her first daughter Ruth in an unmedicated waterbirth, while surrounded by her partner, mother and care providers.💙

Bekah tells Motherly, "When the time came I was able to fully relax and surrender. People have commented on how in-control I appear, but it was quite the opposite. I surrendered all my control and it made the experience so much more peaceful."

Read more about Bekah's birth story here

Film by Lauren Guilford Photography

This is birth: A NICU birth story

A NICU birth story: After arriving 5 weeks early and spending 15 days in the NICU, we're happy to report Henry is now thriving. (Stick around until the end to see the cutest update photos 😍.)

"Our culture fantasizes the perfect birth and bonding experience. When your baby is in the NICU following birth, there are so many bittersweet emotions that accompany this experience. Many mamas (including myself) have faced this situation, and yet, we see so little representation of it through media. I believe it's important to see how that love is still shown and is still felt by your baby, even when they need extra help in the NICU."

- Stacey, SMA Photography

This is birth: A family home birth story

A family home birth story: Watch this calm mama deliver her second child with her firstborn daughter and husband by her side. 👨👩👧👦

"She was completely inward and riding the powerful waves of labor, unaware of anyone else in the room ... As soon as baby's head came out, mama smiled, laughed and then gently guided the baby out and onto her belly.
Whether it's a home birth, hospital birth, C-section, or surrogate birth, you are becoming a parent, and that's a HUGE deal. It's life-changing. In the end, we are all going through an immense transition."

—Videographer Maggie Cuprisin, Chicago Birth and Baby Photos

This is birth: Dad helps deliver his daughter

Dad helps deliver his daughter: Watch this fierce mama give birth to her first baby, assisted by her midwife and supportive husband. 💓

"The midwives gave Aaron (the dad) the option of delivering and he was so excited. My favorite part is when Lauren (the mom) lifts up WHILE SHE IS CROWNING to kiss Aaron on the cheek. She told me she was just so happy they were becoming a family!"

- Videographer Jessica Worland Photo

This is birth: A lesbian couple's birth story

Watch these two mamas calmly navigate a 70-hour labor and unplanned C-section to finally meet their baby boy, Milo. Sound on to hear the encouraging words of this mama's partner. 💙

"I am so grateful that we had a team that was so supportive of our wishes at every step of the way, even when we asked that our videographer be allowed into the surgery room. The birth of our son couldn't have been captured more beautifully."

Film by videographer Angie Klaus

This is birth: First-time parents' NICU journey

First-time parents' NICU journey: Witness the undeniable bond between this husband and wife as they document their birth story in a unique way. 💞

"Tensions were high when the mom went into labor earlier than expected. She had many questions and was nervous about having a baby in the NICU. After weeks of visiting her baby in the hospital, he was finally able to come home."

-Videographer Savvy Films

This is birth: With my sister by my side

Watch this incredibly calm mama undergo her second C-section with help from her loving and supportive sister.

"I knew that I was coming to document a birth where there would be no dad by mom's side. But when I opened the door, I found Moehau peacefully waiting in her bed with her sister Leilani by her side. The bond between the sisters is beautiful and powerful, it is all that I hope for my own children."

- Videographer Benedicte Lechrist, Maui Life Stories

This is birth: A powerful first cry

"Sweet Addison made a big entrance. The moment in between her delivery and her first cry was powerful. Mom and dad spoke to their tiny love telling her how glad they were that she was here as the midwives worked to help her take in and release her first breath. Then came the most perfect cry that held the room captive."

- Videographer Eucharisteo Films

This is birth: An adoption story

Watch the incredible moment when a family meets their newborn for the first time in the hallway of a hospital.

The videographer explains, "This experience was so different from other birth sessions. More than just the fact it was an adoption, the connection was so moving. This mother had spent months waiting for the opportunity to be Adela's mother and wondering whether it would even happen. All of the fear and excitement just melted away when she held her daughter in her arms."

—Videographer Johnny TJ Cheramie of Something Southern Photography

This is birth: A hypnobirthing story

Watch this mama give birth at home while practicing hypnobirthing, which focuses on specific relaxation and calming techniques that help manage pain during labor.

"I remember how calm and relaxed the mom was. During the labor, classical music was playing and she moved to the music. I know other women who have tried hypnobirthing, and they weren't impressed, but she mastered it. I believe it's really important to not compare birth experiences. Every woman is free to express herself during labor; there is no competition, you can scream or you can be calm."

- Videographer Chiara Doveri Photography Familien- und Kinderfotografie in Berlin

This is Birth: A C-section gender reveal

Watch the precious moment when this mama wakes up and finds out the gender of her baby.

"Due to some health complications, Joyous needed to have a C-section performed. One of the good unknowns with this labor was that the parents decided to not know the gender of the baby until after the birth. When they both find out, they are totally overwhelmed with emotion. It was amazing to witness their love for their newborn, and also the relief that everyone was healthy after so much uncertainty."
- Videographer K+A Films

This is birth: A midwife birth story

Watch these skilled midwives help baby Ezra take his first breath.

"The midwives were fantastic. They remained very calm and quickly grabbed the equipment needed to help Ezra breathe. The room was calm, and it was clear the midwives had everything under control. Megan calmly spoke to Ezra and gently rubbed his stomach until she heard his first cry, she then brought him up to her chest with a look of complete relief." Kailee Riches Photography

(Content warning: this film includes a tense moment before baby takes his first breath—but with skillful care, it quickly becomes clear he is perfectly healthy).

This is birth: An unmedicated hospital birth

"The moment of becoming a mother is a feeling that really can't be described. So many emotions rush to you and before you know it, you have this beautiful baby in your arms."

In this birth film, captured by Stephanie Shirley Photography, a first-time mama has an unmedicated hospital birth with her supportive husband and doula by her side.

This is Birth: A rainbow birth story

Watch this strong mama and her supportive husband work as a team to bring their rainbow baby into the world.

The videographer Rebecca Cantrelle Photography explains, "After battling infertility, loss, and a tough pregnancy—with hyperemesis gravidarum, gestational diabetes, and concerns of preeclampsia—this mama was induced on her due date. On the second day of induction, active laboring began. She finally welcomed her baby boy, Avery, at 4 a.m. on the third day! The experience was so serene, so powerful, and there was so much love."

This is birth: A boy mom story

Watch this family welcome their third boy—all, amazingly, delivered in the same hospital room—room 303. The proud big brothers will melt your heart.

"I think it's great for other women to see what different births look like—whether it's a home birth in water, a hospital birth with an epidural, a c-section, or somewhere in between—all births are beautiful, unique, and special!" - Videographer The Grays Photography

This is birth: A home waterbirth story

Watch as this sweet family of three becomes four.

Videographer for Birth Love Story on why capturing birth is important:
"The reason I find capturing birth is important I say as a client, as a mother: I married to create a family. I invested in lasting memories from my wedding day and I wanted no less from the day my babies joined our family. I wanted all the raw emotion, all the pain and tears, all the smiles and tears of joy. And I got it all. So I want all moms to have the same treasure I am lucky to have!"

This is birth: A NICU twins' journey

See the NICU through this mama's eyes, as she beautifully captures her twins' journey.

"I'm pretty sure everyone in the hospital thought I was crazy when I was wheeled in and started recording my labor. But when so much is out of your control, it's nice to have something to do. And hiding behind my camera was a comfort. There is nothing harder than leaving the hospital empty-handed, with your brand-new babies staying behind. I bawled every time I had to leave. Capturing my NICU babies on film allowed me to take a little piece of them home with me each day." - Videographer + mama Sarah Krieg Photography

This is birth: A family hospital birth

"I love how different and sweet every mama's emotions are after pulling their baby to their chest. Some are in shock, some weep, some laugh...nothing compares to that feeling of finally holding your baby in your arms!" - Videographer Alma Heirlooms

Watch this fierce mama work through the unmedicated birth of her second child with the support of her husband and firstborn.

This is birth: A delivery room gender reveal

Watch this mama welcome her 6th—but first "team green"— baby into the world!

These parents own a videography company —Eran and Aubs Photography and Videography— so dad captured the birth film himself:
"It was the first time out of 6 pregnancies that we didn't know the gender. We facetimed some family members (our children included) so they could watch the birth and find out the gender along with us... Its something that I still go back to watch often. Video and audio has a way of bringing back all of the memories of that day in a way that pictures can't do."

This is birth: An epidural birth story

This quietly beautiful birth film features a strong mama laboring in a birth center with epidural pain management.

Candice MacDonnell - Family Films and Photography says, "The thing that struck me the most was Ariel's persistence. Even though her little girl's birth didn't go quite as planned, she still gave it her all, and was a warrior in bringing her earthside. As soon as she held her baby and became a mom for the first time, I could sense her instant, overwhelming love for this tiny little human."

This is birth: An HBAC story

Watch this intense, inspiring video of a strong mama calmly catching her baby herself during her HBAC (home birth after cesarean).

"I remember how uniquely quiet it all was, as mom was using the Hypnobabies method. She said two things while I was there before birthing her son—'I'm ready to get in the tub' and 'his head is out.' Witnessing how she trusted her body so much showed me how peaceful and powerful birth can be." - Tampa Birth Photographer - Dear Little One, founder of Birth United

This is birth: A birth center story

"Birth is intense. It's beautiful. It's transformative. It's both an immense biological process AND an incredible emotional process. You can't find the same heights and depths of emotion in any other type of photography."

In this birth film, captured by Monet Nicole - Birthing Stories, this first-time mama arrived at the birth center already 8 cm dilated. She labored and delivered with her husband by her side the entire time.

This is Birth: A Home Birth Story

"Birth is not always the hurricane many times portrayed in the media; it is not a physical ailment, it is beautiful, to be respected, to be studied in a balanced way and the complications that can arise prepared for - but allowed safe space to happen naturally when things go normally; our bodies are designed perfectly for it."
- Videographer Impressions - Birth & Lifestyle Stories on the importance of sharing real representations of birth.

Watch this video of a strong, second-time mama working hard through a VBAC delivery in her home.

This is birth: A NICU birth story

After arriving 5 weeks early and spending 15 days in the NICU, we're happy to report Henry is now 8 months old and thriving. (Stick around until the end to see the cutest update photos.)

"Our culture fantasizes the perfect birth and bonding experience. When your baby is in the NICU following birth, there are so many bittersweet emotions that accompany this experience. Many mamas (including myself) have faced this situation, and yet, we see so little representation of it through media. I believe it's important to see how that love is still shown and is still felt by your baby, even when they need extra help in the NICU." - Videographer http://sma-photography.com/

This is birth: A first-time mama's hospital birth

This beautifully shot video captures the nerves and joyful anticipation of giving birth for the first time.

"Torie was realistic, strong, and leaned on her birth team throughout the experience. With every worry of 'how much longer' or 'how much harder will it be,' she was able to refocus her energy into knowing that with each surge, her baby was getting closer. Emotions were high among everyone present, and I think we all could relate to her eagerness to meet her son." - Videographer Forevermore Films

This is birth: A waterbirth story

Watch a second-time mama's peaceful water delivery in a birth center, while surrounded by her loving family.

The videographer explains, "I got a call early that morning that the mother had been laboring throughout the night. The birth was like a dance—her family supported her though each contraction. The midwife thought she was in early labor so she left to get a snack but heard her start to push and came back. The baby was born maybe 10 minutes later." — Zura Lagarde Photography

This is birth: An induced labor

"There's no single way to labor or give birth and I think that aspect of childbirth is so incredible. Alyssia is a close friend of mine, so I remember her expressing that she was a little nervous and unprepared to be induced. Well, that girl amazed me (as do all the mamas I witness!) She quickly kicked fear to the curb and changed her mindset. It was all about bringing a healthy baby boy into the world and she did beautifully." - Videographer Alma Heirlooms

This is birth: A family hospital birth

A family hospital birth story: Watch this fierce mama work through the unmedicated birth of her second child with the support of her husband and firstborn.
"I love how different and sweet every mama's emotions are after pulling their baby to their chest. Some are in shock, some weep, some laugh...nothing compares to that feeling of finally holding your baby in your arms!" - Videographer Alma Heirlooms

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

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

The holidays are almost here. The next months will be filled with twinkling lights, delicious food and the gathering of friends and family. This is a joyous time, but it can be a stressful one, too. If someone in your life has recently become a parent, they likely have a few extra concerns on their minds. From keeping the baby healthy to figure out their new normal, they have a lot going on.

I know you love them and want the absolute best for them and the baby. It's just that sometimes when there's a new baby, it's hard to remember what we should or shouldn't do; because #allthesnuggles.

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Don't worry, we've got you.

Here are 10 rules to remember when spending time with newborns for the holidays:

1. Wash your hands

The holidays are smack in the middle of the cold and flu season. And new babies are particularly susceptible to illnesses—they likely haven't had vaccines yet, and their tiny immune systems are just firing up.

Combine both of these factors, and you get parents who are anxious about germs.

Reduce their stress level by washing your hands (without them having to ask). A simple, "let me just wash my hands before I pick up the baby" will show them that you are aware of the concern and doing your part—and that means they'll be more willing to give you plenty of baby-snuggle time.

And now to be the real Scrooge: if you're sick, please stay home. Passing an infection to an adult is one thing, but it can genuinely be life-threatening to a newborn.

2. Don't kiss the baby

Pediatricians tell new parents not to let other people kiss their newborns. Kissing is one of the easiest ways to pass an illness on to a baby (even when you don't have any symptoms yet). The parents are likely feeling awkward about this—they do not want to ask you not to kiss the baby. So, do them a favor and say, "I won't kiss them, I promise." If they do ask or need to remind you (we get it, the baby is SO kissable!), please try not to be offended. It's not you at all.

3. Respect the sleep schedule—yes, it really is that important

It can be tempting to want to throw schedules and routines to the wind during the holidays. But for parents of new babies, it may not be a possibility. These new parents know all too well that skipping that nap and delaying bedtime (by even 20 minutes) can wreak total havoc on their baby's sleep and the parents' well-being.

Support new parents as they hold firm to their routine. Don't ask them to "relax" or "break the rules just this once." Instead, offer to help them in their routine! Maybe you can assist with the baby's bath, or even take a middle of the night feeding. Instant family hero.

4. Don't comment on how she feeds her baby

The way a mama chooses to feed her baby is a personal, often very involved decision. Trust that she has made the best decision for her baby, herself and her family, and avoid commenting. If she brings it up, by all means, engage—please just do so without criticizing.

Here are a few comments to avoid:

  • "Why aren't you breastfeeding?"
  • "You're not going to breastfeed until they're a toddler, are you?"
  • "Are you sure you're making enough milk? The baby looks small."

Here are a few great comments (if she brings it up first):

  • "Oh, my baby had colic too! We loved this brand of bottles for that."
  • "Where would you feel most comfortable feeding the baby? There's a comfy chair right here, or you can use my bedroom upstairs."

5. Anticipate last-minute changes

Babies and unpredictability go hand-in-hand. Feeds, diaper blow-outs, fussiness and the inevitable "wait, I thought you packed the diaper bag" moments are bound to happen.

Keep in mind that there's a good chance that new parents will be late, or have to leave early; or both. They may also need to escape for bits of time throughout the event. Remember that this is stressful for a new parent, so do your best to respond with understanding and grace. They will appreciate your compassion.

6. Consider your gifts

I know, I KNOW! There is nothing more fun than shopping for a new baby. By all means, go for it, with a few considerations.

  1. Check her registry. If the baby was born recently, there's a good chance there are still unpurchased items on the registry. Check there first so you can be sure to get a gift that they really need.
  2. Size-up. You are not the only person who has been excited to shop for this new baby! She may have drawers full of clothing with the tags still on them. If you want to buy sweet baby clothes, buy a few sizes too big so that the baby can grow into them.
  3. Ask. Surprises are such fun, but new parents are often pretty strapped for cash—there may be something they really need but can't afford. So instead of going for that totally-adorable-but-not-super-necessary blanket (they already have five of them, by the way), call the new parents up and ask what they might need.
  4. Consider the parents. Let's be honest, the baby has no idea when you've given them a gift. Do you know who does? The parents. Instead of buying the baby something, what about getting the parents something that they may not treat themselves to? Let them know you're thinking about them too, and that they are still important (albeit not as cute as the baby).

7. Avoid commenting on what she's eating

If mama is breastfeeding, you might find that you are inadvertently paying more attention to what she is eating. It's because you love her and the baby, I get it! But, do your best not to comment.

There's actually very little scientific evidence that says women need to restrict their diet in any way while breastfeeding. If there is a severe allergy or issue, she might need to, but she'll be well-aware of what she needs to change. This goes for alcohol consumption, too. Let her enjoy her meal—and then bring her seconds. Favorite relative status granted.

8. Share the baby

Are you tempted to retreat into the corner with the baby all night long? We hear you! But, remember that everyone there wants to love on the baby, too, so make sure you're giving everyone their turn.

Psst: And then tell her that you want to babysit soon. She gets an evening out, and you get an evening of uninterrupted solo time with the baby.

9. Give the new baby + new mama some space

Some new mamas may want to be in a constant cocoon of love and support. Others may feel a bit overstimulated and crave some downtime. If you notice that the new mom and her baby have separated from the group, you can definitely check on them (in fact, it would be a nice gesture to do so). But then, give them some space.

The new mom may need a few moments of quiet, or she may be trying to give her baby a break from the noise and stimulation. They'll come back to join you soon, and be recharged and ready for more attention.

10. Remember her

A good friend spent her first Christmas as a mama at her in-laws. She had a great time, but she went upstairs to nurse the baby, and when she came back down, she found that they had opened almost all of the presents without her.

No one wants to eat cold food and delaying present opening can be tough. But remember that new moms often feel invisible, so do what you can to make sure the new mom feels included. Wait a few extra minutes so that she can be involved with as much of the festivity as possible. Ask her questions about her, not just the baby.

Let her know that she's still important, as a person, not just the baby's mom.

Most of the time, being inclusive isn't that hard. Actually, it's so easy, even 4-year-olds can grasp it. That's the message body acceptance activist and Instagram user Milly Smith wanted to share when she posted a photo of her son, Eli, explaining a very simple thing: "Some men have periods too. If I can get it, so can you."

Theoretically, it is easy to get the fact that non-binary people and some trans men menstruate. Usually, body-affirming hormone treatments stop them from menstruating, but that's not always the case. Sometimes their period will stop for years but make a surprise return for a variety of reasons, such as a medication change. Bodies like to keep us guessing like that.

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And yet, many of us, particularly cisgender people, fall back on our habitual ways of speaking about periods without even thinking about it. We have a hard enough time discussing menses as it is, so this may be one of the last vestiges of non-inclusive talk. When a young kid asks why mama is bleeding, the knee-jerk reaction could be to say, "It's just something that women do," hoping not to have to explain the finer points of sex and reproduction for a few more years.

But Smith is here to remind us not to do the knee-jerk thing.

"Eli has been told about periods since he saw blood on my pants a couple of years ago," Smith wrote on Instagram. "I didn't use the language of women have periods because it's not entirely inclusive. I told him that SOME women, SOME non binary people and SOME men have periods. It was easy for him to accept as he hadn't had to unlearn the engrained [sic] societal norm but if a 4-year-old can grasp it I'm sure most of us can have a crack at unlearning transphobic/misinformed norms and open our minds... ya think?"

Some corporations have begun to do their part to unlearn those gender stereotypes. According to PopSugar, Always announced in October that it was removing the Venus "female" symbol from its packaging. While the website for Thinx period underwear is still Shethinx.com, it has attempted to appeal to trans and nonbinary customers as well, referring to "people with periods." Last year, British period subscription service Pink Parcel launched a campaign that included trans man Kenny Jones as one of its spokespeople.

Sadly, a couple of ads and an Instagram featuring a cute kid have not quite solved the problem of transphobia in this world. Smith has turned off the comments on her post, probably because of negative backlash from the shining citizens of the internet. That's an upsetting reminder of how far we have to go.

But at least we can still enjoy Smith's concluding words, "It's not insulting to women, it's not discrediting women," she said of this change of wording. "It's opening up the community to make it a safe space for those who don't identify as women but still have periods."

The world isn't always black and white and it's time we start recognizing the beauty in accepting the grey areas.

Throughout my life, I have set really high standards for myself. I've always expected the absolute best. Inevitably, I set myself up for failure. Once I'd reached a goal, there was always a higher one to attain. I rarely stopped to enjoy and celebrate my successes. They always felt somehow anticlimactic. Instead, I wondered what I needed to set my sights on next.

I never stopped to wonder what I was trying to prove. And to whom.

It was only when I became a mom that I realized my pursuit of perfectionism couldn't continue.

Ironically, striving to be the perfect mom made me a worse mom.

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I couldn't achieve all the targets I set myself; I couldn't maintain the standards I had previously strived to meet. I couldn't work until I dropped.

Why?

Because my little one needed me.

My failed attempts at trying to complete household chores with a toddler in the room entailed that I had no choice but to let go of perfect. I didn't have control over things anymore: No matter how many parenting books I read, there was no manual for the unpredictable little creature who had abruptly transformed my life.

Striving to look like a supermodel wasn't even a remote possibility anymore (like it ever was?!), and I had to redefine what attaining a healthy body meant – losing pounds suddenly wasn't the most important thing anymore.

Suddenly, I needed to do things that I had previously perceived to represent procrastination and had, therefore, forbidden myself from doing… like taking care of myself. Relaxing. Napping.

I realized that if I continued trying to chase "perfect," I'd drive myself crazy. I'd drain myself. I'd break down. I'd scream and cry more often. I'd be the opposite of the role model I wanted to be for my daughter. I'd be the opposite of the calm, strong parent she needed. I'd be showing her that I couldn't make myself happy and that I would never be enough.

What's more, I wouldn't enjoy being a mom.

Our babies change so quickly. If we continually chase our shoulds, we kind of miss the fleeting moments of our babies' childhoods, the moments in which we make a connection with them.

That was exactly what I had been doing.

I recently made a list of all my shoulds, and the results scared me a little.

  • I should work more to achieve my business goals – I am constantly behind, especially compared to others.
  • I should write more – it is my passion, and my work and should be a priority after all.
  • I should be more active in social media
  • I should be a better steward of our finances and spend less money.
  • I should connect more with friends.
  • I should network more.
  • I should exercise more and be slimmer.
  • I should spend more time with my daughter.
  • I should spend more quality time with my husband.
  • I should be a more productive and efficient homemaker (an endless list of cleaning shoulds to feel guilty about).
  • I should educate myself more and learn to be a better parent.
  • I should be a better, more patient mom.

Yep… The list goes on.

However, one thing was particularly scary about my list of shoulds: I had to confront myself with the fact that I couldn't let myself be happy, couldn't let myself feel enough, couldn't let myself stop and enjoy life RIGHT NOW.

I was postponing my happiness, my life, my connection with my daughter.

I lived in the "if I do this, then ..." mode. If I am a better homemaker, a better parent, slimmer, had a more successful business…then. Then I can stop and relax. Then my life can start properly. Then I can be ... what? The perfect version of myself that would be allowed to be happy and be present? If I could just get all that work out of the way, I would have earned the trappings of perfectionism.

The problem is that there is always more work. There is always more to do. There is always someone else to compare me to. There is always the next thing I need to attain. There is always a new, better version of myself I'd need to become. Because nobody would say to me: "It's okay, it's enough. You've done it." I would have to be able to say that to myself. I would have to feel it.

In the meantime, my daughter would be missing the "mom right now." That was the only mom she needed. Me, because I was her mom, by design, however imperfect or unsuited for the job I felt.

Me, there, present.

Having realized all this, do I still read tons of parenting books and worry about what I should be doing? Sure.

Do I still have professional, personal, and even motherhood goals? Yes, most definitely.

I want to live my dreams and having goals is part of achieving this. However, I have contemplated to what end I want to reach those goals. I have defined what is important to me and what success actually looks like for me. And being present with my family and making a connection with my daughter is right at the top of that list. Breaking the habit of perfectionism is hard. So I make a habit of reminding myself every day: In motherhood, you need to find a balance between doing your best and giving yourself grace. You need to find joy in the imperfect now instead of waiting for the perfect "if I have achieved this, then" future.

You need to surrender.

Is anyone else absolutely freezing right now? Seriously, this cold is the REAL DEAL. In addition to facing unbearable temperatures, parents have the extra challenge of entertaining their kids—and themselves—during the long and dark months of winter.

Heading outside is such an awesome activity for newborns through adults—but what happens when it is absolutely freezing? Can you still take your sweet little bundle outside?

The answer is: maybe.

Children, especially babies, are more sensitive to temperature changes than adults. “Because they are less able to regulate their body temperature than adults, children can quickly develop a dangerously low body temperature (ie, become hypothermic). Newborn infants are prone to hypothermia because of their large body surface area, small amount of subcutaneous fat, and decreased ability to shiver," says The American Academy of Pediatrics.

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So, you are not overreacting by being nervous about taking them outside! The good news is there are ways to do it safely.

How to dress your baby for the cold weather

To keep warm, layers are the key (for adults and babies). But, it's very important not to overheat your baby by putting on too many layers—since overheating is dangerous for babies, too.

The general rule of thumb is that your baby should be dressed in one more layer than you feel comfortable in. If you are good with one long sleeve shirt, your baby should probably have a long sleeve onesie, plus another shirt on top of it.

If you're going for a stroller walk, dress baby warmly, then add a blanket or footmuff to keep them all snuggled up.

When playing outside, in addition to a winter coat and warm pants or snow pants, don't forget a hat and mittens. The most vulnerable parts of a little body are their chin, nose, ears, fingers and toes.

Remember, babies should not wear a winter coat, very thick clothing or blankets under the straps of their carseats—the straps will not cinch tightly enough around the baby if they do, which is unsafe in a crash.

Temperature guide for babies in the winter

Extreme cold starts to become a factor when the temperature drops below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit). You can still go outside, but it should not be for very long.

Once temperatures start to drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, it's best to stay inside if you can. Be sure to factor in wind chill when you're checking the weather—the wind can feel much, much colder, especially on sensitive baby skin.

When you're inside, the ideal temperature for your thermostat to be set at is 68-72 degrees. Remember that babies cannot have blankets (or anything) in the crib with them as it poses a risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. If you're concerned about baby being cold at night, we recommend sleep sacks!

What to watch out for

Keep a close eye on your baby (we know you always do) when you're playing outside. If you see any of these symptoms (from the Mayo Clinic) develop, give your pediatrician a call right away (or just call 911):

Hypothermia:

  • Shivering (note, babies don't shiver!)
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Weak pulse
  • Clumsiness
  • Sleepy or very low energy
  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Bright red, cold skin (in babies)

Frostbite:

  • Cold skin
  • Prickly, pins-and-needle feeling
  • Numbness
  • Red, white, bluish-white or grayish-yellow skin
  • Hard or waxy skin
  • Clumsiness and stiffness
  • Blistering

A few other tips

  • Have an emergency kit in your car in case you break down. Edmunds has a great emergency kit list of things like blankets, flashlights, granola bars and bottled water. You'll also want to make sure your gas tank is near full and the car's maintenance is up to date to avoid issues.
  • Consider pre-warming your car, but NEVER in a garage—even an open one.
  • Protect everyone's skin with baby-safe lotion or balms
  • Consider using a cool-mist humidifier to keep baby's air moist

The bottom line

You can still go outside, you just have to be aware. Dress babies in layers, follow safe carseat guidelines, and watch closely for any signs that baby is too cold. Don't stay out for too long, and if it's less than 20 degrees out, avoid going outside at all (a quick walk to a preheated car is okay).

Hang in there, mama. This season can be hard. Go into hibernation mode, focus on some real self-care and snuggles, and before you know it, the flowers will be in bloom and you'll be spending every waking second outside.

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