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You've seen the trailer. It seemed to spread like wildfire (or coxsackie) through online mom communities from the moment of its release, and for good reason. It features a nearly unrecognizable Charlize Theron in the throes of a harrowing fourth trimester.


A montage of relatable scenes (set to a track with an ironic carnival feel) runs us through the endless carousel of comforting, feeding, diaper changes, pumping and sleeplessness many of us associate with those early newborn days. It's equal parts funny and relatable.

The film itself hits both of those chords, but also moves to a darker, stranger place, one not expressly hinted at in the trailer.

This is Tully: The latest Diablo Cody-penned, Jason Reitman-directed collaboration, their third to date. They joined forces again to create the rawest (and at select moments, the funniest) portrayal of the postpartum period that I've yet seen brought to screen. All three Cody/Reitman films clock in around a tight 90 minutes, and all three are character studies of a uniquely (well, by Hollywood standards) complex female lead.

Tully is not without its flaws, as the controversy currently surrounding the film and its portrayal of maternal mental health makes clear. But because I believe in my (hopeful, feminist, film-loving) heart that representation moves the conversation forward, I'm grateful for its release.

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Theron plays (or, dissolves into the role of) Marlo, a woman on the verge. On the verge of having her third child, a pregnancy which by all accounts appears to be unplanned and at least a little unwelcome, and on the verge of mental, emotional and physical collapse. She enters scenes pregnant-belly-first, the weight of her world, and all she carries, made literal.

To put it lightly, she's overwhelmed—a feeling most moms can relate to, at least to some degree. She is a pregnant, working mother in her early 40's, with two children, one with undiagnosed special needs.

He is consistently referred to as "quirky," to the point where the script seems to be underlining the frustration of raising a child whose special needs are constantly reduced to euphemism. He kicks Marlo's seat and yells incessantly as they drive to his private school, a place that responds to the quandary of how to best support him with a shrug.

Marlo's husband (portrayed evenly, and toward the end, touchingly, by Ron Livingston) is a loving father, though he remains nearly oblivious to Marlo's struggle. She's touched out, and he's tuned out.

At times throughout this first act, notably in an early scene in a coffee shop, Marlo seems to be almost sleepwalking through her daily life. She has a chance run-in with a woman who barely recognizes this very pregnant, very tired, suburban-dwelling iteration of her old friend Marlo, shedding light on her free-spirit past (plus a drop of foreshadowing for a later scene).

The old friend lets Marlo know she's still living at "the loft" in Bushwick—a particularly hip sector of Brooklyn—before speeding off on her motorbike. As Marlo watches her pull out on that vehicular symbol of freedom, you can practically hear her inner monologue asking, "How exactly did I get here?"

Marlo's cartoonishly rich-and-hip brother (his dog is named Prosecco and his elementary-aged daughter plans to perform "pilates" for her school talent show) offers to fund a night nurse for Marlo as a baby gift, expressing concern as he alludes to her past struggle with postpartum depression.

He later confides he "just wants his sister back," saying that he feels like her flame has been snuffed out. This analogy lands perfectly—even from a formal perspective, the beginning of the film feels like we meet Marlo in this dimmed place. Her home is dark, dull and a little stained-feeling, the screen taking on a dim and yellowed tone, echoed in her wardrobe—all physical manifestations of the world, outlook and season of life she currently inhabits.

Marlo initially balks at the idea of a night nanny, put off by the concept of trusting her newborn's life (and precious early bonding days) to a stranger. Then, a particularly upsetting episode at her son's school leaves her screaming with frustration in the school parking lot. (I found this scene to be particularly effective, as her minivan seems to represent the trappings of her #momlife, and the world-closing-in feeling that is enveloping her). She calls the night nanny.

And just like that, we meet Tully, the 26-year-old Manic Pixie Dream Nanny, who pokes her head through the doorframe to change the course of the film. Though their initial encounter and baby hand-off is appropriately awkward, I felt actual bodily relief when Tully looked earnestly at Marlo and said the simple words, "I'm here to take care of you."

Marlo doesn't know how to react, admitting she's not used to being cared for, and pointing out that she hired a nanny to care for the baby, not the mama. Tully counters that at this stage in the postpartum game, mama and baby are more like parts of the same whole: Emotionally, but also on a biological level—down to the very molecules still present in Marlo's body.

Tully is prone to these kind of offhand, philosophical-with-a-touch-of-science musings, in response to a straightforward question posed by Marlo. This recurrent bit underscores the split between the two vastly different worlds they inhabit.

After one particularly funny exchange, Marlo shakes her head, telling Tully she's like a "book of facts for an unpopular fourth grader." I see this split between worlds echoed in a recurrent dream Marlo has—a deep, cloudy, underwater shot shows either a woman struggling, trying to kick her way to the surface, or a mermaid, gracefully cutting through the deep. To me, the mermaid seems like Marlo's younger, freer, aspirational self, and a lot like Tully, swimming through life. (The drowning is, well, where we met Marlo a few pages back).

Tully has that kind of warm, immediately-intimate nature that always makes me a little wary of a new acquaintance. She slides right into the night shift of Marlo's life, snuggling the baby and sending Marlo off to bed. She cleans the house and brings the baby to Marlo's room *only* when she needs to nurse, waiting patiently (and a little eerily) in the dark of the room until the baby is done. Buoyed by this increase in sleep and support, the fog on Marlo's life begins to lift.

Marlo's regard for Tully moves from head-tilting suspicion, to trust, to a real affection. As the women bond, we see the light begin to turn back on within Marlo, she starts to laugh again, and starts to look at her new baby and smile. She also starts to stay up later, spending personal time with the nanny as she reconnects with the parts of herself that weren't visible at the start of the film, buried as they were under exhaustion, stress and likely PPD.

Things take a darker turn when the lines become increasingly blurred between the two women, as things are taken to a far more intimate/personal level. One night, the pair spontaneously head out for a night out in Marlo's old Brooklyn stomping grounds, where Marlo hits peak nostalgia for the way things once were, before having to call it a night due to her aching, unemptied breasts. (S/O to Tully for being a real one, and helping Marlo cope with this issue in the bathroom of a grimy dive).

The night also signals the end for the pair, as Tully lets Marlo know it's now time for her to leave, explaining she was nearly a stopgap to help Marlo get through those rough early days. Marlo doesn't want to hear it, but she doesn't have a choice. Their wild night out comes to a literal crashing halt when they get in a car accident on the drive home, the car plunging deep into a river, pulling the visual of Marlo's earlier dreams through to nightmarish reality.

I won't explicitly spoil the film's twist and resolution in this little ol' write-up, though the curious can very easily access that info with a click. I will admit that I found the ending to be less-than-wholly-satisfying from a narrative POV, though I did like the very final sequence of the film, particularly the tender moments between Marlo and her son, and an understated exchange between Marlo and her husband. Both offer slivers of hope and seem to hint at the start of a new season for the family.

Though the film may ultimately fall a little short of it's early promise, I enjoyed it for a few reasons. For one: Tully made me reflect on the transition I went through after having my first baby, and the inevitable reckoning with my past, "pre-baby" self, as well as the need to let that actual past go. Marlo's relationship with Tully truly brings this reckoning to life—as she learns to re-embrace a representation of her younger self, and eventually, to let that younger self go and move on, in a real way.

After becoming a mom myself, it took me a while to navigate back to feeling wholly like "me." When I finally reconnected with that essential part of myself, it was like the kernel of my sense of self was still the same, but completely transformed.

The transformation (or, transformations) a woman will experience through on her journey as a mother are not readily addressed in our culture or in conventional media, and I am excited to see a film with broad release deal with the very realness of this reckoning.

Diablo Cody herself isa mother of three, and she wrote this script right after having her third baby. In a promo soundbite put out by Focus Features, she described why creating in that context was a unique artistic experience: "I don't think I've ever written anything in that super-vulnerable postpartum state before, and I'm glad I did...I was able to put those kind of raw feelings of fear and exhaustion into the script."

The maternal mental health community has been actively frustrated and angered by the film's ending, and what they consider an irresponsible depiction of perinatal mood disorders. I respect and understand these concerns, and think they're an important part of the conversation.

In the wake of this controversy, the New York Times asked Cody if she'd consulted a maternal mental illness expert before writing the script. She said she "absolutely did not," a decision she stands by. She explained that she wrote from her own experience, and her own research, offering that one movie cannot possibly tell everyone's story, positing, "So why can't we have 10 more movies?"

This spirit, right here, is why I'm glad this film was made, and why I'm glad it's being so talked about. As a mom, a doula and an all-around fan of women, I think the topic of maternal care—including both mental and physical health—needs all the attention it can get. The fact that this story was brought to screen, and that its encouraging such feverish debates, is to me, a positive. The fact that Cody wrote such a uniquely feminine piece, while in such a uniquely feminine state of body and mind, feels progressive.


Will this film singlehandedly flip the script on our culture's perception of the mental load of motherhood, postpartum depression, and provide concrete next steps for a massive increase of maternal support? No. It's just an idiosyncratic story. Like motherhood, it's messy and imperfect, a complicated blend of comedy and tragedy, love and pain.

But, the film is igniting a conversation. It's forward motion for how Hollywood portrays and considers the complexities of motherhood. It's unique insight into how becoming a mother can affect and transform a woman's sense of identity. I think that's a positive baby step.

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There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

This article is sponsored by Rack Room Shoes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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In America, mothers have the right to breastfeed their child in public, but what about when you're on an airplane? That's the issue one California mom, Shelby Angel, brought to light after she had a bad experience on Dutch airline KLM.

In a Facebook post that has gone viral Shelby explained:

"Before we even took off, I was approached by a flight attendant carrying a blanket. She told me (and I quote) "if you want to continue doing the breastfeeding, you need to cover yourself." I told her no, my daughter doesn't like to be covered up. That would upset her almost as much as not breastfeeding her at all. She then warned me that if anyone complained, it would be my issue to deal with (no one complained. On any of the flights I took with my daughter. Actually, no one has ever complained to me about breastfeeding in public. Except this flight attendant)."

Shelby's post gained traction but soon the conversation spread to Twitter, where another woman, Heather Yemm, asked KLM to explain its breastfeeding policy.

The airline responded, "To ensure that all our passengers of all backgrounds feel comfortable on board, we may request a mother to cover herself while breastfeeding, should other passengers be offended by this." Twitter users didn't like this response and even started asking other airlines about their breastfeeding policies.




British Airways confirmed it welcomes breastfeeding onboard and a Delta rep tweeted that the airline's policy is to "allow a breastfeeding mother to feed her child on board in a manner she feels comfortable with."

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That sounds like a good plan to us. Southwest was also questioned by Twitter users and confirmed that "Southwest does indeed welcome nursing mothers who wish to breastfeed on the aircraft and/or within our facilities".

This important online conversation underscores how vital it is for airlines to have supportive policies in place and train staff on those policies. Back in March, a Canadian mom made international headlines after an Air Canada call center representative told her to nurse in an airplane bathroom (a suggestion that is contrary to Air Canada's own policies).

It's time for every airline to recognize that breastfeeding needs to be welcomed and that all staff members need to understand this. Whether a mother uses a cover or not needs to be up to her, not a flight attendant or other passengers.

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I grew up with three brothers and yes, it was loud, crazy, chaotic, but also so much fun. We had vacations where we laughed a lot, Christmas Eves full of staying up late to listen for Santa, and inside jokes that made me feel like I had my own little secret club. What I really loved about being in a big family was that it gave me a sense of community, so when I came home and the outside world had been cruel or harsh I had my people.

People always gasped when I said I had three brothers and no sisters like they weren't sure how I survived around so many barbarians. I never felt like I was missing out. My brothers are caring people, my mom was always around, and we all got married young giving me three sisters-in-law who I call close friends.

Now we all have our own families and we live 30 minutes from each other. We still manage to get together with all 12 of the cousins (all under 12, yes it's chaos) and laugh and make memories. My oldest brother has four kids, my second oldest has three, I have three, and my youngest brother has two and we pretty much all had them at the same time. We are also a very girl heavy bunch, only four boys total in the whole mix.

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Recently we were all on a family vacation and I was sitting around with my sisters-in-law and we were talking numbers, who was done having kids. My sister-in-law with four said she was overwhelmed, my other one said they were adopting one more and my other sister-in-law and I just said, we don't know. We both have three and four feels like a big jump.

It's funny how everyone talks about how you know when to start having kids but no one tells you how hard it will be to decide when your family is done. I know that's not true for everyone, I have lots of friends that just knew. Others never had the luxury of deciding and then some are like me living life on the fence hoping the fertility fairy will drop an answer in your lap.

I have to admit, I don't know if I'm done having babies. All these questions keep popping in my head.

If I have two girls and one boy should we go for the fourth and try for a brother?

Or if we have three girls will the level of drama be too high?

Or if one kid really likes one of their siblings and not the other should we have more?

Should we factor in age?

Should they be two grades apart or three or four?

Should we give up if it's too hard or will we regret it?

Should we adopt if we can or have another biological?

Should we close up shop and enjoy the kids we have?

Will our marriage survive another newborn season?

What is the perfect number?

There are a thousand possible scenarios and the questions just eat away at my brain. They keep me up at night. I'm not even kidding. I have laid in bed and played out every scenario and the possible outcome.

I do this because my childhood in all of its loud glory was the greatest gift my parents ever gave me. My brothers, our friendship, my parents' choice to fight for close-knit relationships, all of it was what gave me the foundation I needed.

So now as a parent myself, I want to give that same gift to my own kids.

What if there is no perfect number? What if you just choose to make family a safe, secure place, where your kids can feel valued and loved? Does it matter then if you have one, two, three, four or whatever number you have? Will the effect still be the same?

I think so.

The reality is though, I want what I had. I want a family where my kids feel this sense of community they might not get anywhere else and that's not a numbers game that's a culture thing.

I have had to come to accept that I have no guarantee and that there is no perfect number. Each family comes with its own set of complications, joys and strengths. The uniqueness is actually part of the fun.

We have two girls and a boy now and I watch my girls bond as sisters and think, oh this is what people were talking about. Sure, I wish my son had a brother but he has two amazing sisters that love on him and will even dress up like superheroes sometimes.

We still don't know if we are "done" but we do know our family is already great and the number isn't as important as what we choose to make important.

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Life

My darling,

I'm not entirely sure why I do things like this to myself, but tonight, as I rocked our night-before-turning-1-year-old daughter to sleep I closed my eyes and, for about 10 minutes, I pictured what our life will look like in 10 years.

(You're probably reprimanding me for doing that in your head right now. 😂)

In 10 years, our three daughters will be almost 15, almost 13, and 11—not a single-digit in sight. We'll be dealing with high school and middle school and hormones and the start of love interests and things that aren't diaper changes and baby proofing and teething.

We won't be rocking them to sleep anymore or cutting up their food. And I'm sure we'll miss the validation of being the ones who keep their world turning because simply put—we won't be the center of their Universe anymore.

Instead of them needing us to lay with them until they fall asleep, they will need us to remind them that it's bedtime at 9 pm, 10 pm, then again at 11 pm.

Instead of tripping over dolls strewn about the floor, we will be tripping over lacrosse sticks and backpacks and bras.Instead of needing our help to break up fights over magnatiles, they'll need us to break up fights over who stole who's shirt.

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Instead of wiping tears from a meltdown over receiving the "wrong" dinner plate, we will be wiping tears from a heartache over a fight with a friend.

Instead of needing us to carry them around when they say they're too tired to walk, they will need us to pick them up from after-school activities and drive them around town.

Instead of teaching them how to tie their shoes or say "thank you," we will be teaching them how to drive and how to stay safe and be a respectful member of our community.

It will be a whole new world.

I will become the woman who looks at a baby and can almost feel her ovaries ache. We will hold new nieces and nephews and wish that we could relive that high of meeting our child for the first time again—just one more time. We'll say things like, "Wow, it seems like just yesterday our kids were this small…"

This past weekend, when we were hosting our third first birthday party, we reminisced on when each of our children were born and how it seems like they are growing up so quickly. Because they are. It seems like we blinked, and now our newborn from last year is a walking, chit-chatting, climbing, busy toddler.

I started to cry during my little torture-myself-10-years-ahead-meditation tonight. (Not totally surprising, right?) Because 10 years down the line—while I am certainly confident we will be happy and fulfilled—everything will be different. There will be new milestones to be proud of and new adventures to embark on, of course. But it won't be like it is now.

These—right now—are the good ol' days of our future.

The stories we will reminisce on are happening now... when we discover that our toddler knows how to climb on the kitchen table and laughs at us when she sees us see her… or when we watch our preschooler tie her shoes for the first time courtesy of the bunny ear method... or the million times our heart bursts when our middle kiddo busts out her signature move of sticking her hand down her shirt and asking for a pacifier when she's tired.

The moments we will never forget are happening now… the sound of the high pitched sing-song voice belting out "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid… the giggles when we're all running around the house… the way they look when they're sleeping—so peaceful and angelic—even if they were going buck wild 10 minutes prior.

The "remember whens" we will laugh about when our kids seem too grown up and the parenting challenges seem too serious—are happening now...

Like when one of our children poops in the backyard playhouse (I won't name any names)... or how another one of our children "bakes" concoctions that consist of garlic powder, chili powder, vanilla, ginger, water, baking soda and salt (and yes, also how I try them because she always asks me to and because I always feel bad not supporting her baking endeavors).

We will look back, and we won't necessarily focus on the blood, sweat and tears that we have poured into raising young children together. Sure, we will remember how hard it was—but I really think we will look back on these physically and emotionally taxing years with rose-tinted glasses.

The feeling of utter overwhelm and constant chaos will have dimmed. The sleep struggles and multiple meltdowns will pale in comparison to the relationship drama and social media worries of the pre-teen and teenage years. We will have more time for conversation and date nights instead of often feeling like ships passing in the night.

And so my hunch is this: We will faintly remember the hard times down the line. But, in 10 years, when we look back—we will let the good times shine.

In 10 years, I'll be sad—in a happy way—looking back on the beginning stages of the life we've built together.

The days when happiness was measured in how many twirls one could do before collapsing into laughter.

The days when love was measured in sloppy, peanut butter covered kisses.

The days when peace was measured in how calm bedtime could be and how quiet the house could get post-bedtime.

The days when we were their everything; their Universe.

The good 'ol days.

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Instead of needing our help to break up fights over magnatiles, they'll need us to break up fights over who stole who's shirt.

Instead of wiping tears from a meltdown over receiving the "wrong" dinner plate, we will be wiping tears from a heartache over a fight with a friend.

Instead of needing us to carry them around when they say they're too tired to walk, they will need us to pick them up from after-school activities and drive them around town.

Instead of teaching them how to tie their shoes or say "thank you," we will be teaching them how to drive and how to stay safe and be a respectful member of our community.

It will be a whole new world.

I will become the woman who looks at a baby and can almost feel her ovaries ache. We will hold new nieces and nephews and wish that we could relive that high of meeting our child for the first time again—just one more time. We'll say things like, "Wow, it seems like just yesterday our kids were this small…"

This past weekend, when we were hosting our third first birthday party, we reminisced on when each of our children were born and how it seems like they are growing up so quickly. Because they are. It seems like we blinked, and now our newborn from last year is a walking, chit-chatting, climbing, busy toddler.

I started to cry during my little torture-myself-10-years-ahead-meditation tonight. (Not totally surprising, right?) Because 10 years down the line—while I am certainly confident we will be happy and fulfilled—everything will be different. There will be new milestones to be proud of and new adventures to embark on, of course. But it won't be like it is now.

These—right now—are the good ol' days of our future.

The stories we will reminisce on are happening now... when we discover that our toddler knows how to climb on the kitchen table and laughs at us when she sees us see her… or when we watch our preschooler tie her shoes for the first time courtesy of the bunny ear method... or the million times our heart bursts when our middle kiddo busts out her signature move of sticking her hand down her shirt and asking for a pacifier when she's tired.

The moments we will never forget are happening now… the sound of the high pitched sing-song voice belting out "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid… the giggles when we're all running around the house… the way they look when they're sleeping—so peaceful and angelic—even if they were going buck wild 10 minutes prior.

The "remember whens" we will laugh about when our kids seem too grown up and the parenting challenges seem too serious—are happening now...

Like when one of our children poops in the backyard playhouse (I won't name any names)... or how another one of our children "bakes" concoctions that consist of garlic powder, chili powder, vanilla, ginger, water, baking soda and salt (and yes, also how I try them because she always asks me to and because I always feel bad not supporting her baking endeavors).

We will look back, and we won't necessarily focus on the blood, sweat and tears that we have poured into raising young children together. Sure, we will remember how hard it was—but I really think we will look back on these physically and emotionally taxing years with rose-tinted glasses.

The feeling of utter overwhelm and constant chaos will have dimmed. The sleep struggles and multiple meltdowns will pale in comparison to the relationship drama and social media worries of the pre-teen and teenage years. We will have more time for conversation and date nights instead of often feeling like ships passing in the night.

And so my hunch is this: We will faintly remember the hard times down the line. But, in 10 years, when we look back—we will let the good times shine.

In 10 years, I'll be sad—in a happy way—looking back on the beginning stages of the life we've built together.

The days when happiness was measured in how many twirls one could do before collapsing into laughter.

The days when love was measured in sloppy, peanut butter covered kisses.

The days when peace was measured in how calm bedtime could be and how quiet the house could get post-bedtime.

The days when we were their everything; their Universe.

The good 'ol days.

Life

There are a lot of points during labor when mothers do not have any control over what's going on with their body. The one thing they usually have, if giving birth vaginally, is their ability to push. But a recent report by Vice highlights the fact that in some hospital delivery rooms, women are being told to stop pushing, even when the urge is nearly irresistible. And in some cases, this may be happening for some very troubling reasons.

"If a woman's cervix is fully dilated and she has the urge, she should be allowed to push, barring some unusual complication with mother or baby," Dana Gossett, chief of gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco, Medical Center, told Vice.

Writer Kimberly Lawson gathered anecdotal evidence suggesting that in many situations, hospital nurses are telling women to stop pushing because the doctor or midwife isn't available to deliver the baby. In some cases, women even report nurses forcing a baby's crowning head back into the birth canal.

"I've never felt a more painful experience in my life [than] being strapped down and forced to hold a baby in," says Elaina Loveland, a mother who was told to stop pushing because there were no beds available at the hospital when she arrived. "It was almost worse than the pushing. It was horrible."

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In addition to pain, women made to resist the urge to push may experience other complications. Delayed pushing sometimes causes labor to last longer, puts women at higher risk of postpartum bleeding and infection, and puts babies at a higher risk of developing sepsis, according to a study released last year. One midwife explained in the article that holding the baby in can damage a mother's pelvic floor, which might later cause urinary incontinence.

In one extreme case, Caroline Malatesta, a mother of four in Alabama said that when a nurse forced her baby's head back in, she caused permanent damage. After four years of chronic pain from a condition called pudendal neuralgia, she won a $16 million lawsuit against the hospital.

Nurses aren't necessarily being cruel when they instruct mothers to stop pushing, by the way. They may be hoping to prevent other complications, such as problems with the umbilical cord or shoulder dystocia. A doctor or midwife is better trained to correct such situations, and can also help prevent perineal tearing.

If hospital staff are instead making these decisions because of a shortage of obstetricians or hospital beds for expectant mothers, there's a systemic problem that needs to be addressed. As people have grown increasingly aware of the high rate of maternal deaths after childbirth, issues like these could point out where there's room for improvement.

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