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What got me through the first raw months of motherhood? Messages from other moms

Whenever a Facebook friend has a baby, I send a direct message. I do this to welcome them into the journey of motherhood. A year ago, when my son was born, I received several messages myself from friends and acquaintances near and far. The messages were welcoming, understanding, inquisitive—and vastly different from the public, all-caps "CONGRATULATIONS!!" written on my wall.


While resting in a hospital bed with a painful abdominal scar, blurry head and confused breasts, these private messages were exactly the kind of welcome I needed. In addition to the well-wishes, I needed to know I wasn't alone.

Each mother I heard from had a story about how their birth, breastfeeding or postpartum experience had been different from their expectation. I had a traumatic birth and from this place of pain I felt like I was gaining an awareness of what really goes on in motherhood.

Beyond the polished pictures of smiling mommies and perfect babies, is the underground belly of mommyhood that no one talks about. Except, perhaps, in private inboxes.

"Let me know if you want to talk," some mothers said. Others confided long stories of their journey with postpartum depression. Even a high school teacher reached out to let me know his wife had gone through a rough time after their first was born and to offer support if I needed it.

At first I was surprised. Could motherhood really be this hard? I felt like I was waking up after surgery to find that I lived in a new world, one that would be a constant uphill climb, despite—or in addition to—the bliss and joy and fulfillment everyone had been raving about throughout my pregnancy. And it was a new world. It was an uphill climb. And because they knew this, those mothers were there. I was offered phone numbers, names of lactation consultants and just the opportunity to be honest.

It was a beautiful gesture and I couldn't help but wonder why this part of motherhood seemed so hidden.

I had a cocktail of bad birth and postpartum activity. An unexpected C-cection, followed by problems breastfeeding and postpartum depression tested all of my strength. My experience with having a baby and becoming a mother was ugly, soul-crushing and life-changing. In those early months of my baby's life, I felt I had lost much of the light I carried within me. The joy and hope I'd known all my life, but especially during pregnancy had vanished, and in its place, a never ending tape of shame and fear played in my head.

And yet, I only posted smiling faces online. Us, picturesque as Madonna and child, celebrated on Facebook with the happiest of emojis.

But I was broken on the inside and so alone. Then, I'd get a message from and old friend from yoga school saying, "I've been there. Call me if you want to talk." And my world would expand. I'd see in it those like me—who survived what I was certain I could not. The underground welcome wagon kept me tethered to humanity and guided me through the early months of motherhood.

Many of us feel motherhood is “supposed” to look like something sublime, particularly in the age of keeping up appearances on social media. But, the reality is that motherhood is hard. So, why do we do everything we can to avoid spoiling the “blissful motherhood” illusion?

I spent my whole life trying to perpetuate that illusion, but when motherhood hit, I could no longer sustain the ruse. My life and ego came crashing down with my hormones and the ability to hold it together became just out of my reach. As I became stronger, I became angrier.

Why do we, as women, feel forced to conceal the truth of the pain that come with varying stages of motherhood? These brave mothers and their messages were gentle nudges that I couldn't have done without. And they made me want to nudge—no, to PUSH with great force—the love they had shown to me.

I spent the first year of my son's life paying those mothers back for their grace. I was open about my struggle and wrote about it frequently. At times, it has felt bare and raw and filled with shame, but I have done it. I have done it for all of those mothers who wrote, and all the ones who feel alone. And when a friend has a baby, I write her a message. Because messages are safe, and private, and a new mommy deserves that space. I tell her I'm here if she needs to vent or has any questions in the early weeks of motherhood.

If she's joyful and experiencing the bliss that so many mommies feel, I'm so happy for her. I hope she never needs to text or call or say she's about to lose it. But if she does, I want her to know I'm here. I'm here, I've been there and she's not alone.

Beyond the shiny Insta-glam shots of birthing and newborn bliss, is the reality of motherhood. Several of us are here, holding space for the possibility of pain and ugliness. There is nothing more beautiful than the realness of motherhood and the sisterhood we may find there.

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Why do all of my good parenting or baby-focused inventions come after they've already been invented by someone else? Sigh.

Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

But it hasn't been. It's been more—as one of my favorite memes says—difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Because until this towel hit the bathtime scene, there was no easy-peasy way to pick up your squirming wet baby without drenching yourself and/or everything around you.

Plus, there is nothing cuter than a baby in a plush hooded towel, right? Well, except when it's paired with a dry, mess-free floor, maybe.

Check out our favorites to make bathtime so much easier:

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When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this

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Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.


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