Baby Brain Only Minor: How Pregnant Women Can Reduce Its Impact

Many mothers know the term baby brain. It describes the phenomenon of decreased memory during pregnancy. During my pregnancies, I worked well into the third trimester with no problems but did note the occasional odd memory lapse such as turning up to appointments on completely the wrong day something that had previously never happened to me.
A recent meta-analysis study by Deakin University examined baby brain in 20 studies looking at 1200 women. It found that baby brain was real but minor in its impact, with pregnant women having reduced cognitive function compared to non-pregnant women. Four out of five pregnant women experienced these symptoms.
“General cognitive functioning, memory, and executive functioning were significantly reduced during the third trimester of pregnancy, but not during the first two trimesters,” the authors wrote.
Published in the Medical Journal of Australia, the study found minor changes in cognitive function in pregnant women occurring early in pregnancy. Most changes did not become noticeable until the third trimester.
Women need not worry about baby brain as the cognitive lapses experienced were most commonly minor such as forgetting or failing to book appointments rather than an inability to perform at work. The researchers suggest that the results were consistent with recent findings of long term reactions in brain grey matter occurring during pregnancy.
According to lead author Sasha Davies:

“An intriguing study published last year showed there are reductions in grey matter in the brains of pregnant women in regions known to be closely tied to processing social information, such as decoding infant facial expressions and establishing healthy bonding between mum and baby. This presents a compelling idea that ‘baby brain’ is actually an important adaptive phenomenon that might help women prepare for raising their children by allowing their brains to adapt to their new role as new mothers.”

The researchers said that women reported changes to their executive functioning such as having more difficulty multi-tasking. “Women often report that multi-tasking seemed to be a bit harder [during pregnancy], and we found that was the case,” says co-author Linda Byrne.
The researchers suggested a range of things pregnant women can try to maximize their brain capacity whilst pregnant. These included:

  • Good sleep hygiene. Making sure you are well rested is important particularly in the first and last trimesters. The first and third trimesters are when pregnant women feel most fatigued so ensure adequate rest during these periods.
  • Maintaining good nutrition and exercise habits
  • Make use of memory aids, such as phone apps and reminders
  • Even if your memory was previously good making lists and writing reminders is a good way of just making sure that important things are not missed

It seems that baby brain is real, but only minor in its impact and may serve a function to help us be parents. More research is needed to learn how long it takes women’s baby brain to bounce back to normal after birth. If you experience baby brain when pregnant, rather than panicking about your mental state, using memory aid techniques and looking after your general well-being will likely limit any potential impact of temporary cognitive changes associated with pregnancy.

Why You May Want to Hide the Ibuprofen Bottle From Your Husband If You Are Trying to Get Pregnant

Getting pregnant is not a walk in the park for every couple who dreams of becoming parents. According to the CDC, one in 8 couples (or 12 percent of married women) in the United States have trouble getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term. Approximately one-third of infertility is attributed to the female partner, one-third to the male partner, and one-third is caused by a combination of problems in both partners or is unexplained.
If a couple is struggling to get pregnant, the last thing they want is another component in their lives that could inhibit fertility. Now a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shocked many by concluding that one of the most common over-the-counter medications used – ibuprofen – can impact male fertility.
Every day millions of people turn to ibuprofen to relieve headaches, fever symptoms, joint pain, muscle aches, and more. We are now learning that this pain reliever can have a negative impact on the testicles of young men. This current study was a follow up to previous research that explored the health effects as a result of pregnant women taking any one of three mild pain relievers: aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen. Those studies showed that when taken during pregnancy, all three medicines increased the likelihood that male babies would be born with congenital malformations of their testicles. Therefore, these drugs are anti-androgenic, which means they disrupt male hormones.
Following those studies, scientists wanted to explore if the medications would directly affect grown men. The research team recruited 31 male volunteers between the ages of 18 and 35. Fourteen of them were given a daily dose of ibuprofen: 600 milligrams twice a day, which is the maximum limit per instructions on ibuprofen bottles. The remaining 17 volunteers were given a placebo.
Within 14 days, the men taking ibuprofen showed a decrease in the level of luteinizing hormones, which is a sign of dysfunctional testicles associated with infertility. The researchers are not yet sure if the effects from the ibuprofen will be reversible over time.
Although small, this study is especially important because most drugs are not evaluated for their effects on human male fertility. However, one of the scientists involved in the study told CNN that there is evidence that some medications are harmful to the male reproductive system, including testosterone, opioids, antidepressants, antipsychotics, immune modulators, and even the over-the-counter antacid cimetidine (Tagamet).
Yet these adverse effects are rarely communicated to patients. Therefore, this news about ibuprofen and infertility may bring attention to the use of certain medications and help many couples who hope to be parents someday. It is also critical because a father’s use of ibuprofen may impact his children as well.
Overall, experts recommend that men who are planning to father a child should avoid ibuprofen and the other drugs shown to influence fertility. Although this new study indicates that ibuprofen disrupts the reproductive hormones in healthy young men, it is also possible that there is an even greater negative effect in men who already experience low fertility.
Finally, we will have to keep a look out for additional studies to see if taking common medications like ibuprofen can impact young boys and adolescent boys. Is it possible that taking ibuprofen for a headache at a young age can later impact that boy’s chance of becoming a dad? Every parent will certainly want to know the answer to that question.

Reflections on the First 30 Days of Parenthood From Dads Who’ve Been There

We discussed fears, coping, breastfeeding, partnerships, and advice with five rad dads. While each have different stories, many sentiments remain the same.

Fatherhood is an amazing experience … but it doesn’t always start out that way. That’s as true for first-time dads as it is for first-time moms. The moment your child comes into the world, you’re responsible for the survival of a living, breathing, constantly excreting creature.
Between the jarring change to your everyday routine, the sleepless nights, and the nagging suspicion that you’ll never be even remotely as important as Mom, most new dads experience at least a few moments of “What the hell did I just do?!” in those first weeks.

Meet the dads

Parent Co. Studio recently spoke with five dads: Mike (five-year-old son and a new baby arriving any day), Andy (10-month-old daughter), Don (two-month-old son), Jon (five-year-old and two-year-old daughters), and Ben (13-month-old son).
We discussed fears, coping, breastfeeding, partnerships, and advice (tap a topic to jump). Here’s what we learned:

What was the most unexpected thing about becoming a new parent a.k.a. what freaked you out the most?

There’s a popular stereotype about dads being these big dumb oafs who are simply too lazy, too stupid, or both to worry about the myriad dangers facing their babies. (A Google search of “Don’t Leave Babies With Dad” yields 155 million results.)
The dads we spoke with, however, were not only hyper-aware of the sheer responsibility of their new role; they were worried about EVERYTHING. The temperature of the baby bottle, the security of the car seat, the minefield of that first bath, and, of course, the innumerable dangers out of their control all registered like a 7.0 earthquake on the Dad Richter Scale.
Each of these dads also cited the challenges of their limited role in those early days, especially if their partner is exclusively breastfeeding.
But the doubts and fears do eventually fade. One response perfectly illustrates the reason for the anxiety – and why it doesn’t last long:
ANDY: You ask yourself a million questions constantly in the beginning because you don’t want to screw the baby up, but the good news is, you go from knowing nothing to being relatively confident fairly quickly with a new baby.
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How did you cope with the crying and the sleep deprivation?

When you combine a wailing baby with the interrupted sleep that accompanies an infant’s constant feeding schedule, you tend to feel pretty crappy.
One of the dads we spoke to was lucky enough to have a unicorn baby – a rare, mythical creature who sleeps soundly from the get-go. This outlier dad wisely didn’t talk about his good fortune around his fellow fathers.
For the rest of the lot, sleep deprivation is very, very real. Yet it was also the one thing they’d been most prepared for in anticipation of their new baby. As a result, they either pushed through it like a marathoner whose feet start to ache around mile 11, or they leaned on their community and slept whenever they could find a couch and fit it in – even if only for 10 minutes here or there.
Jon: I think the sleep deprivation thing is a bit overblown … there was so much build up to it, so many people saying how terrible it was, that I didn’t think it was all that horrible by the time I got to it. Kind of like “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”
The crying was harder to handle for the new dads, which kicked their problem-solving, stress-reducing instincts into high gear because there is simply no worldly equivalent to that nails-on-the-chalkboard screech-howl:
Don: For the crying, I rely on my fitness and my breathing to help keep me calm and composed. Box breathing is a great technique to add to your daily routine. (Don is the owner of Bucktown Fit, a personal training business that specializes in physical and mental strength training.)
Ben: You learn very quickly what’s going to pacify your baby in that first month. Whatever works, just give it a whirl. Usually, it was the boob. The boob is the greatest pacifier ever.
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What was your role in the breastfeeding process during those first 30 days? How did that make you feel?

Due to the insane demands of breastfeeding, the dads felt a lot of pressure to make life a little bit easier for Mom.
They made themselves human gophers (“I’ll do it!”), they jumped at any opportunity to give the bottle, they took on all the household chores…. In short, these guys tried their darndest, tapping a level of empathy that would make even the most demanding psychologist proud.
They also struggled mightily in the process, experiencing feelings ranging from guilt and anxiety to a tinge of jealousy.
Mike: The hardest thing for me was trying to make myself feel useful. I had a difficult time connecting with my son, and I felt like the third wheel. I was there in a helper capacity as opposed to feeling that it was our family we just created.
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How did the baby change things between you and your partner? How did your perception of your partner change after seeing her as a mother?

As the saying goes, “having a baby changes everything” – for better and, at least temporarily, for worse.
While one of the dads met his partner just three months before she got pregnant (for these two, their love was never stronger than the 30 days of the new baby’s life), the rest of group weren’t so lucky. Relationships were tested, fights ensued, and roles shifted dramatically. One dad said it feels like they’re exclusively their son’s parents now.
At the same time, seeing their wives and partners give birth and step into the role of a new mother was an amazing experience for the new dads. Phrases like “awe-inspiring” and “life-changing” were used to describe that feeling, and many said it reminded them of falling in love with their spouse all over again.
Ben: Taking an A/B relationship and adding C – and C just happens to be something B grew in her body for nine months – your A/B relationship gets put to the side, and you have to accept that.
Mike: Your relationship is tested. You’re not doing the things that made you a couple, and the experiences that made you a couple are stripped away, so you’re bound to ask, “Is this gonna be okay?”
Jon: My wife’s instincts – she’s incredibly nurturing and warm – are so strong, and she’s also smart, hard-working, and competent. These are things that attracted me to her in the first place, but I realized after we had a baby that I couldn’t live without those attributes.
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What advice would you offer new dads for those first 30 days?

Mike: That vision you have of being a dad – of running errands and going to the park with your little guy or girl by your side – that takes a while to happen. Hang in there. Time is what makes the bond. By the time my son was a year, it was all dad, all the time.
Andy: Whenever you can, bring your child into your life instead of trying to completely bend your life to your child’s.
Don: Communicate with your wife/partner in a 100 percent open and honest manner from the start. You’re going to need to look out for each other more than you ever have.
Jon: Whether it’s changing diapers and swaddling or just preparing bottles, take pride in everything you learn. I was eager to prove that the stereotype of the helpless dad is lame, sexist and, in most cases, flat-out wrong.
Ben: The routine WILL become second-nature more quickly than you think. But be careful: Time speeds up when you settle into a routine. If you’re not careful, all the magical moments blend into one. Take it slow, enjoy every milestone, and break the routine when you can.
There’s a saying about becoming a new parent that goes something like this: Before you have your children, all your friends with kids tell you about how amazing it is. Then, when you finally do have a baby, those same friends say, “Don’t worry, it gets better.”
For many dads trudging through the muck and mire of those first 30 (or more) days of fatherhood, this saying may hit a little too close to home. If you’re in that boat, remember the words of the seasoned dads we spoke to. After all, each of them not only made it safely to the other shore, but they also made it there a little wiser – and were more than willing to share their wisdom.
While each of these guys has a vastly different background and story, they share many common sentiments about becoming a dad. Perhaps the most important of all:
It only gets better – much, much better.
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The Tiny Blue Stocking I Pack Away Each Holiday Season

There are only four of us in the family. But that fifth stocking belongs to our family, too.

Every Christmas, when I get out our boxes of decorations, I find the box containing our family’s five stockings. Because there are only four of us in the family and we have no pets, you can be forgiven for wondering why I have an extra stocking.
But that fifth stocking belongs to our family, too.
After I had my first son, I went garage-sale crazy. Although I am not much of a shopper, I’ve always enjoyed the scavenger hunt feel of going to garage sales. With a new baby, I had a reason to stop at every yard sale I could find. I watched out for everything – clothes in the next sizes up (for both the baby and me ), clean toys, winter boots and snow pants with some wear left in them, and yes, Christmas decorations, including stockings.
I didn’t really need to stock up on stockings. I had one, and so did my husband, and my son got one from his Grandma on his first Christmas. So when I found the little blue fleece stocking with a snowman and the embroidered phrase “Let it snow!”, I didn’t really need it. I was pre-emptively stocking up on stockings.
I started having children much too late. There’s no other way to say it. Both for reasons within and outside of my control, I was 36 when my eldest son was born, and therefore already well-ensconced in what obstetricians so charmingly refer to as Advanced Maternal Age. (When they really want to twist the knife, they refer to you as a geriatric pregnancy or elderly primagravida.) By the time my son was one year and I was rounding my way into my late thirties, it occurred to me that I wanted a lot more babies.
This was a shocking revelation, to say the least, because I had never been a stereotypical “baby person.” I had never really smiled at babies I didn’t know or demanded to hold the new babies of relatives. Even four months into new parenthood, still recovering from my c-section and wincing when my son kicked my tender midsection while he nursed, I figured, no way, no how, could I ever do that again.
But somewhere in the middle of the feeding and the bathing and the worrying when he had a cold, I became aware that I was enjoying taking care of him. I didn’t mind the night feedings, during which he nursed like a champ and I watched the full run of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I’d never had the time to do before.
Of course, it wasn’t all warm contentment and syrupy love. I remember clearly waking up my husband some nights because the baby wouldn’t go back to sleep after nursing. But overall, I was living the introvert’s dream of never leaving the house while simultaneously being in the constant company of someone I loved.
Who wouldn’t seek to replicate such a good time, all the more fulfilling and joyful because it was such a complete surprise? So there I was, 37-edging-ever-nearer-to-38, desperate to have another baby, and buying superfluous stockings in a fit of hopeful mania.
After six months of trying, it seemed like my dream was coming true. I was a couple days late. I excitedly bought a pregnancy test. It was positive. It was springtime, and I was growing a new baby. I called and made my first appointment with my obstetrician, at what would be eight weeks’ gestation.
In the weeks leading up to the appointment, I tried to push away vague uneasiness. With the exception of a few meals, after which my stomach felt unsettled, I hadn’t been having nearly as much morning sickness as I had during my first pregnancy. I tried not to worry about it, figuring all pregnancies were different. Perhaps it meant I would be having a girl!
When it came time to go to the doctor, the nurse didn’t bat an eyelash when I told her I’d been feeling great, much better than I’d felt in my prior pregnancy. We chatted away blithely, checked my height, weight, blood pressure, and pulse, and then she took me for my routine ultrasound before I even saw the doctor.
I could tell from the way the radiology technician paused before she turned from her screen to my face that something wasn’t right. There was no happy detailing of the size of the embryo. She said she wanted to get the doctor before we talked further.
The doctor entered, and after a few pleasantries and a quiet, concentrated look at the image, a few manipulations of the wand to explore the images more fully, he confirmed the news I was by now fairly sure I would be receiving. The embryo had already stopped developing. I wasn’t showing any of the outward signs yet, but I would soon miscarry the baby.
The rest of the appointment was a blur. I tried not to cry and largely failed and was only dimly aware that I chose the option of waiting to see if the miscarriage would occur “naturally.” As I left, I asked if there was a different way to exit the office rather than through the waiting room, ostensibly because “I didn’t want to upset anyone” (I was by now a blubbering mess), but mostly because I didn’t feel I could bear to look at other still obviously-pregnant women.
I stumbled out the back door, made it to my car and home, where my husband and son waited, playing in the living room and turning their bright eyes on me as I came in. I smiled at my son through my tears and then burst out, to my husband, “There’s not going to be any Peanut.”
We had called our first son Tadpole while he was in the womb. We’d been calling this baby Peanut.
I am not a girl to sign up for medications or medical procedures that are not absolutely required, but walking around the following week, waiting to miscarry and referring to myself in my head as Death, Destroyer of Worlds, was exhausting enough. If it had continued much longer, I might have sought alternatives to the natural wait-and-see method.
I tried to concentrate on caring for my toddler. I tried to concentrate on my freelance work. I never said it out loud, but every now and then, I would allow myself to dream that the doctor had made a mistake. Every day without blood made that weird conviction a little stronger. So it was with both profound relief and crushing sadness that I finally woke up one bright June morning with blood in my underwear.
When the bleeding kicked in in earnest with painful cramping, I was also relieved that my husband, by complete lucky accident, also had the day off from work. I hadn’t thought it would be necessary for him to stay home and watch our son, but as the day progressed, it became increasingly clear that we were very lucky that he was home. They played outside, in one of the earliest and hottest summers we’d ever had, while I went to my bedroom and laid down and cried and then periodically rushed to the bathroom to change pads. I couldn’t quite believe yet that it was really happening.
Later in the afternoon, when events were not quite as dramatic, I picked up the book on my nightstand – a biography of Shirley Jackson, author of the infamous short story “The Lottery,” titled Private Demons – and ate a full-size Hershey bar. Why the hell not? I read and ate and bled, and somewhere in the middle of all of that, I had a moment when I stopped everything and just sat. I thought of my Peanut and thanked him, or her, for being with me for just a little while. I thanked her, or him, for going through this with me because I couldn’t have faced it by myself.
Which brings us, in a roundabout sort of way, to this tiny blue stocking that I unpack every Christmas season. I don’t say anything about it to my husband or either of my two sons (after my miscarriage, I was lucky enough to have a second little boy at the ripe old age of 39). But each season, I quietly put that stocking in the drawer of my nightstand. I put a Hershey bar in it, and at the end of the holiday season, around the time of the festival of Epiphany, I go to my room and I read a book and I eat my Hershey bar and I thank Peanut all over again for being with me. His due date was to have been January 8.
Every year, I think, why don’t I enact this odd little ritual in June, around the date that I miscarried? I never really had an answer for that. This year, finally, I think I do. I don’t want to celebrate my baby’s passing from this world. What I want to celebrate is birth.
I want to celebrate the fulfillment of possibility. Because that is what Peanut represented to me: the possibility of new life. The possibility of a new person and personality to get to know. The possibility, even, of being efficient enough to have still more children. Because in addition to losing the baby, the miscarriage made me feel like I was losing one of my possible futures – a future with more children in it.
As I told a friend at the time, not only did feeling like Death, Destroyer of Worlds, bother me, I was also bothered because miscarrying at 38 means that you are quickly running out of months in which to recover, try again, perhaps luck out and have another baby, and then try to recover in time again to do it all over again. I think my exact quote was “This begins to put the kibosh on having a third kid.” I know. How greedy can you get?
I still wish I could have a lot more babies. But now, at 42, I am too old and too scared to try for any more. I am a risk-averse person married to a risk-averse person, and I live in the modern age, so I know entirely too much about what can go wrong, and the many, many statistics that are not in my favor.
I also know that I have been luckier than I had any real right to expect. I have two sons whose company I enjoy endlessly and a husband who says he could have been happy with no children or more children, but who is obviously and entirely thrilled with the two that we have. All of my boys worry and interest me because I don’t understand them at all. All three sadden and thrill me because I understand them completely.
And somewhere in the middle was the baby who was all joy, all possibility, who was and always will be all mine.
Merry Christmas, Peanut, and happy birthday.

Thank Goodness for Pregnant Friends

You will always have too much baby crap. That is, until you finally find a friend who’s pregnant.

Every year, those of us who don’t spend the other 364 days posting things like #blessed are suddenly hard-pressed to come up with what we are thankful for.
Me? I’m thankful for friends who are having a baby.
There’s a dirty little secret all parents know: We have too much baby crap. It doesn’t matter how minimalist you are, how little space you have, or how much you’ve already pared down. You have too much baby crap. You will always have too much baby crap. That is, until you finally find a friend who’s pregnant.
You see, biology drives us to worry about our children – even the unborn ones. We worry about all the terrible things that could happen to them. We worry about all the ways we will screw them up. And of course, we worry about whether we are really prepared to have them at all.
Enter: the accumulation of stuff. Swings, playmates, changing tables, toys, books, those weird nose sucker bulbs. There is literally no end to the crap you can buy to make you feel like having a baby won’t completely upend your life in an unpleasant and chaotic way.
Bottle sanitizer kit? Got it. Teeny tiny nail brush? Got it. _____? Got it. And I’m one of the moms on the lesser side of hoarding.
This isn’t to say these items weren’t useful. It’s just that monetary (not to mention sentimental) value keeps us from chucking everything into a Goodwill (or trash) dumpster. Instead, we let go of the easy stuff, holding onto “just a few items” we “plan to sell” or keep “just in case.” These newly pregnant friends are that contingency plan.
When a pregnant friend comes along, it’s like Goodwill, Craigslist, and a baby shower all rolled into one. “Congratulations!” you exclaim, as you drop off box after box of tiny onesies, old board books, and sippy cups. “She’ll need these, I’m saving her money!” you tell yourself.
While that’s sort of true, it’s also mostly true that we treat our pregnant friends as a dumping ground for baby items we couldn’t bear to toss. We never acknowledge it aloud, but without these friends, our homes would be cluttered with leftover half packs of Size 1 diapers and partially empty bottles of baby powder. We need these friends more than they need us.
So thank you, pregnant friends. Thank you for the anxiety of a newborn that allows me to inundate you with items you’ll probably never need and end up passing along to someone else.
Thank you for graciously taking my stuff and thinking all of it will be useful to you.
Thank you for helping me feel like I am being green and re-using things, even if you turn around and trash them the moment I leave your house. I sleep easier, thinking I’ve somehow been useful to someone, even while denying my own selfishness.
Oh, and sorry about all the stuff.

Making the Case for the Middle Name

A carefully selected middle name can discharge an obligation, preserve history, and appease in-laws all at the same time.

The question everybody asks soon-to-be parents after “Is it a boy or girl?” is “Do you have a name?” If they have picked a name and are willing to share it, the exchange goes something like this:
You ask the name. They hesitate, glancing lovingly at each other. Then one of them (usually the mother-to-be, because: labor) trots the two-piece title out like a brand new flavor of ice cream.
You pause, repeat the name aloud, and say how much you love it, after which they are compelled to explain how they chose it. It’s rarely a simple explanation either, so if you’re in a hurry, don’t even broach the subject.
The first name is usually an indulgent pick, maybe from a favorite movie or book, or after a childhood friend or an obscure British poet, or maybe it’s just a name the couple likes. But the middle name…the middle name is an entirely different story.
The middle name serves a purpose beyond semiotics (the study of sign and symbols), being that it’s not the primary signifier we identify with. It connects the prénom and surname, adding a layer of syllabic texture and intrigue.
A carefully selected middle name can discharge an obligation, preserve history, and appease in-laws all at the same time. It can carry the weight of tradition and fulfill the dying wishes of Great Grandma who always wanted a namesake, without sentencing your kid to a lifetime of answering to “Grizelda.”
The triad template we use today for names actually dates back to the Middle Ages, when Europeans were torn between giving children a family name or a saint’s name. The formula – given name first, baptismal name second, and surname third – emerged as a solution to this dilemma.
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After the American Revolution, immigrants arriving in this country continued the practice of three names. Since it was originally associated with royalty and aristocrats, giving a child a middle name was emblematic of aspiring to the upper class. The trend took off, and within 100 years, middle names were commonplace.
The first U.S. government document that had a space for a middle name was the World War I enlistment form. Other official forms followed suit, requiring at least a middle initial, which remains the standard format to this day.
The use of categorical religious middle names expanded to include family names – often maiden surnames – and soon, any name was acceptable. From a records-keeping standpoint in a country with a booming population, this additional differentiation was a welcome one.
The function of modern middle names continues to evolve, telling a story far more complex than, “I come from a long line of old ladies.” For parents, middle names can be the repository of a shared past, like NSYNC alum Chris Kilpatrick and his wife, Karly, who named their son Nash Dylan after the folk singer Bob Dylan, whom they listened to on their first date.
A middle name can be a reminder of unique circumstances surrounding the birth, as it was for the baseball fan who went into labor during a recent postseason game and named her son Logan Bauer, after Cleveland Indians pitcher, Trevor Bauer. Or it can be a grateful tribute, as it was when Jessica Braddock chose Dallas as her daughter’s middle name to honor the city’s incredible hospitality after Hurricane Harvey.
Middle names are often a means of compromise for parents who can’t seem to agree, as was the case with musicians Ashlee Simpson and Peter Wentz who named their son Bronx Mowgli after neither would concede to the other’s first choice. Though the middle name seems like a consolation prize if your goal was to be first, some parents prefer its understudy role and embrace the opportunity to flex their creative muscles. It’s like a braver, livelier, more whimsical version of your child’s permanent identity.
Another option is to use the middle name as a generational connection, passing down one specific name as an intangible keepsake. This works well for indecisive parents who have difficulties coming up with one name, let alone two.
My own family has done this with my middle name, Louise. While I wasn’t crazy about the name as a kid, as an adult, I cherish sharing something with my grandmothers, aunts, a niece, and now my daughter.
Parents-to-be are inundated with major decisions on every front – from feeding, to sleeping arrangements, to childcare, to finances. They need to find a good doctor, read up on the latest safety concerns, figure out how to install a car seat, and stock up on baby clothes, the right gear, and supplies.
On top of all this, they need to come up with a name that blends with the last, has meaning, carries tradition, and won’t lend itself to embarrassing nicknames in grade school.
No pressure, parents! Your kids can always go by their initials.
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Advice From a Regular Dude on What Not to Say to A Pregnant Woman

As we prepare to welcome our third (and final) child into this world, I thought I’d reflect back on all of the dumb things said to my pregnant wife.

I’m just a regular dude. I have a steady job, good manners, and a happy family life. I’m far from some new wave, male feminist with an agenda and a heavy axe to grind. But I can’t believe the way many people still talk to pregnant women in our society today.
As we prepare to welcome our third (and final) child into this world, I thought I’d reflect back on all of the dumb things said to my wife, so that, just maybe, we can make some progress in the arena of common politeness.
Here are 10 things you should never say to an expecting mother:

WOW! You’re really popping out!

Is this meant to be a compliment or just a general narration of what everyone else in the room can plainly see? Thanks, Captain Obvious! When you’re done calling out random facts, tell me where I can find a cheap room on Hotels.com.

Are you sure there aren’t twins in there?

Are you sure you don’t want to get punched in the face? Have you ever seen a pregnant woman before? Have you ever seen a woman before?
Hopefully, you answered yes to all of these questions, which means you are entirely aware there is a growing human being inside of that body. From what I recall about standard etiquette, it’s impolite to comment on a person’s body, especially if that person is in a very vulnerable and hormonal state of being.

I bet it’s a (insert gender) because (insert wives’ tale)!

Thanks, jackass. You realize this is a classic 50/50 scenario, and there’s a good chance you’ll be out of sheer luck. Don’t smile like you just cracked the Da Vinci code using sacred knowledge your Aunt Susan passed down.
It is annoying when people say this and even more annoying when they gloat about being correct later. So save it.

After touching belly without permission…Hey there, little (insert generic pet name)!

I’ve never actually seen this, but I’ve heard about it. I would 100 percent slap you into unconsciousness if this happened in front of me. I don’t care if you’re a cute, enfeebled, 80-year-old man with a dog and a walking stick.
Unconsciousness.

Don’t get an epidural.

That’s so weird you feel that way. Because every single medical practitioner in our advanced and civilized society feels the exact opposite. Epidurals are so safe that literally every single delivery room in the United States of America is equipped to perform this request, should it be necessary.
SHUT! UP!

You’re YUUUGE!

Thanks, Donald Trump! If you’ve ever said this to a pregnant woman, you are a terrible person and you honestly just ruined her day. As well as mine.
End of story.

Make sure you breastfeed! It’s so much more healthy!

Thanks for the pro tip, lady next to us in the checkout line.
Make sure you don’t drink all that Mountain Dew in one sitting. Make sure you get some cardio in after five pints of Ben & Jerry’s.  You know there’s a whole section where they sell fruits and vegetables, right? Good talk.

WOW! Another one!

Yeah, she probably didn’t know massive numbers like two and three were so hard for you to quantify. Next time, we’ll invite the whole town over for their thoughts on the logistical nightmare we could potentially inflict upon the community by housing another child under our roof.

Did you plan it?

Did you plan that Philadelphia Eagles logo tattoo?
How do people not get that this is about as obnoxious and invasive as you can get?

Are you scared?

We all saw the “Miracle of Life” video in Health class. I’m scared, and I’m not even the one pushing the kid out. Great way to take a mental jab at someone who really doesn’t need it right now.
Now that we’re done talking, you can go give a helpful reminder to the Fire Department that their job is terrifying and they could be burned alive.
Honorable Mention (because, yes, this has actually been said):

Let me stand next to you, I want to look skinny.

What. The. F…!
Why?
Sadly, a lot of the people behind these comments intend nothing but well wishes and are simply looking for something to say. Stop and think about the situation for a moment, and you will realize the only acceptable things to say are:
You look great! Congratulations!
Aside from that, let me assure you that silence is golden and, in many situations, preferred over a forced and awkward exchange of redundant dribble. She has heard it all before.
Thank you.

Is My Baby Still Breathing? A Look at Postpartum Anxiety

When we’re suddenly responsible for tiny, helpless, precious humans, it makes sense we become anxious. But how much anxiety is too much?

Ask a new mom about her actions after giving birth, and you’ll hear a range of behaviors that would probably sound odd to most non-moms. Watching the baby’s breathing, checking the baby monitor dozens of times, keeping an eye on the front door for potential intruders. To new moms these actions are likely all too familiar. The anxiety that comes with motherhood is something many new moms feel but rarely discuss. And perinatal anxiety – that is, anxiety during pregnancy and the postpartum period – has received limited attention from researchers and health professionals, according to a 2017 review article in The British Journal of Psychiatry, despite the fact that it is highly prevalent. We are, after all, suddenly responsible for tiny, helpless, precious humans. Who wouldn’t be anxious? This can all lead a mom to wonder, how much anxiety is too much?

Protecting our babies: some physiological explanations

Entering pregnancy, mothers experience a ramping up of their stress systems in order to help them care for and protect their new little beings, explains Mary Kimmel, M.D., Assistant Professor and Medical Director of the Perinatal Psychiatry Inpatient Unit at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and mother of two. “The main hormone from the stress system is cortisol, and that actually increases across pregnancy to support the development of the baby, but it also functions in this role of trying to help mom find the right amount of stress or anxiety once the baby comes,” says Kimmel.
Researchers are working to understand how hormones and neurological reactions foster feelings of protectiveness. By using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to observe brain activity in new parents, for instance, researchers at Yale University observed that when new parents heard their babies cry, the parents often experienced an anxious neural response in brain areas associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and with emotions such as empathy. As Anna Abramson and Dawn Rouse report in “The Postpartum Brain,” the researchers believe this neural response is evolutionary and primal: after childbirth, a period of high alert, or vigilant watch, was necessary in order for parents to protect their babies from all sorts of environmental dangers.
At the University of Denver’s Family and Child Neuroscience Lab, under Director Pilyoung Kim, Ph.D., researchers are studying the brain activity of first-time mothers for patterns that are linked to their anxiety or depressive symptoms. Researchers found greater connectivity between the amygdala (the brain’s almond-shaped masses of gray matter associated with emotional awareness) and frontal regions in the brain in mothers with higher levels of postpartum anxiety. “Heightened amygdala activity has been linked to greater fear responses or threat detection and anxiety symptoms,” explains Amy L. Anderson, doctoral candidate at the University of Denver. “Our finding of increased connectivity between the frontal regions (PFC) and amygdala potentially indicates that even in the absence of threat stimuli, mothers with higher levels of anxiety may still be activating regions of their brain that react to heightened emotions or anxious states.”

Defining postpartum anxiety

Defining postpartum anxiety can be difficult, explains Kimmel, since each woman is unique and some women worry more than others. “We all fall on a spectrum, in terms of our personality. It’s not good or bad where you fall, but wherever you fall, if you have no anxiety, that can be problem for you at certain times, and having too much anxiety can be a problem. That makes it harder to define postpartum anxiety. When is it a separate thing from how you are just working within the world?”
Sarah,* who has a 22-month-old daughter, believes she suffered from anxiety after her daughter was born although she never sought treatment. “I was really worried about keeping my daughter alive and her breathing. I kept the lights on in the house at night. I must have checked her breathing 20 times a night.” Sarah did not feel depressed, but she felt exhausted since checking her daughter’s breathing so often interrupted her own sleep. And she had no way of knowing whether checking her daughter’s breathing that often at night was normal. Only after her daughter grew older and less fragile did her worries dissipate and did Sarah come to believe she’d been suffering from anxiety. “When I compare myself to my peers who had newborns at the time, many women seem much calmer and less neurotic about their babies and their breathing,” she says.
Similarly, Katherine, who has a four-and-a-half-year-old daughter and 6-month-old son, worried about keeping her daughter alive. “I was constantly worried she was going to die,” adding that as a new mother, her lack of mastery over caring for babies left her feeling on edge all the time. “I couldn’t calm myself down when she cried. I had a visceral reaction to it.” Katherine’s anxiety about her baby caused her to become anxious about her own health. A psychologist by training, she recognized her anxiety was interrupting her life and causing her to not enjoy spending time with her daughter, which prompted her to seek treatment and medication.

The many forms of anxiety

About 85 percent of women experience some type of mood disturbances after having their babies, according to the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Center for Women’s Mental Health. For the majority of these women, the disturbances are short-lived and mild. However, for about 10 to 15 percent, the disturbances develop into more severe symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Anxiety can be generalized or specific and affect a mom in a number of ways. A mom may suffer from constant worry, racing thoughts, sleep disturbances, or a feeling something bad will happen. The anxiety may get to a level where she never feels comfortable letting someone else take over, or it could be the other extreme: she is so anxious about doing something wrong she becomes paralyzed and unable to be left alone with her child. Specific anxieties include agoraphobia, literally “fear of the marketplace,” Postpartum Panic Disorder, or Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a form of anxiety where moms experience obsessions, or intrusive, upsetting, often very frightening thoughts, and ritualistic behaviors or compulsions.
For Jennifer, mom of a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, her obsession centered on harming her daughter while feeding her. “I was afraid to feed her because I was afraid to stab her,” says Jennifer. “I was afraid to hold a fork anywhere near her.”
Worries about harming their children are very common obsessions for new mothers, particularly in the postpartum period, says Kimmel. According to the non profit organization Postpartum Support International (PSI), these frightening obsessions are anxious in nature and have a very low risk of being acted on. “One mom’s example was the mom thought, ‘oh, my child can fit in the microwave, what a weird thought, oh my gosh, that’s horrible I was thinking about that,’ and she got stuck on that thought,” says Kimmel. “If you were worried about the microwave then you stop going into the kitchen, you can see how that can be negatively impactful.” Similar are obsessive thoughts about knives in the kitchen. “If you’re having that worry about knives in the kitchen, and that’s keeping you from cooking, and cooking is a thing you love, clearly, that’s gotten to a place that needs to be addressed,” she explains, adding that when a mom’s stress system over-responds – when the anxiety makes her feel uncomfortable, when it keeps her from being able to enjoy things, or when it keeps her from doing things she wants to do – that the woman should seek treatment.
But even Jennifer, who had a history of OCD, had difficulty talking about her thoughts. “I was so worried that if I told people what I was thinking that it would happen or that I wanted it to happen. I was afraid to talk about it because I was afraid they would call Child Protective Services on me.” Jennifer says she feels fortunate her longtime psychiatrist “picked” it out of her and can only imagine how many women, who do not have longstanding care and treatment, are suffering. “Even though I had a history of OCD, I did feel ashamed. How could I be a decent person and have these thoughts about my child?”

Anxiety with or without depression

Thanks to the media and to ongoing education, it may be fair to say many women know about postpartum depression (PPD), but many do not know they can suffer from postpartum anxiety alone, without depression. Anxiety is often subsumed under the umbrella term “postpartum depression,” which means recognizing you may be suffering from anxiety may be difficult if you are not feeling depressed. Plus, “little attention” has been given to postpartum anxiety by clinicians and researchers possibly because of the overlap between depression and anxiety symptoms, according to The MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health.
“Part of where it can be hard for some moms is they don’t recognize as being depressed be-cause they don’t feel depressed,” says Kimmel. “They don’t feel sad. They don’t feel like they’re not enjoying things, they just feel overwhelmed with worry.” She added that when moms are feeling really anxious and overwhelmed, they may begin to feel depressed, too. “That’s why it can be hard to piece the two apart because you can begin to feel a lot of the symptoms of depression, such as guilt and feeling hopeless, when you feel so anxious and worried.”
For Lisa,* who has a three-month-old daughter and was diagnosed with PPD, a lot of her PPD was anxiety-driven: she was on high alert, she would wake up in the middle of the night to stare at her daughter to ensure she was alive, and she had sudden fears she’d drop her daughter while carrying her. Then there were the socks. “When I put socks on my daughter, every time, I was scared I was going to pull one of her toes off,” she says, explaining she had such irrational fears, and she knew they were irrational, but she couldn’t stop them. Eventually, Lisa’s husband found her crying in the bathroom. “I couldn’t even explain why,” she says. “I was so overwhelmingly sad.”
But Jennifer, who had braced herself for PPD, was caught off-guard when she was met with anxiety. “I was bracing myself for possible PPD but never about panic attacks about my daughter and obtrusive thoughts about my daughter,” she says. “I’d read a lot about PPD, but the hospital never asked me the right questions. They didn’t notice I was panicking every time I was alone with my daughter.”

Getting treatment

Unlike PPD, a classic screening tool does not exist for postpartum anxiety. Instead, a combination of screening tools are used, such as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), used for PPD, and the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), but these may not detect all symptoms, such as OCD symptoms, which are predominant. Accordingly, these tools may not identify all women with clinically relevant anxiety. “We’re still trying to figure out how to get at some of these diverse groups of symptoms that may be going on,” says Kimmel. Only recently, in 2014, did researchers in Western Australia develop the Perinatal Anxiety Screening Scale (PASS), a 31-item questionnaire – the first survey to date – to detect perinatal anxiety.
But even if women, themselves, recognize they are suffering, finding the right treatment can be difficult. Lisa, who suffered from PPD, was told by her daughter’s pediatrician that she needed to get help. But when Lisa contacted her prenatal care provider, she had to wait over two weeks to talk with a therapist, at which time she was told she had PPD. Lisa’s provider told her that she would be prescribed medication on the condition Lisa find a different provider for postpartum care and that the medication could take six to eight weeks to kick in. “I felt like no one was helping me from a medical perspective,” says Lisa. “So I got angry and channeled that anger to figure out how to help myself.” For Lisa, helping herself meant being honest about her feelings and talking about them: she decided to stop lying that having a baby was all wonderful. “The more I talked about it, people said, ‘oh, I felt that way, too.’ So why don’t more people talk about it?” she asks. “We don’t, as women and mothers, talk about it enough. We’re left feeling like something’s wrong with us.”
Moms need time to talk about their experiences so they can find and receive the support they need. “We’re moving towards this system of these really short [medical] appointments,” says Kimmel, “and we need to have time. These are hard things to talk about.” Kimmel suggests that a multidisciplinary approach – a team of people who can address the mom’s unique needs and background and offer the most effective support, whether that’s medication or therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy or mindfulness – is important.
One resource is Postpartum Support International, which provides a network of volunteers in each of the 50 states to contact for support. Anyone may call its toll-free Warmline (1-800-944-4773) for basic information and resources. It hosts “Wednesday Chats for Moms” and “First Monday Chats for Dads,” free live phone sessions where parents can connect with other parents and talk to experts.
Thankfully, more steps are being taken to increase awareness and to address the many facets of maternal health. In 2015 the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists began recommending clinicians screen women at least once during the perinatal period for depression and anxiety symptoms. And in 2016, Congress passed groundbreaking legislation, enacted as part of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act in December 2016, to fund screening and treatment programs for maternal depression. Some states, like New Jersey, Illinois, and West Virginia, already require screening of new mothers for postpartum depression.
Steps are being taken. Still, many more need to be.
For information on additional perinatal mood disorders, visit Postpartum Support International.
*Names have been changed per requests not to be identified.

What a NICU Moms' Support Group Taught Me About Fearlessness

I was about to cavalierly flaunt her health and my good fortune in their faces. The New Moms’ Support Group was soon to find out I was a fear-fraud.

“Fear Can Terrify a Mother” read the marquee outside the meeting room on the NICU ward. The topic changed nightly for the New Moms’ Support Group, as did the attendees. Some women were here for only a handful of draining, harrowing days. Others were here longer. Weeks and months longer. Long enough to need a nightly meeting, where life after the hospital was the topic of professionally directed conversation.
I was going on eight days, but my circumstances were different.
I hadn’t given birth to my daughter. My husband and I were the adoptive parents in what is called a “gift baby” situation – a delivery with no prearranged adoption plan. Without any prenatal history, my daughter was in the NICU under observation and, so far, presented no medical problems. She was eating and gaining and eliminating WNL, or Within Normal Limits, as her chart stated.
Eight days anywhere will pull you into a routine, and finding a semblance of continuity from day to day is a survival skill. NICU parents are allowed 24-hour access to the ward, which meant the mothers stayed and the fathers ferried back and forth between home, work, and the hospital, bringing changes of clothes and take-out food and siblings.
The moms learned each other’s stories immediately and unintentionally, assimilating entire histories from the staged voices of the neonatologists making rounds, trying not to eavesdrop, but overhearing everything since the walls were merely fabric partitions.
At 9 p.m. every weeknight, after the dads and siblings left, any mom with a baby in the NICU was invited to the New Moms’ Support Group. Picture the group therapy scene in the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” – lulling music, strict seating arrangements. This was nothing like that. Picture Nurse Ratched, starched and unreasonable, again, nothing like our scrub-wearing group leader. The meetings were educational yet informal, with topics ranging from infant CPR to tips on making dirty hair appear clean. Sometimes, we just talked.
On this particular night, Not-at-All-Like-Nurse Ratched asked us to write down our biggest mothering fear on a piece of paper, which she would read one at a time for us to discuss. The other moms immediately began writing down what seemed to be very scary things. Legitimately scary things. I turned mine in last. Not-Nurse Ratched put it under the others and began reading the one on top:
“I’m afraid my baby will stop breathing during the night.” We looked at each other, nodding sagely. That was a good one, really scary stuff. Not-Nurse Ratched reminded us of the Safe Slumber Creed: back to sleep, bare is best, etc. She assured us that no baby would be sent home from the NICU before his respiration was given the WNL stamp of approval.
Not-Nurse Ratched read a second paper: “My biggest fear is that my baby will start crying, and I will not be able to stop it.” Everybody shifted in her seat with big nods and mmm-hms all around. Not-Nurse Ratched prompted us, “Now, Moms, why do babies cry?” We catalogued logical causes and cures. Not-Nurse Ratched leaned back in approval.
Another fear, “That I’ll hurt my baby,” and another, “I’ll run out of milk,” and another, “He’ll get sick at home and we’ll have to come back here.”
As they progressed, this somber parade of SIDS candidates and life-threatening scenarios, I had misgivings about what I had written, which was so foolishly not scary. Who was I, with my intact abdomen and non-engorged breasts, to assume anything about fear?
I felt guilty that my daughter wasn’t sicker. I was allowed to hold her, touch her, cleave her to me kangaroo style – and I hadn’t gone through any corporeal pain to earn this. I felt only relief that she was about to be discharged, and, with what I had written, I was about to cavalierly flaunt her health and my good fortune in their faces. The New Moms’ Support Group was soon to find out I was a fear-fraud.
Not-Nurse Ratched held the last paper. Mine. “Oooh, an existential one: I’m afraid I won’t ever love my daughter as much as I love my dog.”
A thick pause ended mercifully when one of the other moms said, “For me, it’s my son. Will I be able to love this baby as much as I love him?” No one laughed. Actually, many other moms spoke up, adding to the list of those who needed and deserved a portion of our affection.
Not-Nurse Ratched, who had systematically addressed each fear in the stack of papers with research-backed assurances, thumped the pile and said, “I hate to tell you this, but right now, in this hospital ward, your babies are the safest they will ever be. Once you leave, it gets real. The risks are real. But being afraid isn’t going to prevent any of that. It’ll just make you doubt yourself. Fear is a decision. Decide to leave your fear here with me. Decide you don’t have room for it.”
Three days later, my daughter was discharged from the NICU. I dressed her and packed the possessions now deemed “hers,” thinking how strange it was they were letting me take her home. How could they be sure I could handle this? I imagined the other new moms having the same thought – a collective incredulity, much like our shared fears, regardless of having given birth or not.
There was no qualitative measurement to being a mom.
The NICU nurses insisted my daughter and I get the customary send-off ride in a post-delivery wheelchair, even though I had nothing to recover from. Not-Nurse Ratched, herself, wheeled us to the main entrance, where I stood up holding my daughter and said goodbye, decidedly fearless.
This post first appeared on The Good Mother Project.

Until Gwen

This is a submission in our monthly contest. November’s theme is Gratitude. Enter your own here!
The office bathroom stall was dark, but not so dark that I couldn’t see the contrast of red on white. A single drop of blood, bright red and bubbly, stained my underwear. I remember thinking it was the brightest red I had ever seen. It was a mistake to run. I should have kept it to a brisk walk. Or better yet, I should have done something else on my lunch break.
The nurse on the other end of the line sounded concerned. “How much blood is there?”
“Only a couple drops, but I’m not supposed to be bleeding, right?” I said.
She assured me that some “spotting” was normal, common even, but I should come in anyway, “just in case.”
My husband met me in the doctor’s office waiting room. When the nurse called my name he squeezed my hand. “Don’t worry, everything is going to be fine,” he said.
Everything was not fine. The ultrasound confirmed we had lost the baby. My first thought was, “This can’t be happening.” My second thought was, “What did I do?” Was it the run, the stress? Something else? Our son, Owen, had been so easy. No sooner were we home from our honeymoon than I was pregnant, and nine months later we were holding a healthy baby boy. That was more than four years ago. Was I now too old?
When I became pregnant again a few months later, my doctor prescribed a daily dose of baby aspirin to protect against a rare blood-clotting disorder.
“Will it help?” I asked hopefully.
“Probably not, but it can’t hurt,” she said.
Determined to reduce my anxiety, I stopped running on the treadmill and started doing yoga. I tried to cultivate a Zen-like attitude. Lots of women have miscarriages, I reasoned. I’m not special. It was all going well, until my ten-week ultrasound appointment. Lying on the table, my swollen belly covered in gel, the look on the sonographer’s face said it all.
I stopped doing yoga. I stopped doing anything that required a physical exertion greater than lifting a cup of decaffeinated tea. There was no medical reason for my self-imposed bed rest; it just felt like the right thing to do. Besides that, I was depressed.
Seven months – they felt like years – after our second miscarriage, I was pregnant again. And again, I tried to remain calm while bracing myself for the worst.
My doctor had me take all the usual precautions. She also had me come in for weekly blood tests. When I was 11 weeks along, one of those tests revealed my hormone levels were going in the wrong direction – and poof! – another pregnancy was gone.
We tried to avoid the subject of babies at family gatherings and parties. This was no easy task. Whenever you have one child, people always wanted know when you planned on having another. Unsolicited advice was common. Friends liked to suggest alternative treatments they’d read about online like acupuncture. Although they meant well, they often said things like “you can always try again” and “at least you have Owen.” My sister-in-law, who has four kids, suggested we get a puppy.
One evening after dinner, my husband announced he wanted to stop trying. “Maybe God is trying to tell us something,” he said.
“Like what?” I asked.
“Like maybe we should quit while we’re ahead,” he said.
I pretended not to hear him. That night, I dreamt I had a baby, a girl. She had almond-shaped eyes and a dimple on her left cheek. She looked healthy. In a hospital bed I cradled her in my arms and sang to her softly until a nurse came to take her away.
A year later, I fell pregnant again.
My husband, despite his earlier doubts, was overjoyed. I was more wary. We agreed not to tell anyone about this new pregnancy until I was at least five months along. When we finally did tell people, it was in hushed, measured tones, void of the excitement that had so characterized our earlier annunciations. Although on the outside, I wore a brave face, inside, I was holding my breath. I held it through the hospital visits and the blood tests. I held it despite all the assurances my pregnancy was progressing normally. I even held it through the ultrasounds that showed ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes.
It wasn’t until I heard my daughter cry for the first time that I exhaled.
Gwendolyn Kelly arrived via Cesarean section on June 25, 2014. She is a happy baby with bright, inquisitive eyes and a coy smile that’s all dimples. Although she has been a part of our lives for three years now, not a day goes by that I don’t feel grateful for her existence.