“Breast is best”—that popular phrase haunted me throughout my pregnancy. I knew before I became pregnant that breastfeeding was not best for me, but I didn’t think I had a choice. I feared I would resent my innocent newborn for their continued need of my body, or that I would resent my partner for not being able to do more because my body fed our child. I didn’t want to judge my body’s worth based on my milk supply. And I really didn’t want my boobs, that had already swollen from a DD to a G during pregnancy, to get any bigger.
As I discussed my anxiety about the impending need to breastfeed, a non-mom friend asked me why I didn’t just choose to not do it. I never thought that was an option. You had to at least try; society would think you were selfish otherwise. But, for the first time, I felt like not breastfeeding was a choice I could actually make. So now, my back hurt from carrying my newly G-sized pregnancy boobs and the weight of this decision.
I made the decision to not breastfeed, to not even try, around 34 weeks. I did my research and learned that many of the benefits of breastfeeding are overstated, so my baby would be fine breastfed or formula-fed. My partner fully supported me, but I was terrified of the world’s response. Would I instantly be categorized as a lazy mom? Would people think my vanity overrode my concern for my child’s health? If everyone thinks breast is best, was I the worst for not choosing it? So, I started slowly telling people, testing out my messaging.
I told friends without children who were like, “hell yeah, you go girl.” My sister, who has also carried the weight of big boobs, really understood my desire to get back to my pre-pregnancy bras. This part was easiest. I really just told them first for a confidence boost.
Next, I told a few mom and soon-to-be mom friends, all of whom supported me, even though all of them breastfed their kids. Do you see how it feels like it isn’t a choice to not breastfeed? I had no one to follow.
Then, I told the patron saint of informed motherhood: Expecting Better author, Emily Oster. And by told, I mean I asked her via her weekly Instagram Q&A if it was okay for me to choose to not breastfeed to protect my mental health. She answered my question with a simple yes. My baby would be fine and she appreciated the fact that I was considering my own mental health.
And, I told my mom, who had the best of intentions when she tried to convince me to try breastfeeding because she’d enjoyed it. She espoused the health benefits of breastfeeding for the baby. I countered with my own research: a chapter in Emily Oster’s other book, Crib Sheet. She brought up that it makes the weight “melt off.” But I knew I shouldn’t make this enormous life choice around my desire for my pre-pregnancy body to “bounce back”—even though I really wanted to bounce back. Spoiler alert: I didn’t, but neither do a lot of women who breastfeed. And she told me about how bonded it made her feel to her babies.
But by this point, I knew I wasn’t going back on my decision. I was prepared to bond slowly with my baby. The sudden feeling of love that so many mothers describe sounds magical, but I assumed it wasn’t for me. My love is more like a Kacey Musgraves song, a slow burn. In life’s most emotional moments, my initial anxieties usually overpower any other feeling.
Despite the mostly supportive responses, I was still too scared to tell my OBGYN for fear of her reaction, and I prepped diatribes for the nurses who might make comments at the hospital. But at the hospital, no one said a negative word. Nurses simply asked, “breastfeeding or formula?” And when I finally told my OBGYN, when my baby was two days old, she laughed at me, saying, “I just assumed you would breastfeed because you seemed so granola. But I wish you had told me earlier. I hated breastfeeding.” I was so scared of formula-shaming that I literally kept the knowledge from my doctor. In the fragile days right after giving birth, my doctor’s support filled me with hope. My first choice as a mom was doctor-approved.
In the end, I did it! I left the hospital with my baby, a bag of formula samples, and instructions from the lactation consultant on how to wean. And after two weeks of wearing an ace bandage around my boobs like Roberta in Now and Then, I had my DD boobs back for the first time since my first trimester. My anxiety over mom-shaming from friends, family, doctors, nurses, and the greater world burdened me for months, but in the end there was no shame. I learned a very valuable lesson early on in my new role as mom. Mom-shaming is real and it can hurt, but don’t let your fear of what might happen drive the decisions you make for yourself and your family.
If you thought I was scared of breastfeeding, you should’ve heard me talk about my fears of the first months of having a baby. But it turned out to be okay—great, even. Not breastfeeding meant my partner could feed the baby half of the time in the middle of the night. And while my hormones were raging, I bonded with my baby just fine. When I was not crying about crazy things like missing my cat—who was simply in the other room—I would cry about how much I loved my perfect, little, formula-fed baby.
So, other moms or future moms, please know you have a choice! I am always thrilled to hear from anyone who enjoyed pregnancy. May you and Kourtney Kardashian bond over the glow and power of your body. Kim and I will be lamenting about the pain and the swelling. Both are okay! And breastfeed, or formula feed, or find a combo that works best for you. And when you’re having bouts of inevitable mom guilt about this choice or any other one, think about the airplane oxygen mask instructions: secure your mask first before assisting others. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. You cannot take care of someone else, if you are not taking care of yourself first.
Image: Jeremy Pawlowski/ stocksy.com
What is the fourth trimester anyway? No, it’s not an extra three months of pregnancy (praise be). The fourth trimester is defined as the 12-week period after the birth of your baby, and is definitely more taxing on your body and mind than pregnancy itself. It’s a time when you are adjusting to being a first-time (or second-, or third-time) mom and your baby is adjusting to the fact that they are an actual person. There isn’t much talk about how difficult this trimester is on new moms, probably because the new baby is way more interesting to people than the woman sitting on ice packs and walking sideways.
There Will Be Oh So Many Tears
Tears from the baby, tears from mom, probably even tears from dad. Remember those hormones that made you cry at every dog commercial during pregnancy? Those are now being flushed out of your body at an alarming rate, making you somehow even more emotional than you were during pregnancy. Even if you aren’t really a touchy-feely person, prepare yourself for some big emotions as your body tries to regulate itself. 70-80% of moms experience these postpartum blues, including you non-sensitive types. Not to mention, sleep deprivation will make anyone want to cry.
There’s A Weird Combination Of No Sleep And Lots Of Sleep
When I say lots of sleep, I mean your newborn. Newborns average around 16 to 17 hours of sleep a day. So why do you hear that new parents are sleep deprived when the baby is only awake for 8 hours max a day? Probably because your baby uses torture tactics like waking up every hour to eat, and you’ll be too paranoid to sleep anyway. Most have day/night confusion as well, which basically means they’re ready to party at midnight. Fortunately, with lots of light during the minimal amount of time they’re awake during the day, this issue should resolve itself over time. While your baby is snoozing away endlessly during the day, watch all the Netflix (unless you’re napping) and don’t feel guilty about it. Your baby has no clue and the mental escape is needed.
There Is No Sense Of Routine And No Rules
There are zero rules or routine in the 4th trimester, which may make your head spin if you’re a control freak. It’s sort of like the airport, where you can get a sh*tty glass of red wine at 9am for $25 and not be judged. Similarly, in the 4th trimester (partially due to the ’round-the-clock sleeping/not sleeping), do whatever you want and don’t you dare clean. Snacks that require cutting? Forget about it. Even reheating all those homemade freezer meals you ambitiously made while 39 weeks pregnant may feel like a stretch. Let yourself be lazy AF.
Recovery Takes A Long Time
Your day or two hospital stay is not a good indicator of how long you’ll actually be recovering from the birth for. You’ll probably be hobbling out the hospital doors at one mile per hour with an adult diaper on (friendly reminder to wear the baggiest sweatpants you own). You’ll likely be bleeding for a month or two, and taking some form of painkillers around the clock for weeks. For some reason, another thing that people don’t talk about enough is the fact that you’ll experience contractions after giving birth. Yep, you heard that right. Your uterus is trying to shrink itself from two pounds to two ounces, and does so by pretending like you’re in labor again for a couple of days after birth. Usually they’re not nearly as bad as regular contractions, but they may take you by surprise.
The bottom line is that it’s important to take care of yourself during the 4th trimester as well. It’s not selfish, it’s necessary.
Breastfeeding May Be Natural, But It Definitely Isn’t Always Easy
Did you ever go to a breastfeeding class offered by your hospital while pregnant? If so, you may have seen a video of a day-old newborn baby naturally finding its mom’s breast and learning how to feed on its own. The reality will look more like two nurses and your partner squishing your boob just right while simultaneously opening your baby’s mouth and slamming it into you. Yet even with all that effort, your nipples still bleed.
A mom’s milk supply takes a couple days to come in as well, so new moms get to worry if their baby is starving every time they cry until the next check-up. When it does come in, you may produce so much that you give yourself mastitis, or you may not produce enough. Sometimes it gets better (usually by the end of the 4th trimester), and sometimes it doesn’t (formula is totally cool too). If you are agonizing over the decision, remember that you have no clue which of your coworkers were formula fed vs. breastfed and it would be really weird if you did.
Feeling Isolated and Totally Overwhelmed is Normal
Some moms hate the newborn stage, or at best are totally overwhelmed for weeks and feel guilty AF for it. So if you know someone in the 4th trimester, can we make a pact to ask about how mom is doing first? And maybe bring a meal or clean the house while you’re at it? That would be great.
If you are in the thick of it, remember it’s a stage that will pass. You will eventually form a bond that is absolutely unlike anything you’ve experienced, like a weird “I’d kill for you” type of bond. On the other hand, if you love the newborn stage, don’t feel any shame in taking in those newborn snuggles and not sharing your babe with anyone else.
Don’t feel any obligation to anyone or anything besides you and your baby during this time. Fortunately, your body and mind have a funny way of blocking it all out so you probably won’t remember much of the hazing anyway. It does get better, and seemingly out of nowhere they’ll turn into this funny, smart toddler that you couldn’t picture life without.
There are a lot of things you learn when you get pregnant, but one of the super disappointing truths you’ll uncover, pretty much from day one, is that mom-shaming exists. It’s not always in outright vicious ways, either—sometimes the most hurtful shade comes in subtle, snarky remarks made about how much you’re working out while pregnant, the ways you’re disciplining your kids, what you’re feeding them (huh, baby-led weaning? Thanks, Karen, did I ask you?), oh, and how you brought them into the world. Yes, even in 2021, mamas who have delivered their littles via C-section have been made to feel that their birth stories weren’t as valiant or venerable as the one ones of their vaginally birthing counterparts. And as a mom who has welcomed two gorgeous humans via a slit above my hooha, I find the stigma surrounding cesareans as infuriating as it is invalidating.
According to Portland, OR OB Hospitalist, IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) and proud mom, Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, the shaming and the slippery slope of self-doubt that follows starts really early on. “Let’s be real, mommy groups can be pretty toxic sometimes, and the comparison game is pretty intense,” she says. “How you birthed your baby is another way to be categorized, and as an OBGYN and a mother myself, it frustrates me so much.”
We spoke with a number of moms who have had their babies via C-section and several healthcare practitioners; the consensus is that a birth is a birth is a birth, whether you push the watermelon-sized baby out of your vagina or have them pulled out of your abdomen. With that said, it’s more than time to dispel these C-section myths.
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Your Body Was Made For Vaginal Childbirth, So Any Other Way To Birth Is Unnatural
Sure, anatomically, our bodies may be primed to push, but that doesn’t mean that vaginal birth is the only way. Emily Silver, former Labor & Delivery nurse and co-founder of NAPS, the country’s most experienced provider of virtual pregnancy, newborn, and parenting classes, urges moms to remember that “natural” only really applies to an unmedicated birth, not the delivery route. (And shaming around using a medication is a whole topic for another day.)
“As a former L&D nurse, the term ‘natural childbirth’ has typically implied that a patient goes through labor and delivery completely unmedicated,” she explains. “Somewhere along the way, I noticed a trend where people started referring to a vaginal delivery as a ‘natural delivery.’ Maybe this is because they were confused, or perhaps it seems more ‘natural’ for a baby to come out of the vagina.”
The problem is, once we start referring to a vaginal delivery as natural, it makes any alternative, especially the C-section, seem unnatural. Echoing Dr. Lincoln’s sentiments about the damaging influence of social media, Silver shares that “through blogs, mom groups, and social media, our society has thrown it in our faces that natural deliveries are the best, most magical way to bring our babies into the world, so intentionally or unintentionally, moms are made to feel like ultimate failures when C-sections are the preferred or most necessary options.”
Because It’s ‘Unnatural’, If You Require A C-Section, It’s Some Fault Of Your Own
I mean, just reading that out loud makes me equal parts incensed and insecure. For me, I labored for 24+ hours and reached 7 cm dilated before my son went totally transverse in my uterus (sideways, basically). My doctor pretty much told me that I could keep contracting and pushing through, but it was very unlikely that he’d change up his positioning enough to be able to descend and come out the “old-fashioned way.” At that point, I was exhausted physically and emotionally, totally tapped out, and ready to meet my baby. Add to that a terrifying 25 minutes of vomiting and the shakes (also, a fever and IV antibiotics), and I was kind of begging them to wheel me into the operating room for this final act in my labor and delivery debut.
Nicole, a New Jersey mom of two, had no reason to believe she’d have a C-section, but when her daughter started showing signs of distress during her already marathon-length labor, she didn’t hesitate to heed her doctor’s emergency C-section recommendation.
“I’ve always been an athlete—I worked out all nine months of my pregnancy—and everyone told me that for those reasons, I would definitely have a vaginal birth,” she recalls. “Fast forward to the end of the third trimester, I’m a week late, being induced, laboring for 12+ hours, asking for the epidural and seeing my daughter’s heart rate drop twice as it’s being given. My OB knew it was not my hope to have a C-section, but in God knows what state of mind I was in, I said do whatever you have to to make sure she’s safe.”
Even moms who think they are shoe-ins for vaginal births can’t predict how things will actually turn out (and OMG, that’s life!!)
You Have A Birth Plan, So If Your Preferred Is Vaginal, Then You Need To Werk #nopainnogain
So, you know that old phrase, “You make plans and God laughs”? Well, it’s particularly applicable here, because a birth plan is a nice blueprint for what you’d love your birth process to look like, but if things go awry, you have to be flexible to ensure your safety and the safety of that precious baby. NYC mom of two little girls, Marie, had a pretty straightforward plan: get the baby out, become a mom.
“When I was pregnant with Lena, everyone kept asking me about my birth plan and my response always was, ‘my plan is to have a baby,’” she shares. “I didn’t really understand all of these other moms who were making playlists and bringing candles to the hospital, dreaming about the way they’d bring their babies into the world, or writing these step-by-step guides about their wishes … I treated it like I treat most things in life—I had a job to do, and the job was to birth a baby.”
Even without a plan, Marie remembers arriving at the hospital already about 7 cm dilated, getting the epidural, having her water broken, and then seeing things start to progress quickly, until they didn’t. “Her head was stuck; we tried to move her around and it just wasn’t working,” she says. “I remember my doctor saying “you can try to push, but I’m telling you, this baby isn’t coming out this way.” To which I responded, if she’s not coming out that way, why in God’s name would I do that? So I was prepped for the OR. I didn’t think twice about having the C-section.”
It’s nice to have a plan, but when that plan goes to sh*t, then it’s time to regroup and remind yourself that your babe isn’t too far away.
You Know Your Body, So If A C-Section Doesn’t Feel Right, It’s Probably Not
No one really dreams about having a seven- or eight-pound alien pulled from their body, sure, but do they dream about pushing that alien out? Eh, don’t think so. Both births are beautiful, and neither one is fun, says Dr. Michelle Tham Metz, partner at Uptown OBGYN of NY and an Assistant Clinical Professor of OBGYN at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC.
“I think it’s nice to remember that if not for the cesarean, many women would not be able to give birth to a live child or would have long-standing damage to their vaginal tissue leading to serious long-term complications,” reminds Dr. Tham Metz. “I do endeavor to have my patients deliver vaginally, because there is oftentimes less blood loss and fewer complications with subsequent pregnancies, but sometimes the only way to get a healthy mom and baby at the end of tough labor is surgically.”
Takeaway here: you might know your body real well, but your doctors know this body of work even better. Trust them when they outline your options and what they think is best.
You Won’t Have A Birth ‘Experience,’ Because You’ll Be Having Surgery
For Boise, ID mom Erica, the experience she had wasn’t what she expected, laboring for 14 hours and pushing for 3-4 hours before her doctors explained that her baby wasn’t fitting through her pelvic bones. That being said, when the C-section was decided, she was ready for it. It wasn’t until a (former) friend asked her to share her birth story that she started to feel some judgment and condescension.
“I had a friend who is super into natural births, from home, which is her thing and that’s great,” she explains. “She asked me to share my story with her, so I did. That’s when she said that the same thing happened to her and that she probably should have had a C-section, but she tried harder and dug deeper within her superwoman powers to give birth, the ‘real’ way. Total slap in the face.” Yup, pretty much.
The labor and delivery process are anything but universal. Dr. Lincoln reiterates, “Anyone who tries to belittle someone for having a C-section by saying it wasn’t a ‘real birth’ or it was an ‘easy’ way out has no grasp on reality.”
That’s absolutely the case, too, for mothers who have planned or elective C-sections. For Dr. Tham Metz, the planning and the precautions are in place to avoid severe and potentially life-threatening ramifications.
“Sometimes a planned surgical delivery will result in the best outcome for mother and baby. Some babies have serious malformations that require specialists to be present for the birth and planning that can improve the speed with which a baby can receive life-saving care,” she relays. “Some mothers have conditions that would lead to severe blood loss, the loss of their uterus and ability to have more children if not carefully planned with the right surgical team and blood products on hand.”
Even after delivering so many babies vaginally herself, Dr. Tham Metz birthed her first child through C-section. “My first child was breech and I too felt a loss at having to have a planned cesarean, but the benefit was knowing that my baby would not be at risk.”
And Dr. Lincoln and Nurse Emily Silver want to make it clear that while a C-section is a major abdominal surgery, with longer recovery time and increased risks, you can birth this way and still have an amazing experience.
“If you know you are going to need a C-section, that preparation period can be so helpful,” says Dr. Lincoln. “If you need a C-section, everything and everyone that you need on your team is there for you leading up to and/or during labor and delivery,” continues Silver. “You will still get to do skin to skin with your baby, you can still breastfeed if that’s what you prefer, you are still bringing a beautiful baby into this world and indeed experiencing childbirth.”
So, what do we need to do to put this “C-sections aren’t real childbirth” myth to bed? Well, it comes down to a few things that we can all do collectively:
Stop Saying “Oh, I’m Sorry” When Someone Says That They Had Their Baby Via C-Section
This has to be one of the most insulting things to hear when you’re fresh off the operating table and adjusting to newborn life. Nicole remembers holding her daughter in her hospital room, ashamed to tell people she had a C-section, and asking her husband and family not to tell people how it happened if they asked. “I told a couple people at work when I went back that I had a C-section and received, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, how are you doing?’ responses as a result. Which stung,” she admits. I’ve been on the end of that conversation too, and it sucks.
Dr. Lincoln advises, “We need to treat each birth as an individual story, because that’s what it is. Some stories end in C-sections, and that is more than OK, because it’s what made you a mom.”
Start Molding That Multiple-Ways-To-Bring-A-Baby-Home Mindset Early On
In her childbirth classes at NAPS, Emily Silver thinks it’s so important to remind ALL mothers to give credence to both possibilities and birth scenarios.
“I think step one is informing expecting moms that when you are pregnant, you shouldn’t skip the chapter on C-sections,” she cautions. “In fact, those moms we work with postpartum who have had an unexpected C-section almost always share feelings of blindsided-ness, or that they regret skipping that crucial portion of labor education, because they assumed that it couldn’t possibly happen to them, or they just never even considered it as a possibility.”
Not to mention, “women become mothers in so many different ways,” notes Dr. Tham Metz. “Surrogacy, adoption, fostering, via donor eggs, we should not focus so much attention on this one moment in time, because once the baby is here, it’s incredibly hard to be responsible for keeping said child alive, fed, and healthy!”
And Continue Celebrating All Births And Babies For The Magic They Are
This is the name of the game for Dr. Lincoln, an ardent believer that there are no birth trophies. “It’s important to not glamorize either way of birthing—they are both hard work and both experiences to be celebrated! What a waste of energy trying to stratify births into ones that are more worthy versus less worthy. I think as mothers we need to just stop it already with the comparison game—it is a useless exercise.”
And she’s not wrong. Marie said the same thing when we asked her to share her thoughts on her C-section, her VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), what, if any, judgment she felt after her births, and what truly matters at the end of the day.
“Anyone lucky enough to be able to carry and bring babies into the world at all should do what’s best for them—when our kids and us are all older no one will care about how we brought them into the world, they will care about what kind of people we raised them to be,” she maintains. “To me, that’s why all of the mommy wars stuff (c-sections vs. vaginal, breastfeeding vs. formula, working moms vs. stay at home moms, the list goes on) is all a bunch of bullsh*t.
Images: Aditya Romansa / Unsplash; betchesmoms / Instagram; Giphy
If you’re pregnant, you’re likely familiar with the not-so-fun phenomenon that is unsolicited advice. Everyone wants to tell you what you need to pack in your hospital bag (I personally used nothing in my bag but my toothbrush), how to handle those first few sleepless weeks, and the items you absolutely need to buy before your baby is born.
As a minimalist who lives in a very small New York City apartment, I found that a lot of items people told me I absolutely needed were nice to have at best, and useless and space-sucking at worst. In order to save you space, money, and do the environment a little favor, here are the things you actually need to buy before your baby is born.
1. Newborn Onesies And Pajamas
While my daughter spent a lot of time in her diaper in those early days, newborn onesies and pajamas are essential for both walks and warmth at home. Look for pajamas with little mitten-like ends to the sleeves so they can cover the baby’s hands—most babies are born with very sharp nails, which they love to use to scratch themselves and you. Because their hands are so tiny at first, cutting their nails is scary, and this is a nice solution. Baby mittens do exist for this purpose, but I found my daughter just pulled them off. And when it comes to PJs, opt for zippers over snaps—they’re so much easier to deal with in the middle of the night. Here are some onesies to get you started.
Gerber Baby Organic Cotton Long Sleeve Onesies, $7.99
2. Diapers And Wipes
While you will get a few diapers at the hospital, newborns go through a lot of diapers. So whether you’re doing cloth or disposable diapers, make sure you have some waiting at home for you—a month’s supply is probably a good bet. And don’t forget wipes! My favorites are Water Wipes, which are made with 99.9% water and great for your baby’s sensitive skin.
WaterWipes Baby Wipes Original, $42.99
3. Adult Diapers And/Or Thick Pads
I wouldn’t suggest going totally crazy with this one, especially because if you end up having minimal tearing they may not be necessary. Just getting one pack of adult diapers and thick pads may be enough, and the hospital will send you home with some as well.
4. A Bassinet
While your baby will do a lot of their sleeping on you, they do need somewhere to safely sleep when it’s your turn to get some shut-eye. You don’t need to get a crib ahead of time, but a bassinet is crucial—we actually ended up having our daughter sleep in the bassinet that attached to her stroller in the first weeks, and it worked out just fine.
5. A Swaddle
While you can use receiving blankets for swaddles (see more on that below), I personally found the process of trying to learn how to swaddle while also recovering from childbirth and taking care of a newborn to be exhausting and impossible. These Sleepea 5-Second swaddles are incredibly easy to use, and keep your baby snug and cozy so they sleep better and longer.
Sleepea 5-Second Baby Swaddle, $27.95
6. Burp Cloths
Babies spit up a lot, and if you want to semi-spare your clothes, sheets, and furniture, it’s important to invest in a few burp cloths. These muslin cloths are my favorites!
Muslin Burp Cloths, $20.99
7. Receiving Blankets
As mentioned above, you can certainly use receiving blankets as swaddles, but I personally used them a lot to change my daughter’s diapers in those early days. I’m not knocking the changing table—I do have one—but I kept a receiving blanket in each room for when I had an emergency blowout situation on my hands, which was quite often. So while changing tables are nice to have, I’m not sure I’d call them a necessity when you have the inexpensive convenience of a receiving blanket to work with.
8. Baby Wash
Babies have super-soft, sensitive skin, which means that whatever body wash or soap you’re using for yourself won’t work for them. The Pipette Baby Shampoo + Wash worked great for my daughter’s skin. And while you can use a baby bathtub, I personally found the one I got to take up way too much space—it was much easier to bathe my daughter in the sink or hop in the tub with her.
Pipette Baby Shampoo + Wash, $12
9. A Carseat
If you want to leave the hospital, you’ll need a carseat. And hey, this is important to have anyway if you want to go anywhere that isn’t walking distance from your home—like the pediatrician, for example.
10. A White Noise Machine
I was skeptical of actually needing this until I realized what a difference it made in my daughter’s sleep. The womb is very loud, and it helps lull the baby to sleep. A white noise machine serves the same purpose. I’m a huge fan of this machine by Vanzon, but I’ve heard people like the Hatch Restore as well.
Vanzon by ONSON White Noise Machine, $35.99
11. A Breast Pump
Unless you’re very sure that you won’t breastfeed, it’s helpful to have a breast pump on hand. It’s hard to know exactly how latching will go in those initial days, and if you want to encourage your milk to come in and keep your supply up, it’s important to pump if your baby doesn’t quite get it at first. Or, if you’re like me and you’re struggling with breastfeeding and need a break, pumping can provide that. Most insurance companies will send you a free pump, so if you’re insured, this won’t cost you anything. Alternatively, if you don’t have plans to breastfeed, make sure to order about a month’s supply of formula.
Whether you’re formula feeding or breastfeeding, it’s nice to have the option of a bottle. I used these Philips Avent bottles quite a bit from day one to feed my daughter pumped milk so I could get a solid four-hour block of sleep while my husband stayed up with her—a true game-changer.
Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottles, $28.90
13. A Breastfeeding Pillow
The My Brest Friend breastfeeding pillow is possibly the reason I was able to stick with breastfeeding at all. It was the perfect shelf for my daughter when she was so small, and made it so that I didn’t have to hunch toward her at every feed. While this isn’t a necessity if you don’t plan to breastfeed, it can still be a nice spot to place your infant when they’re drinking a bottle or when you want to let them sleep on you.
My Brest Friend Original Nursing Pillow, $34.95
14. Nipple Butter
Nipple butter isn’t a necessity if you’re not breastfeeding, but your nipples get so, so sore at the beginning—and nipple butter helps a lot. Once the soreness eased up, I simply used my nipple butter as lip balm. This one from Earth Mama Organics is my favorite!
Earth Mama Organics, $12.99
15. Something To Carry Your Baby In
Whether it’s a stroller or you like the idea of “wearing” your baby, you’ll need something to safely transport them in so you’re not totally housebound. And trust me, sanity walks are very necessary for mental health at the beginning. I used the Ergo Baby, which is incredibly comfortable once you get the hang of it.
Ergobaby Carrier Omni 360, $179
Image: Lucy Wolski / Unsplash
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Having a baby is beautiful and a miracle and all that, but anyone who has gone through it knows it’s also awkward AF. There’s nothing quite like your mom texting the whole extended family about how many centimeters dilated you are to make you realize that fact. There are a lot of unspoken questions about birth that expecting moms might be too embarrassed to ask their friend, sister, mom, or even their OBGYN. We’re going to do every first-time mom a favor and dive right in to some of the most awkward birth questions that you’ve been dying to know.
1. Will I Poop During Labor?
So this is probably an obvious one that we’re all just in denial about—understandably, because who enjoys pooping in front of someone else? Pushing a baby out is literally exactly like pushing the biggest poop of your life out, and you will be using every muscle imaginable to get that baby out. So yes, most women do poop while giving birth.
If this automatically makes you sweaty and uncomfortable, know that it’s incredibly common. Nurses are completely unfazed by it and clean it up so fast that you’ll have no clue anyway.
2. Will I Be Able to Cover Up And Not Be Totally Naked?
The short answer is not really. However, it’s very important to note that even the most modest mom will give approximately zero f*cks about being naked mid-contraction. You’ll have a hospital gown on, but it’s pretty difficult to keep anything below the waist covered when it’s time to push. If you’re having a C-section, you’ll likely be naked from the waist down. You’ll have a sheet between you and the surgery, so at least you don’t have to watch.
Either way, you are singlehandedly (with the help of your nurses and doctors) bringing life into this world, which is pretty incredible. Not a single person in that room will care about you being naked, including yourself.
3. Will My Partner See Everything And Will It Affect Our Relationship?
See above about the fact that it’s pretty impossible not to be totally naked from the waist down, so unless your partner stares intensely at your face the entire time (which is definitely even more awkward), they will see some stuff during a vaginal delivery. That is, of course, unless they’re a fainter.
If your partner thinks any differently of you or your body after bringing his/her baby into the world, it better be positive. That’s all I have to say about that. Generally, though, there tends to be a resounding sense of amazement from partners. Choose the person or people that will be in the room with you wisely, because they will be your biggest cheerleaders throughout—not to mention, they may be cussed at a lot.
4. How Long Will I Bleed For?
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This is a case-by-case basis, but typically up to six weeks, even if you’ve had a C-section. Unfortunately, you do still bleed if you have a C-section (although usually not for as long). It doesn’t seem right or fair since C-sections are invasive enough as is, but if all of this were fair, then men would have to give birth and humanity probably wouldn’t survive.
You may also be a bit sore and swollen, which might come as a surprise the first time you take a look down there postpartum. Remember that the ice packs provided by the hospital are your best friend. The good news is that the bleeding and swelling will eventually subside, and you then get to look forward to your first postpartum period. Isn’t being a woman fun?
5. Should I Shave/Wax?
The least of your doctor’s concerns are your unshaved vagina, and WHO recommends not shaving prior to labor to minimize your risk for infection. It’s ultimately up to you, but if you’re tempted to, you may want to run it by your doctor first. If you are having a C-section, they’ll shave around the incision site, but they may have more specific instructions for you to prep for your surgery.
If you’re modest and feeling a bit anxious about all this, remember that the doctors and nurses are very, very used to anything weird that happens during labor and don’t actually think any of it is embarrassing at all. You also absolutely won’t be thinking about any of this when the big day comes.
Image: Ömürden Cengiz / Unsplash; betchesmoms (2) / Instagram
Am I the only one who feels like every single celebrity is having a baby this year? In the last month alone, Katy Perry, Lea Michele, Hilaria Baldwin, Teyana Taylor, and Katherine Schwarzenegger have all given birth. Just in the last month!! But the 2020 baby train isn’t slowing down anytime soon. In the past several months, there have been many celebrity pregnancy announcements, from A-listers to reality stars, and it’s honestly too much to keep up with. But we can at least try, right? From the ones you’re sick of hearing about, to the ones you’re not sure if you ever heard about in the first place, here are all the celeb pregnancies you need to know about.
Ashlee Simpson Ross
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We are pregnant and we are so excited to share it with everyone. Baby #3 ♥ Thank you @clearblue #clearbluepartner #clearblueconfirmed During this unprecedented time, we know pregnant women may be under greater stress which is why we are supporting @marchofdimes Mom and Baby #COVID19 Intervention and Support Fund. Check out their Instagram page to see how they are helping moms and babies get the care they need now and in the future.
Ashlee Simpson, who is now married to Diana Ross’s son Evan (tbt to Pete Wentz), announced her third pregnancy back at the end of April. You’ll notice that Ashlee’s announcement is part of a trend throughout this list: announcing your baby in partnership with a pregnancy test brand. We thought this was wild last year when Malika Haqq did it, but it turns out she was just ahead of the curve. In a nice twist, Ashlee and Clear Blue also partnered to support COVID relief through the March of Dimes, so this is one case of pregnancy test spon that I can really get behind. Ashlee’s fam is actually super adorable, so stalk her Instagram if you need some cute kids in your life.
Jade Roper Tolbert
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HERE WE GROW AGAIN!!! It feels so good to be able to finally talk about this pregnancy! If you noticed I haven’t been on social media much the past couple of months, it’s because I was dealing with terrible nausea and fatigue, on top of taking care of two kiddos during a pandemic. Although this time has its uncertainties, we are so thankful and excited for this baby. I truly believe babies being born during this time are here for a special reason, to be light workers. We are beyond happy to love another baby, to give Emmy and Brooks another sibling and to have our children be so close! #partyof5 #babynumber3
It’s baby number three for Bachelor In Paradise alums Jade and Tanner! After kicking off this year by winning, and then losing, a million dollars in fantasy football due to ~cheating~, things have taken a positive turn for the Tolberts, with their latest pregnancy announcement coming in May. Jade posted this week that she’s at 29 weeks, so we can expect another fall baby. Whether you closely follow these two or not, they seem to be one of the least messy couples to ever come out of Paradise, so I say cheers to that.
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It was a tumultuous start to the summer for Vanderpump Rules OG Stassi Schroeder, who announced her pregnancy just days after being fired from VPR along with three other cast members for past racist behavior. For those who watched the show, the baby news seemed to come out of nowhere, and the timing of the announcement seemed… strategic. But regardless, Stassi’s pregnancy is definitely real, and she updated her followers later in June that the baby is a girl. As for Stassi’s next career move now that Pump Rules is off the table, we still don’t know, but next week, she’ll sit down with Tamron Hall for her first interview since her firing.
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Fans were skeptical last fall when Nicki Minaj announced she was retiring to have a family, but it turns out that was half true. She’s released music since then, and even scored her first two number-one songs, but she is, in fact, starting a family with husband Kenneth Petty. She announced her pregnancy with a typically over-the-top photoshoot in July, complete with yellow and blue wigs, bedazzled bikinis, and heels that I don’t believe anyone could possibly walk in. She hasn’t shared much about her pregnancy since then, but she’s been featured on new songs from A$AP Ferg and Ty Dolla $ign, so she still doesn’t seem too committed to the whole
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She may not be great at math but at least we know she’ll be well dressed 🥰
It’s been a whirlwind summer for Morgan Stewart, who got engaged to Jordan McGraw (Dr. Phil’s son) in July, and announced her pregnancy in August. Honestly, she’s making the most of her time during this pandemic, which begs the question, should I be engaged and having a baby right now? Much to consider. Last summer, people (me) were heartbroken when Morgan announced she and her Rich Kids of Beverly Hills co-star Brendan Fitzpatrick were divorcing, but now she looks happier than ever, so good for her.
Khadijah Haqq McCray
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I’m pregnant!!! I couldn’t wait to share that my family is growing and we will soon welcome a new baby in our home. I decided to use @ClearBlue because this has always been the most important result in my life. I love how their digital pregnancy test builds excitement by showing a countdown feature, assuring your answer is coming… And for me it displayed PREGNANT! No time for guessing, I need accuracy. Thank you #ClearBlue for delivering this amazing news to myself, my family and friends! #ClearblueConfirmed #ClearbluePartner
This summer, Khadijah followed in her twin sister’s footsteps, and announced her pregnancy with a Clear Blue ad—it runs in the family! For Khadijah, this is her third child with husband Bobby McCray, a former NFL player whom she married in 2010. Khadijah flies under the Kardashian radar, but low-key it seems like she has the healthiest relationship of anyone in their circle.
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Chrissy Teigen and John Legend already have two of the cutest kids in Hollywood, and they recently announced that they have a third baby on the way. Chrissy did a classic bump reveal in John’s most recent music video, and later officially confirmed the news on social media. Naturally, Chrissy has been having fun with pregnancy content on social media, like when she posted this tabloid headline about herself. We love a queen with a Google Alert set for her name. This week, she shared that her doctor put her on bed rest for two weeks, so hopefully everything is okay, but she said she’s taking this time to learn how to sew costumes for her kids—can’t wait to see how that turns out.
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Last spring, Emma Roberts began dating Garrett Hedlund shortly after ending her seven-year relationship with Evan Peters, and a little over a year later, she announced that she and Hedlund are expecting their first child. She shared that the baby is a boy with a cheeky Instagram caption, commenting that Garrett and her baby are “my two favorite guys.” To anyone thinking about doing an elaborate gender reveal that may start a wildfire—this is enough.
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Reflecting on when we found out that we are going to be parents. ❤️ Discovering that I was going to become a mother will forever be a moment where time stood still. I took a test and ran into the kitchen where Chandler was making us tea. He didn’t hear me come in so I speechlessly watched him pouring the water into my most loved hedgehog mug. This news would change the course of our future in the best way. I started crying tears of pure joy and told my sweetheart husband that my test was positive. We were beaming while our adorable puppy Piggy sat on our feet wondering what was going on. It reminded me of just how perceptive animals are. We sat together with tea talking about the future and how we were going to share such wonderful, life changing news with the people that we love. In that short span of time the gorgeous baby I’m carrying became the most important part of our lives. It is such a blessing knowing that this tiny person has chosen us as parents. Our baby Wildlife Warrior is going to be so very loved by our families and entire Australia Zoo team. I can’t wait to find out what this amazing new soul loves in life, and experience the world all over again through their eyes.
In case you want to feel old today, Bindi Irwin—yes, the late Crocodile Hunter’s daughter—is now married, and expecting her first child. She’s dedicated her life to carrying on her late father’s legacy, including marrying her husband Chandler in a very intimate ceremony at Australia Zoo at the beginning of the pandemic. Chandler and Bindi both work at the zoo, and their baby will no doubt be wrangling snakes before it can form full sentences.
It was only a matter of time before the Vanderpump Rules cast started popping out kids, and Lala Kent was the second former SURver of the summer to make a pregnancy announcement. She’s currently engaged to Randall Emmett (who already has two adorable kids), and with their wedding postponed until 2021 due t0 the pandemic, what better time to start a family? They announced the news on their podcast on Lala’s 30th birthday, and this week Randall posted an ultrasound—revealing that Lala is 10 weeks along—on his Instagram story. Cheers to these two, because they’ve certainly come a long way since the days of Lala only referring to Randall enigmatically as “my man”.
We’ve seen Ashley Darby go through a lot on The Real Housewives of Potomac, and on the current season, she’s struggling with postpartum depression after giving birth to her first baby, Dean. But she’s come a long way since then, and this week, she shared that she and her husband Michael are expecting a second child in early 2021. Looks like her storyline for season six is all set—hopefully she can mostly steer clear of drama with the other ladies and enjoy a smooth pregnancy.
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On September 24th, Mandy Moore announced via Instagram that she and husband Taylor Goldsmith are expecting a baby boy together in early 2021. Mandy and Taylor got married back in 2018, and they’ll both be first-time parents. Considering that we’ve known Mandy Moore for basically forever, it’ll be exciting to see her on the journey of becoming a mom.
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It’s no secret that pregnancy causes changes to the body (and if it is a secret, glad you’re here, and get ready for some eye-opening truths). Many moms worry about whether or not their figure will #snapback to their pre-baby shape. Typically, OB-GYNs advise new moms to wait six weeks before any moderate exercise. But, what about the vagina? After that six-week-wait, will it, too, snap back to pre-baby vigor and beauty after giving birth?
Golden Girl Betty White once joked: “If you want to be real tough, you should grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.” That’s particularly true of the V during a vaginal delivery, during which it accordions to give way to a
bowling ball bouncing baby.
But even the tough-as-nails vagina has its breaking point. For instance, the 3- to 4-inch long organ can, on the outside, suffer vaginal tears during labor. And, unbeknownst to new moms, problems can arise weeks after delivery day.
“It’s not even about the tear ,” says Dr. Amir Marashi, an OB-GYN, cosmetic gynecologist, and author of A Woman’s Right to Pleasure. “A lot of people get scared like, ‘Oh my god! I got, like, a first-degree tear.'”
“Of course, it’s worse when you get a third or fourth-degree tear,” but muscles that comprise the pelvic floor, he says, are an even bigger concern. Before specializing in cosmetic gynecology, Marashi says he delivered lots of babies and often saw how unkind childbirth could be on the vagina. Because of that, he would take extra time and care to stitch women up post-delivery. His colleagues dubbed him “Vagilangelo,” and “The Vagina Whisperer.”
“The muscle around the vagina, the most important part, is sitting between the vagina and rectum, and another part is sitting between the vagina and bladder,” says Marashi. “So, in a normal vagina, before having kids, these muscles separate the rectum from the vagina and separate the bladder from the vagina. Now, imagine you’re in labor for two to three hours. At the end of the labor, your baby’s head is literally sitting inside the vagina, stretching all these muscles.”
Will It Snap Back?
“What happens when you stretch a rubber band and let go? It goes back to normal. But imagine for five hours, you’re holding this rubber band, stretched. When you let go, it never goes back to the normal shape,” says Marashi. “Now, as your rubber band gets older, you’ll see little cracks on it, too. The same thing happens to us and the vagina.” Actually, it’s kind of like Mick Jagger’s face. The moves are still there—just with a little extra skin flapping in the wind.
“As you get older, you lose collagen and the muscle that stretched and the microtears—even if you don’t get the tear—there are microtears inside this muscle.” The loss of tone and strength can be moderate and subtle for some women, says Marashi. In others, having one or multiple children can have a life-altering ripple effect.
How Will It Look?
Pre-baby, your lady parts may look like a cute little smooch. But afterwards, you might be looking more like an influencer who’s gone without their lip injections for too long. That’s normal, so don’t freak out. The exterior vagina can take on a different size and shape postpartum, too. “Patients tell me that the outside looks not as pleasing as it was before because it’s stretched out.” The vaginal opening can be wider, and the labia minora (or the tinier lips) can be elongated, while the labia majora, the fattier outer lips, can wrinkle. Marashi and other cosmetic OB-GYNs specialize in doing a face-lift of sorts down there, but more on that later. But in extreme cases, women can be diagnosed with cystocele, or the bladder’s prolapse into the vaginal canal, or rectocele, the bulging of the rectum into the vagina. Either prolapse can be so severe that the resulting bulge can hang outside of the vaginal opening. In that case, Marashi says he will perform a pelvic floor reconstruction to put the goods back in place.
How Could Your Sex Life Be Impacted?
Many of Marashi’s patients are mamas who complain their lady parts are looser postpartum, and that sex with their partners doesn’t bring them to orgasm. (While there can be many causes for lack of sex drive, if you’d rather do a crossword puzzle, or it’s been a while since you’ve done the deed with your partner, you might want to get that checked out.)
As the pelvic wall thins, the perineum—or the area between the vaginal opening and the anus—becomes shorter. The vagina, which naturally slopes downward, now flattens and becomes
like throwing a hotdog down a hallway tunnel-like. “Now, the entrance of the vagina is lower,” says Marashi. In vagninal sex, an erect penis rubs against the nerve-ending rich top wall, home of the elusive G-spot.
But in a vagina that has lost its tone, getting it on can be a bore, no matter what type of sex you’re having. When that happens, “you don’t feel sex and internal orgasms as much as you used to feel it,” says Marashi. “ still tell me that the clitoris gets stimulated, but sometimes, after two or three kids, that they don’t feel anything. There’s not as much friction.”
Marashi says he has three popular procedures mamas can choose from to get their mojo back and look like a blossoming Georgia O’Keeffe painting. His most popular request, he says, is a vaginoplasty, a veritable face-lift for the lady garden. The hourlong surgery, which carries a $7,000 price tag, is the most invasive of the three and involves deep muscular cutting and stitching. Patients can’t have sex for six weeks afterward while the surgery site heals. There’s also a $3,500 outpatient procedure he calls the Vagilangelo, which involves a few sutures and the injection of platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, directly into the vaginal tissue. There is also less invasive and nonsurgical laser resurfacing ($1,000 per session). For moms who lost volume in their labia majora, Marashi says he can inject a patient’s own fat—often while joining fellow plastic surgeons on a mommy makeover procedure—into the area to plump it back up.
…Or Not To Fix
If a woman’s postpartum vagina looks and feels different, it doesn’t necessarily warrant a trip to an OB-GYN—unless, of course, the changes interfere with her quality of life. “Your vagina will look different, anatomically, no question about it, but it’s not wrong for the vagina to be looser,” says Marashi. A woman’s sex partner should also be supportive of the change, but if that comes with difficulty, there’s sex therapy, trying different positions, and sex toys to bring back the spice. And for those moms who want things tighter but don’t want to go under the knife, Marashi has a simple prescription: Kegels, and lots of them. “I actually want to start while pregnant and continue. I tell them 20 times, three to four sets. If you can hold a kegel for seven to 10 seconds, that’s really good,” says Marashi. “But I don’t really care how long they can hold it. With time, it’s going to get better.”
Images: Ava Sol / Unsplash
Welcome to Momhood, where you’ll find a verklempt me. I miss my girlfriends, the fab Non-Moms with perfect nails, flowing coiffes, fresh ‘fits, and makeup expertly applied after hours of YouTube tutorials.
Now, I am a superwoman, racing around my apartment for hours while chasing after my charging toddler.
I’m also a super effing lonely first-time mom.
My single friends started to disappear with the first midnight feeding. It wasn’t for lack of trying—at first, there were lots of invitations, but they were coming to kvell over my baby, not to clink a glass of Whispering Angel. Happy hours, fancy dinners, concerts, barbecues, and girls trips were going on hiatus for a few seasons.
Quarantine is not so hard. I spent much of 2019 housebound with the baby while breastfeeding and pumping round-the-clock—that was hard. Now, I’m spending much of the socially distanced present far from the very friends I had hoped to finally hang with by my side.
Still, without sisters, it isn’t easy.
Less Time, Less Friends
According to a Child Magazine survey, 69 percent of women felt satisfied with their friendships before having kids; only 54 percent felt that way afterward.
The culprit? Less time to spare. The same study found that before becoming moms, women spent 14 hours per week with friends, compared to only five hours after.
Joanie Cox-Henry, a former celebrity reporter, says things got real when she welcomed her son, Jack, now 5.
“My friendships before I became a mom were totally different: I met up for happy hour, went to concerts with friends, took couples vacations, and endlessly shopped for shoes, clothes, and makeup,” says Cox-Henry, now a mom of two who blogs about her mom life for Motherloading.
“I could accept phone calls at any hour of the day and really be there for my crew. I worked as a fashion and beauty writer and would be at Miami nightclubs and red carpet events constantly.
“After I became a mom, I slowed down a lot. I was still popping bottles at 3am, but now they were baby bottles, and I became so excruciatingly tired. I used to think I was tired before, but after becoming a parent, you unlock a fatigue achievement level you never fathomed was possible.”
Tania Hammond, a stay-at-home mom of two, says she lost about “four or five friends” after welcoming her daughter in 2017, adding,“It’s so tough to work around my schedule.”
When non-moms invited her out, she answered, but with an interrogation. “‘Where are we going? What time? How long are we going to be there?’ And the reason why I’m asking all of those questions is because I’m on a schedule.”
Soon, the invites diminished. “I feel like they got frustrated and gave up, like, ‘Ugh. This is too difficult.’ When I was single, and I had mom friends, I feel like I was more understanding,” says Hammond. “I still hung out with them, and I flexed my schedule to match theirs. But, I feel like that was not reciprocated when I became a mom.”
When The Tables Turn
Chantie Khan-Enwright says she lost four friends when she became a mom at 25. That’s when the invites to party and hang into the wee hours were plenty. Now that her kid is 13, many of her thirtysomething friends are finally pushing strollers—and seeing what it’s like having virtually zero time to chill.
“Now they see the importance of getting a break and having adult time,” says Khan-Enwright, a work-from-home travel agent. “They” being the ride-or-die friends who toughed it out through Khan-Enwright’s busy mom years.
“My circle is really small, and the moms have kids at different ages.” They stick together, taking family trips, and carving out moms-only time within the getaways. Thinking back, Khan-Enwright says she doesn’t miss the pals who didn’t bother to stick around. “They were only there for a season,” she says, “cause now their reason is over.”
Finding A New Crew
After a bit of an adjustment period, now I’ve decided to leave the ones who left me in the rearview. No grudges. No side-eye. It’s okay, I tell myself, they’ll learn one day—or not.
I’ve miraculously managed to make new mom friends during the lockdown. One day, while taking my little one for a walk, I met a mom who looked so much like me, it was almost like looking in a mirror. She’s West Indian-American, too. Our little boys are also both curly-headed—literal bookends. We’ve managed socially distant playdates (with lots of Clorox wipes to clean the swings at the park), and we chat about our old lives and long for the day when we can spill wine on each other in a crowded bar.
Another day, yet another mom came pushing her son down the block in his toy car—she’s a Korean fashion designer mourning her employer, Ann Taylor’s, filing for bankruptcy. We connected over our shared love of European travel and brioche. Lots of brioche.
We three find solace in knowing we’re all equally tired, worried, happy, and thankful. The beginnings of a new sisterhood.
We’ll all be okay.
Images: Sai De Silva / Unsplash