Hi blog land (and people who unknowingly visit blog land through social media links because let’s be honest, that’s like everyone now)!
It’s been entirely too long.
I saw some pictures come up in my Timehop app last week, and I caught my breath.
There was a photo of the Pantages theater in Los Angeles. I was there for a media event, and I spent the entire symphony trying to convince myself nobody was going to push me over the edge of the balcony from 6 rows back.
Then a photo of me holding my then 10 month old daughter. I had a bruise on the front of my leg from rubbing an imaginary “tumor” over and over, convinced I would need my leg amputated, and that I’d probably die and never see her go to kindergarten.
She started kindergarten this year, and I was there.
5 years ago I was sinking, drowning, felt like I was dying. Literally. I was rock bottom in the pit of postpartum anxiety. And I had no idea that I would ever be able to sit here today, and look at that from a distance. I had no idea what it would feel like to say that was something that happened to me, not who I was, who I am. I didn’t think I’d ever feel any differently.
Then I read The Symptoms of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety in Plain Mama English from PostpartumProgress.com, and to say my life was changed would not even begin to cover it. I was not a bad mother, I was not dying. I was sick, and I could get better.
AND I DID.
(And then I got sick again, and then better again. Click here if you want to read through my journey with postpartum anxiety.)
I will forever be indebted to Postpartum Progress for helping me get out of that incredibly dark place, I’ve been dedicated to helping them share their mission with mothers ever since.
So, for the 2nd year, I am honored to team up with Cotton Babies, a sponsor of the Postpartum Progress Warrior Mom Conference and supporter of all moms, to create a video PSA that we all hope will get seen by countless people all over the world who need to know that there is help for all moms who feel this way.
I wanted the tone for this year’s video to be uplifting and full of hope. 1 in 7 mothers (at the very least) will deal with a perinatal mood & anxiety disorder, like postpartum depression, anxiety, ocd, and psychosis. Our goal is for every single one of those mothers to know that she can get better, she can rise up, and that this does NOT stop her from being a good mother. There are so many of us who have made it through to the other side, and we’re here to throw you a lifesaver.
We are more than the news stories. We are changing lives- our own, and mothers and children around us. We will not be quiet. We will keep shouting about this until all mothers and people who love mothers know that Postpartum Progress is here to help, and to smash the stigma and the shame.
On to the video! I hope you’ll consider sharing this with anyone and everyone you know.
I’ve seen first-hand how few major voices are willing to speak out on our behalf. And by that, I mean brands, pharmaceutical companies, corporations. There are SO MANY people who will NOT touch this cause with a 10 foot pole. I have been behind the scenes, pitching them to sponsor Climb Out Of The Darkness and the Warrior Mom Conference. Many will say they choose to focus their resources on causes that “help children.”
You want to “help children”? There is nothing more important than supporting their mothers.
So it is incredibly moving to me when a brand that I have long loved and used and aligned with steps up and makes a PROUD stance supporting Postpartum Progress and all mothers. I can not thank Cotton Babies enough for their part in all of this. I hope you’ll consider supporting them, too.
Finally, a special thanks to this year’s Warrior Moms who participated in the video.
Jessica is a home schooling mother and dedicates herself to being the best she can be for her 3 children.
Heather is a mother of 2 who also runs a postpartum support group and leads a Climb Out Of The Darkness climb in her city.
Graeme is a Postpartum Progress Warrior Mom Ambassador and blogs at The Postpartum Mama. (Photo by Maria White & Matthew Mebane)
In the fall of 2013, when Lowell was 8 weeks old, I had a moment that made me wonder if I’m actually some kind of psychic.
I’m only half joking. Actually, I’m mostly serious.
We were driving home from his 8 week appointment, just the two of us, on a two lane road that I liked to take to avoid the busy highways between our home and the pediatrician’s office. Over the years, this road has become increasingly busy as construction booms around it.
As I approached a curve in the road to the left and a pile of large debris on the shoulder to my right, I had a very clear thought- It would be so easy for someone to hit me head-on on this road.
And then, literally seconds later, the car approaching me veered into my lane. And because I had just had this thought, and I was focusing so intently on the cars ahead of me, I had just enough time to veer to the right barely enough without swerving into the pile of construction debris while laying on my horn.
The driver of the car looked up from their phone in time to veer back into their lane before hitting me.
I haven’t taken that road since.
On New Years Eve last year, Leyna broke her arm, and I spent most of New Years Day trying to figure out if I could blame that bad luck on 2013, or if it was a sign that 2014 was going to be a year that broke me.
I let my maybe-psychic mind convince me that, like the car approaching me, 2014 was going to be something I had to keep intently focused on. A year I would probably have to honk my horn at, and maybe flip the bird, and hope it doesn’t hit me head-on.
Not surprisingly, 2014 was a year that I struggled with postpartum anxiety again. I was back on my meds by March after a few months white-knuckling and trying to soothe my racing, maybe-psychic mind on my own.
Truthfully, I spent all of 2014 trying not to listen to a small voice saying, “This year is going to break you. It’s going to be awful.” So much so that I didn’t even want to publish this post that’s been brewing in my head until 2014 was gone.
God forbid I published it on the 31st, and then our house burned down that night or something.
Seriously, this is how my brain works.
But now, safely in the arms of 2015, I can say that while 2014 did threaten to flatten me at times, I managed to navigate it like a pro, narrowly squeezing between anxiety on my left, and overwhelming pressure of motherhood and work and buying a new home on my right, while I cruised through some pretty great moments.
I still wonder, though, how much I can trust my own instincts. It’s clear that they are very on-point sometimes. And at others, it’s clear that they like to make me crazy for no good reason. Anxiety is a bitch like that. It makes my intuition drunk… or maybe high? I’ve never been high, but I hear that you become paranoid. So perhaps that’s a better analogy.
I hate looking at the whole of things ahead of me. I hate trying to predict what an entire year will bring. I will just stay intently focused on what’s immediately here. Living in the now, day to day, is one of the best ways I know to sober my instincts.
I’m glad I was very wrong to believe 2014 was going to be awful. It was the opposite.
(And you should know that my brain is telling me to delete that last sentence because now I have certainly set myself up for a horrific 2015. This is when I truly hope I’m not psychic and just have issues.)
I remember the day I stepped on the doctor’s scale and weighed in at 139 nearly 3 years ago. I was there for a follow-up appointment, to get a renewed prescription for meds to treat my postpartum anxiety.
It had been a month since I begged them to work me in as quick as possible because I thought I was surely dying… of cancer, of a heart attack, of something. A month since I admitted to myself and a medical professional that I was dealing with some serious intrusive and obsessive thoughts nearly 9 months after having my 2nd baby.
One. Thirty. Nine. I hadn’t seen that number on a scale since high school. My first thought, which I said out loud, was, “do you think something is wrong with my thyroid? I mean. Wow. That’s… I haven’t even been working out.”
So, and I am sure this was mainly to appease me and ease my overactive concern, they ran some tests. Nope. Nothing wrong with my thyroid.
I was just, well, I was the thinnest I’d been in a long time, size 6 skinny jeans sagging off my non-existent butt, because I wasn’t taking care of myself. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating. Not enough, I guess. I was living off of coffee. I wasn’t purposefully starving myself. I wasn’t aiming to lose weight that way. I had NO appetite.
It was all a part of the illness I was clawing my way away from. I was the thinnest I’d been in my adult life at a time when my life was the most scary it’s ever been.
I know this.
So it really makes me pissed at myself when I step on a scale these days, weighing a good 10-15 lbs more than that, and hear my inner dialogue tell me, “Remember when you were 139? Why can’t you be that skinny again?”
Hey, me? Shut the fuck up.
Because I knew the signs of postpartum anxiety this time, I caught on much earlier that I was back in that place again after having my 3rd baby a year ago. I started meds for it when he was 6 months old. I didn’t let myself get to that place where I’m living on the edge of a cliff. THANK GOD.
So the meds are working, and I am hungry, and I am enjoying life, and I’m sleeping.
The weight isn’t just falling off of me this time. Rationally, I know this is a GREAT thing. I’m not standing in front of a mirror, looking at my hollowed out cheeks, not able to recognize myself.
There is a pudgy tummy, and my butt is much bigger. My arms are thicker, and my chicken legs are less chicken-y.
It’s not a bad body. It’s a great body. I look good in most clothes. I’m mostly happy with it.
It’s not a skinny 139 body, though, and for some reason there is still that voice that pushes me to achieve that again. And I keep trying to tell that voice that that wasn’t achieved by going to the gym 3x a week, like I’ve been doing. That wasn’t achieved by running the fastest 5k I’ve ever run, which I did last week. That wasn’t achieved by decreasing the amount of crap I’m eating AND increasing the good stuff I NEED to eat.
I’ve been working out more in the last couple months than I have in a long time. It’s been hard to put in so much effort and feel like I’m seeing so few results. I would love to tone up, to slim down just a little more in a HEALTHY way, nothing too extreme. I’d love to have some real muscles. I’m working on it.
I am fighting that voice in my head that holds that 139 body up as what I should be striving for. That 139 body was sick. It was weak.
I want to be strong.
I have a confession to make. When I first started blogging, started really getting to know the sphere of parenting bloggers, and got to know other moms on Twitter, I noticed quite a few of them talked about struggles with postpartum depression/anxiety. Like, a fairly high percentage of the women I knew online.
I hate to admit that for a time I thought it was “trendy,” something these women were deciding to blame stress on. God, I really hate typing that out loud. I hate putting that admission out to the public. It’s not that I thought any of them were making things up. I just figured some were trying to latch onto PPD so they could give their struggles a name. I mean, there were just so many. That couldn’t possibly be true- that they were ALL struggling with some form of postpartum mental disorder.
What I didn’t realize at the time was what a debt I would owe to those women who were speaking out, sharing their struggles and calling them what they REALLY were. I didn’t realize that a few years later, I would be one of them. And a few years after that I would be one of them again. Without them, I would have never recognized myself in this list of Symptoms of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety (In Plain Mama English).
PPMDs are not “trendy.” You may hear more and more women speaking out about their struggles, but I assure it’s not because it’s a cool club. I thank God for the women who have come before me, who have shared their stories, who continue to put faces to postpartum mental disorders like postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, and psychosis.
We are talking about them more because they need to be talked about, beyond the sensationalist coverage they get every time a mom harms or kills her children and/or herself. We are talking about them more because we are part of a movement, because we were helped by the women who talked about them before us.
We are all climbing out of this together. We are reaching out to grab the hands of more women with a PPMD than have been reached out to ever before. We are not going to stop talking about them. We’re not going to stop climbing.
This video of Warrior Moms who’ve climbed out before, who are back in the world again, fills my heart with joy! Mothers, we can do this. If you’re struggling, you can climb out. You WILL get the old you back.
A HUGE thanks to David Gray for letting us use his song “Back In The World Again” from his new album Mutineers for this video. It’s. So. Perfect.
whether you’ve been personally impacted or not. Do you know and love a mother in your life? Or a woman or girl who may become a mother? Then this is personal to you.
Please consider donating to the Postpartum Progress annual Climb Out of the Darkness fundraiser. On June 21st, I’ll be hiking with my family, and reaching out to other local moms who are also climbing out of their own struggles.
My goal is to raise $5,000 to support the cause.
Will you please consider donating $10? Will you “buy” me lunch? Each $10 or more donation enters you into a drawing for one of several awesome prizes, donated by Joovy. They are thrilled to support this community and this cause, and I’m so appreciative.
Here’s what up for grabs:
Joovy Too Fold Stroller– An all-in-one all-terrain stroller valued at $800
Joovy Boob Gift Set– A bottle set, including nipples and breast pump adapters valued at $130
To be entered to win these prizes, you must donate through my page here. If you’d like to join my team, you can also do so at this link!
Since donations will be accepted through the 30th, I will announce winners the first week of July. Thank you in advance for any and all support, for any way you can help spread the word, and for all the love and support y’all have shown me in the past as I’ve written about my battle with postpartum anxiety and intrusive thoughts.
Mostly, thank you to the women who spoke out and climbed out before me, the ones who reached a hand out to me and continue to help me climb out today.
So I did this thing last weekend where I went to a blog conference all about dads. It’s called Dad 2.0, and I’ve been fortunate enough to make it 2 years now, each year of it’s existence. I don’t know why I never go into it with the expectations I do for other conferences that are “mom blog” centered, but I think that’s what makes it one of my favorites. Right down to not stressing about what to wear while I hang with a bunch of dads versus the grief I give myself over which toenail polish color to choose for Blogher every year.
There was also Karaoke, which I had the pleasure of experiencing (twice!) completely sober, but the crowd made it worth it. (Andy, David, Amy and Amy pictured above… and Kevin’s back, and Jim on stage.)
I was prepared to catch up with old friends, make new ones, learn a little, get a little inspired, but I wasn’t at all prepared for how this conference impacted me emotionally.
I’m aware a large part of that *may* have to do with being pregnant and getting about 5 hours of sleep a night.
I think I cried more at Dad 2.0 this year than I did at any other conference I’ve been to. Mostly, I was moved to tears because the speakers (mainly men) were so honest about their struggles, and so inspiring at the same time.
If you’re ever questioning if good men and involved fathers exist in this world, I assure you they do, and there are many. Don’t let advertising, media and gender stereotypes fool you. The real world is bubbling over with them, my husband included.
But then there was a moment that completely caught me off guard and left me crying in the bathroom in a near panic. A moment that had nothing to do with blogging or dads. A moment of total recall of my struggles with postpartum anxiety.
How many of you have looked at your sleeping child, and your breath is taken away by how much you love them…. and then the next moment you find yourself thinking about something bad happening to them?
– Paraphrased from a keynote Brené Brown gave the 2nd day. Her message was about vulnerability, and she was speaking at that point about how important gratitude is in our lives… how you have to be vulnerable to experience joy.
Yes, yes, that was me. For nearly a year. Every moment of my life. It was paralyzing. I thought as I sat there. Suddenly a wave of what it felt like to be in that place hit me. I remembered it fully. It was an odd, full circle moment for me, as I sunk into my seat, willing myself not to crumple into a ball of emotions.
Never in my life have I felt more vulnerable and powerless than since becoming a mom. My nature is always to be in control, to be strong. It’s a tough thing to experience… that feeling of knowing you have no control over most of what will happen to your child. For me it was, at least.
And so I found myself practicing this “foreboding joy” that Brené talked about a lot. Anytime I started to feel happiness and joy about my children, my blessings, my life, that place of vulnerability scared the shit out of me.
So I’d try to beat it at it’s game, my mind coming up with the worst scenarios possible that could rip that joy right out of my heart. They played out over and over in my mind until I couldn’t do things like look at a flight of stairs without visualizing my newborn falling over the railing, or cut tomatoes with a sharp knife and not visualize it somehow flying from my hands and into my son’s head.
I knew all this before I heard Brené speak, but I never made the connection between vulnerability, joy and the importance of gratitude.
Let me just stop here and state that I’m not saying the medical treatment I received for my anxiety was not a big part of what helped me because YES, it was. And YES I think if you’re struggling postpartum with depression or anxiety, you absolutely owe it to yourself to see a medical professional. And if that professional thinks you should take medication to bring you to a better place where you CAN make life changes, I think that’s something worth considering.
I wouldn’t have got to the place where I could make lifestyle changes without the medication to drag me out of the hole I couldn’t claw my way out of. It was my life preserver that brought me to the surface, and then it helped as I did more work on my own, swimming to the shore.
But some of that work I did to swim back to the shore included taking stock of my life, of really allowing myself to be grateful in that moment for all things big and small. And to stop myself from thinking about where those things would be and what could happen to them tomorrow.
At the time, I just thought it was part of slowing life down and putting things in perspective. I never realized it was an exercise in vulnerability, in really letting myself experience joy.
So when Brené put all these things together, it was a profound moment for me. So that’s what goes on in my head. So that’s why I’m terrified of life going “too well.” So that’s why it’s so hard to be grateful for what I have and not fear losing it in the same breath. All of that.
It’s not a cure, but an explanation that finally made a lot of my life since becoming a mother make sense. And I think it’s a very powerful message for all of us, not just moms or parents, not just those of us dealing with anxiety or depression. We can all learn from the power of vulnerability and the importance of not numbing away joy.
This is Brene’s TEDx talk on the price of invulnerability. It’s 15 minutes long. If you have a chance to carve out some time to watch it today or this week or some point soon, I hope you take away as much from it as I did.
After hearing her, I had to buy her book Daring Greatly, and while she signed it, I tried to express my gratitude for her helping me connect some random lose wires in my life, but I just wound up crying some more at her table, and then some more in the bathroom. I may know how all these things come to pass, the games they play in my head, how to logically overcome them, but there is no guarantee that I’ll never fall down that hole again. The emotions she brought back to me in her keynote made that very clear.
What is working for me this time, though, is knowledge. Knowledge of the signs and symptoms, knowledge that I’ve overcome it before, knowledge that I’m not alone in this.
Knowledge that joy is worth fighting for.
I wish I could somehow deliver all the important takeaways I had from Dad 2.0 to you like this, but much of it can’t be summed up in words, pictures or videos. Thanks to all the guys (and gals) who made the weekend a fabulous experience for the hormonal, exhausted, totally sober pregnant girl.
It’s been almost exactly a year since I broke down and got help for what turned out to be postpartum anxiety.
This time last year, I was in a lonely, scary, dark place. Like a hole I couldn’t find a way out of. I thought I’d be stuck there forever. It really didn’t seem like there would ever be a logical way out.
And I can’t say I’m safe from falling back in again just yet. There are days I dance on the edge, days I lose my footing and barely catch myself from tumbling down again.
There are days I get tired from balancing, from pushing away from it.
But, mostly, I’m a long way from where I was at the bottom of that dark hole last year.
Postpartum Progress’s Katherine Stone was interviewed on CNN recently, and I found it to be such a hopeful message. Postpartum mental health disorders are not forever. You can get help. You can get better. You can live a normal life again. Give it a watch if you need a healthy dose of hope.
One year later, I’m beyond honored to be speaking at the Pregnancy & Postpartum Health Alliance of Texas’ 2nd Annual Wine Tasting Social this Thursday, the 25th in Austin, TX.
I’m still firming up my speech, but I think my message will focus on hope, on overcoming, on how important it is to realize that’s a possibility even when you can’t see out of whatever dark hole you’re in.
If you’re in the Austin area and have some free time this Thursday evening, I would be thrilled if you’d join us. Come have a glass or two of wine with us and support an important cause. Support moms who need help seeing the way out of postpartum mental disorders.
Something has changed in the last month. Well, lots of somethings, actually.
The sun is shining, it’s warm, the house is full of glorious light, house projects are finally getting finished (only to start new ones, oh well), and I’m slowly digging myself out of the hell of anxiety that I’ve been living in for the last 9 months.
Life is not so overwhelming. Priorities are not so fuzzy. Impending doom is not so present.
That’s not to say I’m cured. I’m just coping.
And this much I know has helped:
Order, Control, Release
(click through from my home page to read more about how I’m coping and what I’m giving away)
“Only 15% of all women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders ever receive professional treatment. This means that each year another 850,000 women and their children may suffer from the negative effects of untreated postpartum depression and related illnesses for the rest of their lives because they never got the help they needed. And that’s just in the United States.” – Katherine Stone, Postpartum Progress
Today, I’m joining my friend Katherine from PostpartumProgress.com to help raise awareness for this worthwhile cause. Postpartum Progress has been operating for 7 years without any funding, and Katherine has done great things. Now, she wants to take the support for mothers with postpartum depression and anxiety to new heights. Her goal is to raise $30,000 so that Postpartum Progress can execute exciting new projects, including:
~ Developing a a compelling national awareness campaign for postpartum depression
~ Creating new and improved patient education materials for distribution by hospitals (the kind new moms won’t throw away!)
~ Translating “plain momma English” information and support into Spanish and other languages
Motherhood is hard on us all, at some point, I think, but some mothers don’t even know that the overwhelming sadness, the suffocating guilt, or the intrusive thoughts they frequently experience are signs of something much bigger than the “baby blues.” And even if they do, many don’t know what direction to take their first step in to get help.
I’m writing this blog today for 3 reasons:
1. To show my support for Katherine and all that she does.
2. To ask you to also support her and Postpartum Progress by donating to the cause (donation button below) and/or spreading the word.
3. To share the resources at Postpartum Progress with you, like The Symptoms of Postpartum Depression & Anxiety (in plain mamma English), and make sure you’re all aware that there is an amazingly supportive community you can turn to if you need help.
If you feel compelled to do so, if you are in a place to do so, if you would like to donate, you can here:
There was a brilliant piece on Bust circulating earlier this year about why you should skip a baby shower and have a 6 week long Postpartum Party instead. It was mostly popular with my mom friends who had been there, birthed that, and knew how very real this advice was. The postpartum period- also referred to as the 4th trimester- can be REALLY hard, but moms are expected to “bounce back,” host visitors, and be so happy all the time because their baby is such a special gift and they are hashtag blessed.
Some things about having a baby got easier for me the more I did it, but the 4th trimester was never one of those. In fact, it only got harder. My last recovery period was so brutal that I wrote I wished someone would please take my ovaries out and EAT THEM so I would never experience that again. You can read about that here.
I am really glad that by the 4th time around I realized I needed to stand my ground and put up some boundaries when it came to guests, and that I thought ahead to plan out what I’d need in the house to keep me comfortable and occupied. It didn’t shorten the time it took me to get through all of that, but it certainly helped me feel in more control.
Here are some things I recommend you do to prepare for your 4th trimester:
1. Make a postpartum mental health plan
I wrote about this for Today earlier this year, and I have an entire chapter of my book dedicated to it. Become familiar with the signs and symptoms of perinatal mood disorders, and share them with your partner and support people. Be sure they are watching out for them, too. Discuss with your medical provider before you have your baby about what you should do and who you should call if you begin to notice any symptoms.
By the time I had my 3rd and 4th babies, I had prescriptions already written for me that I could go fill because we knew to expect my postpartum anxiety to return.
2. Come up with a plan for visitors
If you have a lot of friends and family that live nearby, you’re probably going to have a lot of people who want to come over as soon as possible to hold your baby. I’m not saying to tell them no, but keep some things in mind:
If you’re going to have visitors over, I highly recommend having some kind of word or phrase you can mention to your partner that will signal to them that they need to come up with a reason to get everyone to leave. This shouldn’t have to be on you. If you discover that you just passed a clot that warrants calling your doctor about, or if you are just suddenly really overwhelmed, you shouldn’t have to tell that to everyone in the room if you don’t want to.
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Some guests may even want to come from out of town and stay at your house. No matter what anyone says, no matter how helpful they promise they will be, here’s what I suggest is your test for if someone can stay overnight with you those first few weeks: Are you required to be fully dressed in front of them? Are you okay with them seeing your nipples hanging out? If you blow up at your partner and scream-cry at them because you’re so overwhelmed and exhausted, would that be awkward for them to witness? There are exactly two people in my life who pass this test- my mom and my sister. Those are the two people who get to come stay the night with us in the weeks after I have a baby.
3. Stock your nest
While you’re filling your home with bottles and diapers and anything else for life post baby, don’t forget to think of yourself! Be sure to stock up on the following:
4. Plan ways to entertain yourself
Fact: Your baby will be the most beautiful baby ever created. Also fact: You will eventually tire looking at them while they sleep/eat. Make a list of podcasts and shows you want to binge and audiobooks you want to listen to. Consider asking for gift cards to your nearest movie theater when people ask if they can get you anything. Once you get the hang of feeding your baby and figure out their nap schedule, you very well could sneak in lots of new releases while your newborn naps and nurses or bottle-feeds through them. (Of course, sit near an exit so you can step out if they start crying.)
5. Stock up on transition clothes
Promise me you won’t let yourself believe you’ll be back into your pre-pregnancy clothes anytime soon. If that happens, great, but it’s not that norm and you should plan for it to take a while. Hopefully some of your maternity clothes will serve you well as you shrink back down. Here are a few more items to see if you can buy or borrow from friends:
6. Set realistic expectations
I’m not saying that everyone’s postpartum recovery experience is awful and hard, and I’m not trying to be alarmist about this. I just think it’s better to go into it with realistic expectations than to experience these real and valid feelings of being overwhelmed and exhausted and like you have no idea what you’re doing, and then wondering if something’s wrong with you.
Yes, your baby is amazing, and yes, you are so blessed and lucky. But also, it might not feel magical, and that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be. Feeling like the 4th trimester is in some ways worse than any other part of pregnancy doesn’t make you a bad mom. Hopefully you can spend a little time before you have the baby, communicating with your partner and support team, laying out clear expectations, and then prepare to take good care of yourself in those weeks and months after baby is here.