Top Ten Things I Wish I Knew About Pregnancy

By: Gloria Miles

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Whether you planned this pregnancy or it was a surprise...you're going to be surprised by something. Every pregnancy is different, so your experience will be different than mine. Heck, my experiences were different each and every single time! Still, there are certain truths that happen to a majority of women. For example: stretch marks! Yes, there are some lucky women who get away unscathed, but for the most part you should expect them.

During your pregnancy, you will be seen by your healthcare provider, an obstetrician or midwife. Their concern is a healthy mama, a healthy baby. And yet, there are definitely some normal, yet somewhat weird, things that can happen throughout your pregnancy.

Keep in mind that not all women experience the following examples. However, many do and if you are experiencing any of what is listed, remember that you are in good company!

  1. Beautiful, thick hair.

    Everywhere...and I mean everywhere. See those few extra strands on your chin? Or maybe you found that your belly has a little bit of a fuzzy layer on it now that you're pregnant. In a nutshell, changing hormonal levels lengthens the resting phase of the hair follicles (meaning they don't fall out) and increase how quickly hair grows.

    Sometimes hair changes texture or even color! Craziness, I know.

    What not to do: Don't use bleach or harsh waxes to get rid of unwanted hair. These can deposit some unwanted things into the bloodstream which can affect baby.

    The Good News: All the excess hair will eventually go away in the postpartum period.

  2. Constipation is an issue.

    This is something that you should report to your healthcare provider. However, rest assured that it's a fairly normal annoyance. It first occurs in the first trimester because of fluctuating hormones (yay).

    What to do: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. It helps in any situation. Eat things high in fiber and stay away from foods that cause more constipation (sodas, pasta, etc). Don't strain if you can help it when having a bowel movement.

    What not to do: Don't take any OTC (over the counter) stool softeners without the approval of your healthcare provider.
     

  3. Hemorrhoids. *Cue horrified expressions*

    I know that hemorrhoids are more common in women who are in subsequent pregnancies, but first-time moms can definitely have these little nuisances flare up. Most of the time, even if you get hemorrhoids, they're not too bothersome. However, some women can get them so bad that they are painful and/or need surgery. (Don't freak out. That's an extreme case.)

    Hemorrhoids can also cause bleeding after bowel movements, so if you wipe and see pink or red tinged toilet paper, don't immediately freak out, either.

    ***Any blood should be reported to your healthcare provider with amount and where it is coming from (vaginal or anal).

    What to do: Basically, you should do what is recommended for constipation issues. Additionally, try not to strain when using the bathroom. Also, if they are external, you can apply pressure or push them back up. (I know that sounds horrifying, but it's not as bad as you think.) Don't be too shy during your prenatal visits, either. Your healthcare provider may suggest better remedies.
     

  4. Pregnancy Brain is real!!

    Okay, don't laugh too hard, but I have searched for my glasses while wearing them. I have looked for my keys while holding them in my hand. I have told someone I have to find my phone before leaving my house while talking to them on the phone.

    But don't worry. It goes away after pregnancy. Then comes mom brain...which is worse...
     

  5. You break out like a teenager.

    Some women have glowing faces, less break outs, and beautiful skin during pregnancy. I was like that my first two pregnancies. Then, my third came around and I felt like I was going through my awkward teenage phase again.

    Also, I think that hormones are permission to smack anyone who tells you this lovely tidbit of info: "You can tell you're having a girl, because girls rob you of your beauty."  What a lovely way of telling me I look like sh**. A-hole.
     

  6. Charlie horse cramps.

    There is nothing worse than those calf muscle charlie horse cramps that make you want to stab your peacefully snoozing hubby for daring to sleep so comfortably while you're in agony. Seriously, those things are brutal.

    What to do: I wish someone had told me this my first two pregnancies!!! Typically, cramps are from a magnesium deficiency. Pick up some cal-mag supplements from Vitamin-Shoppe or Amazon. Those things made the biggest differences between my first pregnancies and my third.

    ***Discuss any supplementation with your healthcare provider prior to taking them.
     

  7. Pregnancy insomnia.

    Sometimes your brain is on overload and you can't sleep. The worst is looking over at your partner and wanting to smother him or her for being so blissful. Why the anger? Probably hormones. Doesn't matter. It just matters that even the most serene woman can contemplate murder at 3 a.m. when their significant other is fast asleep.


    What to do: Cut caffeine in the afternoon. Exercise! Hydrate. Eat well. And try to form a bedtime routine that you do in order to "prep" for going to sleep. Cut out screen time (including your phone!) for a few hours prior to bedtime, if possible.
     

  8. Crotch Lightning.

    Sometimes you get stabbing or shooting pains that seem to shoot down your vagina or even anus. It's always abrupt and can make you jump. I don't even know how to explain it better than that. It's common, but also hard to explain to the people you just scared by being pregnant and startling.
     

  9. A Colorful Vulva.

    Yes, you read that right. Everything on your body is changing in color and looks. Increased blood volume and swelling of certain regions means that your vulva may end up with a redder, bluer, or purple tinge to it. It may also look and feel more swollen.
     

  10. Increased Discharge

    Every woman has to deal with discharge. The vagina is self-cleansing and you have things like cervical mucus, etc, that leads to discharge. This discharge can range from watery, to creamy, to sticky. Cervical mucus changes based on your hormones, too, so you don't have to be pregnant in order to see these changes. If you pay attention, you'll notice thicker or thinner (or barely any) discharge throughout your cycle month.

    During pregnancy, discharge usually only increases in amount and viscosity. (Woo.) Some women wear panty liners, because they dislike the feeling. However, be careful with wearing liners for too long. What I did was change my underwear throughout the day.

    Note: Make sure to report any changes in discharge to healthcare provider, especially if it is accompanied by a foul odor, itchiness, burning, has a different consistency (like cottage cheese), or is a different color. These can be signs of an infection.

    Have anything that you wish you knew before becoming pregnant that you'd like to add to the list? Please share!

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs.

 

The Last Days of Pregnancy

By: Gloria Miles

Photo by Halfpoint/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Halfpoint/iStock / Getty Images

The last days, maybe even weeks, of pregnancy could span a century.  Nine months of growing, changing, slams to a halt; time passes differently.  The discomforts of pregnancy are now highlighted with every step.  Every day crawls, every night is long. 

The Virginia air had been thick as syrup with heat and humidity.  The air stirred itself around, lazily passing by people who braved a walk.  The heat felt stifling for this pregnant woman.  

Eventually, dark clouds rolled into the area, the sky crackling with anticipation of relief.  The sky opened; the rain poured. The relief was felt in a dramatic drop in temperature.  The wind had picked up and the trees chattered in excitement.  

The past days for me have been filled with the sort of anxiousness and discomfort that one only feels when in the last few weeks of pregnancy.  It's amazing how quickly nine months can pass.  And yet, the hours slip by slow as molasses. 

"You look tired," my husband said.  He stood behind the kitchen island, prepping items for breakfast.

"I woke up to pee last night six times. And this morning, my hips feel like they're on fire from that hard bed," I replied.  

He laughed. "Maybe a week left for you. You're so close!" 

I knew he was right.  "That makes me want to strangle you."

"What?" he asked. "Why?" 

"You might as well have said another year." 

"Is it that bad?"

I gave him a look. 

"Maybe...I'll just keep making breakfast," he said. Then added, "I'll rub your back before bed."  

The evening is cool and windy.  I want to walk outside in the coolness.  I let my husband know so that he keeps an eye on our toddler.  

"Walking the baby out?" he asked. 

Most days I wake up wondering if this is the last day I'll be pregnant.  Each evening I hope that real contractions will begin.  Every new morning I'm disappointed at the lack of labor, of no newborn.  

This evening, however, I just want to reside in the moment.  I want to walk and feel the muscles in my legs work.  I want to listen to the trees rustle and speak among themselves.  I want the cool air to play with my hair.  

"Just walk," I answered. 

The family joined me and we walked around our property, through the trees, and down a short patch of our country road.  I breathed deeply and was purely in the moment.  I didn't worry about labor.  I felt the small braxton-hicks contractions intermittently but I paid them no mind.  Fetal kicks and punches marked the time between them.  I smiled and rubbed my belly.  

Most days I'm cranky and irritated.  I sleep too little, I feel too irritable, and I walk the way one does when there's a fetal head slowly entering the pelvis.  I know that labor is on the horizon.  I know that pregnancy doesn't last forever.  One day or evening or night the familiar rushes of labor will begin.  And yet, it feels so distant.  

I think, though, that sometimes it is necessary to get to this climax of pregnancy, similar to the climax before birth.  There is a time within labor that most suddenly feel overwhelmed.  Cries of not being able to cope or continue are normal.  Sometimes there is a moment of panic.  The contractions are no longer surges but just a state of being.  Labor seems to take over one's body.  There is doubt, maybe fear.  And then the peak is reached and all doubt is removed.  Birth is imminent and then there it is: pressure, pain, power.  The pelvis is filled and then it shifts.  Crowning, then a head, then a body.  Then: I did it!

Pregnancy is similar.  It is uncomfortable and not everything is exciting, but it's tolerable.  Suddenly, it's overwhelming, it's miserable, it's never-ending.  But one day, like in labor, like the storm that's on the horizon, relief will be felt.  The first surges will start and excitement will replace it.  

Labor will start.  Everyone is right.  It's so close.  It feels as distant and as close as mountains on a horizon.  But it will start, it will finish.  A new life will be born.  A lifetime will begin. 

 

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs.

Navigating the First Trimester

By: Gloria Miles

Congratulations! You were either trying or surprised, but you've tested and came back with a BFP (big fat positive).

BFP!

Due 2019!!

You're pregnant! You have so much to look forward to in the next nine months! I'm assuming that you are in your very first trimester (and that's why you've clicked on the blog post).

Sometimes women don't realize they are pregnant until much later. Very rarely women show up in the emergency room with intestinal distress only to find out they're actually in labor. (We've all heard the stories!)

Either way, we'll assume the first trimester. 

Now what?

The very first step (aside from figuring out how to announce it your partner, friends and family) is setting up your first prenatal appointment. Most providers advise starting care between 8-12 weeks of pregnancy.

Whether you are birthing in a hospital and wanting an epidural as soon as the party starts or wanting a hospital birth completely sans medications, have your heart set on a birth center birth, or at home with a midwife, prenatal care is very important. It all looks fairly similar and the standard of care will include blood work and an early dating ultrasound unless your health care provider states otherwise. 

Appointments in the beginning are generally set for every four weeks. After your 28th week it'll increase to every two weeks, and after your 36th week, it'll increase to weekly visits until your delivery. Of course, if issues arise during the pregnancy, extra visits may be necessary.

And so you're pregnant and have your first appointment set...and....you look about the same. Everyone is asking about due dates and looking forward to the end, even now, but life goes on about the same. Or does it??

What is going on with you right now?

Nausea/Vomiting

Not everyone will become nauseous during their first trimester, but morning sickness is a fairly common complaint. Really, it should be called all day sickness, because it can strike at any time. 

What can you do about it? Well, eating smaller, more frequent meals can help. My general rule of thumb is: if it smells questionable to you, even if it smells great to everyone else, stay away from it. Drink plenty of water and fluids with electrolytes, especially if you're vomiting. Eating blander foods may help: toast, peanut butter, salted or unsalted eggs, crackers, oatmeal, etc. 

Prenatal vitamins may contribute to the nausea. Check out reviews for ones that don't mess with women's tummies and ask your health care provider for recommendations. 

Sometimes morning sickness is bothersome enough that medication might be advisable.  Your health care provider may suggest over-the-counter supplements or prescribe something like Zofran to help combat the nausea and vomiting. 

The good news is that this typically passes by the 13th week of pregnancy. 

Note: Sometimes, but not as commonly, women will suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum. If you are throwing up everything and not able to keep fluids down, you need to see a doctor as soon as possible. 

Constipation

This one is super fun, especially in combination with feeling bloated. Changes in hormones can cause changes in regularity. As with morning sickness, your body will adjust and you will go back to your normal schedule. 

What can you do about it? Taking a probiotic can help. Remember to take a probiotic with a prebiotic in it. If you do not, then the probiotic will not help, regardless of how many billions of strains it has. Most of the time, the ones who have both are in the refrigerated section of your health food store. 

Foods with natural probiotics are: yogurt, greek yogurt, kefir, kombucha, dark chocolate (heck yeah!), pickles , honey, bananas, artichokes, and more. 

Eating food high in fiber can also help with regularity: lentils, almonds, broccoli, cabbage, kidney beans, wheat bran, oat bran, just to name a few. 

And, of course, like most things: water helps. Hydrate!

Bloating

You're pregnant, but you feel more fat than anything. That's pretty normal. Constipation can contribute to bloating.

Making sure to drink plenty of water and have an adequate intake of salt will help. It'll pass.  As always, if you feel something is off, contact your health care provider.  

Fatigue

Any pregnant mother can attest, the early weeks are brutal when it comes to fatigue. It's hard work making a baby! You may not look pregnant, but this first trimester is when the most work happens! You're busy creating a complex organism from two little gametes (sex cells). You're creating a heart, a spinal cord, lungs, a nervous system, eyes, skin...a whole being! Of course you're going to be tired! 

What can you do? SLEEP! I hear all you moms with littles laughing. I know how hard it can be to sneak naps in, but whenever you are able to: sleep. Tap in your partner whenever you can. Let housework slide a little. Be kind and gentle with yourself. It's just a season that'll pass by about the 13th week.  However, it can also reappear in the last trimester.

Besides sleeping you can also check your iron. This will be in your first prenatal blood panel. If you are anemic, this will also contribute to your sleepiness. You may be told to take an iron supplement. Ask your doctor or midwife for recommendations. Foods may also help keep your iron at a good level, such as dark leafy greens and legumes. Again, speak with your health care provider regarding their recommendations for your diet and/or iron supplements they may want you to take. 

Exercising During First Trimester

Exercise will help with energy. You can continue with the exercise routine you've already been following for the most part. High intensity workouts or heavy lifting may have to be cut back. Most importantly, follow what your body is telling you. 

If you are new to exercising, don't worry, you can start. Plus, the benefits of exercising during pregnancy are plentiful! It cuts down on fatigue, limits excessive weight gain, leads to a healthy pregnancy, helps with labor, gives you strong abs and back which will cut down on back and pelvic pain, and boosts your mood.

Unless a medical reason is given, most women can exercise during pregnancy. 

Great exercises, especially for beginners, are walking, swimming, and yoga. Running is fine and can be continued for as long as it's comfortable. Weight lifting can be continued by most, but just remember that relaxin, a hormone that relaxes tendons, will begin flowing through your body.  Lowering the weight and paying attention to good form is important.  Additionally, center of gravity will be shifting as your uterus expands which may mean avoiding certain movements. Also, some movements (such as planks) may have to be modified or avoided, because of your growing abdomen. 

As always, consult your health care provider.

Cramps

Some women experience cramps in early pregnancy. These aren't necessarily a symptom, but they're common enough and not generally a worry. Some women fear this means they may miscarry, but cramps on their own can be normal. 

The uterus is a muscle and every time it is messed with, so to speak, it'll contract. Sometimes these contractions will cause cramping. Reasons you may be cramping: you just had sex, you have a full bladder, or your uterus is growing. 

Note: If you are experiencing cramping and bright red bleeding or spotting, call your health care provider or go into the ER. 

This blog post should not serve as a substitute for medical advice and is purely for informational purposes. Every pregnancy is different. Trust your instincts and always check in with your health care provider with any questions or concerns you may have, even if they are listed as "normal."

So congratulations and hopefully the first trimester treats your kindly! 

Remember, this will pass and the second trimester will be here before you know it. Comment below with anything you felt helped you get through the first few months. 

Let's Talk Kick Counts

By: Gloria Miles

The author's daughter, in utero. 

The author's daughter, in utero. 

A fetus has sleeping and waking cycles.  One of the most exciting parts of pregnancy (for most), is feeling those little tiny movements and kicks.  They are very reassuring for the expectant mother and elicit a range of emotions for both those expecting and those allowed to feel the movements.  

I know that for my husband and children, it's a bit of bonding that occurs before the birth.  My sons love to hold their hand on my growing abdomen and feel the little rolls, elbows, and kicks. "I felt the baby!" they'll squeal. And, for myself, I'm always reassured to feel this little life growing and moving about. 

Okay, so what are kick counts? 

Kick counts are sort of what they sound like: counting baby's kicks.  Though, of course, it's not exclusive to kicks. Rolls, stretches, punches, and any type of movement counts as a "kick." 

I'm not feeling movement yet. When do I start? 

For most people, movement is felt starting between 18 to 26 weeks.  It really depends what number pregnancy it is, the lie of the baby, and where the placenta is located.  If the placenta is anterior (meaning against the uterine wall that is against the abdomen), movement may not be felt until later in pregnancy and with less frequency.  

Most providers advise to begin kick counts around 28 weeks.  However, ask yours for specific timelines and guidelines. 

How are the kicks counted? 

Choose a time a day that you know baby is most active.  Lie down on your left side and start counting movements.  You're hoping to feel ten movements within two hours.  Most likely, you'll feel that long before the two hour mark.  

Keep a journal or log.  You can write it down on a paper, use an app, or simply mark it on the calendar.  This also helps you see a pattern in fetal movement.

I didn't get ten kicks/I don't feel movement/I feel decreased movement.

First, don't panic.  Try eating a snack or drinking juice (though, ask for advice from your provider if your diet has restrictions in place) and try again. 

If you still do not get ten movements within two hours, if you think there's a significant decrease in movement, or if you have any concerns regarding fetal movement, call your provider for advice.  

 

Chime in! Did you or are you counting kick counts?  Did your provider recommend this practice?  How did you fit it into your routine? 

Note: This blog post is purely informational and not meant to be a substitute for medical advice or attention.  Please direct any questions or concerns to your own medical provider.  Whenever there is a question about fetal movement, a licensed health care professional should be consulted.  

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 3, soon-to-be 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs. 

The Importance of Birth Stories

By: Gloria Miles

 

Photo by michaklootwijk/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by michaklootwijk/iStock / Getty Images

It's so important to me to remember the stories of my births.  The details may be a little fuzzy after some time, the events might not be recollected in exact sequence, but the important parts are all there.  I do enjoy sharing them, especially with my children.  

I believe that everyone who has given birth should share, in part, their stories.  At the very least, to those who are important to them: their partners, their close friends, children.  This benefits the listener but also the person telling the story.

Before we had textbooks, before we had blogs and seminars and classrooms, we taught each other by storytelling; sometimes by songs.  This act of passing along wisdom and lessons through storytelling has been going on since we could speak and across cultures.  

Why share birth stories? 

Birth stories are part of this culture, believe it or not.  However, most are in the form of fictional stories spread through television or movies that are erroneously displayed as this terrible event that must be endured in order to meet one's baby.  Others are more dramatic and shown on the evening news as an event that could have gone so wrong! And yet, miraculously, everyone is somehow fine. Learn more at eight!

Birth stories from real individuals, shared in a safe space, can be a way to educate everyone who may give birth in the future to their first or even fifth child.  Every birth is different. Every story is different. Every experience is different. Sharing birth stories adds to the normalcy of this biological act.  Most birth stories are lovely but uneventful.  When pregnant, it's important to be reaffirmed that this is a normal, biological experience that one is equipped to handle. Normalizing labor and birth is important. 

Some people want to give birth in a manner that is very different from their mothers, from their friends, or from the disapproving individual on social media.  If this happens, it's even more important for that person to hear of labors that went along the lines of what that individual was planning.  For instance, if one chooses water birth, it's awesome to hear all of the water birth stories.  If one chooses to give birth in a birth center, then hearing all of the birth center experiences can be affirming and uplifting. 

Of course, this is also true for those who need a cesarean or who may be higher risk.  Sometimes fear comes from simply not understanding or knowing what is to come.  Anxiety and fear can be eased what will happen is explained. 

Not every birth story is bright and happy. 

Sometimes labor or the birth or both ends up being scary, traumatic, or simply traumatizing.  Perhaps the epidural didn't take and the experience was not what was planned.  Perhaps the birth center water birth ended up being a hospital transfer.  Nothing "terrible" has to happen in order for the individual to feel disappointed in the experience.  

And yes, sometimes terrible events do transpire during the labor or birth or both.  We've all heard the stories of a patient being abused by the hands of those who are supposed to be helping this laboring individual.  Sometimes a birth does not have a happy ending.  These births, while very difficult to share, should still be allowed to be shared with whomever the individual wishes and in a safe environment.  This can serve as a way to process what happened.  It can help heal.  Bottling these stories up within oneself in order not to scare or offend can be very harmful.  

I sometimes feel as though these birth experiences are muted and not allowed to be shared within the same walls of others and I wish that would stop.  I left a Facebook group once that was supposed to be a safe and open place to share experiences of "natural" births and the owner would chastise anyone who used words like "painful" or "scary" or the like.  A birth story was shared that ended with, "I think any mother will understand. Birth is the best and worst experience ever [because it hurts]."  The group owner congratulated her and asked she refrain from discussing the pain more or to edit her story. 

Validation and processing

I think it's important to validate every feeling.  My second labor felt uncomfortable but I was surprised at how little it really seemed to hurt.  I remember walking into the hospital and hoping I was actually in labor.  When I was admitted, I was nine centimeters with a bulging bag.  With my third, she was a whirlwind of a birth and labor was so intense--and yes, painful--that pushing was a relief, an experience I hadn't felt before. These are my experiences.  As I sit writing all of this, about eight months pregnant, I wonder how my fourth experience will transpire.  And yes, even with the variety of discomforts, pain, and elated emotions, I am planning another home birth.  

It's important for us to process our experiences.  This is how we learn from ourselves, this is how we heal, this is how we grow.  

The good of it all. 

However, as birth stories are spread, as people share, and as others listen, it will become obvious that for the majority, labor and birth is simply part of life.  Most are satisfied with their experiences, most are proud of what they accomplished, and most will remember these events for the rest of their lives.  This means that sharing these stories, all stories, will show a pattern of how normal this is, of how it's okay to daydream about the day, of how there's not really much to fear.  And for some, sharing their stories will be part of the healing process that's crucial and necessary for their own mental and emotional health.  

Before childbirth education classes, before doulas, before books and websites with advice, there were just stories passed from one generation to the next.  This is how childbirth education was taught.  This is how support began.  

Want to contribute? 

Please email your story to rdoulas@gmail.com if you would like to share.  You can share with your name and pictures, with no pictures, or even anonymously.  

 

Gloria Miles is a Navy veteran and mother of 3, soon-to-be 4. She wears many hats as a doula, Certified Aromatherapist, and student. She is currently working towards obtaining a Bachelor's in Healthcare Management, with an end goal of becoming a Certified Nurse-Midwife. When she is not blogging or hanging out with her family, she enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and mud runs. 

Doulas and Epidurals: Are They Compatible?

Doulas and Epidurals: Are They Compatible?
"I don't need a doula, because I'm getting an epidural! In fact, I may ask for one as soon as I walk off the elevator!"
"What would a doula even do once an epidural is in place?"
"I don't want a natural birth. Aren't doulas a little...you know...hippy? Aren't they all about no drugs at all?"

I'm pretty sure that every doula has heard some variety of the above. There are many different misconceptions about doulas. For instance, I'm pretty sure there's a certain percentage of the population that thinks we all smell like patchouli and throw essential oils all over the room when women are laboring. Others combine our job description with that of a midwife's. And, of course, others think that the only reason someone would hire a doula would be to help with a completely drug-free, "natural" birth at home or in a hospital.

Here's the secret: a few doulas smell like patchouli (because they love patchouli perfume), no one throws essential oils anywhere, and women who want "natural" births hire us....and women who want the most textbook, medicated births hire us as well. Essentially, there's a doula for everyone.

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