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For #MotherlyStories | I am a NICU mommy. I am a mama who gave birth to one of the 450,000 premature babies


in the U.S each year.

I am the 1-in-9 statistic.

My brave warrior prince, Wilder, was born two months and two days before his due date

on a frigid January night in 2014. Nine days earlier, at 30 weeks pregnant, I awoke at three

A.M. and, to my horror, discovered I was hemorrhaging. I persuaded my husband to stay home

with our two-year-old son, Dash, and took an Uber by myself to the hospital. Twelve hours and two

sonograms later, I was placed on full bedrest.

Despite several miscarriages and complicated pregnancies, I was still completely unprepared

and shocked when my OB told us I would have to deliver our son prematurely. I remember

so vividly the look of concern on his face as he sat on the edge of my hospital bed and

said my situation had taken a serious turn—I was losing too much blood and we needed to deliver.

“But I'm barely 31 weeks," I cried, looking at my husband's face as his eyes also

welled up with tears. My doctor took my hand and said firmly, “This is what I can tell you for certain:

We have an incredible NICU here. He will be in great hands. Also, a baby I delivered at

twenty-nine weeks is currently at Harvard." I let out some combination of a laugh and wail, took

a deep breath, and said, “OK. Let's do it."

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There is nothing more anxiety-inducing than the sterile white walls of an operating room

in the middle of the night. I had been in this exact room two years prior delivering Dash, but this

time was very different. You could feel the collective nervousness in the room, even from the

doctors, who were trying to stay as calm as possible. When the doctor whispered “Happy Birthday,"

I knew our baby was out of my body but I wasn't sure of his condition. I stared at my husband's

face, frantic for some sign he was okay and all I heard was a deafening silence.

“Is he ok?" I said to my husband, sheer panic in my voice.

“I don't know,“ he said grimly and I could see his eyes were plagued with fear. A couple minutes

later that felt like an eternity, I screamed “Will someone (expletive) tell me my baby is okay,

please?" and a doctor shouted at me to stay calm. I heard a suction noise and the smallest, tiniest

cry. I looked at my husband and we burst into tears. Our son was alive.

Azizah Rowen and Wilder at the hospital

Thus began our harrowing journey of having a preemie. From the second Wilder was

whisked away into the NICU and placed into an incubator for 49 days, we were in survival

mode. The first time I held him I could not believe how small he was. He weighed 4 pounds

and was 17 inches tall—around the size of a pineapple. He had tubes coming out of his mouth

and nose and was hooked up to heart and oxygen monitors. He had an IV in. It was so much

more terrifying than I could have imagined. I was hysterical, sure that I would lose him.

His NICU staff, a dream team of the most incredible nurses, were like earthly angels.

They immediately calmed me down, dried my tears, made me laugh and reassured me that although

he was sick, he was in very good hands. They did not make false promises that he

would be okay, but they were confident that his breathing difficulties and appearance were consistent

with that of a baby born at 31 weeks. In the NICU, every day a baby was in the

womb was considered vital. On the spectrum of sick versus critically sick, 31 weeks in

the womb was considered fortunate.

I learned so much. I learned about intubation, weak lungs, heart complications, feeding

tubes and how to read an oxygen machine. Every day a new struggle presented itself and my

husband and I had to pray that Wilder would survive. We would vacillate between being terrified

and inconsolable and strong and confident that we would get through it. The first time we left

him at the hospital to go home I was a wreck. I walked down the hall sobbing and saw my new

NICU mommy friend whose baby occupied the incubator next to ours. She opened her arms, we

cried together, and she told me to go home and eat lots of ice cream. So that's what I did.

For the next two months, I had a routine in place and ran on adrenaline. I would

wake up, spend time with Dash, and then go to the hospital to cuddle Wilder all day until late at

night, only going home to sleep. I made NICU mommy friends in the pumping room, where we

laughed, shared our fears and discussed our babies' 'accomplishments.' It was a major day

when one of our babies' feeding or breathing tubes was removed. We were surviving together,

working toward one common goal—our babies being healthy enough to come home.

Wilder's day finally arrived. In mid-March, he felt fresh air for the first time on his little

face. I had dreamed of that day and when it finally came, I was terrified. After surviving the

NICU, would he survive in the world?

My baby is now 19-months-old. He is beautiful and strong but it has not been easy.

He has a weak immune system and is in physical, occupational and speech therapy. He is

thriving, but being born premature means he will need extra help until he is at least three. My

journey as a NICU mommy also didn't end with him coming home. I have suffered anxiety and

post-traumatic stress. I worry constantly about his health and well-being.

I blamed myself for not being able to carry him to full term, even though I logically knew it was not my fault. Fertility is mysterious and complex. Like the majority of mommies I met in the NICU, I had no prior health complications my entire life. Yet I was seemingly fragile when it came to pregnancy, and one of the unlucky ones that randomly had a placental abruption. There was nothing I could have done to change it or stop him from being born early, and I am filled with gratitude daily that he is alive.

September is NICU awareness month and that is why I'm sharing my story. I am the proud

mommy of a small but fierce NICU survivor, and I am a mommy who survived the NICU experience.

I am eternally grateful to the extraordinary team of doctors and nurses in the NICU at

Lenox Hill. Walking out of the hospital with a baby is a gift. Walking out with a NICU baby is a

true miracle.

Wilder today

Azizah Rowen is a California bred New Yorker, mommy, wife, actress, producer and musician. You can follow Azizah on her blog, The Artist Mommy.

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When I became a mom, suddenly it felt like I was working with fewer hours in the day. Whereas previously I could put in a full day at work and still have time to hit the gym, throw in a load of laundry, and cook a full dinner, suddenly my day felt jam-packed from the moment I opened my eyes.

And one of the first things that takes a hit on my to-do list? Mealtime.

While I continued to prioritize whole ingredients and nutritionally backed recipes, I found myself with less and less time to do the shopping, prepping, and cooking required for all the foods we liked to eat. And even when I could find the time, you can bet I would rather be bonding with my child than spending hours at the store or in the kitchen. Which is why Nurture Life has become one of my favorite #momhacks for getting healthy (and delicious) meals in front of my toddler.

And they're giving our readers a $50 value in Nurture Life meals. (Use code MOTHERLY for $25 off your first 2 orders for a limited time.)

Here are five reasons why this was such a game-changer:

1. It’s super convenient.

Once you pick your plan (baby, toddler, or kid), Nurture Life will deliver five or 10 meals per week to your doorstep. Meaning a professional has done all the heavy lifting of planning the dietitian-approved recipes, sourcing the ingredients, and even prepping the dish.

All you have to do is warm up the meal in the microwave and oven-safe food tray. (Yep, no extra dishes to wash. Win-win.)

2. It’s healthy by design.

This is not your typical pre-made dinner. Each Nurture Life meal is designed by a chef and registered pediatric dietitian, with all the ingredients sourced from quality farmers and purveyors—so produce is in season and organic whenever possible—and all meat and seafood is sustainably and naturally raised.

As a result, your child is regularly consuming the produce and protein they need to grow and stay healthy, without worrying about any unnecessary additives.

Ever since I found out I was pregnant, what I put in my body (and therefore my baby's body) has been so important to me. Now that I'm training my child to make her own food choices, it gives me peace of mind knowing that Nurture Life has done the heavy lifting in providing safe, nutritious options—and helping me teach my daughter that healthy should also be delicious.

3. It’s quick.

When I'm home with my daughter, I rarely get more than 15-30 minutes to scrape together a meal before she's asking me to play or hold her or help her find a lost toy—hardly enough time to craft a healthy, delicious meal we both feel good about.

And, truthfully, I'd so much rather be spending my time with her than bent over the stove. Nurture Life helps me get that time back. All I do is heat them up for a few minutes until warm and serve. And then it's back to being where we both really want to be.

4. It’s safe.

Unlike conventional commercial meals and snacks for children, Nurture Life won't feed your child anything their founders wouldn't feed their own families. As a result, they subscribe to a firm never-ever list—they never add preservatives, artificial colors or flavors, trans fats, or high fructose corn syrup in any of their recipes.

Their meals are also free from peanut, tree nut (except coconut), and shellfish. And all ingredients are clearly listed on their site and on meal labels to avoid any potential allergens.

5. It’s delicious… even for picky eaters.

Nurture Life is proof that gourmet-quality meals don't have to be intimidating. When the ingredients are high quality and the flavor is on point, even macaroni and cheese with cauliflower can feel high-end. Whenever I serve a Nurture Life meal, my daughter happily gobbles down everything from tortellini with peas to salmon teriyaki—and I may even sneak in a bite here and there myself! It's the perfect antidote for our picky eaters.

Some of Nurture Life's classic kid favorites are available throughout the year, but they also have amazing seasonal menus to introduce variety.


I'll probably never have as many hours in a day as I truly need. But with Nurture Life, I do get time to savor the moments I really want to enjoy.

Use code MOTHERLY for $25 off your first 2 orders for a limited time—a $50 value.


This article is sponsored by Nurture Life. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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Preparing food for my family is important to me and something that makes me feel good, even if it isn't elaborate. Plus, I never want to stay stagnant in any area of my life. If I suck at cooking then I want to get better, so I am.

But I run a business, have four kids, a house, and extracurricular activities to juggle, so it's more important than ever that I keep this area of my life streamlined.

All of this is enough to be super intimidating for someone who is already not a natural at this area of homemaking, but I've figured out a pretty solid routine (thank the good Lord), and since I get asked about this a lot, I'm sharing my tips with you today!

1. Choose just a few pre-planned meals, then get staple ingredients for the others.

I think a lot of us feel the need to know exactly what we'll be serving for dinner every day of the week. If that works for you, stick with it! But for me, I'm a little too sporadic for that, and whenever I plan my week that way we end up not cooking one or two of the planned dinners and groceries get wasted.

So now, I only choose about three exact dinners, and then get basic ingredients like chicken breast, bacon, sweet potato and other veggies to make a spur-of-the-moment, simple meal the other nights.

I might also make those other nights a repeat meal that we have all the time, like tacos.

2. Get all your planning done in one day each week.

Every Sunday night, I pour myself a glass of wine and sit down with a notebook, my cookbooks, and a pen. I choose my meals, make a shopping list, and map out exactly what I'll be buying for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks.

I make sure I'm planning all the way through the following Monday (the day I shop) which leads me to….

3. Choose another day for all shopping.

On Mondays, I do my grocery shopping. What isn't being delivered by Amazon Fresh (more on that below) is purchased and ready for the week.

4. Prep immediately after shopping whenever possible.

Instead of bringing in groceries and putting them straight in the fridge, I've started washing and slicing and prepping everything as soon as I'm home from my errands.

I got this handy trick from my new favorite book by Brooke Sailer, (I'm Failing At) This Thing Called Home.

5. Food prep, don’t meal prep.

Meal prepping may totally work for you, but it doesn't for us! We've found that food prepping is much more doable. Food prepping looks like sautéed potatoes, sliced fruit, cooked and shredded chicken, baked sweet potato fries, all stored in the fridge, ready to use. It's pieces of meals that you can grab, reheat, and eat based on what sounds good and how much time you have.

6. Base it on your schedule.

If you know Wednesday nights are super crazy for your family, have that be a Crockpot or take-out night every week.

7. Keep a running list of everything you’re out of.

This one is obvious and overstated, but worth saying one more time! My list is on my fridge and in my phone. I check both on Sunday nights when making my shopping lists.

8. Amazon Subscribe + Save and Amazon Fresh.

Amazon is KILLING IT. They just bought Whole Foods, so more organic goodness is surely coming our way, and they now offer subscriptions for your most-used food and household items. Some things on my Subscribe + Save account include; toilet paper, paper towels, baby wipes, snack bars, shampoo, soap, laundry detergent, and cleaning sprays.

With Amazon Fresh, you can do your grocery shopping from your couch (if it's offered in your city) and get organic fruits, veggies, and pretty much anything. Amazing!

9. Don’t overthink it. Know what works!

Don't over complicate meal planning because it's daunting or you dislike it. Streamline, simplify, cut out the things that aren't working and stick to what is.

10. Stop being afraid of repeating meals.

No shame in repeats, yo. I know a friend who rotates 10 meals, exactly that way, all the time. It's been that way for years and her family has no complaints. It's easier for her, too! Win win. If that works for you, embrace it and count yourself as one of the lucky ones!

11. Other things that work for our family:

  • Prepped food becomes lunch plates we can fix up in less than 10 minutes.
  • Prepped foods that work on-the-go.
    • Fresh sliced fruits
    • Grilled chicken (cold in a Ziplock)
    • Snackable veggies
  • Breakfasts are the same meals rotated.
    • Coffee and a bar (cereal for kids)
    • Smoothies
    • "Big healthy plates" (this is what we call eggs topped with avocado, uncured bacon, grilled tomatoes with salt and pepper, and sweet potato hash).
    • Pancakes + bacon (GF, of course!)
  • Bars instead of lunch for the really busy, on-the-go kind of days (our favorites are Lara and RX).
  • I (try to) always have kid & adult snacks as well as water bottles in my bag or in the car.
  • We always have a couple easy/frozen meals on hand for "emergencies". Like when the babysitter shows up on time and you were so excited for date night that you forgot you have kids….
    • Mac + Cheese
    • Chicken nuggets
    • Frozen pizzas

Phew! That pretty much sums up what I've been doing to keep meal preparation as simple as possible with four kids and a Crossfit hubby. I hope it inspires and helps you!

Originally posted on Allie Casazza.

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When our children spend so much of the day away from us at school, the moments we do have together are precious. But, they don't always feel precious in the whirlwind of getting ready and out the door each day.

Sometimes it seems like no matter how much time we allot, it is never enough. After all, who can predict that last week's favorite train shirt would lead to a full-on toddler meltdown when it's time to get dressed in the morning?

Here are a few things you can do to help your child take ownership of the morning routine and reclaim what should be a time of bonding.

1. Talk it through

Choose a low-stress time, such as while riding in the car or eating a snack together, and talk through the morning routine with your child. Ask them what needs to happen in the morning before they go to school. Prompt with tasks they might forget, like brushing teeth or putting on shoes. Walk through all of the steps a few times so they have a good idea of what is coming.

While your child will inevitably still need reminders, this will give them a solid understanding of what needs to happen each day.

2. Make a picture chart

After you've talked through everything, make a picture chart for your child depicting the sequence of their morning routine. Take a picture representing each step—one of the potty, one of their toothbrush, one of their clothes laid out, etc. Or, have fun drawing the pictures together instead!

A picture chart provides even young children a resource, other than you, to consult when they're unsure of what to do next.

It can also be helpful if your child gets off track. Remind them to check their picture chart to see what comes next. This is more empowering than simply telling them exactly what to do, which is more likely to instigate a power struggle.

If your child is older, help them write a list, or draw their own pictures of what needs to happen in the morning and post it somewhere they will see it each morning, like by the bedside table.

3. Have your child pack their own lunch

Depending on your schedule, it is likely better to do this the night before, but encouraging your child to pack their own lunch helps them take ownership of their school day.

Worried their lunch will consist of nothing but crackers and grapes? Make a simple rule such as one protein, one grain, one fruit, and one vegetable. Help them think of options in each category.

If they're older, brainstorm what they would like in each category before you go to the grocery store. Anything you can do to help them feel like they have a say in the process will help the morning go more smoothly.

4. Offer limited clothing choices

Allowing children to choose their own clothes is wonderful, but it can be quite time-consuming in the morning. Lay out two options for your young child to choose from. Always put them in the same place, such as a small shelf in their closet, so they will know where to look in the morning.

For an older child, encourage them to lay out their own clothes the night before so they won't have to decide when they're still half asleep in the morning.

5. Allow a natural consequence

When the planning and picture charts don't work, try allowing a natural consequence to take place instead of nagging and repeating yourself. It may be a little unpleasant, but it will also be effective, and will likely only need to happen once.

Are they taking too long to get out of bed? There will be no time for eating pancakes together, they'll have to settle for a granola bar in the car.

Are they refusing to get dressed? They will have to bring his clothes with him and arrive at school in jammies.

These are not punishments, they are simply things that logically happen when the routine isn't followed.

6. Build in time for togetherness

One reason that children stall in the morning is that they want you to help them because they need that time together. Build in a few minutes of togetherness before asking your child to get themself ready each morning.

It may seem like you don't have 5-10 minutes to spare, but this will likely save you time as your child will have gotten the bonding time they need and be less likely to resist the rest of the morning.

Try doing something simple, with clear boundaries, such as reading two books before it's time to start the morning routine. If they're ready early, you can spend more time together, which is also a great natural incentive.

7. Make it fun

Help them make a getting ready playlist of favorite songs to listen to while they brush their teeth and get dressed.

Let them pick a muffin or pancake recipe and make a big batch together on the weekend so that you have breakfast ready to go. Take turns telling each other what you dreamed last night over breakfast or in the car.

The morning can often be hectic and stressful, but it's also a significant portion of the time many of us get to spend with our children during the week. These little moments can give us, and our children, the little boost we need to start the day feeling loved.

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