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Today was my son Bowie’s due date, which I can’t quite believe.


I often wonder what I’d be doing right now if he decided to arrive when he was supposed to, still content in the womb.

I have a romanticized vision of myself nesting around the house, sipping red raspberry leaf tea, reading a novel, having quiet conversations with baby before settling in for our 3rd nap of the day.

Or taking photos of our finished nursery nook, cleaning the house so guests can visit after the birth, packing our hospital bags with the utmost thought and care. M

Maybe even some last minute pampering - a pedicure, massage, gentle yoga and long walks under orange October leaves.

If anyone was NOT ready for their baby to arrive a whole month early, it was me!

But like all unexpected circumstances, it makes for a great story.

One that has taken me quite some time to sit down and write—let alone find the time between feedings to piece it all together.

It’s long and detailed and a bit graphic, but I want to be able to look back on this 20 years from now and remember every single moment of the happiest day of our lives.

On September 19th, we attended our friends’ 80’s-themed wedding reception in full costume.

I wore an oversized shoulder-padded blazer over a short sequined mini dress and nude nylons with crimped, teased hair.

Hal wore pegged jeans, suspenders down around his waist, and straightened his hair with a deep side part so it strategically fell over one eye.

We took a few awkward prom pics, danced to the Spazmatics (for as long as I could in 3-inch pointy pumps) and were sitting down for a rest when I felt a small gush in my underwear. I

excused myself to go to the restroom. But the little gush turned into a larger one as I scurried across the dance floor—leaving a trail behind me!

This can’t be my water, it just can’t.

In the bathroom, I stripped down my pantyhose and gushed some more.

I texted Hal: “bring my bag - I think my water broke!”

My heart was racing when we got in the car. Is this really happening?


Panic set in as I listed off all the things we didn’t get done.

The car seats weren’t installed, the IKEA-hack dresser / changing table wasn’t complete, our house was a complete disaster zone.

I lamented over all the business projects I didn’t get a chance to finish.

And tears welled up in my eyes when I thought about the maternity photoshoot we would have to cancel.

Hal convinced me to not jump to conclusions and call the hospital for advice.

So I left them a message and we waited for a response.

At home, I continued to gush on the toilet when our midwife called me back.

Even though I wasn’t feeling contractions, she wanted us to come in to make sure it was indeed my amniotic fluid that was leaking.

If not, she’d send us back home.

But if it was, she said GET READY TO HAVE A BABY TONIGHT! Gulp.

Hal relayed the information to my parents and our doula. I hung up the phone and began to cry.

Please be a false alarm.

Please be a false alarm!

Racing around the house in a packing frenzy, I grabbed the smallest set of newborn pajamas I could find and searched for something to wear myself when I realized I hadn’t done laundry!

Disgusted, I threw some dirty clothes into the bag and tried not to think about the cute birthing outfit, robe, socks and other hospital “essentials” I was planning to acquire later that week.

I hadn’t even emailed the Birth Preferences worksheet to our midwives yet.

So I printed out a few copies to give to the staff upon arrival.

After a nervous 10-minute drive to the hospital, we were escorted to the very last birthing room available. 

Apparently, everyone in Seattle was having a baby that night!

We’d been told just one day prior that they’re rarely at full capacity.

I couldn’t help but wonder what big celestial event was going on to warrant so many babies being born.

As it turned out, that weekend fell smack dab in between the two September eclipses, hmmm.

The nurses hooked my belly up to the monitor and ran a few tests. They concluded that the fluid was definitely amniotic, as suspected.

This is really happening.

Around 10pm, our midwife came in and explained that labor would need to start very soon, because there’s a high risk for infection after your water breaks.

She gave us time alone in the room to see if the contractions would start naturally.

If they didn’t, she recommended Pitocin to get the ball rolling. I wanted a drug-free birth with no interventions, so that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear.

Hal put on some Nina Simone as I paced the room, waiting for contractions to start.

Every now and then, I’d feel some mild cramping, which Hal started timing.

Later, he told me that it was hard to take me seriously walking around with my crimped 80’s hair!

Since I was 4-weeks early, the baby monitor had to stay permanently strapped to my belly throughout the entire labor.

And it wasn’t cordless—so I had to haul it around like a purse everywhere I went, even in the shower or tub.

I remember getting tangled up in it often.

Highly annoying and itchy, but I grew to appreciate it later on as it showed the peaks of my contractions and let us know that the baby was okay.

My parents arrived around this time, but I wasn’t in the best of moods.

I was worried about the potential complications of a preterm birth. Would our baby be fully developed?

Would he have to stay in the NICU? 

Already, nothing seemed to be going as planned. Which is laughable really.

Because if you’ve ever given birth, or know someone who has, you’ll know it very rarely does.

Maybe it was the daily positive conditioning from my Hypnobabies tracks, but not once did I consider how I’d react if the birthing experience was anything other than what I imagined.

Hal took me for a walk around the hospital halls to get my head straight and put things into perspective.

Accept what is.

Let whatever happens happen.

And focus on what’s important—bringing our beautiful boy into the world.

And that’s when I decided to stop letting my fears ruin the experience, as they were no doubt inhibiting my body from doing what it was supposed to.

Around 1am, the midwife checked in on us, suggesting Pitocin yet again.

I refused, knowing deep down that my baby would come when he was ready.

She offered to give us a few more hours.

Perfect.

We set out my mom’s crystals, diffused some lavender essential oil, and settled in for the night.

Hal on the couch, my mom in the rocking chair, and me in the bed with headphones listening to my Hypnobabies tracks.

The threat of being induced motivated me. I remember silently talking to our baby, begging him to make his move sooner rather than later.

He must have heard me.

The mild cramping became stronger, waking me up from a light sleep.

Around 5am, active labor had officially begun!

Hal called our doula, Vivianne, to let her know it was time. She arrived soon after and helped me with the breast pump because nipple stimulation is a great way to speed things up.

I remember being intimidated by the breast pump, not knowing what to expect - my nipples are extremely sensitive!

But it wasn’t so bad, just a strange and slightly irritating sensation.

After a while on the pump, my contractions were definitely getting stronger.

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First I labored in a semi-squatting position on the bed.

They placed a handrail near the foot of the bed so I could hold onto it during contractions.

There was a giant mound of pillows behind my back to lean back on in between.

This felt good for early labor, but the constant squatting eventually got to me.

One thing I wasn’t expecting was the shakes!

My adrenaline was so pumped up, I shivered during most of early labor.

I felt like a newborn fawn whenever I tried to walk to the bathroom to relieve myself.

The nurse kept taking my temperature to make sure I wasn’t getting a fever.

We tried a few other positions to get comfortable.

One was standing up and holding onto Hal for support, but I wasn’t having it.

I felt a strong urge to sit down and lean forward during the pain.

Someone brought in a birthing ball for me to sit on.

This felt wonderful.

During contractions, I’d lean into a pile of pillows on the bed, rotating my hips on the ball.

Around this time, I started to get in a good groove with my support team.

Vivianne was right beside me during each contraction, telling me when they were almost over.

My mom and Hal took turns placing cold washcloths over my neck and bringing me water to sip through a straw with occasional bites of applesauce.

They gave me so much positive encouragement, telling me how strong I was, how proud they were. This was invaluable.

When your water breaks, they try not to check your cervix too often to eliminate the risk of infection.

But after awhile, I got curious about my dilation.

It felt like I was laboring intensely for quite some time - I had to be pretty far along. I requested a check and to my extreme disappointment, I was only 4 cm.

I remember looking at Hal with tears in my eyes, not knowing how I could continue laboring for another 6 cm.

Someone suggested a shower to relieve some pain.

I was ready to try anything. I stripped down and sat on a stool in the shower stall while Hal sprayed hot water on my back.

It felt wonderful.

But that was short-lived. The shower stall was tiny and I was beginning to feel claustrophobic.

After the shower, we found another good position to labor in.

I sat on the foot of the bed and leaned into the birthing ball during contractions, which I noticed were coming less frequently.

I welcomed this break, as I was able to lean back on pillows and fall asleep in between the pressure waves.

I always knew my expert narcoleptic sleeping skills would come in handy!

However, it was a strange sensation because I wouldn’t exactly call it sleep.

I was in a beautiful, spiritual space—peaceful beyond words. That place you go in deep meditation, almost out of body.

The nurses came in to check on us, as they noticed the contractions getting further and further apart.

We were regressing. If they didn’t start speeding up in the next hour, they would need to start inducing.

Again, the threat of Pitocin revved me up.

I played Hypnobabies again using one headphone earbud, while listening to thunderstorms, ocean waves and singing bowls (ASoftMurmur.com) on our bluetooth speaker.

At the same time, Vivianne did acupressure on my hands and feet.

Almost immediately, my contractions sped up.

This is when things start to get a little foggy.

The pain was SO intense with very short breaks in between.

As soon as one contraction ended, another one began with no time to relax.

I remember getting into a powerful rhythmic rocking movement with the birthing ball, swaying from side to side, while Hal and my mom switched off rubbing my lower back.

All my concentration was on the breath.

At one point, I felt a major urge to poo. They told me that was a good sign - that the baby has dropped. So they checked my cervix and I was 7 cm.

Progress! Soon the urge became more than an urge—I felt a strong NEED to push!

They told me not to, because I wasn’t fully dilated. Easier said than done. Not pushing felt nearly impossible. I surprised myself with loud, guttural grunts. He wants to come out now!

Someone suggested the birthing tub, since water slowed things down for me earlier. They would just need 15 minutes to get it ready.

During which time, Vivianne reminded me to focus on my breathing like never before. If I broke concentration for even a millisecond, the urge to push overcame me and I’d be gasping for air.

Instinctively, I moved onto the bed on all fours when the nurses said the tub was ready. The midwife decided to check my cervix one last time and amazingly, I had gone from 7 to 10 cm in those 15 minutes of tub preparation!

We were regressing. If they didn’t start speeding up in the next hour, they would need to start inducing.

She gave me the green light to push.

“You’re having a baby!” she exclaimed.

And I hear Hal break down with emotion.

I never felt so much love for him as I did right then.

He grabbed my hand as I began to push.

And strangely enough, the act of pushing, although painful, was a huge relief from the struggle of not pushing.

In between contractions, I leaned back in child’s pose to rest and muster up enough energy to push some more.

Maybe 10 minutes had passed before I felt the sharp “ring of fire” during crowning.

But it was a temporary pain. And before I knew it, our midwife asked me if I wanted to touch the head. I reached down in between my legs and was amazed by how squishy it felt.

A few more final pushes and one primal roar... his head emerged!

Then his shoulders and body followed. At 12:36 pm, OUR BABY WAS BORN!

I flipped onto my back as they brought him to rest on my belly.

Our sweet beautiful boy.

He was warm and familiar.

Extra alert, taking in the world.

We immediately locked eyes, through tears, communicating love without words.

That moment will stay with me forever.

After delivering the placenta, my mom cut the umbilical cord after it stopped pulsing and they brought him up to rest on my chest.

Hal and I laughed and cried together, marveling over this perfect tiny being we created.

Those long fingers, big ears and wispy blonde hair!

I had a very minor vaginal tear that was stitched up while holding him my arms.

But I was too busy cuddling our babe to care.

When asked his name, I initially told the nurses we hadn’t yet decided between the two we were considering.

We wanted to wait and see what he looked like.

But Hal said he knew.

And with that, so did I. Bowie Ocean was introduced to the world.

Thinking back on this day, I feel empowered and proud.

I trusted and surrendered to my body and my baby.

I found a strength in myself I never knew existed.

And despite his surprise early arrival, we ended up having the birth I had imagined after all - relatively short (7 hours), unmedicated and uncomplicated.

Although weighing only 5 lbs, 14 oz, he was healthy and we were released from the hospital in 24 hours. I feel so very fortunate.

Bowie, if you’re reading this one day—you’ve made your Papa and I the happiest we’ve been.

Thank you for choosing us as parents and allowing us to experience this incomparable, indescribable, unconditional love.

xo

Shannon Eileen is a Seattle-based mama, artist-designer, singer-songwriter, reiki healer and lifestyle blogger at Happiness Is.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

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

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When you're a mama on the move, safe car seats are a necessity but can be a budget buster, especially if you're looking to upgrade or have to furnish multiple cars. Luckily, Target is here to fix that.

Target is bringing back their popular car seat trade-in program from Tuesday, September 3 – Friday, September 13.

Just bring your old car seat to the recycling bin near Guest Services and a Target team member will give you a coupon for 20% off a new a new car seat, booster seat, car seat base, travel system or stroller. And the coupon can also be applied to select baby gear, such as high chairs, swings, rockers and bouncers. 👏

The coupon is eligible through Saturday, Sept.14, 2019, so if you don't see the seat of your dreams in store when you drop off your old one, you'll want to check out the online selection and act pretty fast.

With the exception of the small format stores, all Targets will be taking car seats between September 3 and 13. (You can find a participating store near you here.)

Target has held several of these car seat trade-in events since 2016 in an effort to help parents recycle the seats, which are not eligible for curbside recycling and take up a lot of space when sent to landfills. The retailer hands over all the old car seats to Waste Management, and the materials are recycled to make grocery carts, plastic buckets and construction materials like steel beams.

The event is really a win-win—we get to keep our kids safe while giving the car seats that protected them a second life. Just another reason to love Target.

[A version of this post was originally published April 18, 2018. It has been updated.]

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News

This is birth: A surrogacy journey shares the incredible story of how one surrogate came to carry four children for a couple, and how they all became like family to each other in the process.

We had the honor of catching up with surrogate Jessica Pretz to learn more about how this incredible story came to be.

Five years ago, when surrogate Jessica met intended parents Sharon and Lake, she felt an immediate click. "It was like going on a first date and meeting with someone you knew you were supposed to be aligned with. We all just felt that connection."

Jessica had given birth to three of her own children, and had recently finished her first journey as a surrogate, carrying twins for another couple. Jessica agreed to be a gestational carrier for Sharon and Lake.

Throughout that first pregnancy, the intended parents, Jessica and her family all became very close. Jessica, who is currently a Surrogate Coordinator for Circle Surrogacy, clarifies that this is not always the case with surrogacy—this particular connection is unique.

"The relationship I have with Sharon and Lake is quite different than the one I have with my first intended parents. I respect the level of contact and communication that each intended parent desires. Their family was very involved with the pregnancy and wanted to take part in as many appointments as possible, help with fundal height measurements."

Watch their surrogacy journey captured by Jennifer Hamilton of Mamarazzi Photography here:

Sharon and Lake were by Jessica's side throughout the birth of their first child, Campbell, and even "caught'" him when he was born. When they asked if she wanted to carry a sibling for him just moments after Campbell was born, Jessica says she didn't need to hesitate before saying yes.

"There was no doubt in my mind that I would love to carry another for them. They are everything I could ask for in intended parents and they are a joy to go through pregnancy with."

Less than two years later, Jessica gave birth to Sharon and Lake's second child, Sailor, in what Jessica describes as an "amazing, fast water birth."

After carrying two of their children, she initially hesitated to take on another surrogacy journey.

"I knew after the second journey that they had remaining embryos left. I had six pregnancies under my belt at that point, all of which were vaginal and unmedicated births. I had no complications as of yet, and I was fearful of something going wrong. I tossed up the idea of them using another surrogate to carry their remaining two over the course of two more journeys. I only would have done one more pregnancy as I was ready to not be pregnant or pumping breastmilk and spend time focusing on my own family."

But after some discussion and consulting with her family, Sharon and Lake, her birth team and reproductive endocrinologist, they all decided to do one more journey together—and transfer the last two remaining embryos. Both took— and they became pregnant with twins. In their birth film, you can see the emotional moment when the twin pregnancy is confirmed, while Jessica is on the phone with Sharon and Lake from the ultrasound room.

Initial fears aside, Jessica explains how the decision itself was, ultimately, second nature: "Deciding to carry all four of their kids really wasn't a hard decision. I am a big part of their lives and most importantly their kid's stories. It would have been odd for me to not help them complete their family."

Watching the birth film, it is truly powerful to witness the love, support and familial connection between Jessica, Sharon and Lake while their twins are born. In one sweet moment, Sharon is embracing Jessica during labor as they both cry.

Even after the birth of their twins, Sharon, Lake, Jessica and her family have all stayed close—even vacationing together. Jessica says she and Sharon are close friends who talk about parenting, marriage and life in general. "It's really a beautiful connection we share."

On how it feels to be a surrogate, Jessica shares, "The best part of being a surrogate is getting to see a couple become a family and the look on their faces when they first see their baby or babies. It is truly an honor to carry these babies and be entrusted with their care."

As a mother of four children herself, we wanted to know more about how Jessica's family has reacted to her surrogacy journeys. "My family is extremely supportive of my surrogate pregnancies and quite proud of the joy I have been able to bring to others through surrogacy. The intended parents I have carried for have become family to us and my own biological family regularly communicates via social media with them."

She continues, "My kids are little advocates and educators on surrogacy. I feel that my children have learned selflessness and sacrifice through my journeys. I always say that while it is the woman who is pregnant, the journey of surrogacy takes the whole family's support."

We're so thankful to both of these families for allowing us to share their incredible surrogacy story.

This is birth: A Surrogacy Journey was captured by Jennifer Hamilton of Mamarazzi Photography.

We started our This is: Birth film series to give representation to the many varied ways women give birth. Watch more curated birth films here.

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Life

When women become mothers, they usually have two options: Go back to work or stay home with the little one. This is how it was when I had my first child, and I was angry that there weren't more flexible options for mothers who wanted to work, but on their own terms.

It can be tough to feel inspired when you're thrown back into (or continue to remain in) a 40-hour workweek that isn't flexible. Luckily, we can create better working options (and a happier life in general) for mamas, but we're going to have to do it ourselves, starting with our mindset.

Here are nine phrases we can tell ourselves to be productive and efficient mamas:

1. "My kids come first, but so do I."

It's okay to carve out time that's just for you, whether that means quiet time alone, meeting up with a friend or signing up for a class. At the end of the day, a happy, fulfilled mama leads to happier kids.

2. "My kids are young, but I can still achieve my goals."

If you want to start your own business, or move to another country or accept that promotion, do it now. Only you know when it's the right time, but it's a myth that your motherly duties require you to wait until your kids graduate from college before you can start doing what inspires you.

3. "It's never too late to make a change."

Maybe you invested time and money to get a degree, and you're afraid of veering off-course to do something you really love that's completely unrelated. Or maybe you're intimidated about rejoining the workforce after taking a break to raise kids. I've seen over and over that it's never too late to find out what happens when you follow your passion.

4. "I'm not ready yet, but I will be."

What does "ready" look like? Spoiler: you won't be ready for every challenge that comes your way. But that's okay. Figuring it out as you go is the only way to learn when you're in uncharted waters. Not feeling ready means you have some self-awareness about your weaknesses, and that's a great place to start. When you embrace the unknown, you learn more about yourself and will likely have a lot of fun along the way.

5. "I can do it all...with help."

Mothers are superhero multi-taskers, but doing it all can have a negative impact on your life and relationships over time. Establishing boundaries is key to a happy, healthy life. At work, giving someone else an opportunity to shine shows that you're a team player, not just in it for yourself. This applies to your children, too. You know what your kids are capable of and can help them build confidence by giving them responsibility.

When we're honest and open about our struggles, it draws people in. Leaning on a community will lighten the load and deepen your relationships with the ones you let in. Use Facebook groups and social media to find your village. Find your village today.

6. "I'm okay just the way I am."

People may look very polished and shiny when they post photos on Facebook or Instagram, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Comparing yourself to others is not helpful; you have to find what works for you and block out the rest. If it works for you, then you're doing it right.

7. "I have to leave early to take my kid to __________."

If you're leaving work early because your daughter's ballet recital is important to you, own that, and don't apologize, because you're not alone.

8. "I will be present in every moment."

I know it's tempting to check your phone while you're watching your kids on the playground, but dividing your attention doesn't make you more productive. Moms are awesome multi-taskers, but give your full attention and be present wherever you are. Whether at work or with your kids, quality is more important than quantity.

9. "I am good enough."

If you're having a moment of self-criticism, stop and ask yourself: Would I say this to a friend? If you would never utter bad words to someone else, don't say these things over yourself Be kind and give yourself the benefit of the doubt. You are good enough.

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Learn + Play

As a parent, you might want to do the right things for our environment, especially knowing your children will inherit it. At the same time, with a tiny human relying on you, time is incredibly valuable.

What is a carbon footprint?

Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon emitted as a direct or indirect result of an activity, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, fluorinated gases and others. Unfortunately, carbon is being released at a much faster rate than it can be absorbed by natural processes.

Currently, the average U.S. per capita carbon footprint is 18.3 tons, and the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project reports in order to hold the global temperature rise to 2˚C or less, everyone on earth will need to average an annual carbon footprint of 1.87 tons by 2050. This seems like a lofty goal, but there are things we can do to shift emissions in a more positive direction.

As a scientist focusing on sustainability, here are nine ways to reduce your carbon footprint in under five minutes:

1. Host a kids clothing and toy swap party.

It's no secret that kids outgrow clothing and toys quickly. Consider gathering fellow parents and friends, pooling together the items your kids no longer need, and going "shopping" for what you need.

Exchanging what you already have reduces greenhouse gas emissions in a few ways. It lowers the amount of power needed to produce brand new clothing and toys, and it shifts demand away from the plane and truck fuel used to fulfill online orders. Plus, it's an opportunity to socialize and save your hard-earned money.

2. Offer chores that save energy.

Recycling and turning off the lights, air conditioner and the heat may be simple tasks, but they'll teach your little ones how to keep a green household. Explain that the less power you consume, the lower your carbon footprint and that by properly sorting recycling and food scraps, the less greenhouse gas emissions there'll be in landfills. You can have kids help to place recycling in the right bins each day.

3. Encourage other modes of transportation.

Biking and walking are fabulous ways to reduce carbon emissions. Encouraging your kid to get on two wheels or to take a family walk to dinner. If you have to drive, see if you can carpool with friends or family to cut down on the amount of car time.

4. Use reusable diapers when possible.

Producing disposable diapers costs a lot of energy and emits greenhouse gases. While disposable diapers can be totally necessary, using reusable diapers even just a small percentage of the time (perhaps only on the weekends) helps lower our overall consumption and landfill waste.

But, if you must use disposable diapers, buy biodegradable ones that can be composted after you use them.

5. Switch to clean makeup.

Putting on makeup can be a moment of self-care, but clean beauty is more environmentally-friendly and healthier than traditional makeup, which can be made with harmful chemicals. Plus, many women love the peace of mind that comes with using makeup free of harmful chemicals around their children.

Most traditional makeup brands use ingredients derived from fossil fuels, while clean makeup companies use more plant-based ingredients. Going clean shifts demand away from non-renewable resources towards more renewable ones which ultimately helps the environment. Clean beauty companies are also much more likely to use energy-efficient manufacturing practices, use fewer resources including fewer ingredients, reduce packaging waste, and be more responsible about sourcing ingredients in a way that's kind to the earth.

6. Consider how you feed your baby.

Breastfeeding is great for the environment! You can make your impact even bigger by choosing eco-conscious products like reusable breast pads, or reusable breast milk storage items.

If you are bottle-feeding, opt for glass bottles if possible. And when you buy formula, see if you can find large containers instead of small—it will reduce the amount of garbage you throw out.

7. Encourage your kids to conserve water.

The more water-efficient your house is, the better as treating and pumping water uses energy. Teach your children to turn off the faucet when they're brushing their teeth, and get them in the habit of taking showers of a reasonable length instead of baths that require three times more water than a shower.

8. Use reusable grocery bags.

Producing paper and plastic bags takes energy. Find a few reusable bags–it's a bonus if they're cute and fun to use–and bring them with you to the store. If you forget to use the bags, store them in places you always see. For example, you might put the bags in the driver's seat next to your purse on your way to the store. And once you get home and unpack the groceries and put them in your entryway where you'll see them the next time you're heading to the car.

9. Join your energy provider's energy-saving program.

Many energy providers offer the free option to get your power from energy-efficient sources, like wind power. Place a quick call and ask about your options. They should be able to switch you over immediately and once it's done, you don't have to worry about it on your to-do list anymore.

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