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In 2005, I received a late Christmas gift—the best Christmas gift there could ever be. It was December 26th. The gifts from the day before still needed sorted and put away. The lights still twinkled on the tree. My feet were bare and cold on the bathroom floor, and my hands were shaking as I held a digital pregnancy test, watching the hourglass spinning ‘round and ‘round. When it stopped, my life was forever changed.


I spent the next 40 weeks talking, singing and reading to the baby growing in my womb. As I read the book Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, I would rub my tummy in circles and pat whatever little body part poked up. I didn’t exactly know who was growing in there, but—oh!—how I loved him so. I prepared a beautiful nursery (which he never used) but was symbolic for welcoming into our lives a new family member. His name was on the wall. He had a place here already. He belonged.

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He was placed in my arms in September, the most beautiful and perfect little boy I’d ever seen. The following two years were nothing short of magical. We played peek-a-boo and watched Thomas the Train. I clapped when he learned to roll over, to sit up, to crawl, walk, and run. I marveled at each new word he spoke. We were completely and beautifully connected, this little boy and I. In his eyes, I saw trust.

We welcomed another son 26 months after the first had joined our home, and I was once again totally and completely in love. I thought we’d carry on our days in perfect harmony until they went off for college in the far, distant future. But no. Slowly, things began to change.

My firstborn, struggling with this overwhelming change in his life, began acting in ways I’d never seen him act. Back then, I called it defiant. I now recognize it as disconnected. In order to get a handle on this defiant toddler, I began putting him in time-out. I thought this was simply the way of things. It didn’t feel good, but it’s just how it had to be, I thought.

Eventually, the days turned from being filled with playfulness, joy and laughter, to being filled with tears and time-outs. His behavior only worsened during that time. I tried all of the tricks. Counting to three. Behavior charts. Nothing made things better. In fact, every time I put him in that little green chair at the end of the hallway, separated from me as I held his baby brother in my arms, he seemed to break just a little more.

I just wanted to teach him, not break him.

One day, when I saw him sitting there, eyes downcast, chin quivering, tears rolling down his still-baby cheeks, I stopped cold. Suddenly my eyes were opened to what I was doing, to his grief, to his loss and to mine. I looked into his eyes, and I no longer saw trust there. I saw sadness. My little boy who used to sleep with his hand up my shirt sleeve no longer trusted his mommy. Not completely. Not like he had before.

My son wasn’t defiant. He had his world turned upside down, and he didn’t know how to cope. I was the center of his world, and suddenly at least half of my attention, if not most of it, was going to another little baby that he’d never asked for. He felt strong emotions, and he couldn’t process them. He couldn’t explain them. All he could do was feel, and it felt really bad. Bad feelings drive bad behavior, so I then punished him for his bad behavior, compounding his bad feelings. It is such a messy cycle, but it’s possible to get out of.

When I finally understood that what he needed wasn’t a time-out chair in the corner of the hallway but to feel connected to me like he used to, I completely changed my approach. I trashed the green chair and brought him into my lap. I held him and read him books. We colored together. We hugged stuffed animals and talked about better ways to deal with frustration, anger, fear and sadness. I told him I loved him just as much as I always had, and that my love for him would never, ever change.

To some of you, this may sound like I reinforced bad behavior, but that’s not true. I addressed the root cause of the bad behavior–disconnection–and in doing so, his behavior improved.

The brokenness was healed.

We built block towers and forts. We painted with our feet. We had water balloon fights. We danced. We sang. The trust returned to his eyes. He and his brother became best friends. There was laughter again. There was joy. There was connection. No more time-outs—just teaching, heart-to-heart and hand-in-hand. What I learned when I saw him sitting there that fateful day was that it wasn’t my job to make him feel bad enough that he’d act better, but to help him feel valued, accepted, validated and wholeheartedly loved so that he could be his good, compassionate, kind, true self.

Children are good. They are filled with amazing potential and secure attachment unlocks that potential and allows them to grow beautifully into who they were made to be. We don’t need to break them to teach them.

Today, my boy stands at nearly 5 feet tall. Last night he threw his long, gangly arms around me and said, “Mom, I love you.” In my mind, the book I read to him when he was yet in my womb came to the surface: “’Guess how much I love you,’ he said. ‘Oh, I don’t think I could guess that.’ ‘This much,’ said Little Nutbrown Hare, stretching out his arms as wide as they could go.”

“I love you this much,” I replied, as I stretched out my arms.

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.


Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

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

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Military families give up so much for their country, particularly when they have small children at home. Those of us who have never witnessed this kind of sacrifice first-hand could use a reminder of it once in a while, which is just one of the reasons we're so happy to see the beautiful photoshoot Mary Chevalier arranged for her husband's return home from Afghanistan.

The photoshoot was extra special because while James Chevalier was serving a nine-month deployment, Mary gave birth to their second son, Caspian.

Getting ready to meet Dad

"During the laboring and birthing process of Caspian, I was surrounded by family, but that did not fill the void of not having my husband by my side," Mary told InsideEdition.com. "He was able to video chat during the labor and birth, but for both of us, it was not enough."

While James had yet to meet Caspian, their 3-year-old son, Gage, missed his dad a whole lot, so this homecoming was going to be a big deal for him too. That's why Mary arranged for her wedding photographer, Brittany Watson, to be with them for their reunion in Atlanta.

Gage was so happy to see his Dad 

"[He] had no idea he was going to be getting to see his daddy that day," Watson wrote on Facebook. "The family met at the Southeastern Railway Museum for Gage to go on a special train ride... little did he know, he'd be doing it with daddy!"

Watson did a beautiful job capturing the high emotions of every single family member, from Gage's surprise, to the delight on baby Caspian's face. It's no wonder her Facebook post went viral last week.

"Caspian is natural, a very happy baby, but both James and I felt like Caspian knew who his father was almost immediately," Mary told Inside Edition. "He was easily comforted by me husband right off the bat and seemed to have an instant connection. It was very emotional."

The moment this dad had been waiting for 

If we're sobbing just looking at the photos, we can't even imagine what it was like in real life.

"We are all so blessed and take so much for granted," Watson wrote. "I cannot contain the joy I feel in my heart when I look at these images, and I hope you feel it too!"


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During both of my pregnancies, I was under the care of an amazing midwife. Every time I went to her office for check-ups, I was mesmerized by the wall of photos participating in what may be the most painfully magical moment of a woman's life: giving birth. But there was a painting that always drew my attention: a woman dressed in orange, holding her newborn baby with a face that could be described as clueless. The line above the canvas read, "Now what?"

I felt like the woman in the painting as I kissed my mother goodbye when my daughter was born. She came from my native Colombia to stay with us for three months. When she left, I realized that my husband had been working as usual during those first 90 days of our new life. My baby was born on a Friday and on Monday he was back at the office. (No parental leave policy for him.)

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Now what? I thought. The quote "It takes a village to raise a child" suddenly started to hit home, literally.

After a few years in Miami, I had some friends, but it truly didn't feel like I had a village. Some were not mothers yet, most of them worked full-time and others didn't live close by. My nomad life left my best friends spread out in different places in the world. I found myself signing up for "mommy and me" classes in search of new mothers, immigrants like me, alone like me.

It seemed like a utopian dream to think about when my grandmothers became mothers. Both of them had 6 and 10 children and they were able to stay sane (or maybe not? I don't know). But at least they had family around—people cooking, offering help. There was a sense of community.

My mother and father grew up in "the village." Big families with so many children that the older siblings ended up taking care of the little ones; aunts were like second mothers and neighbors became family.

When I was about to give birth to my second baby, my sister had just had her baby girl back in Colombia. Once, she called me crying because her maternity leave was almost over. My parents live close to her, so that was a bonus. Hiring a nanny back there is more affordable. But even seeing the positive aspects of it, I wished I could have been there for her, to be each other's village.

The younger me didn't realize that when I took a plane to leave my country in search of new experiences 19 years ago, I was giving up the chance to have my loved ones close by when I became a mother. And when I say close by, I mean as in no planes involved.

It hasn't been easy, but after two kids and plenty of mommy and me classes and random conversations that became true connections, I can say I have a mini-village, a small collection of solitudes coming together to lean on each other. But for some reason, it doesn't truly feel like one of those described in the old books where women gathered to knit while breastfeeding and all the children become like siblings.

Life gets in the way, and everyone gets sucked into their own worlds. In the absence of a true village, we feel the pressure to be and do everything that once was done by a group of people. We often lose perspective of priorities because we are taking care of everything at the same time. Starting to feel sick causes anxiety and even fear because it means so many things need to happen in order for mom—especially if single—to lay down and recover while the children are taken care of. And when the children get sick, that could mean losing money for a working mother or father, because the truth is that most corporations are not designed to nurture families.

In the absence of that model of a village I long for, we tend to rely on social media to have a sense of community and feel supported. We may feel that since we are capable of doing so much—working and stay at home moms equally—perhaps we don't need help. Or quite the opposite: mom guilt kicks in and feelings of not being enough torment our night sleep. Depression and anxiety can enter the picture and just thinking about the amount of energy and time that takes to create true connections, we may often curl up in our little cocoon with our children and partners—if they are present—when they come home.

Now what? was my thought this week while driving back and forth to the pediatrician with my sick son. I can't get the virus, I have to be strong, my daughter can't get ill, my husband needs to be healthy for his work trip next week, we all need to be well for my son's fifth birthday. And so, it goes on. I texted one of my mom friends just to rant. She rants back because her son is also sick. She sent me a heart and an "I'm here if you need to talk."

I am grateful to have talked to her at that random postpartum circle when I first became a mother. She's a Latina immigrant like me and feels exactly like me. I will do it more, get out of my comfort zone and have—sometimes—awkward conversations so I can keep growing my own little village.

It may not look like the one I'd imagined, but still may allow me to be vulnerable even through a text message.

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Life

Halloween is around the corner, but if you are like me you are still trying to figure out what to dress your family (especially the little ones), so here are some cute ideas inspired by famous characters. There's something for everyone—from cartoon lovers to ideas for the entire family!

Here are some adorable character costumes for your family:

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