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I completely understand why all my friends chose to find out their baby's sex via sonogram, before birth.

The middle-aged sonographer thought I was joking when I told her that I didn't want to know. “Really? You're the first person in months to not want to know," she said. But it wasn't that I didn't want to know. I wondered every day. Rather, I was choosing not to know.

As she administered what would be (for that pregnancy) my final prenatal sonogram, this quizzical woman repeated what the sonographers before her had said. “I'm glad you're waiting. That's what we all did when I was young, before you could find out. There is no surprise more worth the wait."

To each her own, I say again. A dear friend was so playfully annoyed that I was waiting to learn the news that she asked if she could come along and have the doctor write it on a slip of paper, so she could start shopping for clothes. I laughed and refused. When this same friend became pregnant a year later, she found out as soon as she could. And halfway through her pregnancy I celebrated the revelation of her child's sex with her. By the time the baby came, she knew the name and had the nursery ready to go.

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I delight in planning, in being super-prepared. So why, then, would I choose not to know my baby's sex as quickly as possible?

I can think of plenty of good reasons to find out right away, and friends and strangers alike always ask, “What are you having?" But I think there just might be others out there who would enjoy hearing the story of an expectant mother who waited to find out and would do it again.

Reason #1: The loss of control

You know the very thing I said I revel in? I willingly gave it up. I drove myself crazy... but it was a good crazy. I knew that being a mom would mean a constant loss of control. Why not practice?

After spending nine months totally in the dark about an incredible secret I could have found out, it was like I had endured Control Loss Boot Camp. Not finding out my baby's sex was a way to train myself as a new mom to not freak out on those days when it felt like everything was outside my control.

Reason #2: Loving acceptance

Have you ever noticed that everyone has an opinion on which gender would be better for you to have?

"Ooh, it's probably a girl because you're so girly. I just think you'd take to a girl easier." Uh, I'm sorry. I didn't know the amount of leather or lace I wore affected gender outcome.

"I hope you have a boy. Your husband must want a son more than anything." Did I hear you correctly?

"Hope it's not a girl. They can be so difficult. A girl will give you a hard time, especially when she begins menstruating." Did you really just say that? The child hasn't taken his or her first breath yet.

When you're pregnant, everyone assumes you have a preference. The fact is, I didn't care what I had. I just prayed my baby would be healthy.

But what if you do have a preference, and then find out you are having the opposite? That happened to one of my friends. She spent months worrying that she would not bond with her daughter because she so desperately wanted a son. When she met the baby, she fell in love. Why not avoid the worrying altogether?

First and foremost, your baby is a person, with a unique and beautiful soul. Want to prove that to the world? Wait to find out. Then people will be meeting Baby James with the sparkling eyes and incredible laugh or Baby Alice with the tuft of curls and voracious appetite, and not simply "the boy" or "the girl."

Reason #3: To avoid disappointment + keep unfair pressures off an unborn baby

Some cultures still prize the perceived superiority of sons, and there might be someone in your family, whether or not they admit it to you, who will be disappointed to learn you're having a girl. (There may also be those who are disappointed you're having a boy.) Sure, they may eventually get over it. But why not spare your child being anything but happily anticipated?

Not finding out your baby's sex is a statement, an act of defiance against the temptation (whether yours or someone else's) to "root" for one sex or have preconceived notions about your child's personality. It can also be a way to protect an unborn baby from people's opinions before they are even out of the womb. There will be plenty of time for facing those later.

Reason #4: Green + yellow are cooler than pink or blue

In the words of Gwen Stefani, "Take this pink ribbon off my eye!"Ever get a little sick of bubblegum pink and periwinkle blue? There's a whole color palette to choose from, so why limit yourself? (Even if you learn your baby's gender but break out of the pink/blue thing, prepare for all kinds of pink or blue gifts from others.)

My nursery was seafoam green, decorated with Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck. The clothes my baby wore home from the hospital? A beautiful soft cream onesie with a bunny stitched on the front. All the sweet yellow, green and white outfits looked adorable, and it was fun to go shopping for the more gender-specific clothes after a few weeks of recovery.

Reason #5: You make some people nuts (+ it's fun, right)?

When you might otherwise hear a lecture on what it's like to raise a boy or a girl, complete with "advice," you'll instead hear, "You seriously don't know? It makes me crazy and it's not even my baby." "It's in God's hands," you answer, "not mine." And you reach for more Mexican food. The guacamole tastes even better than usual.

Reason #6: What if the sonographer was wrong?

Think that can't happen? I know someone who thought she was having a girl. But I guess something special was hiding off camera, because lo and behold, she delivered a baby boy last year and brought him home to his pink Disney Princess bedroom.

Sure, it's rare. But can you imagine if they made a mistake? You might feel you were mourning a lost baby you never really had.

Reason #7: Connection to our foremothers + our faith

For almost every generation before ours, women discovered the sex of their babies after delivery. These births had an air of mystery and magic. Loved ones paced outside, awaiting the exciting news, instead of reading about it on Facebook in advance.

Although almost everything about labor and delivery has improved since those previous generations, I like this connection to the sacred mystery of births that came before. Whatever your religion, not finding out your baby's gender is an act of faith, supreme trust that all will be well and that ultimately you will have what you are meant to have.

Reason #8: Giddy anticipation

Remember the feeling of being a kid who couldn't wait to open your Christmas/birthday/holiday present and find out what treasure awaited you? The anticipation is like that, times 100.

My aunt told me, "It helps you push, because you're so excited to find out." And she was right. When my baby was born and I found out, I cried tears of pure joy and amazement. Turns out, it really is the best surprise of your life.

Reason #9: A baby is never the way you would expect, anyway

Knowing your baby's sex might make you think you know what to expect when they're born. Wrong!

Any mom knows that she never could have imagined the perfect and crazy uniqueness that is her baby. Waiting to find out allows you to fall in love with a new baby, rather than the preview report of a gender, which often carries with it stereotypes that your child might transcend.

For example, you might have a rambunctious baby girl who is always getting scrapes, and a cautious baby boy who would rather sit on the sidelines with a board book. We're having people, not pink and blue drones.

Reason #10: It bucks the trend

The big trend these days is finding out. It's so easy—there are sonograms, blood tests and even over-the-counter kits.

If you decide to find out, I totally get it. I almost caved several times, and that would have brought its own excitement, and maybe a gender reveal party. Or there might be a particular reason why finding out makes the most sense for you.

But if you decide to hang in there, I'm right there with you. And we're not alone. If you want to find us, we're the ones with the two names picked out, the frustrated friends waiting with intense curiosity, the ones crying euphoric tears of surprise in the hospital.

Oh, and what did I end up having? Exactly what our family needed... the most beautiful baby my husband and I could have imagined, inside and out.


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I honestly can't remember how I used to organize and share baby photos before I started using FamilyAlbum. (What am I saying? I could never keep all those pictures organized!) Like most mamas, I often found myself with a smartphone full of photos and videos I didn't know what to do with. My husband and I live states away from our respective families, and we worried about the safety of posting our children's photos on other platforms.

Then we found FamilyAlbum.

FamilyAlbum is the only family-first photo sharing app that safely files photos and videos by date taken in easy-to-navigate digital albums. From documenting a pregnancy to capturing the magical moments of childhood, the app makes sharing memories with your family simple and safe. And it provides free, unlimited storage—meaning you can snap and snap and snap to your heart's delight without ever being forced to choose which close-up of your newborn's tiny little nose you want to keep.

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And, truly, the app is a much-needed solution for mamas with out-of-state family. Parents can share all their favorite memories with friends and relatives safely within the app without worrying about spamming acquaintances with every adorable baby yawn the way you might on a social network or a long text thread. (Did I mention I have a thing for baby yawn videos? I regret nothing 😍) It's safe because your album is only visible to the people you share it with. The app will even notify album members when new photos have been posted so they can comment on their favorite moments and we can preserve their reactions forever. It's also easy for my husband and I to share our photos and videos. All of our memories are organized in one place, and we never have to miss out on seeing each other's best shots.

And because #mombrain is real, I especially appreciate how much work FamilyAlbum takes off my plate. From automatically organizing photos and videos by month and labeling them by age (so I can skip doing the math in my head to figure out if my daughter was five or six months when she started sitting up) to remembering what I upload and preventing me from uploading the same photo four times, the app makes it easy to keep all my memories tidy—even when life feels anything but.

FamilyAlbum will quickly become your family's solution for sharing moments, like when you're sending a video to the grandma across the country. Grandparents need only tap open the app to get a peek into what is going on with our girls every day. When my sister sends her nieces a present, the app has become where I can share photos and video of the girls opening their gifts so she never feels like she's missing a thing. The app will even automatically create paper photo books of your favorite shots that you can purchase every month so you can hold on to the memories forever (or to share with the great-grandma who has trouble with her smartphone 😉). Plus, you can update the books with favorite photos or create your own from scratch. No matter what, the app keeps your photos and videos safe, even if your phone is lost or damaged.

But what I love most about FamilyAlbum is that it's family-first. Unlike other photo sharing platforms, it was designed with mamas (and their relatives!) in mind, creating a safe, simple space to share our favorite moments with our favorite people. And that not only helps us keep in touch—it helps us all feel a little bit closer.

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This year marks FamilyAlbum's 4th anniversary! Click here to celebrate and learn more about their "Share your #FamilyAlbumTime" special promotion running until March 31, 2019.

For some celebrities, pregnancy is a time to retreat from the public eye and be more strategic about what they share online. They guard their personal lives a little closer, and their social media presence gets a little more curated.

But when Amy Schumer announced her pregnancy in October, she didn't stop sharing. We saw—and heard, in some of her more graphic Insta stories—just how hard this pregnancy and the resulting hyperemesis (an extreme form of morning sickness) have been on Schumer.

Schumer's humor has always been real, and her new Netflix special, Growing, is one of the realest descriptions of pregnancy I've ever seen on my TV.

As a mom who didn't glow as much as I groaned through my pregnancy, I laughed so hard I cried. And as a mom of a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, I cried tears of relief.

In one hour Amy Schumer simultaneously made me feel seen and helped me see a happy future for my son, and I can't thank her enough.

[Warning, light spoilers ahead]

Amy Schumer: Growing | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix www.youtube.com


The Netflix description for this special describes it as "both raunchy and sincere" and that's totally accurate. If you've seen Schumer's previous Netflix special, you know you can't watch this until the kids are in bed.

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In Growing Schumer proves that pregnancy didn't make her a different person or take the curse words out of her vocabulary. She is who she is, she just happens to be becoming a mom, too.

And becoming a mom has not been easy. Schumer's description of yeast infections, and vomiting and hemorrhoids and all the parts of pregnancy that nobody puts on a felt letter board gave me flashbacks and validation.

In Growing, Schumer is saying that it's okay not to love being pregnant and that it doesn't mean you don't love that baby growing inside you. It's a message more women need to hear because it's hard to see photo after photo of smiling mamas sporting cute bumps and wonder if you're the only woman who doesn't love feeling someone sit on your bladder.

That feeling (the emotional one, not the bladder one) made me feel alone in my pregnancy, but it's been three years since I wondered if there was something wrong with me. These days, I'm more worried about whether my son, who is now a preschooler, will grow up to think there's something wrong with him.

As the mother of a kid on the spectrum, I gasped when Schumer explained that her husband, Chris Fischer, is too. I sobbed when she described some of her husband's quirks, because I see them everyday in my son.

I don't want to spoil the special too much, but let me tell you this: In revealing that her husband, the father of her future child, is on the spectrum, Schumer gave me so much hope.

I'm so grateful that Schumer (and Fischer, who must be on board with this) shared that bit of info because sitting there in front of my TV all the versions of my son's future that got erased when we got our ASD diagnosis came flooding back.

I could see him as a grown man, and he wasn't alone. He was falling in love with a partner like Schumer. He was becoming a father like Fischer. He was happy (and different, in the way Schumer describes her husband) but he wasn't alone.

Schumer's trademark raunch isn't for everybody, but her authenticity and vulnerability sure is for me. For 60 minutes I watched a woman stand alone on a stage and I felt less alone.

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Over the years, switching to nontoxic products has become a popular trend. But, as moms ourselves, we understand how overwhelming it can be to consider a lifestyle change. We founded Branch Basics with the idea that simple swaps in your cleaning closet could be the jumpstart to living chemical-free.

For many people, the swap has been influenced by various headlines. One study compared cleaning your home with conventional products to smoking an entire pack of cigarettes every day. Additionally, the EPA has reported that indoor air quality is actually worse than outdoor air quality.

With every reason to make the swap, here is a beginner's guide to non-toxic home cleaning. We call this process our Clean Sweep with just three simple steps.

1. Review

Pull out all of the cleaners (and pesticides) you currently have in your home. Yes, even the dusty ones deep in the back of the cabinet! Once you have these out, review them for red flag words, like "caution, warning or danger."

Cleaning companies are not required by law to list their ingredients, so any cleaners that are not transparent about their ingredients should be taken out of your home. Remove anything with parfum or fragrance, as the word fragrance represents a fragrance recipe that may have never been tested for safety. (Pro tip: You can use essential oils to make scents you like.)

Other common ingredients to avoid are:

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  • Perchloroethylene or "PERC"
  • Quarternary Ammonium Compounds, or "QUATS"
  • 2-Butoxyethanol
  • EPA registered pesticides like Chlorine
  • Methylisothiazolinone "MIT"
  • Benzisothiazolinone "BIT"
  • Any of the Isothiazolinone family
  • Ethoxylated Alcohols

Finally, toss your dryer sheets and fabric softeners if they're loaded with carcinogens such as dichlorobenzene and benzyl acetate, respiratory irritants such as chloroform and benzyl alcohol, neurotoxins like linalool and ethanol, and endocrine disruptors such as phenoxyethanol and phthalates.

For any ingredient you are unsure of or don't recognize, the internet has great resources like the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Guide to Healthy Cleaning, where you can look up health ratings from 1-10 (1 being the safest to 10 being the most toxic).

Another excellent tool is the Think Dirty® app, an easy way to evaluate ingredients in your beauty, personal care and household products. Just scan the product barcode and it will give you easy-to-understand info on the product and its ingredients. We recommend that household products have ingredients rated A on EWG's Guide to Healthy Cleaning or a zero on Think Dirty.

2. Remove

If you find products that have toxic chemicals in them, remove them from your home. If you aren't ready to part with some of your products, put them in an airtight Sterilite container in your garage or backyard. This simple act of removal will improve your air quality immediately.

3. Replace

Now it's time to streamline. Do some research and find items that are plant-based or otherwise naturally-based. Branch Basics offers a variety of nontoxic alternatives to popular household products, like laundry detergent and bathroom cleaner. The Honest Company created safe baby and beauty products. And Beautycounter provides safer skin care and cosmetics. You can even scour the internet for resources for homemade alternatives, too. If it feels overwhelming, start with your most-used products and work your way down the list.

Switching to nontoxic cleaning supplies is one of the easiest ways to start creating a healthier home and there's so much information out there that can walk you through what should and shouldn't be in your products. Simple swaps can make a big difference for your family.

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You know that you want to raise your children differently than how you were raised—with compassion and connection, instead of punishment and reward. Except the only thing is, friends and extended family just don't seem to get your parenting choices.

You can feel their spoken and unspoken judgments, and it's really putting you on edge, but you don't want to have uncomfortable conversations or tension. So what do you do, mama?

Here are 10 positive phrases you can say to family and friends who just don't seem to get your parenting.

1. "I appreciate how much you care about our kids, but I'm really happy with how we're doing it."

This response finds the common ground. Both of you care deeply about your children, and that's the main thing to acknowledge. It sets a limit and lets the other person know you are not looking for help and advice, but appreciate their intention.

2. "I've thought and read a lot about parenting and I'm really happy with what I've learned."

Parenting nowadays can look pretty different from how it was in previous generations, and there are so many resources giving contradictory advice. A friend or relative may make the mistaken assumption that you are doing it all wrong simply because it's not how they did it, or are doing it. This response lets them know you have made a thoughtful choice.

Gently pointing out that you have read and thought about their parenting style may surprise them. Perhaps your confident response may even make them curious about what you have read, and why you decided it's the right way for you to parent.

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3. "We've tried different methods, and this is what works best for us."

Let your friend or relative know that you aren't looking for advice, you've tried different styles of parenting and are content with what you're doing.

4. "We find that they're more responsive when we set limits gently."

If you are taking the more peaceful route, then you'll find that it's pretty common for parents to mistake gentle parenting with permissive parenting. Pointing out that you are setting limits, even if they look a little different, can be reassuring to a relative who thinks you are not in control.

5. "I've noticed that if we listen to the crying rather than distracting or ignoring them, then they let out their feelings and are less likely to be upset later."

A lot of people have a huge misunderstanding about crying. They think of it as a negative that needs to be stopped instead of as a healthy and healing way to express emotions. This is a simple way to tell them that there is a purpose in allowing feelings, and it's actually better in the long run for your family.

6. "Every family is different, but this is what works best for us."

Parenting differences can often bring up strong feelings between friends because one person may assume you are judging them and think that what they're doing is wrong. Acknowledging that every family is different is a peacemaker. It shows that choosing a different path doesn't mean you are judging or critical of others, and you get that everyone makes different choices.

7. "Kids are so different. This is how my child responds best."

Everyone is the best expert on their family and what their children need. Nobody on the outside looking in can tell you how to parent. This phrase lets the other person know that what you are doing is based on what your understanding of what your child needs and ensures they won't need an explanation.

8. "Don't worry, I can handle this!"

If a friend or family member wants to step in and parent for you, this is a polite way of saying "no thanks."' A lot of people aren't comfortable around big emotions so perhaps they see your child crying and want to give them a lollipop to cheer them up.

This phrase gently lets them know they don't need to fix or solve the situation. It can be reassuring to them that despite the wild emotions of your child (or their challenging behavior), that you are feeling calm and under control.

9. "Thanks for your advice. I'll give it some thought."

This is a conversation closer. It lets the person know they've been heard and you aren't just dismissing what they say. But it also ends the debate, so it's perfect to use with someone you know will never understand what you're doing.

10. "I guess this must look a little different to how you were parented?"

This might not always be appropriate, but if the timing seems right it can open up a discussion about the roots of why the other person might feel the way they do about parenting. Sharing stories about how you were parented can help both come to an understanding that everyone chooses their own parenting path based on their own complex histories, and personal choices.

It also gives the other person a chance to express how they feel about their own childhood, which can help them feel heard, and more relaxed and flexible in their attitude to how you are parenting.

Plus one more that isn't a phrase: Just listen.

Sometimes, no response is needed. Often when people give advice or have strong feelings towards other people's parenting, it's because they feel a sense of responsibility. Perhaps your children's big emotions triggered memories from their childhood, and how they would have been treated if they acted out or expressed themselves.

In those moments, their unheard feelings get ignited and they respond from their own sense of hurt. It can be helpful just to listen to them, to accept that their reaction has nothing to do with you and your parenting, but is about their own history.

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Motherhood is a journey with highs so high so you'll remember them forever, and lows so low you'll curse the day away. I'm still navigating these uncharted waters and just when I feel like the sea has steadied, the water turns choppy again.

My days are filled with uncertainty as we discover more about what's beneath this sweet boy of mine. I know he is smart, strong, passionately curious, compassionate and spirited. What I'm still learning, though, are the differences that make him unique. It's difficult to describe what it's like to be a parent of a spirited child. The answer depends on the day, the task, the weather—the answer is always changing.

Our days ebb and flow, like waves of the ocean. They swell with enjoyment and eagerness and then naturally fade through periodic episodes of misunderstanding and confusion. Attachment and connection, followed by detachment and disconnection. Up and down, back and forth, give and take, push and pull.

My strong-willed child keeps me on my toes, but when I'm able to lift the hood, I can really see what's going on in with his engine. His spirited nature has brought brightness to my life. He is a child of high standards, but is an absolute delight. He is sweet and generous, creative and bright.

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Here are the joys I've learned from parenting a spirited child:

1. His curiosity is a good thing and it reminds me to slow down.

He's always interested in how things work and asks a lot of questions—oftentimes, he tries to figure it out on his own. His senses are keen, and his observations are imaginative and rich. Our five-minute walk to school quickly stretches to 15.

On our way, he'll notice the grasshopper sitting alone on a single branch and the intricate spiderweb laced in the bush nearby. He notices the beautiful colors of the flowers and the leaves changing in the fall.

He'll look up at the sky and see a heart-shaped cloud and hear the distant sound of a siren. He'll notice when one of my shirt buttons is unbuttoned and the single strand of hair on my sleeve. His mind never stops because he is always seeking out knowledge and gathering the data in his mind.

2. His compassion for others and empathy for his friends is admirable.

When he feels, he feels hard. When he expresses love for his baby brother, I'll catch him gently patting his back and giving him a soft embrace, followed up with a kiss and a whisper saying, "I love you."

He once saw his friend fall off her tricycle on the playground and quickly jumped off his and rushed over to make sure she was okay. Every ounce of his body and soul is poured out in those moments. The intense, passionate emotions add depth to my life and make me want to be a better person.

3. He never gives up.

He is determined, tenacious, and will not take "no" for an answer. And if we do say "no," he'll find another way to get a "yes." He's not intimidated by adults or peers and is confident in who he is and what he can do.

At soccer practice, he is the first in line to practice short drills and will run himself ragged until he scores a goal. During our morning school routine, he is the master of negotiation and can somehow convince me he's too full to eat the banana on his plate but not too full to finish off the glass of orange juice.

He is strong-willed and headstrong, qualities I know will serve him well in the future. He wants to learn on his own and test his own limits.

Parenting a spirited child is hard, but it's also rewarding. While it may be a frustrating and exhausting endeavor, I take comfort in knowing that he will grow up to be a leader.

He will be resilient and passionate, focused and unafraid to speak his mind. I don't want him to blend, I want him to shine. I want him to march through life, and not just add to the noise. I want him to love his spirit always, in all ways.

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