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Dear new mama of two: It gets easier before you even realize it. Believe me.

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One of my very best friends had her second baby just over two weeks ago. And while I’m by no means anywhere close to a seasoned mother of two, it’s amazing what two extra months can teach you.


I’ve found that those that have been through it tend to focus on how things will get easier in the long-term. Just get through the first year, and it’ll all start to fall into place. Yes, it’s a small age gap, but you’ll so appreciate what good friends they’ll be when they’re older!

That’s all well and good, but for me–I needed to hear that things would get easier, or at least that I would get better at them, soon. Like, really soon. As in, tomorrow. Next week. In two weeks. Maybe in a month or two, max.

I needed someone to tell me that there was a light just around the corner, and to reassure me that I wasn’t far off.

In those early weeks, you can’t quite see as far ahead as a year from now, or even six months from now. On some days, even the idea of tomorrow is terrifying. I know that it all goes incredibly fast when you take a step back, at some point down the track. But when you’re living it, when it’s your reality, your now, you are counting every hour and wondering how you’re going to get through the next one.

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So, my lovely, sweet friend: Here I am, only eight or so weeks ahead of you, and I’m here to tell you it will get easier. Next month, it will get easier. Next week, it will get easier. Tomorrow, it will get easier.

I want you to know that in just a few weeks from now, things will change. Some of them will change tomorrow. Some of them will change in a couple of days, or maybe next week. Some things? They need another month or so. Just hang in there. It’s really, really not far away. I promise you.

I know you’re experiencing physical pain right now. I know you’re anxious to start feeling like yourself again. You were one of those incredibly agile and strong pregnant women that people would stare at as she whisked her active toddler and collapsed stroller onto the bus like it was nothing. It’s different now, I know. I know that some days, it feels like that pain, or that fragility, is here to stay and you are trying to fathom how you’re going to run after your toddler if he’s about to fall off the seesaw at the playground, or if he suddenly sprints off in the opposite direction at the grocery store. You will be able to, I promise. Sooner than you think.

You know that thing that was really, really impossible today, or maybe yesterday? It’s going to be less impossible the next time you’re faced with it.

The first time it happened, it caught you off guard and you didn’t have a plan. You had to wing it. That’s a difficult thing for people like us to experience and motherhood really tests us in that way. But you’ve done it once now. Even if it was a complete catastrophe, you did it. And little by little, each of these seemingly impossible moments is teaching you how to do it better next time.

Without those moments of feeling totally flustered and unprepared, you won’t learn what you need to learn to tackle it next time. And you will. You’ll surprise yourself at how much easier it is next time. One of the first of these things that I experienced was getting out the gate of our apartment complex with a stroller and while carrying the baby in a wrap. The first time, the door whacked into the stroller as it swung shut; I stuck my arm out to stop it and nearly bumped the baby in the head; and then I tried to kick it open with my foot and ended up with one of those shin bruises you and I are so good at getting. Now? I do it without anyone getting injured and without even really thinking about it. And you will too.

Your toddler is going to fall more and more in love with his new baby brother. In the next couple of weeks, you’ll start noticing how he expects to see his baby brother when he wakes up in the morning, because to him, even though the baby’s only been around for a few weeks, to him that’s a heck of a long time. The baby is now a part of his routine, his family, his life.

I know it’s hard having to essentially protect the little one from the big one all the time. It’s difficult to see how you’ll ever be able to leave them both in the same room together. But it’ll happen. It’ll be a combination of the baby becoming stronger and more resilient, the toddler becoming gentler and you becoming more relaxed. Sure, you might come back and find your toddler sitting on the baby, but I can literally tell you from experience that the baby will be fine. Your mommy Spidey-senses will heighten to include an alert that the baby might need to be rescued from the toddler. It’s hard to describe, but you’ll see what I mean.

I know you feel like you’re not doing enough for your toddler. Listen to me when I say this: he is just fine. Stop worrying about him and stop feeling guilty. That beautiful, boisterous boy of yours is so content and happy, and has so much love around him, that he will never doubt your love for him. He’s going to get better at waiting for you to finish nursing the baby. He’s going to become more helpful and more patient. He’s going to become more independent and you will wonder how he was ever as tiny and needy as your little one.

You’re going to start tailoring the activities with your toddler to work with the sleep you’re getting—or not getting—and he will be OK with it. I promise. I know it’s hard to feel like you’re culling back on all that you used to do for him, and that somehow he’s missing out, but you will be astounded at how adaptable he is, and how hanging out with you and his baby brother is more than enough for him. So what if you spend the entire day at home? He will get used to it. He’ll be just as happy going to the playground downstairs for 15 minutes or taking a walk down to the grocery store down the road.

Take the pressure off yourself to do everything and be everything. You are enough.

Leaving the house with both of them is going to get easier really, really soon. All the prep that goes with it will require less forethought on your part. I know it’s hard going back to packing a bag for a newborn when you’ve gotten so used to packing one for a toddler. You’ll be able to go through the mental checklist a lot quicker without having to go through every potential contingency for which you need to prepare.

In just a few weeks, your baby is going to smile at you. Ah, that first smile. I remember with Tuna, I cried when she first gave me that gummy grin. Do you remember that feeling, mama? The feeling that this tiny little baby, who seemed to be existing in a realm of their own, now recognises you. He sees you. He knows you. You just looking at him makes him smile. Those smiles are sort of like little rewards peppered throughout your difficult, tiresome days. They’re little thank-yous for waking up with him on the hour and nursing him, for changing him, for bathing him, for holding him and loving him; for keeping him safe and doing everything you can to keep him happy and content.

Now just you wait until you witness the first time your baby smiles at your toddler.

Oh. My heart.

I’m not even going to say anything more about this, because when it happens, you’ll understand what I mean. Tell me when it happens, because I want to cry tears of joy with you.

In the next month or so, you’re probably going to experience your first full day alone with both of them. Call me that day. Please promise me that if you need to, you’ll call me.

You might do what I did and look at your husband forlornly as he leaves for work, silently begging him with your eyes not to go. You might get that odd feeling that maybe you’re a little bit afraid of your children and what they might conspire to do to you once you have sole charge.

Trust me when I say you’ve got this.

Look, it might be an unexpected piece of cake. It might be a complete disaster. You might be more exhausted than you’ve ever been in your life. You might have several moments during that day where all three of you are crying while you look up to the heavens and ask, how am I supposed to do this?!  You might try to leave the house with them both and then vow to never do it again.

You will do it again, and you will do it better every time.

You will panic less. You will throw your hands up in exasperation less. You will doubt yourself less.

You’re going to experience more and more of those moments where you smile quietly at yourself and think, “Hey, I did it!” Something that once seemed so difficult will become second nature, because having a second baby in the mix just forces you to upskill, fast. You’ll sit on the floor with your toddler and play with him while the baby happily gurgles and coos on the mat next to you. There will be more calm moments. You’ll be able to sit back and watch them lay next to each other while your toddler giggles in delight at his baby brother batting at his face.

The truth is, and I say this from the bottom of my heart and the core of my soul: You are an extraordinary person, which makes you an extraordinary mother. You are patient. You are loving. You exude calm and compassion. You are so many things that I strive to be. I know there will be difficult days that will test you, but knowing you, and knowing how beautifully you mother your babies (because I’ve seen you do it first-hand), you will come out winning. If you have one of those days where you think you’ve failed, or that you’re doing a terrible job, call me and I will tell you how amazing you are. Because you really, truly are.

You never need to worry that you’re complaining too much to me. I know there are times when everything is just hard. Let me be your person, the way you were mine when I went through it. The way you still are while I’m still going through it.

We both don’t want to talk about the fact that I probably won’t be here when a lot of these things happen. And I’m so, so sorry that of all the times to decide to move countries, this is it. But know that I’m just a message or a phone call away. And if we need to set up our iPads so that our toddlers can FaceTime each other while we nurse our babies, so be it.

You’ve got this. I have so much faith in you. It’s all going to get easier; not in a year, not in six months, but next month. Next week. Tomorrow.

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Student loan debt is a major problem for many mamas and their families―but it doesn't have to be. Refinancing companies like Laurel Road help families every year by offering better rates, making payments more manageable or helping them shorten their loan term.

If you're ready to start taking control of your student loan debt, here are five steps that could help you conquer your student loan debt and get a loan that works for you.

1. Understand your refinancing options.

Like motherhood, managing student loan debt is a journey made much easier by experience. If your eyes start to cross when you hear variable and fixed rates or annual percentage rate, start your process with a little education. Laurel Road offers a user-friendly resource hub with student loan refinancing guides and articles that can help explain your options and get you started on a more informed foot.

2. Potentially improve your credit score.

Your credit score is important because it provides an objective measure of your credit risk to lenders. It also has an impact on many aspects of your finances, so it's a good idea to understand and track your score regularly. To try and improve your score, pay your bills on time—your payment history is one of the most important factors in determining your credit score. Having a long history of on-time payments is best, while missing a payment may hurt your score. Another action to improve your credit score would be to keep the amount you owe low—keeping your balances low on credit cards and other types of revolving debt, such as a home equity lines of credit, may help boost your score. Remember, good credit scores don't just happen overnight, but taking positive financial steps now can lead to more positive outcomes in the future.

3. Get a better understanding of your current loan benefits.

Different loan types have different benefits and you want to make sure you don't lose any valuable benefits by refinancing your current loan. Before you're ready to apply for a better option, you need to know what you have. Determine your loan terms (how long you have to pay off your loan and how much you're required to pay each month) and find out your current interest rate.

When you took out your original loan, especially if it was a federal loan, everyone who applies is given the same rate regardless of their personal credit. When you look to refinance, companies like Laurel Road look at your credit score and other attributes to give you a personalized pricing option―one that's often more competitive than your original terms. However, it is important to know that federal loans offer several benefits and protections, including income based repayment and forgiveness options, that you may lose when refinancing with private lenders (learn more at https://studentloans.gov). Try Laurel Road's Student Loan Calculator to get a bigger picture perspective of what it will take to pay off your loan and the options available to you.

4. Pick the terms that fit your lifestyle.

Your long-term financial goals will determine what refinancing terms are right for you. For example, a 3- or 5-year loan means faster payoff times, but it will mean a higher monthly payment―which might not be possible if you're planning to purchase a home or looking to move your toddler to a more expensive school. A loan with a longer term will have lower payments, but more interest over the duration of the loan.

Want to see what your options are? Check your rates on Laurel Road. They'll perform a "soft credit pull" using some basic information (meaning initially checking your rates won't affect your credit score ) so you can make an informed decision. If you do proceed with the application Laurel Road will ask for your consent on a hard credit pull.

5. Don't miss out on discounts.

With a little research, many people can find opportunities for lower rates or discounts when refinancing their loans. For example, if your credit isn't the best, look into the possibility of adding a cosigner who may help boost your rate. There are also many associations and employers who offer student loan benefits. Laurel Road partners with a number of groups and employers who offer discounts on rates―so check with your professional associations or HR to see if any options are available to you. Finally, talk to your financial institution, especially if you're planning to take out another major loan like a mortgage. In some cases, having another product with an institution can get you a preferred customer rate.

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

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The bond between sisters is special, but Jill Noe and Whitney Bliesner have a unique bond that goes beyond just being siblings. As twins, Jill and Whitney shared a lot throughout their lives, and when Jill became Whitney's surrogate they even shared a pregnancy.

As first reported by Today, Whitney has a rare disease called NF2 (Neurofibromatosis type 2). Because of NF2 she lost the vision in her left eye and hearing in her right ear, along with partial hearing loss in her left ear. The condition makes pregnancy risky, and the disease is hereditary.

Whitney and her husband, Pete, wanted to start a family, but adoption and surrogacy fees seemed to be putting parenthood out of their reach. Until Jill stepped in as their surrogate.

"We have always had a strong connection, I do think this experience made our connection stronger, for sure," Whitney tells Motherly, adding that she's sure that when Jill eventuallu has kids of her own the sisters will likely bond over motherhood, too.

Through IVF, Jill carried donor eggs fertilized with Pete's sperm to make her twin sister's family, and on June 7 Jill delivered Whitney and Pete's son and daughter, little Rhett and Rhenley.

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"Going through this with Jill was so easy," Whitney tells Motherly. "We both had no idea what was going to happen or how we would deal with stuff during this journey. We had our ups and downs, but I think that's life, and in any situation you would experience that. But with my sister, there was a sense of everything was going to be ok, like always. We always get over our annoyance and disagreements with each other very fast with no hard feelings. It was just a great experience to have with my best friend, my twin sister."

Rhett and Rhenley are keeping Whitney super busy these days (with twins, someone is always hungry!) but she's making time to share her story because she wants other people who can't physically be pregnant to not give up on their dream of being a mom.

"It's not about blood or biologically carrying a kid that makes you a mom, it's the unconditional love, care, and security you give a child that makes you a mom," she explains.

Whitney continues: "Even though you aren't carrying or blood-related, you still have those feelings of babies being yours!"

Whitney calls Jill her best friend and Jill says the feeling is mutual, telling Today that she knows Whitney would have done the same for her if the roles where reversed.

"She's always wanted to be a mom and her disease has already taken so much from her. I wasn't going to allow (NF2) to take this opportunity from her, too," Jill said. "It just felt like the right thing to do. Our family is so strong and so supportive of one another, especially since Whit's diagnosis in 8th grade."

Thanks to Jill, Whitney is now living her dream, taking care of her two adorable babies.

Jill is an amazing sister, and Whitney is already an amazing mom.

[A version of this post was originally published June 14, 2019. It has been updated.]

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A dad's first Father's Day is always special, and Prince Harry is no exception. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex released a new photo of Baby Archie clutching his father's finger.

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It's been just over a month since little Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor came into the world and changed his father's. Shortly after the birth, Prince Harry described new fatherhood as "the most amazing experience I could ever possibly imagine."

This sweet Father's Day Instagram post is the first look at Archie the public has had since the royal family did their post-birth photoshoot in May.

While Archie's mom and dad recently attended the Queen's birthday celebration, Trooping the Colour, little Archie is still a bit too small for such a big party. His older cousin Prince Louis made his first Trooping appearance this year, so we can expect to see Archie at the Queen's birthday parade next year.

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Baby Archie and Prince Louis will likely be together soon for Archie's christening. Reports suggest the event will take place next month at Windsor Castle, the same venue where Archie's mom and dad got married, and where Prince Harry was baptized back in 1984.

We can't wait to see more photos of sweet baby Archie on his big day!

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Do you feel guilty when you don't want to play with your kid? I do.

Do you give in and play with them anyway, all the while checking your phone and wondering exactly how long you have to pretend to be a dinosaur? Or do you say "no" to play time and endure the inevitable whining, coupled with mom-guilt that ensues?

Neither of these options is particularly tempting.

So what's a mom, with a fully developed intellect and adult interests and subsequent lack of interest in playing with toys for 10 to 12 hours a day, to do?

Here are six phrases to try next time your kid wants to play and you need a break.

1. "I will be cleaning the kitchen. You're welcome to join me."

This is my personal favorite and one I use daily. The next time you need to get something done and your child is clinging to you, offer an invitation instead of a dismissal.

Try asking your child to join you instead of saying, "go play." The beauty of this phrase is that it gives your child a choice—they can either be with you and help with what you are doing, or they can go play independently.

Often my toddler will join me for a while and then drift off to play on his own.

2. "I'm not available to play dinosaurs right now. Would you like to read with me?"

While sometimes we simply need to get something done, other times we just honestly do not want to play whatever our child is asking us to. And that is okay.

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There are only so many hours in the day that you can reasonably be expected to play dinosaurs or princesses. If you are available to spend time with your child, but find yourself cringing at the idea of one more game of superheroes, offer an alternate activity.

It's important for children to get the chance to choose the activity sometimes, but it doesn't have to be all of the time. Offer one or two activities that you would genuinely enjoy doing with your child and give them the choice of whether to join you.

3. "I'm going to read for 20 minutes and then I will be able to play Legos with you."

Let your child see your interests too. You don't have to cram your own life and hobbies into nap time and after bed. It's okay, and even valuable, to let them see that you are a whole person with your interests.

Tell them that you want to read or garden or workout for 20 minutes. Invite them to sit nearby, or to play on their own. It helps to start with a very manageable amount of time, like 15 or 20 minutes, and stretch it as your child's ability to play on their own grows.

Your child may sit and whine for the entire 20 minutes. While this can be annoying, it is best not to respond in anger. Try to acknowledge their feelings, but don't give in to their demands. You might say, "I see that you're having a hard time waiting for my attention. Reading is important to me. I'm going to read for 15 more minutes, and then I would love to play with you."

If you do this consistently, your child will get used to the idea that you have needs and interests too.

4. "I don't want to play right now, but I would love to sit and watch you."

Be honest with your child. It's okay if you want to be with them, but don't feel like actively playing. This can be an excellent way to observe how your child plays when left to their own devices. It is also a way for them to share their favorite games with you, without you feeling forced to play something you don't enjoy. Children can tell when we're not having fun, even if we try to fake it.

5. "I would love to play for a few minutes. Then I will need to fold the laundry."

Sometimes children need help getting started. It often works well to play with them for 10 or 15 minutes and then back away to do something else nearby. This allows your child to play independently while also saving your sanity.

6. "Sure, I'll play! You choose the game today, and I'll choose tomorrow."

While we naturally do not share all of our young children's interests, it is important for children to get to choose what we do together some of the time. Create a system where your child chooses sometimes, and you choose other times. Once your child is confident that they will get to decide what you play together sometimes, they will likely let go of the need to always demand that you play certain games.

Bottom line:

The beauty of learning to say "no" to your child's requests to play is that you will enjoy the time you do spend playing together. No one has fun when they feel like they're being forced to do something, even if it's by a 4-year-old.

And the thing is, they can tell. Children know when we want to be there and when we're just phoning it in—we're not fooling anyone.

When I force myself to play, I imagine my toddler feels sort of how I feel when I drag my husband to the farmers market. Yes, we're doing what I wanted to do, but I can tell he's not into it and that kind of takes all the fun out of the experience.

Once you feel the freedom to decide whether or not you want to play, you can choose the times when you do feel like being silly, playing pretend or merely dropping everything to build the tallest tower ever in the whole full world.

And your child? They will know the difference. Their little heart will be so full of playing with you when you want to be there. That's what will stick with them, not all of the times you said no.

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Sleep is one of the most talked about and debated topics out there for parents. It is almost as if how good our babies sleep is some sort of weird competition between exhausted parents.

We think that if our baby is sleeping well or "through the night" then we must be winning in the parenting department, yet if they are waking up more often then we feel ashamed and somehow open ourselves up to opinions from our friends, parents, neighbors and the lady at the grocery store with ways to help them sleep better. It is frustrating and disheartening at times.

The competition creates a divide between us instead of allowing us to support each other through this rollercoaster ride of parenting. "Hey mama, sounds like your baby needs some extra cuddles through the night, so how about I come and bring you coffee in the morning?" is what we need to be saying versus the sad puppy eyes look while saying, "Aww, that is too bad, have you ever thought of sleep training?"

"How do they sleep?" seems to be the perfect ice breaker question when meeting a new parent. As a mom of three, I've been asked this question a lot. As a sleep consultant, I've been asked this question even more!

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My response is always the same, "My baby sleeps like a baby." I have come to realize over the last five years of working as a sleep consultant that it has less to do with how our baby actually sleeps and more to do with our expectations on sleep. There could be two babies that sleep exactly the same and one family claims their baby is a "bad" sleeper while the other states that their baby is a "good" sleeper.

This has changed how I have parented because I now know that it is more about how I feel versus reaching a goal of perfect sleep. What does "perfect sleep" even mean? Is there an actual definition? No. It is all about reaching your own individual goals no matter what they might be.

My youngest baby is 18 months old now and I would say that she is a pretty good sleeper. I would say this both from a parenting perspective and from a sleep consultant perspective but I want to share with you how we achieved this outcome through breaking all of the sleep "rules."

We co-slept at the beginning. I say at the beginning because it ended up not working well for us but not because I didn't want it to or because I thought it was bad. The first few months were wonderful and it helped me establish a positive breastfeeding experience and helped us all get more sleep at the time. I followed her cues and still to this day she isn't much for cuddling and so maybe it was just her personality that made her do better beside me in her own bassinet.

I often nursed her to sleep. With my first two babies, I was always so nervous about starting any "bad" habits until I finally understood that there is no one way to put your baby to sleep that is right or wrong. Everything works differently for different babies. I could nurse her to sleep and we, as a family, felt that there was no disruption in our sleep that was out of the ordinary. As she got older, we found different ways to help her fall asleep so that dad could be involved too.

I fed my baby when she woke at night. When she would wake up throughout the night I never thought of her as being spoiled, trying to manipulate me or that she was a bad sleeper. I simply thought that she was hungry. When she woke up at night, I went in and fed her and then we both went back to sleep happy.

I didn't try any type of "cry it out." In fact, I never could handle much crying right from the start. If she was crying then I would be crying so we found different ways to work on new sleep cues. My favorite way was having dad go in and rock her. This helped us eventually move away from the nursing to sleep so that we could gently work on consolidating some night sleep so I could have a little freedom (I was needing it after baby #3!).

My favorite thing to tell families is "sleep is only a problem if it is a problem." What I mean by this is that you are the only one who can determine if what you are doing is working for your family or not.

We all have parental instincts for a reason and need to trust them. If you feel rested, happy and overall like everything is going just fine, then it is. Even if this means you are breaking every sleep "rule" in the book. It took me some time to practice what I preach and when I did it felt like such a relief.

Finally, I could just do what felt right and in the end, everything worked out just fine. My baby sleeps well. Does she wake up sometimes at night? Yes, because she is human. Not every night is perfect but it is balanced which is exactly what it should be.

All of you mamas and papas out there with little babies who feel like this exhausting period of time is never going to pass. It will, and you will long for it back. Soak in the moments and do what feels best. You've got this.

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