Let’s make a baby: My 10-step plan to get pregnant

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Becoming a mother is one of the most transformational experiences of your life. It can also feel like one of the most overwhelming, but making a baby doesn't have to be so complicated.

We've got your 10-step guide to take you from baby dreams to baby reality. 🍼Here's how to get there.

1. Start the baby talk

The decision to get pregnant often starts as a conversation between two partners who decide they're just wild in love enough to become parents.

How do you know you're ready to become parents? Here are the 10 questions to ask your partner before you make a baby.

You'll also want to...

Have a lot of sex

No, really. New research shows that getting in a lot of sex before conception can prime the immune system for a healthy pregnancy. (Yes, please!) Go ahead, get your practice!

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Make sure he's healthy

Dad's fertility matters too, so he'll want to make sure he's as healthy as can be. Read more on how your partner can boost his fertility.

Be in it together

There's also a lot of evidence to show that partners who enter parenthood intentionally have better outcomes for their relationship and for their child.

2. Take a prenatal vitamin and eat a nutritionally-dense diet


Start taking a prenatal 3 months before you start trying to conceive

Take a prenatal vitamin with 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid "every day for at least three months before getting pregnant to lower your risk of some birth defects of the brain and spine," experts say. Care/Of customizes a vitamin pack plan if you're not sure where to start, but always consult your doctor first.

Pro tip: Some health insurance companies even cover the cost of prenatal vitamins, so ask your doctor if she can write you a prescription.

Eat well even before you conceive

A growing body of research also indicates it's also important for hopeful mamas-to-be to eat a nutritionally dense diet in advance of conception.

Choose organic when possible

As you boost your intake of healthy foods and produce, make an extra effort to eat organic, especially avoiding produce on Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen list.

Keep away from the Dirty Dozen

As mentioned above, you should try to avoid the "Dirty Dozen"—fruits and vegetables that have the highest rates of pesticides when grown conventionally. Make sure to choose organic for the following foods:

  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Hot peppers
  • Kale
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Potatoes
  • Snap peas
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Bell peppers

P.S. It's a good idea to always wash produce thoroughly before eating.

Limit coffee ☕ + alcohol 🍷

Heavy alcohol and caffeine consumption is shown to decrease female fertility. However, our trusted OB-GYNs promise that your one cup of coffee a day is just fine.

3. Stop popping that pill

Before you start actively trying to conceive, you'll need to stop using birth control. You may want to use a condom in the meantime if you're not ready to try for baby quite yet.

Here's when to stop, depending on what type of contraceptive you use:

The pill, patch or ring

Timeline: 3 months before you try to conceive

Dr. Michelle Collins, director of the Nurse-Midwifery Program at Vanderbilt University, explains that after stopping the birth control pill, patch or ring, "a woman may ovulate as soon as two weeks after stopping the contraception, or it may take longer, but generally most women will have a period return by six weeks after stopping the contraception."

Good to know: Studies have shown that "women who had switched from oral contraceptives to a barrier method within three months before attempting to conceive were more likely to become pregnant within 12 months (54 percent) than were those who attempted to conceive immediately after discontinuing oral contraceptives (32 percent)."

IUD

Timeline: 1-3 months before you try to conceive

Collins notes: "After having an IUD (intrauterine device) removed, fertility returns quickly, and conception can occur shortly after removal. The same is true for the progestin implant contraceptive Nexplanon."

Good to know: Studies have shown that women who have used an IUD for an extended period of time may face slightly decreased fertility in the first few months, but fertility rates generally return to normal within 18 months after removal.

Progestin injection

Timeline: 3 months or more before you try to conceive

"Some women who have ceased using the progestin injection Depo-Provera have noticed that it may take some months for the return of menses, during which time they are not ovulating. For women using that particular method of contraception, they may want to discontinue use a few months prior to when they actually want to target conception," Collins explains.

Good to know: It can take up to 12 weeks for injected progestogen to leave the body, so consider this timing in your fertility plans.

What to remember:

When you stop using hormonal contraception or the IUD, your body's natural fertility returns. The sooner fertility returns, the sooner you can track your cycle, pinpoint ovulation and get pregnant.

4. Book a prenatal checkup

It'll get you in the mood

We've never been so excited to go to the OB-GYN than when we headed in for our pre-conception checkup.And we asked a doctor for the 10 preconception questions you should ask your OB-GYN or midwife!

You can talk about your concerns

Your doctor can help you navigate how to adjust behaviors now to have the healthiest possible pregnancy.Our expert OB-GYN shared the 10 questions you should ask your doctor during your preconception checkup.

Questions include:

  • Diet and lifestyle: Are you a vegetarian? Do you run ultra-marathons? Are you underweight or overweight? Do you ever smoke?
  • Medical + family history: Is there a family history of miscarriage or genetic disease? Did any of your close relatives experience pregnancy complications?
  • Medications you take: Do any of the medications you currently take need to be stopped before you try to conceive? Are you taking a prenatal vitamin?
  • Environmental factors: Do you work or live near any dangerous chemicals that you need to limit your exposure to in advance of conception?
  • Any past pregnancies?: Have you had any previous pregnancies, miscarriages or abortions?

5. Start charting your cycle

We get it: You're a busy lady trying to get busy having a baby. The last thing you need is to waste your time on fertility aids that won't work. These five smart solutions use the most cutting-edge advancements in science and tech to get you pregnant faster.

Here are some we've used and loved:

Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor

Full disclosure: There are editors on our staff who call this the "secret miracle worker." Clearblue's monitor generates results personalized to your specific cycle, not based on general hormone data from other women. The monitor will also navigate changing hormones and cycles through urine tests completed each cycle, and it's the only noninvasive method that tracks both LH and estrogen hormones. After your cycle has begun, simple turn on the monitor every day at some point during your six-hour testing window to know your fertile status and whether you need to take another test.

Pro tip: Share the love! This fertility monitor can be reset and shared with a friend once you've gotten pregnant.

Kindara App

The Kindara App is designed to be useful when trying to get pregnant as well as when you're not trying. Based on the principles of the Fertility Awareness Method, it tracks basal body temperature and cervical fluid consistency to help determine your most fertile days. Whereas in the past, women tracking their cycles may have had to use homemade charts to log these fertility signs, the app makes it easy to collect your data and track your ovulation. There's even a smart oral thermometer called Wink that automatically syncs with the app, taking the guesswork out of recording your daily temperature.
Pro tip: To get the most out of this app, you do have to have some knowledge about the Fertility Awareness Method and how to properly log the information. Once you are comfortable with the method, the app will help you understand how your body works. The thermometer is a little on the expensive side, but it can also be used by multiple women—simply wipe the data and hand it on to another soon-to-be mama in need.

Ava

One of the newest innovations in wearable fertility tech is the Ava bracelet. The actual tracker is a round silver pod roughly the size of a silver dollar, which you wear on a soft rubber strap. The strap holds the pod snugly to your pulse overnight and tracks resting pulse rate, skin temperature, heart rate variability, quality and amount of sleep, breathing rate, movement, perfusion (of the process of supplying blood to the tissues of your body), bioimpedance (the resistance of body tissue to tiny amounts of electricity) and heat loss. Using these physiological parameters, Ava can track ovulation and indicate (in most cases) an average of five fertile days per month for you to try to conceive. All you have to do is strap on Ava right before bed, then plug it in to charge when you first wake up and sync with the Ava app on your phone using Bluetooth technology.
Pro tip: Start wearing it as soon as you think you might want to get pregnant. The more you wear Ava, the better it learns your cycles and can help identify fertile days. The information can also help your doctor identify common conception struggles early on.

Clue app

If you want a less-invasive way of tracking your periods and symptoms, the Clue app is a great way to keep track of your cycle. Record symptoms like menstruation, mood, sex drive, energy levels, skin clarity and more every day, and then check your analysis monthly to see how patterns develop. The app can even let you know when your most fertile time of the month, or "fertile window," is opening and closing so you know when it's time to get busy. The more information you log, the easier it will be to spot patterns in your monthly cycle.

Pro tip: Personalize the app by selecting which symptoms you want to track, which can be especially helpful for predicting your period if you're not super regular. Skin is blowing up and you're craving chocolate chip cookies? Might be time to hop in bed.

YONO Fertility Monitor

Accurately predicting your fertility with continuous temperature readings? When you use YONO, the world's first in-ear ovulation predictor, you can do it with your eyes closed. Simply wear the YONO earbud while you sleep at night and the tiny device records your temperature every five minutes. Then you sync the data with YONO's app on your phone to plot a monthly fertility map to help you better identify when it's best to try to conceive.

Pro tip: Wear the YONO bud in the opposite ear than the one you typically sleep on, and charge it every morning for best results.
We only include products we've tested and loved in MotherlyLoves. Through affiliate programs, we may receive a revenue percentage if you purchase through our website.

6. Align your weight

The average woman should aim to gain around 30 pounds during pregnancy, so it can seem counterintuitive to try to lose (or gain) weight before trying to conceive.
It's good for baby
Before conception, keeping your body mass index (BMI) in a healthy range (between 18.5 and 24.9) won't only help you get pregnant, but new research indicates that it may also help sustain a healthy pregnancy.
Check your BMI here
We know it's super hard to stepawayfromtheicecream after a stressful day at work, but the thought of your healthy little one staring back at you just might be all the motivation you need. You can check your BMI here.

7. Workworkworkworkwork

Before you even conceive, it's a good idea to think about what your work life will be like when your little one arrives.

Plan ahead
Now is a great time to ask for a raise or take on extra responsibilities that will set you up you for leadership roles in the years to come. Positioning yourself as a highly valued member of the team can make it easier for you to ask for more flexibility or pay after baby is born, or to find remote working alternatives if you'd rather spend more time at home.
Add value
We're big fans of what Lean In suggests for women trying to make their mark at the office: Shifting from a "What do I get?" to a "What can I offer?" mindset can help you get noticed.
Take on new challenges
This is the time to take on new challenges that can set you up for better options going forward.
Ask for a raise
We love this advice from the boss ladies at Lean In: "You won't get what you don't ask for, so make it a rule to negotiate." Get pumped for asking for more by watching Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Margaret Neale's strategies for making your case.Now rock that negotiation.

8. File that paperwork

Write a will

Sites like RocketLawyer make it easy for you to create a legal will (for free!) online.
Get life insurance
Life insurance is important for women too. With more mothers working (and millennial women actually out-earning their male counterparts in their 20s before kids) it's crucial that women protect their families should something happen to them.
Bundle insurance
To make things easy, check out rates from your car insurance provider, or ask about life insurance at work. It's likely that both offer policies and that might make it easier for you to sign up quickly.

9. Take a peek at the budget, but don't freak out

Budget for baby
Learn the basics of how much pregnancy will cost with our guide to budgeting for baby. Motherly's got you covered.
Think about childcare
You can also start to research the general cost of childcare in your area, but you have plenty of time to get your finances in order, so don't freak out. You're going to take this whole motherhood thing in small (baby) steps at a time. But start now so you won't be surprised by the costs.
What dad can do
Turns out, dads should be concerned about their health too. Our OB-GYN, Dr. Sarah Hartwick Bjorkman, suggests:—Work on fitness and nutrition goals together. Obesity in men is linked to impaired sperm production.—He can also up his vitamin intake. Vitamin C and vitamin E have been shown to slightly increase sperm motility.—Stop smoking ASAP. Smoking is associated with reduced sperm quality. So are anabolic steroids and marijuana, so be sure to curb those too.—Ditch the briefs. Some studies have found that wearing brief type underwear increases the temperature around the scrotum, leading to a decrease in sperm quality.

10. Go wild!

Rock that pre-baby bucket list
On behalf of all the pregnant women not noshing on blue cheese and the new mamas not sleeping in, find ways to cherish these last few months of freedom.
Go out with your girlfriends
Motherhood is going to transform you in ways you can't even imagine, and one day not so long from now you might even forget what it's like to go out with your girlfriends and not worry about heading home to your little one.
Sleep in
There are a lot of late nights and early mornings (What is time?) in new motherhood, so sleep all you can.
Live it up
While you're still free as a bird, we hope you live it up!Head off to Europe. Book a spur-of-the-moment getaway with no need to arrange childcare. Wear that bikini with absolute abandon. Go all in at work.
Amazing things are about to happen. And we're so excited for you. 🎉👭👶

Let's make a baby: My 10-step plan to get pregnant

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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[Editor's note: While Motherly loves seeing and sharing photos of baby Archie and other adorable babies when the images are shared with their parents' consent, we do not publish pictures taken without a parent's consent. Since these pictures were taken without Markle's permission while she was walking her dogs, we're not reposting them.]

Meghan Markle is a trendsetter for sure. When she wears something the world notices, and this week she was photographed wearing her son Archie in a baby carrier. The important thing to know about the photos is that they show the Duchess out for a walk with her two dogs while wearing Archie in a blue Ergo. She's not hands-free baby wearing, but rather wearing an Ergo while also supporting Archie with her arm, as the carrier isn't completely tight.

FEATURED VIDEO

When British tabloids published the pictures many babywearing devotees and internet commenters offered opinions on how Markle is holding her son in the photo, but as baby gear guru Jamie Grayson notes, "it is none of our business."

In a post to his Facebook page, Grayson (noted NYC baby gear expert) explained that in the last day or so he has been inundated with hundreds of messages about how Markle is wearing the carrier, and that while he's sure many who messaged with concerns had good intentions he hopes to inject some empathy into the conversation.

As Grayson points out, these are paparazzi photos, so it was a private moment not meant for world-wide consumption. "This woman has the entire world watching her every move and action, especially now that she and Harry are leaving the umbrella of the royal family, and I honestly hope they are able to find some privacy and peace. So let's give her space," he explains, adding that "while those pictures show something that is less than ideal, it's going to be okay. I promise. It's not like she's wearing the baby upside down."

He's right, Archie was safe and not in danger and who knows why the straps on Markle's carrier were loose (maybe she realized people were about to take pictures and so she switched Archie from forward-facing, or maybe the strap just slipped.)

Grayson continues: "When you are bringing up how a parent is misusing a product (either in-person or online) please consider your words. Because tone of voice is missing in text, it is important to choose your words carefully because ANYTHING can be misconstrued. Your good intentions can easily be considered as shaming someone."

Grayson's suggestions injected some much-needed empathy into this discourse and reminded many that new parents are human beings who are just trying to do their best with responsibilities (and baby gear) that isn't familiar to them.

Babywearing has a ton of benefits for parents and the baby, but it can take some getting used to. New parents can research safety recommendations so they feel confident. In Canada, where the pictures in question were snapped, the government recommends parents follow these safety guidelines when wearing infants in carriers:

  • Choose a product that fits you and your baby properly.
  • Be very careful putting a baby into—or pulling them out of—a carrier or sling. Ask for help if you need it.
  • When wearing a carrier or sling, do not zip up your coat around the baby because it increases the risk of overheating and suffocation.
  • Be particularly careful when using a sling or carrier with babies under 4 months because their airways are still developing.
  • Do not use a carrier or sling during activities that could lead to injury such as cooking, running, cycling, or drinking hot beverages.

Health Canada also recommends parents "remember to keep your baby visible and kissable at all times" and offers the following tips to ensure kissability.

"Keep the baby's face in view. Keep the baby in an upright position. Make sure the baby's face is not pressed into the fabric of the carrier or sling, your body, or clothing. Make sure the baby's chin is not pressed into their chest. Make sure the baby's legs are not bunched up against their stomach, as this can also restrict breathing. Wear the baby snug enough to support their back and hold onto the baby when bending over so they don't fall out of the carrier or sling. Check your baby often."

Meghan Markle is a new mom who was caught off guard during a moment she didn't expect her baby to be photographed. Every parent (no matter how famous) has a right to privacy for their child and the right to compassion from other parents. If we want people to learn how to safely babywear we can't shame them for trying.

Mama, if you've been shamed for wearing your baby "wrong" don't feel like you need to stop. Follow the tips above or check in with local baby-wearing groups to get advice and help. You've got this.

News

At one of the most important nights of their career, celebrities made sure their hairstyles stayed put at the 26th Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards. As a collective, the hairstyles were beautiful—french twists, bobs, pin curls and killer cuts filled the red carpet on the night to remember.

And surprisingly, the secret wasn't just the stylist team, mama. For many of the celebs, much of the look can be attributed to a $5 hairspray—yes, you read that correctly.

Dove style+care micro mist extra hold hairspray was one of the top stylist picks for celebs for a lightweight, flexible finishing spray, leaving tons of body and bounce. Unlike most hairsprays that can take several minutes (even a half hour) to set the look, this extra-hold one contains a fast-drying, water-free formula that helps protect your hair from frizz in minutes. As a result, celebrities were able to hold the shape of their styles with mega volume.

"Dove hairspray works well by holding curls in place with maximum hold and ultra shine, while still maintaining soft, touchable texture that is easy to brush out," says Dennis Gots for Dove Hair, who styled Phoebe Waller-Bridge for the SAG Awards. Translation: It's great for on-the-go mamas who want a shiny hold that lasts, but doesn't feel sticky.

Here are a few awesome hairstyles that were finished with the drugstore Dove style+care micro mist extra hold hairspray at the SAG awards:

Lili Reinhart's French twist

"I sprayed Dove style+care micro mist extra hold hairspray all over Lili's hair to lock in the shape and boost the shine factor, making the whole look really sleek," says stylist Renato Campora who was inspired to create the look by Reinhart's romantic gown. "Lili's look is sleek and sharp with a romantic twist."

Cynthia Erivo's finger waves

"This look is classic Cynthia! I knew I wanted to keep it simple, but it's actually quite detailed and intricate up close," says stylist Coree Moreno. "While the hair was still wet (yes—I needed to work fast!) I generously spritzed on the hairspray for all night hold without flaking. The hair continued to air dry perfectly while she finished up makeup."

Nathalie Emmanuel's curly high pony

"Nathalie wanted a retro Hollywood glam for the SAG Awards, so I used her natural texture and created a high pony with loose tendrils framing her face and neckline," says stylist, Neeko. "I finessed the look with the hairspray to lock in the style while keeping her hair looking and feeling touchable."

Phoebe Waller-Bridge's slicked back bob

"I used duckbill clips on different areas of her hair to keep the shape and curl while the hair air dried. Air drying the hair allowed for maximum shine and then I sprayed lots of hairspray all over to truly lock in the sleek shape and enhance the shine," says stylist Dennis Gots, who was inspired by a 90s vibe for Waller-Bridge's look.

Dove Style+Care Micro Mist Extra Hold Hairspray

Dove Style+Care Micro Mist Extra Hold Hairspray

Who doesn't want a hairspray that makes your hair feel as good as it looks? Dove Style+Care Extra Hold Hairspray holds body, volume and enhances shine. It gives your hair touchable hold while fighting frizz, even in damp or humid conditions.

$4.89

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Beauty + Style Shopping Guides

We often think of the unequal gender division of unpaid labor as a personal issue, but a new report by Oxfam proves that it is a global issue—and that a handful of men are becoming incredibly wealthy while women and girls bear the burden of unpaid work and poverty.

According to Oxfam, the unpaid care work done by women and girls has an economic value of $10.8 trillion per year and benefits the global economy three times more than the entire technology industry.

"Women are supporting the market economy with cheap and free labor and they are also supporting the state by providing care that should be provided by the public sector," the report notes.

FEATURED VIDEO

The unpaid work of hundreds of millions of women is generating massive wealth for a couple of thousand (predominantly male) billionaires. "What is clear is that this unpaid work is fueling a sexist economic system that takes from the many and puts money in the pockets of the few," the report states.

Max Lawson is Oxfam International's Head of Inequality Policy. In an interview with Vatican News, he explained that "the foundation of unpaid work done by the poorest women generates enormous wealth for the economy," and that women do billions of hours of unpaid care work (caring for children, the sick, the elderly and cooking, cleaning) for which they see no financial reward but which creates financial rewards for billionaires.

Indeed, the report finds that globally 42% of women can't work for money because of their unpaid care responsibilities.

In the United States, women spend 37% more time doing unpaid care work than men, Oxfam America notes in a second report released in cooperation with the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

"It's an economy that is built on the backs of women and of poor women and their labour, whether it's poorly paid labour or even unpaid labour, it is a sexist economy and it's a broken economy, and you can only fix the gap between the rich and the poor if at the same time you fix the gap between women and men," Lawson explains.

According to Lawson, you can't fight economic inequality without fighting gender equality, and he says 2020 is the year to do both. Now is a great time to start, because as Motherly has previously reported, no country in the world is on track to eliminate gender inequality by 2030 (one of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by 193 United Nations member countries back in 2015) and no country will until the unpaid labor of women and girls is addressed.

"Governments around the world can, and must, build a human economy that is feminist and benefits the 99%, not only the 1%," the Oxfam report concludes.

The research suggests that paid leave, investments in childcare and the care of older adults and people with disabilities as well as utilizing technology to make working more flexible would help America close the gap.

(For more information on how you can fight for paid leave, affordable childcare and more this year check out yearofthemother.org.)

News

It's been more than a decade since federal guidelines were implemented to ensure nursing mothers have the time and space to pump at work, but as Motherly has previously reported, many mothers still find it extremely challenging to maintain a pumping schedule in the workplace.

This week a new study out of the University of Georgia showed that while most women report having access to private spaces and break times for pumping there are still significant "gaps in access to workplace breastfeeding resources" and the researchers recommend employers take action to reduce breastfeeding disparities.

"We know that there are benefits of breastfeeding for both the mother and the infant, and we know that returning to work is a significant challenge for breastfeeding continuation," says Rachel McCardel, a doctoral student at UGA's College of Public Health and lead study author. "There is a collective experience that we wanted to explore and learn how can we make this better."

FEATURED VIDEO

The challenges of breastfeeding in 2020

There is a lot of pressure on mothers to exclusively breastfeed, but nearly half of mothers feel like they must make a choice between breastfeeding and keeping their job. A baby's mother is the best person to decide whether the infant should be breastfed, formula-fed or both, but it should be her choice. When workplace supports for breastfeeding are not in place many mothers feel like they don't have a choice at all.

Public health campaigns and social norms reinforce breastfeeding as the best choice, but a recent survey from Areoflow found that 1 in 3 people (31%) "do not believe employers should be required to provide a lactation room" but at the same time, 90% of those surveyed stated that they believe women should be allowed to pump at work.

For too many women, those contradicting messages mean that pumping at work is an uncomfortable experience, something they need to do nearly in secret. It's an example of the many ways in which mothers are supposed to parent as though they don't work but pretend they aren't parents when at work.

Calling for change in 2020

Half the states in America explicitly protect the rights of nursing parents in the workplace, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and federal law also provides protections to nursing workers under the Affordable Care Act. Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act—but millions of working mothers are not covered by those protections, and the new research out of the University of Georgia's College of Public Health suggests that even mothers who are need more support from their employers.

Heather Padilla is an assistant professor at UGA's College of Public Health and the co-author of the study. She recommends employers "designate a person who is responsible for making sure that women who are preparing for the birth of their baby understand what resources they have available to them when they return to work," she said.

Supervisors or HR directors could fill this role, and would fill a gap between company policy and personal experience. Padilla and McCardel found that many women "said they hadn't expected to get much help from their employers, and there was a general lack of communication about the resources available to them."

The work Padilla and McCardel have done reinforces the work we at Motherly are doing: In 2020 we are calling for change, and demanding support for mothers feeding their babies.

Mamas need to work + babies need to eat

For many American mothers work is not a choice, it is a necessity. Mothers are increasingly the breadwinners for their families and it is very hard for mothers, even those with working partners, to be a stay-at-home parent in 2020.

We need paid family leave and protection from breastfeeding discrimination. We need employers to support working mothers who choose to pump, and we need to reduce the stigmatization of formula feeding.

Mama, we see you pumping in your office and mixing formula bottles to take to day care. We see how hard it is and we support you. Know that no matter what your baby is eating—bottled breast milk, formula, or some combination (because breastfeeding doesn't have to be all or nothing)—we know you are working so hard to provide it.

We have declared 2020 the #yearofthemother. Join us, and call for change because McCardel is right—this is a collective experience and it is one we can make better for the mothers who come after us.

News
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