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I didn't give birth to my boys, but I am definitely their mom

I was walking in Target the other day talking to my sons, who are two and three, about getting Mama a birthday card. "Which one should we get for Mama?" I asked. They wanted the $7 cat one that sang "I'm too sexy for my hair," of course. As we laughed about the different cards, a woman walked by and patted my arm. "They are so lucky to have you." I smiled and thought, how nice. Only a few aisles later did I realize she may have thought I was their nanny, not their mom...

I look nothing like my kids. They are blond-haired and blue-eyed—they have the most perfect blue eyes that they got from my wife, who was the one who carried our children. I am Colombian, and my 5-foot-nothing stature is more Oompa Loompa than Barbie.

As a girl, young woman, and even early into adulthood I never had the urge to have children. When I was in first or second grade teachers would ask, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and a bunch of girls would answer, "a mommy." I answered, "a banker."

Times have changed and when I grew up I no longer wanted to be a banker and I surprised myself in the fact that I did want kids. And I am so happy I married someone who not only wanted kids too but who also wanted to be the one to carry them.

Our kids have her last name. She did the work for those nine plus months—she deserves that. And honestly, it's not important to me that they don't have my last name, and I don't feel any less connected to them because I didn't carry them in my womb. What counts is that we are a family.

I was adopted at two months old. I look like my Italian mom and absolutely nothing like my English dad. From a young age, I always knew I wasn't biologically their child, but in every single other way, I still am their kid. (They joke that their offspring wouldn't be as cute or as athletic, and I joke back but they'd probably be smarter and taller.)

Our never-ending love, our respect, our gifts of compassion, and the fact that we're always there for each other—these are the treasures that make us a family. Not anything biological. So that has taught me a lot about how to raise my kids with the all of those same treasures that also include politeness, honesty, the gift of laughter, and always doing your best.

I didn't give birth to my boys, but I am there to calm them in the middle of the night because of an accident, nosebleed, or scary dream.

I didn't give birth to my boys, but the diaper changes are real. (Trust me.)

I didn't give birth to my boys, but I read to them, dance with them, and laugh with them—every day.

I didn't give birth to my boys, but somehow, one of my boys has a matching birthmark in the same place as I do and our little inside joke is that we high-five them together.

I didn't give birth to my boys, but both of them smile the same way I do…total full teeth smile.

I didn't give birth to my boys, but they call me "Mom," and I've never loved two human beings more.

But being one of two moms definitely makes for some interesting and funny stories. We got rid of our crib a few months ago and when someone found out she asked, "But what if there's—ya know—an accident?" I told her that one of the many joys of being a lesbian is that there will not be any "accidents" in our future.

Or the time right after my wife had our first baby when I was in the hospital bed with our son while my wife went to a new parent class. (I told her we should do one before the baby actually came, but a lesson I've learned is that one should definitely choose their battles wisely with their pregnant wife.) I was in the bed, holding my son and the nurse came in and said, "Time to get your vitals" and so, I had some explaining to do.

Or the time we went to do our taxes. The woman said, "Okay, which one of you wants to go first?" My wife replied, "We are married. We'd like to do it all together." The woman looked at us for a few seconds and said, "Oh, I've never done this before." I looked at her and said, "You've never done a married couple's taxes before?" She shrugged and said, "Not like this."

So how does all of this make me feel? It makes me feel human. Sometimes people judge, sometimes people do not take enough time to ask questions, sometimes people assume. These stories make me understand that I am blessed, confident, and my biggest struggle with my kids—besides too long of a bedtime routine right now—is that I sometimes have to explain a little more. I know this is teaching them to do the opposite of what is sometimes done to us—to take time to ask questions, be patient, be curious and be polite.

So sure, having two moms does make for some funny stories at times, but it also provides us the opportunity to raise our kids well and show society that we, as women, are capable. Our family is two moms—a mom and a mama—and our two precious boys who make up this team. We smother our kids with all the snuggles in the world, and they will forever be mama's boys, which we could not be happier about.

The funny stories keep us laughing, but they also do something much more serious, much more important. They remind us that gay people, not too long ago, did not have the luxury of being on a child's birth certificate together, or filing taxes jointly. They remind me to be humble, unassuming and, most of all, grateful. I am grateful that my friends and family have all accepted us as we are, a loving couple who wants to be happy and raise kind, healthy boys.

In the future—later today or in a few years—I am hopeful that more and more people will see us as a family. There are so many different types of families out there, and we all deserve to be validated and seen. We are so fortunate that so many people already do recognize us as a family and hopefully, it will get easier and easier over time and the stories will become less and less frequent.

Maybe, just maybe, Target lady knew I was their mom, and not their nanny. Maybe she saw the love and pride in my eyes, the casual banter in the bright red cart, and the fact that I am confident in who I am to my boys—their mom.

After all, we are a family bonded by love and all the other treasures that have been passed down from our parents. Because relationships are not just blood…it's all of the other stuff that makes us a family.

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The shape appeals to kids and the organic and gluten-free labels appeal to parents in the freezer aisle, but if you've got a bag of Perdue's Simply Smart Organics Gluten Free Chicken Breast Nuggets, don't cook them.

The company is recalling 49,632 bags of the frozen, fully cooked Simply Smart Organics Gluten Free Chicken Breast Nuggets because they might be contaminated with wood.

According to the USDA, Perdue received three complaints about wood In the nuggets, but no one has been hurt.

The nuggets were manufactured on October 25, 2018 with a "Best By" date of October 25, 2019. The UPC code is 72745-80656. (The USDA provides an example of the packaging here so you'll know where to look for the code).


In a statement on the Perdue website the company's Vice President for Quality Assurance, Jeff Shaw, explains that "After a thorough investigation, we strongly believe this to be an isolated incident, as only a minimal amount of these packages has the potential to contain pieces of wood."

If you have these nuggets in your freezer you can call Perdue 877-727-3447 to ask for a refund.

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Mealtime can be one of the most stressful times for parents and kids, especially when there's a picky eater in the house. Your little might get anxious about their food touching, requesting a completely new meal. Or, they might avoid the foods altogether, leaving you concerned about their nutrition. While helping your child develop healthy eating habits is the ultimate goal, you can also incorporate products that will make mealtime more fun for everyone involved.

Here are our favorite products that help picky eaters be, well, less picky (or at least enjoy mealtime enough to not worry about certain foods!).

1. Food cubby

These silicone separates suction to the plate to keep separate foods from touching, or to keep runny foods from spreading. Say goodbye to tantrums from peas and corn touching, mama.

Food Cubby Plate Divider, Amazon, $14.99

BUY

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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[Trigger warning: This essay describes a woman's emotional journey with postpartum anxiety.]

I see you, mama.

I know you don't want to feel this way. I know you're terrified of everything in the world right now. I know you want to wrap your baby in a bubble and keep them safely in your arms forever. I know you can't "sleep when the baby sleeps" because you are too nervous to drift off in case they stop breathing. I know you don't want to let anyone near your little one because they could be carrying an illness. I know you've cried in the bathroom and begged for the voice to stop. And I know you love your child more than anything in the world.

I know because I was you.

I was in the 10% of estimated women who are affected by Postpartum Anxiety (PPA) but had no idea what I was experiencing. I worried about EVERY little thing but just brushed the fears aside, thinking this was just normal of first-time motherhood. But it was something more.

I lived in constant fear that my son was either going to get hurt or he was going to die.

It started the first week of being home from the hospital. I was so scared of SIDS that I actually googled "How much sleep do I need in order to survive?" I would only get two to three hours, not because my child was keeping me up, but because I was scared he would stop breathing and I wouldn't be awake to save him.

I would religiously wash all of his clothes with baby detergent and if I thought I mistakenly used regular detergent, I would rewash everything. I was afraid he would get a skin rash if I didn't. If my husband had the slightest hint of a cold, I would banish him to the guest room and handle all of the baby duties on my own until he was fully recovered.

I would wash and rewash bottles because I was afraid they weren't clean enough and convinced myself if I didn't then he would catch a rare illness. When we supplemented with formula, I wasted multiple cans because I was so scared I didn't measure it correctly, so I would dump it and start over.

I didn't want to be this way. I didn't want to let PPA be the thief of my joy, but anxiety doesn't care who you are or what you've been through. I knew my previous miscarriages attributed to my PTSD, which manifested into anxiety.

I knew I needed help.

I cried so many nights as my husband and baby boy slept because I just wanted to feel "normal." I didn't want to overanalyze every bump or rash or cough, I wanted to enjoy being a first time mom, but I felt like I was drowning.

On top of the anxiety was guilt. I had wanted this baby so badly—I wanted to feel joy, happiness, and gratitude, and yet I felt overwhelmed, sad, and miserable. What was happening?

I would tell myself not to worry, I'd try to convince myself a regular cold was just a cold. But then a voice would come into my head and make me second guess myself. What if it was a serious infection and became fatal if I ignored it? So I rushed my baby boy to the doctor every time I thought something was wrong.

I went to the pediatrician over 20 times in my son's first year of life. One time I went because I thought he had a cancerous mole, which turned out to be a piece of lint stuck to his hair. I felt like I was losing control of myself.

Eventually, when my son was 3 months old, I went to a therapist for help. I needed someone to hear me and give me the tools to overcome this. I am not without daily anxiety, I still have many fears and I have to bring myself back to reality, but I work on it every day. I cope and I make an effort to continue with my therapist so I can beat this.

Even though this topic is hard to write about, I have no shame in my story. Carrying a child is hard, giving birth is harder, and jumping onto the roller coaster of motherhood is one hormonal, wild ride.

Mamas, we are allowed to not be okay and we have every right to make that known. I wasn't okay and it took every ounce of strength I had to get myself out of the darkness.

If I could tell you anything about struggling with this, it is this: PPA is real, it is not normal, and getting help is okay. Do not feel ashamed, do not feel embarrassed, and don't for one second think you owe anyone an explanation.

Do not let a single person make you feel like you are less of a mother. You are a magnificent human being, a loving mama bear, and you will get through this.

I see you, and I'm holding space for you.

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Ready to bring a baby on board? Feelings of excitement can often be met with those of financial concern as you prep for this milestone. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of 2015, the cost of raising a child is $233,610—a number that can make anyone's jaw drop to the floor.

But before you start to worry, here are ways you can become more financially savvy before the baby is born:

1. Budget for healthcare costs

The cost of delivering a baby can vary by state, but suffice it to say it can be thousands of dollars. Castlight Health found that the lowest average cost of delivery was $6,075 in Kansas City, MO and the highest average cost $15,420 in Sacramento, CA. Costs are even higher for a Cesarean delivery.

The first thing you want to do is check your insurance and see what they will cover so what you will be responsible for. Then create a separate savings account so that you can cover any costs that you're on the hook for. You can set up automatic savings after each payday up until the baby is born to help assist with any healthcare costs associated with delivery.

2. Cut your expenses

Before the baby arrives, do a spending audit and see where you can slash some expenses. Free up any leftover money to help cover the increased costs that will come, such as food, clothes, and formula.

If you're struggling with how to do that, take a look at all of your expenses and write next to each either"want" or "need." Look at your "want" list and see which expenses are ones you can either eliminate or cut back on. If it doesn't bring you joy or add value, ditch it! You might even find subscriptions that you didn't know you had.

3. Go for second-hand goods

Of course, there are some things you definitely want to buy new for baby, but things like clothes and toys you can get second hand and save a lot of money. Your baby will grow so fast and buying new clothes every few months can add up. If your family members or friends have old baby clothes or toys they're willing to part with, it will save money and you can pay it forward down the line.

4. Look for sales or coupons

Clothes and toys are items that you can buy second hand, but products, like a car seat and crib are best new. You want to be up-to-date with safety and know what you're getting. Before going shopping, search for sales or coupons before you head out. A little research online can go a long way and save you hundreds.

5. Have a garage sale

If you need to make room for baby, it's time to get rid of items that you no longer use or need. Take all of the stuff you are planning to get rid of and have a garage sale to make extra money. You can also try selling online on Craigslist, Poshmark and OfferUp too.

Take the money you earn from selling your stuff and put it in your savings account earmarked for your baby.

6. Get a 529 plan

It's never too early to save for your baby's college. You can open a state-sponsored 529 plan which is a tax-advantaged savings account for education-related costs. Instead of asking for gifts or toys from family and friends, you can request money to go toward a 529 plan. It will be an impactful gift that will help your child in the future and help lessen the financial burden on you.

7. Prep now instead of later

Your whole world will change when your baby arrives, so in order to save money, time and stress, create a plan now. Is there a family or friend close by who can babysit if you need some rest or have to run an errand? Ask them now if they can help out.

Start preparing meals in bulk that can be in the freezer and easily made so you don't have to think about food. Put your bills on autopay so that you don't miss any payments and get hit with late fees. Know how long you can get maternity or paternity leave and understand how that will affect your income and budget. Getting all of this ready ahead of time can help you in the long run.

8. Purchase life insurance

While thinking about why you need life insurance can be a bit stressful, preparation is essential, especially when you're adding another member to your family. Life insurance will provide financial support if you had a loss of income due to something happening to either you or your partner.

9. Understand any tax benefits

The birth of your baby will affect your taxes, which can actually end up putting more money back into your pocket. Do some research online and see how a dependent will change your taxes in your state, such as new exemptions available. Or, find a trusted accountant or tax specialist in your area who can walk you through your options.

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