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I learned how strong I really am when my birth plan went out the window—twice

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of planning, it was the age of spontaneity, it was the season of control, it was the season of chaos, it was the epoch of predictability, it was the epoch of fluctuation.


We had everything before us, and even though nothing went according to plan, it was, undeniably, a time of miracles.

“Well, I’m so glad we did this ultrasound. He’s breech,” the midwife informed me nonchalantly as if confirming that my baby did indeed have two feet. I was 36 weeks pregnant with my first baby, and I had no clue what that even meant.

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“You’ll need a C-section,” she continued, before giving me the brief rundown of risks and statistics.

Tears streamed down my face as I quickly grieved the birth plan I was giving up. The birth plan—that, up until that point—had been incredibly flexible. It was so flexible, in fact, I hadn’t even bothered to write it down.

My birth plan was simple: Go as long as possible without drugs. Attempt a water birth. If I start saying bad words, bring me the drugs ASAP.

See? Simple. There was no five-page plan, no birth playlist, no list of demands. And yet, upon hearing that my easy-breezy birth plan was not going to be the plan, I was nothing short of devastated.

I took home a pamphlet titled, “How To Flip Your Baby” or something of that nature. It was a tri-fold full of safe home remedies a pregnant woman could attempt in hopes of turning her baby around. I hoisted myself into the car, big pregnant belly pushed up against the steering wheel, and let warm tears fall all over the brochure while I called my husband and told him the news.

The next 24 hours looked like something out of a sitcom. Picture me lying upside down on an ironing board propped up against the couch with a bag of frozen fried rice on the top of my belly, a heating pad on my pubic bone, and a pair of headphones streaming loud music tucked into my underwear.

My husband shined a flashlight at my belly button and held an empty paper towel roll between his mouth and my lower stomach. His voice boomed into the paper towel megaphone, “Baby, it’s your father. Come down here. Step into the liiiiiight!!”

The whole scene was equal parts hilarious and pathetic.

When I wasn’t lying upside down on the ironing board, I was doing cat-cow exercises and various yoga poses. I cried on and off all night, desperately trying to keep my hormones in check and my optimism high.

“Do you want to take a bath? It might help you relax,” my husband suggested.

I followed his advice and immediately burst out laughing when I stepped into the tub. He had taped a picture above the faucet, an illustrated baby in the head down position with the caption, “C’mon baby! You can do it!”

The next day we returned to the birth center to see if our home tricks had worked. They hadn’t. We met the doctor for an external cephalic version treatment, which is a fancy way of saying she tried to turn the baby manually with her hands.

It was just as painful as it sounds.

The doctor, God bless her, pushed as hard as she could. I closed my eyes and breathed through the pain, saying turn baby turn in my head with each exhale. I watched the doctor’s face and could tell it wasn’t working. I cried, again.

The doctor measured the baby’s head size and quickly ruled out the option of a vaginal delivery. She recommended a scheduled c-section at 39 weeks, and that was that.

On May 7th, my son was born, cut straight from my body and immediately placed on my chest. I have never cried so hard in all my life.

It was a miracle.

When I got pregnant with my second baby, I opted for a repeat C-section. Nobody was more surprised about this decision than I was. Me, the girl who spent an entire night lying upside on an ironing board with headphones in her pants, all to avoid a C-section, was willingly asking for another one.

I did heaps and heaps of research about VBACs vs. repeat C-sections, and I spoke to friends who had done both. I talked to the doctors and midwives about all of my concerns, the biggest of which is my first child’s head size, which was 98th percentile at 39 weeks.

Could I even do a VBAC? What if my second baby went to 41 weeks and had an off-the-charts head size? What if I labored all day and ended up in a C-section anyways?

Lots of people had lots of opinions, but after reading my fair share of statistics and speaking with the midwives, I had to combine the research with what was in my heart.

And in my heart, the shocking truth was: I had no desire to try a VBAC.

As strange as it sounds, I longed for the same birth experience I had already endured: the oasis of that familiar operating room, a numb body that felt no pain, the magic moment of having a baby placed on my chest within a blue curtain cocoon. I wanted the method that felt comfortable, safe, recognizable. I desperately wanted a repeat of the only birth experience I had ever known. Another C-section didn’t scare me at all, but the thought of doing a VBAC was terrifying—just thinking about it gave me anxiety.

So, we unabashedly decided on a C-section and announced the date to all our friends. Our second baby would be born on October 27th. I circled the date in my day planner and drew little hearts in the box.

I arranged for the house to be professionally cleaned on the 26th, and we lined up childcare for our 2-year-old. I scheduled one last hair appointment, and we made a plan to go to Costco the weekend prior to stock up on things like toilet paper and laundry detergent. Check, check, check; all my ducks were in a row.

I felt confident, peaceful, totally in control of my own life.

Which is why, three weeks before my scheduled C-section, when I started feeling Braxton Hicks on an otherwise normal Friday night, the possibility that I was going into labor hadn’t even occurred to me.

(Insert pity laughter here.)

As it turned out, those Braxton Hicks were real contractions, and pure chaos ensued. The birth center instructed us to come in, my friend scrambled over in her pajamas to watch our 2-year-old; I took a shower, and we were out the door. My husband didn’t bring so much as a change of clothes.

We arrived at the birth center at 1:00 am looking like a couple of lost teenagers. A nurse named Antoinette took pity on our panicked faces, and, after checking me, gently informed us of the unthinkable: “You’re a three. This baby is coming tonight.”

What followed might as well have been a scene from that TV show I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant. We had signed up for birth classes with the first pregnancy, but only attended one class before receiving the breech diagnosis. We decided it would be a waste of time to go to the rest.

Birth class dropouts, my husband and I had never skimmed a single birthing book. The closest thing I had seen to a live birth was a couple of YouTube videos, and that Katherine Heigl scene from Knocked Up.

My husband kept asking if I wanted music, which only made me angry. I didn’t know what I wanted. I didn’t know what I was doing. So I walked around the room groaning and almost hyperventilated a few times because I wasn’t breathing properly, as Antoinette kindly informed me.

Again, it was all so hilarious and pathetic.

A couple of hours later, the nurse checked me again and told me it was time to push.

“WHAT?” I yelled. “Can I still get drugs?”

She assured me that I could, but they never came. Within the hour, my body writhed with unspeakable pain and did the thing I guess it was capable of doing all along. On October 4th, one whole month before his due date, my second baby came out the old-fashioned way and was immediately placed on my chest. I have never screamed so loud in all my life.

It was a miracle.

I’m far enough removed from both experiences now to simply laugh at the irony: my planned water birth turned into a C-section, and my planned C-section turned into an all-natural VBAC.

Essentially, neither of my births went according to plan.

And you’re supposed to have a plan, right? You can hop on Pinterest and find everything from "What To Pack In Your Hospital Bag" to charts debating the Bradley Method vs. Hypnobirthing. With the help of the Internet, you can easily learn how to write the perfect birth plan, how to create the perfect birth environment, and how to train the perfect birth coach.

And while I do believe in planning (Monica Geller is my spirit animal), sometimes I wonder: Are we placing too much focus on planning the “perfect” birth? Is the pressure of birth empowerment consuming more of our time and energy than the actual transition of becoming a mother for the first or second or even fifth time?

I think planning a birth is kind of like planning a wedding. Hop on Pinterest, and it’s over. You could spend 400 hours searching for the perfect invitations, the homegrown bouquets, the DIY table numbers made out of distressed barn wood. You could drive all over town trying on dress after dress, shoe after shoe, lipstick shade after lipstick shade. You could easily spend an entire year of your life planning the perfect wedding, and of course, there is nothing (inherently) wrong with that. But is it possible, that sometimes, amid the mason jar candles and DIY dreamcatchers, that the whole point of the wedding, the actual marriage itself, gets a tiny bit…..lost in translation?

Just like a birth plan gone amiss, our perfect wedding plans often go off course. Maybe it rains, or maybe the food order gets mixed up, or maybe Uncle Bobby gets drunk and hits on all the bridesmaids.

But when all is said and done, no matter what happened, no matter what the weather looked like or who got the wrong meal or who had to deal with Uncle Bobby barfing in the potted plant, the endgame is the same: You married your best friend. The wedding is only the first day of a life-long commitment to one another.

And giving birth? It’s kind of like that. It’s the very first day of a life-long commitment to raising and loving a child. It is an important day, it is a special day, it is absolutely a day worthy of your best plans.

But if your plans go awry….if all the water tubs are full, if your baby is breech, if your baby is early, if your baby is late, if you need the drugs after you swore you wouldn’t, I want you to know this: motherhood is so much more than the day your baby is born. Motherhood is…..forever.

In some ways, your birth experience is the perfect prelude to a lifetime of learning this lesson over and over again: Some things are simply not in your control.

So make your plans, pack your bag, and get that playlist ready. It’s okay to dream and strategize, to prepare and make lists. We can celebrate a birth gone according to plan, just like we can grieve a birth plan gone wrong. But let’s give our birth experience the weight it deserves: our birth story is always significant; it is rarely definitive.

Let's not let the pressure of one day overshadow the miracle of an entire lifetime.

This is only the beginning.

This story was originally published on Coffee + Crumbs. Check out their book, The Magic of Motherhood, for more heartwarming essays about motherhood, love, and the good kind of heartache.

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Pop quiz, mama! How many different types of car seats are there? If you guessed three, you're partially correct. The three main types are rear-facing car seats, forward-facing car seats, and booster seats. But then there are a variety of styles as well: infant car seats, convertible seats, all-in-one seats, high-back booster seats, and backless boosters. If you're not totally overwhelmed yet, keep reading, we promise there's good stuff ahead.

There's no arguing that, in the scheme of your baby and child gear buying lifetime, purchasing a car seat is a big deal! Luckily, Walmart.com has everything you need to travel safely with your most precious cargo in the backseat. And right now, you can save big on top-rated car seats and boosters during Best of Baby Month, happening now through September 30 at Walmart.com.

As if that wasn't enough, Walmart will even take the carseat your kiddos have outgrown off your hands for you (and hook you up with a sweet perk, too). Between September 16 and 21, Walmart is partnering with TerraCycle to recycle used car seats. When you bring in an expired car seat or one your child no longer fits into to a participating Walmart store during the trade-in event, you'll receive a $30 gift card to spend on your little one in person or online. Put the money towards a brand new car seat or booster or other baby essentials on your list. To find a participating store check here: www.walmart.com/aboutbestofbabymonth

Ready to shop, mama? Here are the 9 best car seat deals happening this month.


Safety 1st Grow and Go Spring 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

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From rear-facing car seat to belt-positioning booster, Grow and Go Sprint's got you covered through childhood. Whether you choose the grey Silver Lake, Seafarer or pink Camelia color palette, you'll love how this model grows with your little one — not to mention how easy it is to clean. The machine-washable seat pad can be removed without fussing with the harness, and the dual cup holders for snacks and drinks can go straight into the dishwasher.

Price: $134 (regularly $149)

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Baby Trend Hybrid Plus 3-in-1 Booster Car Seat in Bermuda

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When your toddler is ready to face forward, this versatile car seat can be used as a five-point harness booster, a high-back booster, and a backless booster. Padded armrests, harness straps, and seat cushions provide a comfy ride, and the neutral gray seat pads reverse to turquoise for a stylish new look.

Price: $72.00 (regularly $81)

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Baby Trend Hybrid Plus 3-in-1 Booster Car Seat in Olivia

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Looking for something snazzy, mama? This black and hot pink car seat features a playful heart print on its reversible seat pad and soft harness straps. Best of all, with its 100-pound weight limit and three booster configurations, your big kid will get years of use out of this fashionable design.

Price: $72.00 (regularly $81)

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Evenflo Triumph LX Convertible Car Seat

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This rear- and forward-facing car seat keeps kids safer, longer with an adjustable five-point harness that can accommodate children up to 65 lbs. To tighten the harness, simply twist the conveniently placed side knobs; the Infinite Slide Harness ensures an accurate fit every time. As for style, we're big fans of the cozy quilted design, which comes in two colorways: grey and magenta or grey and turquoise.

Price: $116 (regularly $149.99)

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Disney Baby Light 'n Comfy 22 Luxe Infant Car Seat

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Outfitted with an adorable pink-and-white polka dot Minnie Mouse infant insert, even the tiniest of travelers — as small as four pounds! — can journey comfortably and safely. This rear-facing design is lightweight, too; weighing less than 15 lbs, you can easily carry it in the crook of your arm when your hands are full (because chances are they will be).

Price: $67.49 (regularly $89.99)

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Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

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We know it's hard to imagine your tiny newborn will ever hit 100 lbs, but one day it'll happen. And when it does, you'll appreciate not having to buy a new car seat if you start with this 4-in-1 design! Designed to fit kids up to 120 lbs, it transforms four ways, from a rear-facing car seat to a backless belt-positioning booster. With a 6-position recline and a one-hand adjust system for the harness and headrest, you can easily find the perfect fit for your growing child.

Price: $199.99 (regularly $269.99)

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Graco SlimFit All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

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With its unique space-saving design, this 3-in-1 car seat provides 10% more back seat space simply by rotating the dual cup holders. The InRight LATCH system makes installation quick and easy, and whether you're using it as a rear-facing car seat, a forward-facing car seat, or a belt-positioning booster, you can feel confident that your child's safe and comfortable thanks to Graco's Simply Safe Adjust Harness System.

Price: $149.99 (regularly $229.99)

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Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 Platinum XT Infant Car Seat

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Making sure your infant car seat is secure can be tricky, but Graco makes it easy with its one-second LATCH attachment and hassle-free three-step installation using SnugLock technology. In addition to its safety features, what we really love about this rear-facing seat are all of the conveniences, including the ability to create a complete travel system with Click Connect Strollers and a Silent Shade Canopy that expands without waking up your sleeping passenger.

Price: $169.99 (regularly $249.99)

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Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 Elite Infant Car Seat

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With just one click, you can know whether this rear-facing car seat has been installed properly. Then adjust the base four different ways and use the bubble level indicator to find the proper position. When you're out and about, the rotating canopy with window panel will keep baby protected from the sun while allowing you to keep your eye on him.

Price: $129.99 (regularly $219.99)

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

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If I ever want to look alive before dropping my son off to school, there are two things I must put on before leaving the house: eyeliner and mascara. When using eyeliner, I typically use black liner on my top lid, a slightly lighter brown for my bottom lid, and then a nude liner for my water line. It works every time.

My mascara routine is a bit different. Because my natural lashes are thin and not the longest, I always opt for the darkest black I can find, and one that's lengthening and volumizing. For this reason, I was immediately drawn to It Cosmetics Lash Blowout Mascara. The new mascara is developed in partnership with Drybar (the blow dry bar that specializes in just blowouts) and promises to deliver bold and voluminous lashes all day long. I was sold.

Could this really be the blowout my lashes have been waiting for? It turns out, it was much better than most volumizing formulas I've tried.

For starters, the wand is a great size—it's not too big or small, and it's easy to grip—just like my favorite Drybar round brush. As for the formula, it's super light and infused with biotin which helps lashes look stronger and healthier. I also love that it's buildable, and I didn't notice any clumps or flakes between coats.

The real test is that my lashes still looked great at dinnertime. I didn't have smudges or the dreaded raccoon eyes I always get after a long day at work. Surprisingly, the mascara actually stayed in place. To be fair, I haven't compared them with lash-extensions (which are my new go-to since having baby number two), but I'm sure it will hold up nicely.

Overall, I was very impressed with the level of length and fullness this mascara delivered. Indeed, this is the eyelash blowout my lashes have been waiting for. While it won't give you a few extra hours in bed, you'll at least look a little more awake, mama.

It Cosmetics Lash Blowout Mascara

It Cosmetics Lash Blowout Mascara
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Here's how I apply IT Cosmetics Lash Blowout Mascara:

  1. Starting as close to lash line as possible (and looking down), align the brush against your top lashes. Gradually turn upwards, then wiggle the wand back and forth up and down your eyelashes.
  2. Repeat, if needed. Tip: Be sure to allow the mascara to dry between each coat.
  3. Using the same technique, apply mascara to your bottom lashes, brushing the wand down your eyelashes.
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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Life

Having children isn't always as easy as it looks on Instagram. There's so much more to motherhood than serene baby snuggles and matching outfits. But there's a reason we've fallen so deeply in love with motherhood: It's the most beautiful, chaotic ride.

Every single day, we sit back and wonder how something so hard can feel so rewarding. And Eva Mendes just managed to nail the reality of that with one quote.

Eva, who is a mama to daughters Esmerelda and Amada with Ryan Gosling, got real about the messy magic of motherhood in a recent interview.

"It's so fun and beautiful and maddening," the actress tells Access Daily. "It's so hard, of course. But it's like that feeling of…you end your day, you put them to bed and Ryan and I kind of look at each other like, 'We did it, we did it. We came out relatively unscathed.'"

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And just like that, moms all over the world feel seen. We've all been there: Struggling to get through the day (which, for the record is often every bit as fun as it is challenging), only to put those babies to sleep and collapse on the couch in sheer exhaustion. But, after you've caught your breath, you realize just how strong and capable you really are.

One thing Eva learned the hard way? That sleep regressions are very, very real...and they don't just come to an end after your baby's first few months. "I guess they go through a sleep regression, which nobody told me about until I looked it up," she says "I was like, 'Why isn't my 3-year-old sleeping?'"

But, at the end of the day, Eva loves her life as a mom—and the fact that she took a break from her Hollywood career to devote her days to raising her girls. "I'm so thankful I have the opportunity to be home with them," she says.

Thank you for keeping it real, Eva! Momming isn't easy, but it sure is worth it.

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My labor and delivery was short and sweet. I started feeling contractions on Monday morning and by Tuesday night at 8:56 pm my handsome baby boy was born. Only 30 minutes of pushing. Afterward, I was still out of it, to be honest. I held him and did some skin to skin and handed him off to my husband, my mother held him next.

When he was in my mother's arms, I knew he was safe. I started to drift off, the epidural had me feeling drowsy and I had used up all my strength to push this 7 lb baby out. My son's eyes were open and then I guess he went to sleep too. My mother swayed him back and forth. The nurses were in and out, cleaning me up and checking in on us.

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When yet another nurse came in, my mom said to her, "He wasn't latching because he wanted to sleep."

The nurse yelled, "He's not sleeping!"

The next 25 minutes happened in slow motion for me.

After the nurse said these words, she flung my son onto the little baby bed. I looked over and he looked a little blue. Then I heard the loud words of CODE PINK. In matters of seconds about 30 nursing staff descended into my room and crowded around my baby.

I couldn't even see what was happening. I tried to get out the bed but they wouldn't let me and after a couple of failed attempts one of the nurses look at me and said, "He's fine, he's breathing now."

Breathing now? He wasn't breathing before? Again, I tried to push my way to my baby, but once again I was told to not move. They had just performed CPR on my 30-minute old newborn and I couldn't understand what was happening even after a pediatrician tried to explain it to me.

I just started crying. He was fine in my stomach for 39 weeks and 6 days and now I bring him into this world and his heart nearly stops?

I was told he needed to go to the neonatal intensive care unit. I was confused, as I thought the NICU was only for preemies and my son was full term.

After what felt like an eternity we were finally allowed to see our son. My husband wheeled me there and we saw him in the corner alone. I saw the incubator and the wires, he's all bundled up.

The nurse explained all the beeping and showed me the heart rate monitor. He's doing fine. We go over the feeding schedule. I'm exhausted still. I stay with him until about 1 or 2 am. They all suggest I get some sleep. There's no bed in the NICU, so I head back to my room.

The next day was better, he doesn't have to be in the incubator anymore, but the wires remain. By that night or early the next morning, the wires in his nose come out and I try feeding him. I try pumping. It was painful.

He gets his first bath and he loves it. The nurse shampoos his hair (he had a lot!) and he seems so soothed. The nurse explains that because he's full term he doesn't need the same type of support in the NICU. She tells me my baby's strong and he'll be fine.

I look around. I see the other babies, the other moms. They could be there for weeks. And unlike me, the moms have to go home—without their baby.

Friday comes and by now he's done all his tests, blood work came back normal, all tubes have been removed and I get it. I get my going-home package. Finally. I get my instructions on doctor follow-ups and we finally get to go home.

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There have been a lot of iconic entertainment magazine covers featuring pregnant women over the years. Who can forget Demi Moore's bare baby bump on Vanity Fair or Britney Spears' similar nude pose on Harper's Bazaar?

Pregnant women on a magazine covers is nothing new, but a visibly pregnant CEO on the cover of a business magazine, that's a first and it happened this week.

Inc. just put The Wing's CEO Audrey Gelman on the cover and this is a historic moment in publishing and business.

As Gelman told Today this week, "You can't be what you can't see, so I think it's so important for women to see that it's possible to run a fast-growing business and also to start a family."

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She continued: "It's so important to sort of burst that bubble and to have new images of women who are thriving and working professionally while balancing motherhood … My hope is that women see this and again feel the confidence to take greater professional risks while also not shelving their dreams of becoming a mother and starting a family."

The Wing started in 2016 as a co-working space for women and has grown rapidly. As Inc. reports, The Wing has eight locations in the U.S. with plans for more American and international locations by 2020.

Putting Gelman on the cover was an important move by Inc. and Gelman's honesty about her early pregnancy panic ("I can't be pregnant. I have so much to do." she recalls thinking after her pregnancy test) should be applauded.

Gelman says pregnancy made her slow down physically, and that it was actually good for her company: "I had this realization: The way to make my team and my employees feel proud to work for me and for the company was actually not to pretend to be superhuman or totally unaffected by pregnancy."

We need this. We need CEOs to admit that they are human so that corporate leadership can see employees as humans, too. Humans need things like family leave and flexibility, especially when they start raising little humans.

There are a lot of iconic covers featuring pregnant women, but this one is different. She's wearing clothes and she's changing work culture.

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