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The Brits have the perfect solution for new-motherhood loneliness

The United Kingdom gets a lot of things right when it comes to having a baby: One-year maternity leave, in-home midwife visits after baby arrives, health visitors who are focused on making sure you are hanging in there… I could go on.


But by far the most valuable thing that the United Kingdom has over us here in the states is their approach to prenatal classes.

Here in the United States we are all about efficiency. How quickly can I tick that box and be bombarded with a crash course in labor and delivery, get it over with and move on to the more fun aspects of having a baby, like designing a nursery?

Trust me, I get it! The thought of sitting in a room and hearing all of the gory details about what is about to happen to you and what you have spent most of your nine months trying not to think about isn’t anyone’s idea of a fun weekend afternoon.

There is a better way with prenatal classes. And it’s done in the United Kingdom.

There, they looks at prenatal classes as an opportunity. I had my boys living abroad, far from family and friends with kids. I was told to sign up for the National Childbirth Trust—a class which sorted participants by neighborhood and due date.

It was where I would “meet all of my mommy friends,” I was told. As it turned out, that was true: Over the course of four classes, my hubby and I made a tight-knit circle of friends—all with babies born within a month of each other.

After our son was born, I had a standing coffee morning on the books to get me out of the house, friends to take walks with and friends who would just stop by for a cup of tea on their way to the grocery store. We also had BBQs and weekends at the playground as families, which were great ways for the husbands to socialize, too.

As pregnant mothers, we are all so vulnerable, excited and terrified about the changes that are about to happen to us. That vulnerability makes us open to connections with people who are going through the same things.

It’s hard to make friends as adults—as evidenced by the onslaught of mommy-Tinder apps designed to help connect us as new parents. But with pregnancy as the common thread, it’s so much easier.

With our class, we developed our modern-day village—a support network of couples that helped each other through illness, loneliness, marital problems and the usual baby drama. We also provided each other with companionship during those sometimes endless and monotonous days with a newborn.

Over time, as we all started going back to work or moving away, some of the friendships faded. But, to this day, even with an ocean between us, some of my best friends are from that experience.

What most expectant parents here do is kick that can down the road and figure they will make their mommy friends when they are already mommies. That can work, too, but not for everyone.

I know from my experience if I had waited until my baby arrived to seek out mommy friends, I would have been so preoccupied with my baby—worried about them getting sick, if I was feeding correctly, if they were getting enough sleep—and being sleep deprived, not feeling myself.

By not having to worry yet about any of that, I was able to focus on connecting with people that that when my baby arrived I didn't have to try so hard. Those friends were already there for me.

That’s not the story I hear time and time again here. Many friends have spent the first couple years of their babies life so lonely and isolated and it impedes their ability to enjoy those early months with their baby because they themselves aren’t happy.

Instead, let’s follow the Brits’ lead on this one and start building our villages before baby arrives.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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