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5 Things I Learned about Adoption

The journey to motherhood doesn’t always look like you think.

5 Things I Learned about Adoption

I love sharing my adoption story, so every woman struggling with infertility has the courage to take that leap of faith and trust there is a baby somewhere in the wild universe that is meant to be theirs. But I also know that adoption is such a big topic. Where do you start? How long does it take, and how much does it cost? Will I love a baby that I didn't give birth too? Here are 5 things I learned from my adoption experience.

1. Do not pay attention to people who question your decision to adopt. I spent the first season of my life traveling the world, held a high-powered job on Wall Street and lived a glamorous city life straight out of Sex and the City. As a 40-year-old single woman, I made a choice to become a mother on my own, through IVF treatments. This decision was met with mixed responses that ranged from gasps of concern to resounding applause and rowdy “You go girl!” After gut-wrenchingly unsuccessful rounds of IVF, I was so angry and heartbroken and gave up. Then, after taking a few months to heal my body and my heart, I began to look into adoption -- a decision that was met with unhelpful lists of statistics and horror stories of people falling in love with babies only to have the birth family refuse to give up their rights. Still I soldiered on, knowing in my heart that someone was out there waiting for me. To this day, people still often question my decision. I say, “screw them!” So what if she isn’t my blood, if I didn’t birth her? I take care of her like any mom. I watch her breathe when she sleeps, cry when she hurts, and want to give her the best life in the world like any mama. Period. End of story.

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2. You can, and will, love a baby that you didn't give birth to. I will never forget when I got the call. The birth mom was single, so she didn't care that I was single, and she chose me! But she was due in just four days! I flew out for her birth in a blur, praying for everything to go smoothly -- for this woman to please not change her mind or the baby’s father to not randomly show up. After all I had been through, I needed to believe. And then, a few pushes, and there she was. I lost my breathe for a second. I witnessed the gift of seeing my daughter’s birth. There was my miracle baby. After all my pain and struggling, I clung to her tiny body and knew I would never let go. It turned out that not only was I capable of loving a baby I didn’t give birth to, I was capable of loving more than I ever knew I could love.

3. Forming a bond with your child is not for the weak of heart. When you apply to adopt, there are extensive background checks, tests, books to read, fingerprinting and more. The agency also gave me a book about bonding with my baby-to-be, but I thought, “I know how to love and care for kids, I got this.” And while the bonding happened instantly for me after my daughter’s birth, I didn’t expect the rush of self-preservation that kicked in. I was terrified of losing my baby girl whom I had just met and fallen in love with. My lawyer advised me to continue the interview process with other potential birth mothers "in case anything goes wrong" before my baby’s birth mom signed the papers. Finally, the birth mom signed her papers and it was time to name the baby. It terrified me. If she had a name -- a name that I gave her -- than she was real. I picked my Grandma’s name: Julia. And my Julia came to life. On the flight home, with Julia on my chest, I breathed in her scent, hugged her and whispered to her, "baby girl, I love you. we're going HOME. We're safe now. We’re a family."

4. Family is family, no matter how it’s built. On our flight back home, I started to wonder if everyone else would embrace my baby girl like I had. It was, after all, my journey, my decision to make a somewhat unconventional family. Was I asking too much of my family to expect them to love a child that wasn’t “mine”? Thankfully, we were welcomed with open arms. My dad picked us up when we arrived at the airport and had stocked the car with diapers, wipes, bottles, baby blender, onesies, socks, soap, and other things I didn't even know babies needed. That evening, my brother and his kids, who were 9 and 5 at the time, came over. They knew I was trying for a family, but they never saw me pregnant. Would they understand Julia was my baby, their cousin? My fears were instantly put to rest when the youngest said to me, "Jackie, how do you know if you love someone if you just met them?" And it was then I knew, my family was complete.

5. You don’t just save them. You save each other. As I write this, Julia and I are vacationing in Spain, and she’s sleeping soundly after a wild day at the beach. I get emotional just thinking about the look of pure joy on her face as she played in the sand with the sun shining on her strawberry blonde hair. I know we are blessed to share these experiences together. Often when I tell people of our many travels, people answer with a funny, "Can you adopt me?" or a more poignant, "You saved her!" I know that my daughter will get to see so many parts of the world and experience things, food, places, smells and cultures that her very young birth mom and half siblings likely won't ever see. Inside I sigh, and always answer yes, because I know I have afforded her an amazing life. She will be my partner in my travels and in life, as I continue to explore the world. But Julia also saved me. She completed me and gave purpose to my existence. She brought life to my soul. She is my heart. That's what adoption gave this former wild child, nomadic, hippie want-to-be, world traveler. Adoption gave me the greatest, most precious life-affirming gift: it made my heart fuller than I ever dreamed it could be.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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