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I’ve never been shy about showing skin. I think I’ve always been a bit of an exhibitionist, but it did not stem so much from a place of confidence as it did a way of inviting conversation about my body. Pre-pregnancy, I would wear tight or skimpy clothing so that I could judge from others’ reactions how I must really look because I was never quite sure of what the mirror was showing me. Am I heavier than last week? Thinner? The same? I never could tell. But all of that changed when I became pregnant. For the first time ever, I felt a body confidence that I had only ever imagined.

During both of my pregnancies, I spent way more time wearing string bikinis than I ever would have anticipated. I didn’t worry about sucking in, or looking bloated, and I never felt ashamed about my appetite. Getting bigger was what my body was supposed to be doing. My round belly was a sign of a healthy pregnancy. People applauded me when I had a second helping of whatever (“Eat! You’re growing a life inside of you!”) and they encouraged my joyful belly exhibitionism (“You go girl! Flaunt it!”). It felt wonderful to have so much support of this new body. If my pregnant body had a tagline, it would have been, “I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly.”

When I was pregnant with my first son, I was living by the beach at my husband’s grandmother’s house. Life was all about bikinis and inhaling tuna sub sandwiches with a side of salt and vinegar chips. I took weekly bikini selfies with my digital camera (this was pre iPhone) pointed at the oval mirror in our basement bedroom to document my growing belly. I loved finally having breasts for which a bikini top wasn’t purely ornamental. My stomach got so big that one would have thought I was incubating a baby goat. And since my belly had acquired that strange torpedo shape that befalls some of us lucky ladies, it appeared as if said goat was sitting in my belly in an upright position with all four of its hoofs sticking straight out.

Even with my funny belly shape, I loved how I looked. Sure, whenever people talked about my body (and people LOVE talking about pregnant bodies), I said all the appropriate and socially acceptable things about being “huge” and feeling like an ogre. Sometimes yes, I did feel that way, but more often than not, I felt gorgeous.

It wasn’t always easy watching the rest of me get bigger and bigger, but it was pretty exciting. Every morning brought a new discovery – a new stretch mark, a different shape to my belly, a darkening line across my skin that seemed to cut my belly in two. I felt like a butterfly who had the good fortune to emerge from her cocoon morning after morning, her wings a different color each time. There was so much thrill in this constant changing-ness.

I felt so good in my new skin there were days when I didn’t even bother with a cover up over my bikinis. My husband’s grandmother and I made quite the odd couple that summer – she would be wearing slacks and knit shirts and I would be running around mostly naked, with the unselfconscious abandon of a 5-year-old on the beach. Grandma’s friends from the synagogue or book group would drop by for visits and tea, and occasionally I would make a grand gesture toward decency and throw on a pair of booty shorts that may or may not have said, “Jesse’s Ass” on the back of them (Jesse being my husband’s name).

And then something terrible happened after I had my son, and I’d shed the baby weight: everything went back to the way it had been before. Guilt was the side dish at nearly every meal. Judgment faced me in the mirror when I stood, frowning, in jeans and a bra. I imagined people snickering as I walked through a restaurant, commenting on whatever I was wearing. Every night I would assess myself in a critical way: why wasn’t my stomach flat yet? Why did it hang over the tops of my jeans? And when would my grotesque c-section scar finally heal?

My pregnancies gave me the gift of body acceptance, but it was a fleeting gift both times. Pregnancy was like peeking into a fantasy world where people applaud weight gain, where big means healthy, and where eating more is not only a necessity – it is strongly encouraged.

Even when I look back at pictures of myself pregnant, I cannot help but force upon them my regular disordered thinking about my body. It is hard for me to see a pregnant beauty on the beach – more often than not I see someone who should have been wearing a sensible mu mu.

It is part of my daily work to try to bring some of the body confidence I had when I was pregnant into my everyday postpartum life. I want to encourage those who are in the middle of their pregnancies to really enjoy the freedom of joyfully getting bigger and to relish this time of profound growth. And then afterward, when the people around you are no longer trying to feed you, and when the other moms around you are moaning about their pants not fitting, to try not to dwell in negative body thoughts.

It is far too easy to be critical of our bodies, but we didn’t become mothers because we were expecting easy. One of the more difficult things we could do for ourselves after pregnancy is also one of the most kind: to look at our bodies and all the parts of it that may have shifted or changed from a place of acceptance.

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Baby stuff comes in such cute prints these days. Gone are the days when everything was pink and blue and covered in ducks or teddy bears. Today's baby gear features stylish prints that appeal to mom.

That's why it's totally understandable how a mama could mistake a car seat cover for a cute midi skirt. It happened to Lori Farrell, and when she shared her mishap on Facebook she went viral before she was even home from work. Fellow moms can totally see the humor in Farrell's mishap, and thankfully, so can she.

As for how a car seat cover could be mistaken for a skirt—it's pretty simple, Farrell tells Motherly.

"A friend of mine had given me a huge lot of baby stuff, from clothes to baby carriers to a rocker and blankets and when I pulled it out I was not sure what it was," she explains. "I debated it but washed it anyway then decided because of the way it pulled on the side it must be a maternity skirt."

Farrell still wasn't 100% sure if she was right by the time she headed out the door to work, but she rocked the ambiguous attire anyway.

"When I got to work I googled the brand and realized not only do they not sell clothing but it was a car seat cover."

The brand, Itzy Ritzy, finds the whole thing pretty funny too, sharing Farell's viral moment to its official Instagram.

It may be a car seat cover, but that print looks really good on this mama.

And if you want to copy Farell's style, the Itzy Ritzy 4-in-1 Nursing Cover, Car Seat Cover, Shopping Cart Cover and Infinity Scarf (and skirt!) is available on Amazon for $24.94.

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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Daycare for infants is expensive across the country, and California has one of the worst states for parents seeking care for a baby. Putting an infant in daycare in California costs $2,914 more than in-state tuition for four years of college, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Paying north of $1,000 for daycare each month is an incredible burden, especially on single-parent families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as costing no more than 10% of a family's income—by that definition, less than 29% of families in California can afford infant care. Some single parents spend half their income on day care. It is an incredible burden on working parents.

But that burden may soon get lighter. CBS Sacramento reports California may put between $25 and $35 million into child care programs to make day care more affordable for parents with kids under 3 years old.

Assembly Bill 452, introduced this week, could see $10 million dollars funneled into Early Head Start (which currently gets no money from the state but does get federal funding) and tens of millions more would be spent on childcare for kids under three.

The bill seeks to rectify a broken childcare system. Right now, only about 14% of eligible infants and toddlers are enrolled in subsidized programs in California, and in 2017, only 7% of eligible children younger than three years of age accessed Early Head Start.

An influx of between $25 to $35 million dollars could see more spaces open up for kids under three, as Bill 452, if passed, would see the creation of "grants to develop childcare facilities that serve children from birth to three years of age."

This piece of proposed legislation comes weeks after California's governor announced an ambitious plan for paid parental leave, and as another bill, AB 123, seeks to strengthen the state's pre-kindergarten program.

Right now, it is difficult for some working parents to make a life in California, but by investing in families, the state's lawmakers could change that and change California's future for the better.

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When a mama gets married, in most cases she wants her children to be part of her big day. Photographers are used to hearing bride-to-be moms request lots of pictures of their big day, but when wedding photographer Laura Schaefer of Fire and Gold Photography heard her client Dalton Mort planned to wear her 2-year-old daughter Ellora instead of a veil, she was thrilled.

A fellow mama who understands the benefits of baby-wearing, Schaefer was keen to capture the photos Mort requested. "When I asked Dalton about what some of her 'must get' shots would be for her wedding, she specifically asked for ones of her wearing Ellie, kneeling and praying in the church before the tabernacle," Schaefer tells Motherly.

She got those shots and so many more, and now Mort's toddler-wearing wedding day pics are going viral.

"Dalton wore Ellie down the aisle and nursed her to sleep during the readings," Schaefer wrote on her blog, explaining that Ellie then slept through the whole wedding mass.

"As a fellow mother of an active toddler, this is a HUGE win! Dalton told me after that she was SO grateful that Ellie slept the whole time because she was able to focus and really pray through the Mass," Schaefer explains.

Dalton was able to concentrate on her wedding day because she made her baby girl a part of it (and that obviously tired Ellie right out).

Ellie was part of the commitment and family Dalton if forging with her husband, Jimmy Joe. "There is no better behaved toddler than a sleeping toddler, and she was still involved, even though I ended up unwrapping her to nurse her. I held her in my arms while my husband and I said our vows. It was really special for us," Dalton told POPSUGAR.

This is a wedding trend we are totally here for!

Congrats to Dalton and Jimmy Joe (and to Ellie)! 🎉

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The internet is freaking out about how Peppa Pig is changing the way toddlers speak, but parents don't need to be too worried.

As Romper first reported, plenty of American parents have noticed that preschoolers are picking up a bit of a British accent thanks to Peppa. Romper's Janet Manley calls it "the Peppa effect," noting that her daughter started calling her "Mummy" after an in-flight Peppa marathon.

Plenty of other parents report sharing Manley's experience, but the British accent is not likely to stick, experts say.

Toronto-based speech and language pathologist Melissa James says this isn't a new thing—kids have always been testing out the accents they hear on TV and in the real world, long before Peppa oinked her way into our Netflix queues.

"Kids have this amazing ability to pick up language," James told Global News. "Their brains are ripe for the learning of language and it's a special window of opportunity that adults don't possess."

Global News reports that back in the day there were concerns about Dora The Explorer potentially teaching kids Spanish words before the kids had learned the English counterparts, and over in the U.K., parents have noticed British babies picking up American accents from TV, too.

But it's not a bad thing, James explains. When an American adult hears "Mummy" their brain translates it to "Mommy," but little kids don't yet make as concrete a connection. "When a child, two, three or four, is watching a show with a British accent and hears [words] for the first time, they are mapping out the speech and sound for that word in the British way."

So if your baby is oinking at you, calling you "Mummy" or testing out a new pronunciation of "toh-mah-toe," know that this is totally natural, and they're not going to end up with a life-long British pig accent.

As Dr, Susannah Levi, associate professor of communicative sciences and disorders at New York University, tells The Guardian, "it's really unlikely that they'd be acquiring an entire second dialect from just watching a TV show."

It sure is cute though.

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