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Why Every Mom Deserves Maternity Leave

I went back to work five weeks after my first child was born. This was out of necessity: I was freelance, and if I didn’t work, I didn’t get paid. I was worried that the contracts I had secured for myself before my daughter arrived would disappear if I didn’t get back to the grind quickly. There’s a pervasive feeling that you’re only as good as your last byline when you’re trying to make a living as a writer, and I was understandably afraid — based on research — that the longer I went without my name in print, the longer it would take me to get work again.

With my second child, I was in a much different place. I was the editor-in-chief at a startup, and I got a few months of paid maternity leave. The emotional tenor of that recent postpartum period was so much more relaxed and joyful than with my first baby. I wasn’t stressed about going back to work or whether my family would be able to cover child care. I was able to think clearly about the book I was about to publish. I was able to physically recover more quickly because I could afford to pay for care when I needed to rest. And I was able to be mentally present with my children without being anxious, and I will be forever grateful for that.

I recognize how insanely privileged I am to receive paid maternity leave in the United States. Only 12 percent of privately employed American workers get paid family leave. Citizens of only a handful of states have access to paid leave. Nearly a quarter of working moms have to go back to work within TWO WEEKS of giving birth, which is inhumane. This isn’t just bad for women, who may be recovering from major abdominal surgery (aka a c-section) and may be more prone to postpartum depression when they don’t get adequate leave. It’s bad for babies. Paid leave reduces infant mortality, and babies whose parents have paid leave are more likely to get regular checkups.

But even though I am privileged compared to other American parents, American parents are the paupers of the world. We are the only developed nation that does not provide paid parental leave to its citizens. It’s an embarrassment. And even though Ivanka Trump has been touting her father’s vague plan to provide six weeks of paid leave to mothers, it would still be meager compared to the benefits that mothers and fathers get in Canada, Sweden, France, Turkey, Mexico, Cyprus… I could sit here and list countries all day. What’s more, if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, which is currently in the works, pregnant women and expectant parents could be denied health insurance on the individual market.

I have been writing about issues relating to parental leave for about five years now, and it’s depressing how little has changed, despite the fact that the vast majority of Americans are in favor of paid leave. Unlike almost every other issue these days, paid leave has bipartisan support. (I haven’t even mentioned all the people who are caring for elderly or otherwise infirm family members — those people don’t get paid leave either. And many workers don’t get paid sick leave for themselves, which is a national health crisis). You can make a difference by contacting your representatives and telling them you want paid leave and you want it now, or by supporting legal organizations like A Better Balance that fight the good fight to get paid leave laws passed.

I will never get a do-over of those first days with my older daughter. I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on how much more idyllic they could have been. But by the time my kids are ready to have their own kids, I want things to be different. And I want to be able to tell them I did everything in my power to fight for the structural support they deserve.

Jessica Grose is the author of the novel Soulmates, which is about a murder at a yoga retreat, and the editor in chief of Lenny.

Original photography by Belle Savransky for Well Rounded.

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Most baby showers don't make the news, but when you're Meghan Markel, everything you do makes the news. This week it seems like the whole world is talking about the shower friends of the Duchess are throwing for her in NYC.

As Vanity Fair reports, while there was much speculation that the shower was happening on Tuesday, it's actually going down on Wednesday afternoon and Serena Williams is the head shower thrower behind this luxe bash.

The Duchess, the GOAT and other friends including Markel's Toronto-based stylist Jessica Mulroney, actresses Abigail Spencer and Priyanka Chopra, and Markle's college pal, author Lindsay Roth, are reportedly enjoying the Mark hotel's penthouse (and all its five bedrooms, four fireplaces, six bathrooms and two powder rooms) but you don't have to have Serena's bank account to shower a mama-to-be with gifts fit for a royal.

Here are six Meghan Markle-inspired baby shower gifts between $8 and $300.

1. Babyletto Hudson 3-in-1 Convertible Crib 

As Hello! reports, one of the gifts brought to the Mark for Markle's baby shower was hard to miss. Cameras were snapping as a box labeled "Babyletto Hudson 3-in-1 Convertible Crib" was rolled into the hotel this week.

The convertible crib retails for $379 on Amazon. The mid-range price point means it's within reach even for those who don't live in a palace.

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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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My dearest Bee,

Here we are, it's your birthday. You're a year old today! Happy birthday, my beautiful little girl.

Two years ago, if someone had told me that I'd be celebrating my first child's first birthday today, I would have laughed. Me? Having a child? It's not that I didn't want to be a mom, or that I didn't want you, it's that I didn't think I could have you.

During the eight years leading up to your birth, I had five miscarriages. I went to multiple doctors and nobody could tell me what was wrong. After months of tests and all the money we spent, we had no answers. The doctors could only tell us to keep trying, and hope for the best.

But it's hard to hope for the best after so many years and so many lost babies. Your daddy and I had resigned ourselves to believing that we would never meet you. That we would never be blessed with your presence in our lives. You were all we ever wanted, and we thought we wouldn't get to have you.

I remember the day I realized I was pregnant with you. After five previous pregnancies, I could just tell. It was right before Thanksgiving weekend, and your aunt and uncle were coming to visit us.

I was terrified to take a test. I knew that if I took a pregnancy test and it came back positive, I'd lose you. Just like I lost your five older siblings. So, I didn't test for a while. I quit drinking alcohol. I quit drinking caffeine. I quit my addiction to Mountain Dew. I lost 10 pounds those first few weeks.

I wasn't sick, I just had a change in taste. I started eating less of the fatty, unhealthy foods I normally ate, and started eating fruits, salads, and whole grains! I waited until eight weeks before taking the pregnancy test that would confirm what I had already knew.

Reaching the beginning of my second trimester was easily one of the happiest days of my life. During prior pregnancies, I'd never made it through the first trimester. At 13 weeks, an ultrasound told us you were healthy, and growing normally.

My pregnancy was relatively uneventful up until the last couple days. I had a mild case of gestational diabetes which was extremely easy to manage as long as I didn't drink soda and I avoided fast food.

The Wednesday before you were born, I went in to see my doctor and my blood pressure was sky-high. I was immediately sent to the hospital for a non-stress test. You were fine, my blood pressure decreased, and I was sent home on bed rest pending the results of a urinalysis that would tell us whether or not I had pre-eclampsia.

Thursday evening we learned I did have a mild case of pre-eclampsia. My doctor sent me in for another non-stress test on Friday morning. My blood pressure was high with no sign of it coming down again. Between the pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, my doctor and I decided the best option was to induce me that day, one week before your due date.

I spent the first 12 hours laboring slowly and uneventfully. It wasn't until about 1 AM Saturday morning—after 14 hours of labor—that the pain became too intense. I received an epidural a half hour later (and just about fell in love with the anesthesiologist that administered it).

After 30 hours of labor I was only 6cm dilated, with a full fever, and it was recommended I have a C-section.

You were born at 4:38 PM that Saturday. And you were smallest, prettiest little baby I'd ever seen, weighing in at just 5 pounds, 15 ounces.

The day you were born was, and will always be, without question, the happiest day of my life. It was a day I didn't expect I'd ever get to experience. A day I thought was nothing but a pipe dream.

And now here we are, one year later. You are my first child, my first daughter. The first person to poop on me, the first person to projectile vomit all over me. You're the first baby I've nursed, the first baby that's slept on my chest. You're the first person to teach me what unconditional love is, and the first person that I'd die for, no questions asked.

Little Bee, you are all my firsts. And you may also be all my lasts. Whether Daddy and I can give you a little brother or sister is unknown to us. Giving you a sibling would be one of the greatest gifts, but nobody knows if we will be able to have more children.

I'm completely happy with the thought of only having you. You're the child I thought I'd never have, you are my world, my everything. Life without you seems unfathomable now, when just a couple years ago life with you seemed impossible.

You turning a year old is bittersweet. That sleepy little infant I had is long gone, replaced by the cutest, funniest little girl I know. I miss the infant you once were, but I adore the wonderful little girl you are becoming. You are the child I've always wanted, and I'm so thankful that I have you.

So happy birthday, Bee. You're the greatest thing that has ever happened to us. I hope you know how wanted, and how loved, you really, truly are.

Even before they reach my bed, I know they are there. The sound of small, soft feet on the carpet of our bedroom pulls me from my always light sleep, although my eyes remain tightly shut.

I can already tell from his gait that it's my son. He gets to the side of my bed. I feel a tender hand rest softly on my face. "Mummy," he says in a loud whisper, not old enough yet to have perfected an actual whisper, "Mummy. Wake up!"

I gather all the strength in my exhausted body and use it to prop open one eye. "What is it, Bubba?"

"I want go in Mummy's bed."

"Okay."

He stretched out his arms and in the darkness I can see his chubby hands grasping at the air near my face. I pick him up awkwardly, my shoulder twinging painfully as I lift his ever-growing body, and plop him next to me in between my blissfully snoring husband and myself.

He immediately burrows down under the covers and I feel two icy feet shove themselves in between my knees. "I loves you Mummy" he loud-whispers and wraps his arm around my neck pulling our faces so close his breath warms mine. His big eyes close and within a minute his breathing has become slow and regular, timing itself with his father's rhythmic snores.

I stare at the roof, so awake. I bump the phone on my bedside table so the screen wakes up: 2:07 am. I groan inwardly, squeeze my eyes shut and will myself to sleep, but my brain is having none of it. It starts racing at near light speed despite my whole body crying out in tiredness at it. I mentally shout the word 'SLEEP!' over the sound of my rushing thoughts over and over.

Finally, my whole being starts to give in and I relax, beginning to drift, my body humming with gratefulness.

"MUMMY! MUUUUUUUUUUUUMMYYYYYYYY!" I jerked quickly out of my fugue state from the sound of my daughter yelling. I rush to her room. She is sitting up in bed, eyes pink and shining.

"Mummy I woke up and I'm all alone." I wrap her in a big hug, kiss her hair and run my fingers down her soft, damp cheek. She lays back down and starts to relax as sit on the edge of her bed.

I wait until her eyes close and then rest my head in my hands. I am so tired I feel like I may throw up. After what seems like a week, but was actually probably closer to 20 minutes, she is settled, so I get up—my whole body cold, stiff, protesting. I look at her. She is softly lit by the light of her bedroom lamp and with her golden hair spread out on her pillow, she looks angelic. My heart swells so much I feel like my chest may burst.

I walk back to my room, to my sleeping boys.

My son has fashioned himself into a convoluted L-shape, allowing me only a thin strip of my bed. I try to pull the blanket over myself, but my husband has one leg tossed onto it, so it won't budge, so a third of my body is exposed. My son dreamily digs his small feet into my back and I hover precariously on the edge of the bed.

I am so tired. So tired. But I could not be more awake. I move my phone once more, and a dim, blue-tinged light glows as the screen illuminates: 3 am.

I lie there, desperate for sleep, but it is too late. I sit on the edge of my bed and gaze at my peacefully sleeping son. He is exquisite. Emotion rises in me again. I feel my eyes prickle. And then, before I can stop myself, my anxiety sees an opening and begins to speak in rapid-fire bullet points.

There is so much hate in the world. Why would you bring children into this? What are you subjecting them too?

Imagine people broke into your house and stole your sleeping children.

Imagine if a bomb went off next door.

You can't always protect them. They are going to get hurt one day, and you might not be able to protect them.

It goes on and on. The fear feels like it's choking me. The dog needs to be let out, so I walk to the living room to bring her outside; grateful for the distraction.

As I step outside, I smell the grass, I feel the cool earth on the soles of my feet, and I look up to the big, dark sky. I notice the sprinkle of twinkling stars.

A light breeze washes over me and I suddenly feel small, and therefore, so do my worries. I begin to feel peace wash over me. I stretch my arms above my head and feel my muscles lengthening, sore but thankful. I am calm.

I go back inside. The green numbers on the microwave inform me it is after 4 am: time to get ready for work. I dress, too slowly, my entire being wistful for the sleep that never was. I make coffee in the biggest cup I can find and toast some bread.

I finish our morning routine and eventually walk out to my car, turn on an audiobook, and drive away from my world for the day.

When I get to work, I am bright and smiley, but some notice my tired eyes. I shrug and say, "Kids kept me up" They smile and say, "Still? By that age, my kids only woke up once a night, if at all!" They tell me that surely, one day, my kids will sleep.

But if only they knew that although it's the kids keeping me awake, they themselves are asleep most of the time they are doing it.

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There's nothing like the smell of a baby. The sweet scent of the top of your baby's head is intoxicating like nothing else.

Scientists estimate there are about 150 chemicals present in baby body odor, and while they haven't yet pinpointed exactly which one makes it smell so good to mamas, we do know that none of them can come through the phone.

That's bad news for Hilary Duff, because this mama knows that when you're far from your baby, you miss that smell.

"Ever try to sniff your baby through the phone?" she joked in a recent Instagram post.


Duff's hashtags indicate that she was feeling "desperate" to sniff baby daughter Banks, and while she was joking, it's also probably not far from the truth.

The science shows the scent of a baby has calming properties, so it makes sense that mamas might feel a bit addicted to that smell. Seriously, studies suggest that the scent of a baby's head impacts our brains similarly to drugs used to treat mental illness

Researchers in the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm had 30 women smell little hats previously worn by newborn babies. As the women inhaled the scent the researchers studies their brains with a magnetic camera, according to Sciencenordic reports. The images showed the smell was impacting the brain similarly to certain drugs.

Scientists are onto this baby smell thing, and are trying to figure out a way that the power of baby body odor could be used to treat depression.

It would be awesome if they could also figure out a way to transmit it through the phone. (Hey Apple, we've got an app idea for you!)

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