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Fertility in Focus

Angela Le is charting the path towards positive conception...and conversation.

Fertility in Focus

As women, we don’t talk about fertility nearly enough. Whether from shame, embarrassment or even ignorance, it often becomes a topic reserved for hushed voices or spoken about behind closed doors. And yet, there are so many more women than you realize struggling to conceive, and exploring the many different paths you can take to make a baby. The lucky women among them get to travel those paths with Angela Le.

As founder of Fifth Avenue Fertility Wellness in NYC, Angela has helped thousands of women and men struggling to conceive. Her practice is integrative in every way: a licensed and board certified acupuncturist, Angela works in collaboration with physicians--including renowned holistic physicians Dr. Frank Lipman at Eleven Eleven Wellness Center and Dr. Sami David--to incorporate Eastern approaches to traditional Chinese medicine with Western biomedical research. She’s also a firm believer of treating patients physically, emotionally and spiritually.

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The results are not only beautiful, healthy babies--and there are many, many of those--but also beautiful, healthy mommies. “I want my patients to leave with not only improved fertility and general health,” she says, “but also a new set of skills that they will have for a lifetime and can use as a mother.”

Below, Angela opens up about fertility, conception and conversation.

What was the first birth you ever attended?

I was 15 years old when I attended the birth of my godson. I was my sister’s doula, unofficially! My godson’s birth was such a special moment for me and it felt like such a privilege to be able to attend, let alone assist. Any fears around the birth process took an immediate backseat to the awe and magic of that experience.

Tell us about your journey--literally across the world--to find your path.

Honestly, my path found me. I’ve always been a seeker--in adventure, travel and spirituality. A series of coincidences led me to meet an amazing woman in Nepal, an acupuncturist. After meeting her, I realized Traditional Chinese Medicine could be a career that embodies all of my passions and gifts, allowing me to integrate mind-body-spirit in a powerful way.

Why did you decide to focus on fertility?

I specialize in fertility because there is an opportunity to educate, empower and transform during the time a woman is trying to conceive. I saw my first fertility patient in 1998, and she was so deeply committed to the process of getting healthy for both herself and her future children that it created opening of sorts. She was open to being an active, instead of passive, participant in her healthcare, and that allowed for me to help her with deep healing--physically, emotionally and spiritually.

What’s the goal of your practice?

The goal of my practice is to help women achieve their dream of becoming a mother. I also want to teach women how to nurture themselves. I teach life skills and often get back to the basics with patients–how to nourish yourself properly and how to exercise, sleep, meditate and interact with self-love are all very powerful techniques. It’s important that these skills are sustainable–I want my patients to leave with not only improved fertility and general health, but also a new set of skills that they will have for a lifetime and can use as a mother.

What are the most common reasons your patients visit?

My practice supports patients through the entire fertility journey, so patients will typically see us for preconception work or support through fertility challenges, such as diminished ovarian reserve, advanced maternal age, recurrent miscarriages, PCOS, endometriosis, high FSH, fibroids, male factor concerns, and support through IUI/IVF procedures, including donor cycles. They continue treatment throughout their pregnancy and postpartum care.

When should women start exploring their fertility?

I believe women should start exploring their own fertility as early as possible. Body literacy is an important first step that is often ignored today. I think we can empower young women about their reproductive health through education and start the conversations earlier, from a place of curiosity instead of fear. The book Taking Charge of Your Fertility is a great place to start.

When trying to get pregnant, how does a woman know it’s time to see a fertility expert?

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine says that women under 35 should try naturally for one year before seeing a fertility expert, while women over 35 should see one after six months. I believe that it is never too soon to start preparing yourself for pregnancy through preconception work. Ideally, the work I do at Fifth Avenue Fertility Wellness would start about three months before a woman wants to start trying to conceive.

Why is integrative fertility work so crucial? How do Eastern and Western philosophies work together in this field?

Eastern and Western integration is crucial for fertility work because they focus on two different aspects of the process. Western medicine is working on the physical level, while Eastern medicine treats the whole person, including emotional and energetic aspects of whatever the issue is. When Eastern and Western medicine work together, the body is both treated and restored simultaneously. One of the reasons I work in an integrative practice is because every couple needs something different and we want to provide them with as many choices and options as possible under one roof.

Why do you think women are often reluctant to talk about fertility with other women, or in public? What’s with the shame?

I think there is a deep sense of self-worth tied up in the basic instinct to bear children. Women particularly are programmed this way from childhood. When conception does not come easily, they feel like their bodies have betrayed them and that there is something ‘wrong’ with them. As a result, many women feel shame and embarrassment, and are reluctant to share their story.

How do you judge your success with a patient? Is a baby always the final outcome?

On one hand, success is defined by pregnancies and healthy live births. The public will certainly judge me by those numbers. On the other hand, there is another, almost deeper, level of success. If I’m able to return a woman back to herself, and no matter what the outcome is she is stronger, happier, and more in tune with her own desires and her authentic self, than I feel like I’ve succeeded. For me, the happiest moments are when I’m able to help a woman birth both herself and a baby.

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

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

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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Becoming a mother has been life-changing. It's been hard, tiring, gratifying, beautiful, challenging, scary and a thousand other things that only a parent would ever understand.

It is these life-changing experiences that have inspired me to draw my everyday life as a stay at home mom. Whether it's the mundane tasks like doing laundry or the exciting moments of James', my baby boy's, first steps, I want to put it down on paper so that I can better cherish these fleeting moments that are often overlooked.

Being a stay-at-home-mom can be incredibly lonely. I like to think that by drawing life's simple moments, I can connect with other mothers and help them feel less alone. By doing this, I feel less alone, too. It's a win-win situation and I have been able to connect with many lovely parents and fellow parent-illustrators through my Instagram account.

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