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First, a disclaimer: Every woman has the right to decide how they want to have their birth in collaboration with their birth care provider while putting the safety and health of the mother and the baby first.

I remember the exact moment I decided to search for a different route than the traditional OB/GYN delivery in a hospital. It was a phone conversation with my OB informing me that I had just failed my 1 hour glucose tolerance test at 20 weeks.

ME: “What does this mean?”

OB: “It means you need to take the 3 hour glucose tolerance test.”

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ME: “Ok, should I work on cleaning up my diet? Is this a sign that I have gestational diabetes?”

OB sternly annoyed: “It means I don’t TORTURE all my patients with the 3 hour test, only the ones that fail the 1 hour test.”

BOOM, wake up call, if the bedside manner is lacking now, it’s not gonna be pretty during the birth. I was so disappointed, this was a practice of women known for delivering in one of NYC’s only birthing centers and praised by many doulas in the NYC community. Time to hunt for a different option.

I reached out to two homebirth midwives each with 27 years of experience. The first visit with each was a get to know you and see if this is a good fit interview that lasted 1.5 hours. A far cry from the 5-minute OB appointments I had experienced up until this point.

Sure, there was the “hippy” feel with the take your shoes off at the door, and the abundance of plants and tapestries. But this was immediately offset with an overwhelming feeling of comfort, trust and calm.

I’ll never forget the first conversation with the homebirth midwife I chose. I was debating getting an epidural, saying that if I couldn’t withstand the pain of labor at home, I would consider a transfer to a hospital to get one. She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Honey, my clients don’t get epidurals. You have to commit your entire being to a homebirth otherwise it will never happen. We obviously transfer if there is an emergency or for health reasons but you can’t be on the fence about delivering at home.“ And with that, I was a convert for a having my baby at home.

Next came talking about it with my friends and family. I got two different reactions: A doubtful “Ummmm, ok?” Or an envious “I wish I had done that.” Women who entertain the idea of a homebirth typically graduate to this with the progression of each child, the first in the hospital, the second in a birthing center, and the third at home. For me, it would be my first.

As I educated and prepared myself of the benefits, I learned a homebirth offered a level of empowerment in all aspects of my care. Here’s why it was the right choice for me:

1. I really didn’t want a Cesarean. Thank the divine that I live in a place that we have access to this life-saving procedure. But I’ve seen my patients in my clinic down the road after a c-section with a wrecked core and compensatory low back pain, hip pain and poor posture. Scar tissue after this kind of abdominal surgery is often unspoken and unknown on how to heal by MD’s. I knew I wanted to avoid this unless the baby and myself were in danger. According to a 2013 survey by the NY State of Health some NYC hospitals have a C-section rate of around 40%, partially scheduled for convenience and high because of hospital protocols on time frames in how quickly birth should take place. If I had gone the traditional medical route, I would have had a C-section because my water broke and then 24 hours later my contractions started, and most hospitals consider this an increase in the risk of infection.

2. I wanted comprehensive care. I realized around Week 16 that I was overly hopeful in asking a surgeon for nutrition recommendations to combat constipation and indigestion. It simply wasn’t going to happen during my 5-minute appointment other than a prescription for medication I wasn’t interested in. My midwife appointments lasted an hour each and we covered nutrition in depth along with fears around labor, and working through my own birth story as a c-section baby.

3. I wanted privacy. My husband was extremely resistant to a homebirth, as in, nope not gonna happen. How did I convince him? We took a tour of a labor and delivery floor where every door was open to every laboring woman’s moaning, the machines beeping, and the constant intercom calling nurses and doctors in every room. It smelled of a mix of hamburgers and sterilizing agent. Privacy was nonexistent.

So much of labor is feeling comfortable in your own body to make those low groans, as being vocal is one of the best coping mechanisms for the pain. Being comfortable in my own space allowed me to drop into this primal place of labor, not worrying about if a nurse is walking in, asking unnecessary questions, and in the comfort of my own home. This allowed me to draw on my own strength when there were no drugs in sight.

Staying home also eliminates the decision about when to go to the hospital or birth center during labor---leaving too early can slow labor's progress, and too late can be intensely uncomfortable, even leading to giving birth enroute.

4. I wanted a say. I chose my support team of my husband, doula and midwife. Most OB practices are so busy you may get your OB or a partner in the practice, whoever is on call that night. This common practice never sat well with me as I didn’t want an unknown face. I didn’t want to have to fight for a strict birth plan on what to tell the birth care provider, if I wanted a delayed cord clamping, if I wanted skin to skin immediately after birth, if there is availability for a private room to recover in that I can share with my husband, etc. In a homebirth, these are a given, breastfeeding and family bonding is uninterrupted, you crawl into bed, cozy up, and enjoy that deep sleep that you and baby share after birth.

5. I believe giving birth is a natural process. Women for centuries gave birth without intervention. I took a stand for minimal medical intervention in a time where giving birth has become impersonal and emergent oriented. The process of preparing my body and mind to have a truly natural birth allowed me to trust myself on a deep and significant level. My midwife asked my husband and I to honestly project ourselves into our worst-case scenario and examine how we would feel about our original choices after the fact. What arose together was this deep feeling that birthing in one’s home with the guidance of a midwife honors childbirth to be a natural and sacred process. We recognized that problems can arise and transfer is necessary when needed. We knew if there was a chance of a great loss and this was a rare option, but not expected nor feared.

My pregnancy was anything but normal, with a subchorionic hematoma and bleeding at Week 12 and a breech baby with four attempts at an external cephalic eversion, the last attempt successful a week before I went into labor. Through all these moments of uncertainty, I knew I wanted a homebirth, it was the one thing to trust my gut feeling and it felt right.

While not for everyone, a homebirth is an amazing option to explore. 12 hours in labor walking and coping around the my own house and 1 hour pushing on my hands and knees in my own bed, and my sweet lil baby Elvis arrived.

Photography by David Dupuy.

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

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

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There's a lot of discussion about the importance of early education—but what about soft skills like respect and kindness? How can mamas teach children important values like cooperation, gratitude, empathy or politeness?

These values are basic, foundational beliefs that help us know right from wrong, that give balance and meaning to life and that enable us to form community bonds with one another. These soft skills are crucial for kids to learn at any age, and it's important for them to be reinforced, both in the classroom and at home, throughout their childhood.

Here are fundamental ways to build character in your young children:

Kindness

Performing random acts of kindness can have a positive influence on both the individual showing and receiving the kindness. As a family, think of ways that each one of you can show kindness to others. Some ideas may include baking cookies for the mail carrier, donating an unopened toy to a local charity, purchasing canned goods for a homeless shelter or leaving notes and drawings for the neighbors. Include your child in the process so they can see firsthand the joy that kindness can bring to others.

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Responsibility

Children have a strong desire to mimic adult family members. Encourage your child to help complete simple chores in and around the house. Children feel a great sense of accomplishment when they can do their share and feel that sense of responsibility. Two-year-olds will enjoy folding towels, putting books away, putting paper in the recycling box and tending to the garden. Older children may enjoy helping out in the kitchen or with yard work.

Patience

Patience is the ability to demonstrate self-control while waiting for an event to occur. It also refers to the ability to remain calm in the face of frustration. This is a skill which develops in children as they mature. While it is important to practice patience, adults should also be realistic in their expectations, evaluate daily routines and eliminate long periods of wait time from the schedule.

Politeness

Schedule a time when the whole family can sit down together for dinner. Model good manners and encourage older siblings and other members of the family to do the same. Use phrases such as, "Can you please pass the potatoes?" or "Thank you." Be sure to provide your child with guidance, by explaining what to do as opposed to what not to do.

Flexibility

Change your routines at home to encourage children to be flexible in their thinking and to try new things. Try being flexible in the small things: enjoy breakfast for dinner, eat ice cream with a fork, have your child read a bedtime story to you or have a picnic in the living room. Let your child know it is okay to do things in a different way.

Empathy

Children are beginning to understand different emotions and that others have feelings. Throughout their childhood, talk about their feelings and share one's own feeling with them as well. By taking the time to listen to how children are feeling, you will demonstrate to them that you care and reinforce with them that you fully understand how they are feeling.

Cooperation

Coordinate playdates or take your children to events where they can practice introducing themselves to other children, and potentially with adults. Find games and other activities that require turn-taking and sharing.

Gratitude

Encourage your child to spend five minutes every day listing the things they are grateful for. This could be done together just before bedtime or after dinner.

Respect

As parents, our goal is to teach children to recognize that even though people have different likes and dislikes or beliefs and ideas, they must treat each other with manners and positivity. Respect should be shown when sharing, cleaning up, and listening to others. Always teach and model the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. Also remind children that respect can be shown towards things in the classroom. Treating materials and toys correctly shows appreciation for the things we have.
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Medical researchers and providers consider a woman's postpartum period to be up to 12 months after the delivery of baby, but too often, health insurance doesn't see it the same way. Nearly half of the births in the United States are covered by Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and while the babies who are born during these births are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP for a year, their mothers often lose their coverage 60 days after delivering their child. There is clear data showing 70% of new moms will have at least one health complication within a year of giving birth.

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This week, members of Congress' Subcommittee on Health met to mark up H.R. 4996, the "Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services (MOMS) Act of 2019, and it was favorably forwarded to the full Committee.

What does this mean? It means that while this bill still has a ways to go before it potentially becomes law, its success would see states get the option to provide 12 months of continuous coverage postpartum coverage to mothers on Medicaid. This would save lives.

As we at Motherly have said many times, it takes a considerable amount of time and energy to heal from birth. A mother may not be healed 60 days out from delivering. She may still require medical care for perinatal mood disorders, breast issues like thrush and mastitis, diabetes, and the consequences of traumatic births, like severe vaginal tearing.

Cutting off Medicaid when her baby is only 2 months old makes mom and baby vulnerable, and the Helping Moms Act could protect families from dire consequences.

The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and according to the CDC, "about 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications." This is not okay, and while H.R. 4996 is not yet signed into law this bill could help change this. It could help address the racial disparities that see so many Black mothers and Native American mothers dying from preventable causes in the first year of motherhood.

A report from nine American maternal mortality review committees found that there were three leading causes of death that occurred between 43 days and one year postpartum: cardiomyopathy (32.4%), mental health conditions (16.2%), and embolism (10.8%) and multiple state maternal mortality review committees have recommended extending Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum in order to prevent these deaths.

Basically, making sure that moms have have continuous access to health care the year after a birth means doctors can spot issues with things like depression, heart disease and high blood pressure at regular check-ups and treat these conditions before they become fatal.

The Helping Moms Act is a step forward in the fight for maternal health and it proves that maternal health is truly a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize the value in providing support for mothers during the postpartum period.

The Helping MOMS Act was was introduced by Democratic Congresswoman Robin Kelly of Illinois, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust. It was co-lead by Texas Republican Michael Burgess (who is also a medical doctor), as well as Georgia Republican Buddy Carter, Washington Republicans Jaime Herrera Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ayanna Pressley from Massachusettes and Lauren Underwood of Illinois (both Democrats).

"Incentivizing postpartum Medicaid expansion is a critical first step in preventing maternal deaths by ensuring new moms can see their doctor. I'm proud that my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, came together to put an end to the sad reality of American moms dying while growing their families," said Kelly. "We can't allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. This is a good, bipartisan first step, but it must be the first of many."

It doesn't matter what your political stripes, reducing America's maternal mortality stats should be a priority.

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Whether you're having a low-key Friendsgiving with your closest friends or prepping to host your first big Thanksgiving dinner with both families, figuring out all of the menu details can be the most overwhelming step. How much should I cook? What ingredients do I need? How does one actually cook a turkey this big?

But, don't worry, mama—HelloFresh is lending a helping hand this year with their Thanksgiving box in collaboration with Jessica Alba. Because you already have enough on your plate (and we're not talking stuffing).


Here are the details. You can choose from two Thanksgiving boxes: Turkey ($152) or beef tenderloin ($132). The turkey box serves 8-10 people while the beef one will serve 4-6 and both are $6.99 to ship. We got to try both and they're equally delicious so you can't go wrong with either one, but the turkey does require a 4-day thaw period so keep that in mind. And if you're wondering what the sides are, here's a sneak peek:

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  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Green bean casserole with crispy onions
  • Ciabatta stuffing with chick sausage and cranberries
  • Cranberry sauce with orange, ginger and cinnamon
  • Apple ginger crisp with cinnamon pecan crumble

While someone still has to do the actual cooking, it's designed to take the stress out of Thanksgiving dinner so you can focus on spending time with your loved ones (or watching Hallmark Christmas movies). You don't have to worry about grocery shopping, portion sizes, recipe curation or forgetting that essential thing you needed to make the meal perfect. Everything is super simple to make from start to finish—it even comes with a cooking timeline.

Orders are open through November 21 and can be delivered anytime through November 24. Even better? You don't need a subscription to order.


ORDER A BOX

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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My mother's death propelled me to start the process of becoming a parent as a 43-year-old single woman. As my connection to her remained strong in spirit after her death, I was ready to experience the same bond with my own child. I began the journey with Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI), and after three failed attempts at getting pregnant, I decided to adopt.

The adoption process is a lengthy and humbling one—one that includes fingerprints, background checks, references, classes, doing a profile of yourself and your life that birth parents eventually use to choose adoptive families.

After my application was approved, a young couple chose me just a month later. I couldn't believe my fortune. But I had to get to work and prepare the house for my baby's arrival. I bought the best of everything—bassinets, clothes, diapers, car seats… the list goes on. I told close friends and family that it was finally happening.

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But all of this was in vain. The day I was supposed to pick my daughter up, I learned that the birth parents had changed their minds. They no longer wanted to give their daughter up for adoption. As time passed, it was difficult to endure no interest from potential parents but the faith in believing what is meant to be continued. To increase my potential, I enrolled with a second adoption agency.

A few months later, as I was getting ready to try IVF for the first time, I received a phone call to let me know that a woman had selected me to adopt her child. So I opted out of IVF and found myself in a hospital delivery room with the birth mother, assisting her in the delivery of MY child. It was a boy! I was so thrilled, and he was just adorable.

After six years of losses and disappointments, I was able to bring him home and awaited the final word that the mother and father have given the needed consent. I was getting ready to watch the Super Bowl with him dressed in football gear, I got a phone call.

Once again, the adoption agency informed me that the birth mother had changed her mind. That evening, I had to return the baby to his birth mom. I was heartbroken, and my hopes were shattered.

What now? Going back to IVF meant starting from scratch, and that would take a minimum of six months before being able to really start getting pregnant. I was 49 years old, and the clock was ticking. I really wanted to be a mom by the age of 50.

I was in Chicago, recovering from a collapsed lung, when I received yet another phone call from the adoption agency. An expecting mom had chosen me and had already signed over all of her rights. This little girl was mine. For real, this time. But I had to get to Southern New Jersey by Thursday to pick her up from the hospital.

After negotiating with my doctor to give me the green light to leave while recovering from my condition, I hopped on a train, and 22 hours later, I arrived to New York City in a massive snow storm. I took longer than expected to get to her, but after navigating the icy roads of New Jersey, I met my daughter!

She is now 2 years old, and she has changed my life in ways that just can't be fully described. What I can say is that I now understand my mother's love even more and her devotion to me and my siblings, and as I am sharing the same with my daughter, my bond to my mother keeps on growing.

Becoming a mom at 49 was never what I had envisioned. But whether you are trying to conceive or have decided to adopt a child, the road to becoming a parent is rarely easy. I know that inner strength and believing in what was meant to be kept me moving forward.

Life
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