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Not every village looks the same, mama

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It takes a village.

What a cliché, I used to think. Of course—before I had children.

Because back then I didn't need a village. I had my husband, our dear friends. We had our jobs and our hobbies and our travels and our home. We loved our far-flung village, family outside of the country we could call and email and visit any time. And they came to see us too. Reminded us that we weren't alone and could call them for anything. And we did. Well, we would have—if we weren't already so assured (smug, almost) in our own self-sufficiency.

But then the kids arrived. One—two—three in rapid succession. And suddenly I realize that I'm an outsider, standing alone just beyond the village gates. Desperately searching for my community, my people. The ones everyone says I should have. NEED to have. The ones who are going to help me through this.

They were right, of course. It does take a village. I see now how important a community is. To pick up a preschooler while I take a toddler to the ER. To watch a sick child while I run to pick up medicine. To delight in our kids' visits, welcoming me with an ear and a shoulder when it's all become too overwhelming.

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It seems that everywhere moms are boasting about their villages. Their close knit mommy groups that coordinate everything from carpools to casseroles. Built-in play dates every day of the week. Field trips. And impromptu home gatherings where everyone toasts with wine and laughs about the trials of motherhood.

And I wonder—where is my village?

It's becoming big business. Every week I see a new app or website that boasts higher success rates for matching you with the perfect mom friend. Like a dating app, except instead of romantic chemistry you're searching for mommy chemistry. Someone who sides with you on all the mommy war topics. Who you can let your hair down with. Someone who will come over when you're at your worst, help you pick yourself up, and take the kids out for ice cream.

Do I need to download a mommy friend dating app to find my village?

I complained about this to one of my non-mom friends. She is unapologetically child-free, living her best life and diving head first into excitement and travel as she sips her bubbly and flips her shiny, freshly washed and highlighted hair. I grumbled about being too old to find mom friends. About how the moms I meet locally are no less than one to two decades younger than me, with nothing in common.

“Eh," she shrugged, “Who needs 'em anyway? This is yet another reason why I'm not having kids!"

She topped off my glass and we laughed. Then moved onto topics like upcoming events and dream trips.

But still, the following Monday while she was at work and I was with the kids, I found myself anxiously searching for my people.

So I made dinner plans with an old friend. Someone who is my age, but whose children are nearly grown. A person I have shared more laughs and aspirations with than I can count. I knew she would understand, and I wasn't disappointed. She listened to me and nodded knowingly. “I know, it's so hard to find people you can trust," she sighed.

We talked about our kids. College plans for hers, preschool plans for mine. Joked about her visit to my hospital room after baby number three, made complete by a bottle of margarita mix. Commiserated over the crazy-making that parenting can be. And she suggested that over time I would likely find local moms I vibe with.

So where are they?

I turned to my best male friend, a surfer carpe diem-type guy who is forever inviting me out to happy hours and meals with the gang. I finally agreed to shower and attend a ramen outing. As I sat with my son in the company of men, I whined to the guy next to me about how I can't find any mom friends with whom to do this type of thing. He reminded me that he's a father, a single father at that, and has been a longtime friend. But I told him it's not the same. He reassured me that I'd soon find some mom friends – I probably just needed to get out more.

So I did. I ventured beyond the local parks to a further park. And lo and behold – I met someone! Someone about my age, with two children, and we clicked. We laughed and joked and agreed to exchange numbers. Then she let me know that she would contact me the next time she was in town. Turns out she's the aunt who lives across the country.

I shared the story of the new mom friend who almost was with another friend later that evening, an out-of-state friend of almost two decades, with whom I talk several times a week. I told her that my little one was sick, and if I could just find someone to come by and help for two hours, I could catch up on my work. She understood and said she wished she could still help. Before she left the state, she was that person. The one to come over and relieve me over a lunch break or in the early evening. The one who would join me and my clan, her two kids in tow, on outings to Costco and Target. And now she was gone.

How would I ever find new mom friends?

I texted my frustrations to a dear friend who lives about an hour away, a person I met at work many years ago. She's the friend who cared for my other children while each of their siblings were being born. She's someone I trust completely. I told her I felt like I was losing my mind without the quintessential mom friends that everyone glamorizes.

She texted back immediately, as she always does, comforting me and letting me know that she would come by that weekend. Asking if she should take a day off work during the week to help me. Reassuring me that we would figure it out. Together. That I wasn't alone in this.

And suddenly it hit me.

THIS is my village. These people, and the others in my life like them, ARE my mom friends. Whether local or not, moms or not, and even female or not, these people make up my imperfectly perfect village.

They support me. They laugh with me and cry with me. They show up for our events, our celebrations. They bring us meals and wine and gifts for the kids. They send me cards. They miss the children, ask about the children, beg to babysit the children. They visit us and call us and text us—for no reason at all. Just because.

They may not be here every minute of the day. They may have other obligations. They may not even reside in the same state. But they are HERE. Available to me on a moment's notice. Supporting me and checking on me and expressing their willingness—their desire, even—to drop everything should I need it. Expressing their love. And I love them right back.

This, I realize, is what makes a mom friend. Not the women perfectly manufactured from the mom friend mold, but—by definition—the people who surround a mom, and who are her friends. That is a village.

I realized that while I've been peering into the gates of a village to which I felt I had no entry, my community has been there—right behind me—the whole time.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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If there's one thing you learn as a new mama, it's that routine is your friend. Routine keeps your world spinning, even when you're trucking along on less than four hours of sleep. Routine fends off tantrums by making sure bellies are always full and errands aren't run when everyone's patience is wearing thin. And routine means naps are taken when they're supposed to, helping everyone get through the day with needed breaks.

The only problem? Life doesn't always go perfectly with the routine. When my daughter was born, I realized quickly that, while her naps were the key to a successful (and nearly tear-free!) day, living my life according to her nap schedule wasn't always possible. There were groceries to fetch, dry cleaning to pick up, and―if I wanted to maintain any kind of social life―lunch dates with friends to enjoy.

Which is why the Ergobaby Metro Compact City Stroller was such a life-saver. While I loved that it was just 14 pounds (perfect for hoisting up the stairs to the subway or in the park) and folds down small enough to fit in an airplane overhead compartment (you know, when I'm brave enough to travel again!), the real genius of this pint-sized powerhouse is that it doesn't skimp on comfort.

Nearly every surface your baby touches is padded with plush cushions to provide side and lumbar support to everything from their sweet head to their tiny tush―it has 40% more padding than other compact strollers. When nap time rolls around, I could simply switch the seat to its reclined position with an adjustable leg rest to create an instant cozy nest for my little one.

There's even a large UV 50 sun canopy to throw a little shade on those sleepy eyes. And my baby wasn't the only one benefiting from the comfortable design― the Metro is the only stroller certified "back healthy" by the AGR of Germany, meaning mamas get a much-needed break too.

I also appreciate how the Metro fits comfortably into my life. The sleek profile fits through narrow store aisles as easily as it slides up to a table when I'm able to meet a pal for brunch. Plus, the spring suspension means the tires absorb any bumps along our way―helping baby stay asleep no matter where life takes us. When it's time to take my daughter out, it folds easily with one hand and has an ergonomic carry handle to travel anywhere we want to go.

Life will probably never be as predictable as I'd like, but at least with our Metro stroller, I know my child will be cradled with care no matter what crosses our path.

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

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It's been more than a year since Khloé Kardashian welcomed her daughter True Thompson into the world, and like a lot of new moms, Khloé didn't just learn how to to be a mom this year, she also learned how to co-parent with someone who is no longer her partner. According to the Pew Research Center, co-parenting and the likelihood that a child will spend part of their childhood living with just one parent is on the rise.

There was a ton of media attention on Khloé's relationship with True's father Tristan Thompson in her early days of motherhood, and in a new interview on the podcast "Divorce Sucks!," Khloé explained that co-parenting with someone you have a complicated relationship with isn't always easy, but when she looks at True she knows it's worth it.

"For me, Tristan and I broke up not too long ago so it's really raw," Khloé tells divorce attorney Laura Wasser on the podcast. She explains that even though it does "suck" at times, she's committed to having a good relationship with her ex because she doesn't want True to pick up on any negative energy, even at her young age.

That's why she invited Tristan to True's recent first birthday bash, even though she knew True wouldn't remember that party. "I know she's going to want to look back at all of her childhood memories like we all do," Khloé explained. "I know her dad is a great person, and I know how much he loves her and cares about her, so I want him to be there."

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We totally get why being around Tristan is hard for Khloé, but it sounds like she's approaching co-parenting with a positive attitude that will benefit True in the long run. Studies have found that shared parenting is good for kids and that former couples who have "ongoing personal and emotional involvement with their former spouse" are more likely to rate their co-parenting relationship positively.

Khloé says her relationship with Tristan right now is "civilized," and hopefully it can get even better with time. As Suzanne Hayes noted in her six guiding principles for a co-parenting relationship, there's no magic bullet for moving past the painful feelings that come when a relationship ends and into a healthy co-parenting relationship, but treating your ex with respect and (non-romantic) love is a good place to start. Hayes describes it as "human-to-human, parent-to-parent, we-share-amazing-children-and-always-will love."

It's a great place to start, and it sounds like Khloé has already figured that out.

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Kim Kardashian West welcomed her fourth child into the world. The expectancy and arrival of this boy (her second child from surrogacy) has garnered much attention.

In a surrogacy pregnancy, a woman carries a pregnancy for another family and then after giving birth she relinquishes her rights of the child.

On her website, Kim wrote that she had medical complications with her previous pregnancy leading her to this decision. “I have always been really honest about my struggles with pregnancy. Preeclampsia and placenta accreta are high-risk conditions, so when I wanted to have a third baby, doctors said that it wasn't safe for my—or the baby's—health to carry on my own."

While the experience was challenging for her, “The connection with our baby came instantly and it's as if she was with us the whole time. Having a gestational carrier was so special for us and she made our dreams of expanding our family come true. We are so excited to finally welcome home our baby girl."

A Snapchat video hinted that Kim may have planned to breastfeed her third child. What she chooses to do is of course none of our business. But is has raised the very interesting question, “Wait, can you breastfeed when you use a surrogate?"

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The answer is yes, you sure can! (And you can when you adopt a baby, too!)

When a women is pregnant, she begins a process called lactogenesis in which her body prepares itself to start making milk. This usually starts around the twenty week mark of pregnancy (half way through). Then, when the baby is born, the second phase of lactogenesis occurs, and milk actually starts to fill the breasts.

All of this occurs in response to hormones. When women do not carry a pregnancy, but wish to breastfeed, they can induce lactation, where they replicate the same hormonal process that happens during pregnancy.

A woman who wants to induce lactation can work with a doctor or midwife, and start taking the hormones estrogen and progesterone (which grow breast tissue)—often in the form of birth control pills—along with a medication called domperidone (which increases milk production).

Several weeks before the baby will be born, the woman stops taking the birth control pill but continues to take the domperidone to simulate the hormonal changes that would happen in a pregnancy. She'll also start pumping multiple times per day, and will likely add herbal supplements, like fenugreek and blessed thistle.

Women can also try to induce lactation without the hormones, by using pumping and herbs, it may be harder but some women feel more comfortable with that route.

Inducing lactation takes a lot of dedication—but then again, so does everything related to be a mama. It's a super personal decision, and not right for everyone.

The important thing to remember is that we need to support women and mothers through their entire journey, no matter what decisions they make about themselves and their families—whether Kardashian or the rest of us.

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