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At the end of 2011, my husband Byron and I were at a crossroad. We'd been together for five years and had one child—a 4-year-old son. In July of that year, we'd eloped to Jamaica. We exchanged vows under a picturesque, white painted gazebo flanked by tropical flowers and palm trees. Our dear friends were with us. The breeze floated through the leaves and the sound of the ocean sailed through the distance.

Our wedding day was a scene from a sappy, rom-com. Eloping was the perfect way for us to make our marriage about us. After all, we did things "backward" by conventional standards. We had a house, life, and child together before tying the knot.

A few months after we returned home, though, the reality the movies don't always show had set in. And when it came down to it, we weren't sure if we wanted to stay together.

We thought waiting so long to get married would ensure we'd go into our contracted partnership with no hesitation. After all, we'd been together long enough to know what each other's best and worst qualities were at that point. We already knew we could parent together. We'd already navigated so many of life's difficulties—losing a parent, job changes, moving-—and we'd done it together.

When my husband and I came to the realization that still, after all we'd experienced together, we were having doubts, we decided action was necessary.

And that is how we found ourselves seated together on a dark brown loveseat in the well-lit office of a marriage and family therapist. Across from us, a woman of medium build with brown eyes and blonde hair that was dark at the root sat with legs crossed and a notepad in her hand. A slight smile on her face. "How about we start with telling me why you've sought out counseling?" she said.

Byron and I looked at each other for a moment, and then back at the counselor. An awkward silence followed, and then I launched into all our perceived problems. I spewed about finances, differences in parenting techniques, lack of intimacy, and a general feeling of disconnectedness. All the while, my husband sat, quiet.

Thus started our journey in couples counseling. We spent two years in therapy and together with our counselor, we tackled each of our issues one at a time.

We learned that Byron and I—each raised by single mothers—were approaching our relationship and its responsibilities from a single parent mentality. Our counselor helped us see that we didn't understand how to treat our relationship as a partnership because we hadn't seen that as children. This mentality affected everything from our finances to our parenting techniques to our communication style.

At the time, I was responsible for paying certain bills, and Byron was responsible for the others. Each month, some bills were delinquent, and the other person wouldn't find out until we received a letter or an email. This was often the source of an argument.

Our counselor handed us a yellow, spiral notebook and told us to write "Byron and Nicole's Finances" on the front. She then instructed us to write down all our bills in the notebook and come up with a budget together. This was the first time we'd done our bills together, and we balked at not thinking of it on our own.

Our counselor dispelled our embarrassment. "How would you know to do this if you'd never seen it growing up?" Her question made so much sense. "Sometimes, it's great to have an outside perspective like me, come in and help you see these things," she continued, "our relationships with each other can cloud our judgment because of the emotional attachment involved, and it's my job to help you see through that."

This put us at ease, and that week, we sat down with our laptop, notebook, and a calendar, and created a budget together. Today, we still sit down at the beginning of each month to discuss our bills and make changes to our budget as needed.

Another area our "single parent" mindset affected was our parenting style. Byron and I had completely different parenting methods in mind, and we often bickered about how we discipline our son. Sometimes, we disagreed in front of our son, which created its own set of problems.

Our therapist helped us see that we were both trying to put in place the parenting strategies we'd learned from our mothers, but we hadn't thought about going to each other to come up with discipline methods together.

Once again, we'd never seen that done. Our mothers didn't answer to anyone else when it came to discipline, so it didn't occur to use to use each other as a sounding board.

Outside our "single parent" mentality, Byron and I faced intimacy issues that transcended the bedroom. He and I weren't connecting at any intimate level. We simply existed in the same household and proceeded with our day-to-day lives, leaving little time for connection with one another. We came home from our respective jobs, tended to our son's needs, and then went our separate ways.

He's a night owl and I'm an early riser. He decompresses by watching television. I prefer reading.

Our counselor taught us that fostering a feeling of connection, especially after several years together and a child, takes work. It wasn't going to be as easy as it was at the beginning of our relationship to make time for each other, and that was normal. This was big news to both of us.

I grew up on a healthy dose of Disney films and societal standards that told me marriage was bliss at all times. What isn't conveyed is how much work goes into keeping a long-term relationship fresh. There is no downtime, and this is something our counselor taught us.

She set us up with little assignments that helped build the connection. One that is still a part of our lives today is "the check-in." Before I go to bed, Byron comes into the room and sits down for about 15 minutes with me. We talk about our day and spend a little time together without electronic devices, or my book, or the television on.

Every now and then, we ask one another if there's anything the other person needs. Am I being attentive enough? Is there something I haven't been doing that you'd like me to do? Is there anything you need from me to show I support you?

These questions keep us accountable to one another and leave little space for animosity to build up because we're being open, honest, and direct with one another.

She also had us complete the quiz in the back of the book, The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. We were then to read about each other's love language. This exercise was pivotal in our relationship. "Couples express love the way they want to receive love, but seldom do two people in a relationship express love in the same ways," our counselor told us.

This was true in mine and Byron's relationship. I'm the touchy-feely type, and Byron wants someone to listen and support him through action. I was trying to show love by holding Byron's hand in public or hugging him more. He was trying to show me love by listening to my woes or supporting my education goals.

What we failed to realize was that we were giving each other what we needed, not what the other person needed.

As a result, Byron started showing me more physical affection, and I started attending his football games to show him I supported his extracurricular activities.

Though we learned much more than even this—these were the big things. We left counseling feeling empowered and thankful that we were able to put our egos aside to mend our relationship.

Quite frankly, marriage counseling is the reason we're still together—and happy—today. Are things perfect? Absolutely not. We can both still be forgetful. There are still arguments and rough patches. Today though, we have a blueprint to fall back on thanks to what we learned in counseling. And I'm proud we took that first step together when we knew we needed to.

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Parents in New Jersey will soon get more money and more time for parental leave after welcoming a baby.

This week New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed off on legislation that extends New Jersey's paid family leave from six weeks to 12.

It also increases the benefit cap from 53% of the average weekly wage to 70%, meaning the maximum benefit for a parent on family leave will be $860 a week, up from $650.

It might not seem like a huge difference, but by raising the benefit from two-thirds of a parent's pay to 85%, lawmakers in New Jersey are hoping to encourage more parents to actually take leave, which is good for the parents, their baby and their family. "Especially for that new mom and dad, we know that more time spent bonding with a child can lead to a better long-term outcome for that child," Murphy said at a press conference this week.

The law will also make it easier for people to take time off when a family member is sick.

Because NJ's paid leave is funded through payroll deductions, workers could see an increase in those deductions, but Murphy is betting that workers and businesses will see the benefits in increasing paid leave benefits. "Morale goes up, productivity goes up, and more money goes into the system," Murphy said. "And increasingly, companies big and small realize that a happy workforce and a secure workforce is a key ingredient to their success."

The new benefits will go into effect in July 2020 (making next Halloween a good time to get pregnant in the Garden State).

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Whether you just need to stock up on diapers or you've had your eye on a specific piece of baby gear, you might want to swing by your local Walmart this Saturday, February 23rd.

Walmart's big "Baby Savings Day" is happening from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at participating Walmarts (but more deals can be found online at Walmart.com already and the website deals are happening for the rest of the month).

About 3,000 of the 3,570 Supercenter locations are participating in the sale (check here to see if your local Walmart is).

The deals vary, but in general you can expect up to 30% off on items like cribs, strollers, car seats, wipes, diapers and formula.

Some items, like this Graco Modes 3 Lite Travel System have been marked down by more than $100. Other hot items include this Lille Baby Complete Carrier (It's usually $119, going for $99 during the sale) and the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat (for as low as $199).

So if you're in need of baby gear, you should check out this sale. Travel gear isn't the only category that's been marked down, there are some steep discounts on breast pumps, too.

Many of the Walmart locations will also be offering samples and expert demos of certain products on Saturday so it's worth checking out!

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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Any Schumer has not had an easy pregnancy. She intended to keep working, but if you follow her on social media you know she's been very sick through each trimester.

And now in her final trimester she's had to cancel her tour due to hyperemesis gravidarum, also known as HG. It's a rare but very serious form of extreme morning sickness, and on Friday evening Schumer announced she is canceling the rest of her tour because of it.

“I vomit every time [I] ride in a car even for 5 minutes," Schumer explained in an Instagram post.

Due to the constant vomiting she's not cleared to fly and just can't continue to the tour.

This is not the first time Schumer has had to make an announcement about HG. Back in November, just weeks after announcing her pregnancy, she had to cancel shows and again broke the news via Instagram.

She posted a photo of herself in a hospital bed with her little dog Tati, and spelled out the details of her health issues in the caption. "I have hyperemesis and it blows," Schumer wrote.

Poor Amy. Hyperemesis gravidarum is really tough.

Kate Middleton, Ayesha Curry and Motherly co-founder Elizabeth Tenety are among those who, like Schumer, have suffered from this form of severe morning sickness that can be totally debilitating.

As she previously wrote for Motherly, Tenety remembers becoming desperately ill, being confined to her apartment (mostly her bed) and never being far from a trash can, "I lost 10% of my body weight. I became severely dehydrated. I couldn't work. I couldn't even get out of bed. I could barely talk on the phone to tell my doctor how sick I was—begging them to please give me something, anything—to help."

Thankfully, she found relief through a prescription for Zofran, an anti-nausea drug.


Schumer probably knows all about that drug. It looks she is getting the medical help she obviously needs, and she was totally right to cancel the tour in order to stay as healthy as possible.

We're glad to see Schumer is getting help, and totally understand why she would have to cancel her shows. Any mama who has been through HG will tell you, that wouldn't be a show you'd want front row seats for anyway.

Get well soon, Amy!

[A version of this post was published November 15, 2018. It has been updated.]

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As a military spouse, Cydney Cooper is used to doing things alone. But when she delivered her twin daughters early after complications due to Influenza A, she was missing her husband Skylar more than ever.

Recovering from the flu and an emergency C-section, and trying to parent the couple's two older boys and be with her new infant daughters in the NICU, Cydney was exhausted and scared and just wanted her husband who was deployed in Kuwait with the Army and wasn't expected home for weeks.

Alone in the NICU 12 days after giving birth, Cydney was texting an update on the twins to her husband when he walked through the door to shoulder some of the massive burden this mama was carrying.

"I was typing up their summary as best I could and trying to remember every detail to tell him when I looked up and saw him standing there. Shock, relief, and the feeling that everything was just alright hit me at once. I just finally let go," she explains in a statement to Motherly.

The moment was captured on video thanks to a family member who was in on Skylar's surprise and the reunion has now gone viral, having been viewed millions of times. It's an incredible moment for the couple who hadn't seen each other since Skylar had a three-day pass in seven months earlier.

Cydney had been caring for the couple's two boys and progressing in her pregnancy when, just over a week before the viral video was taken, she tested positive for Influenza A and went into preterm labor. "My husband was gone, my babies were early, I had the flu, and I was terrified," she tells Motherly.

"Over the next 48 hours they were able to stop my labor and I was discharged from the hospital. It only lasted two days and I went right back up and was in full on labor that was too far to stop."

Cydney needed an emergency C-section due to the babies' positioning, and her medical team could not allow anyone who had previously been around her into the operating room because anyone close to Cydney had been exposed to the flu.

"So I went in alone. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and held my hand through the entire thing but at the same time, I felt very very alone and scared. [Skylar] had been present for our first two and he was my rock and I didn't have him when I wanted him the most. But I did it! He was messaging me the second they wheeled me to recovery. Little did I know he was already working on being on his way."

When he found out his baby girls were coming early Skylar did everything he could to get home, and seeing him walk into the NICU is a moment Cydney will hold in her heart and her memory forever. "I had been having to hop back and forth from our sons to our daughters and felt guilty constantly because I couldn't be with all of them especially with their dad gone. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life and I won't be forgetting it."

It's so hard for a military spouse to do everything alone after a baby comes, and the military does recognize this. Just last month the Army doubled the amount of leave qualifying secondary caregivers (most often dads) can take after a birth or adoption, from 10 days to 21 so that moms like Cydney don't have to do it all alone.

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