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Top Chef's Gail Simmons has had an incredibly busy year. Her latest cookbook, "Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating" entered the world not long before her second child, little Kole Jack Abrams, was born in May.

At 42, Simmons is now a mother of two, and spent the last year balancing life with a 4-year-old (daughter Dahlia Rae) and a book tour, TV projects, and a pregnancy she wanted to keep to herself for a while. It's been a busy season for Simmons, who recently scheduled some well-deserved down-time.

She was enjoying a beach vacation with her family when she took the time to speak with Motherly about planning pregnancies, planning book tours, and outsourcing support in the absence of a traditional "village."

On having a second baby

According to Simmons, the decision to have another baby with her husband, Jeremy Abrams, was "sort of planned," because IVF was a factor in both her pregnancies.

"I don't easily get pregnant. That was never my forte. I also decided to get pregnant later in life, in terms of fertility years," she tells Motherly. "So, our second pregnancy was definitely something that I had to think a lot about, and take very specific steps towards, if we wanted to have a second child."

Having a second child wasn't "a given, by any means" for Simmons. She says she definitely knew she wanted one, but wanted to see "how that goes, and how much I can handle." While a lot of families do value having kids close in age, Simmons says she never saw herself taking care of two babies at once.

"To me, in my own head, for my own life, that was never gonna be possible," she explains.

When her daughter was approaching school age, Simmons felt the time was right, and that a four year age gap would give her the bandwidth to revisit the baby days with a second child.

"She's out of diapers. She has her own friends, and life, and she's starting kindergarten in the fall. So, she's in a place where she's a little more independent," she explains. "That was the only way that I could wrap my head around having a second child, was if there was a little space so that I could sort of get myself together, and be a bit more of a whole person before I went through it all again."

On her second first trimester experience

Simmons isn't just a whole person, though, she's also a whole brand. When she and Abrams first started talking about having another child she was right in the middle of writing "Bringing It Home" and by the time she was pregnant she was embarking on a book tour. During her first pregnancy she'd spent her first trimester shooting Top Chef in New Orleans in the middle of summer, an experience she describes as both decent and difficult, in that she wasn't vomiting, but was exhausted and had "mild but consistent queasiness" basically the whole time.

With a book tour itinerary that included 17 flights, and visits to a dozen cities in two months, Simmons worried what it would be like to be pregnant on the road this time around, but the fatigue that plagued her while she was pregnant with Dahlia thankfully did not return.

"The second time around, I was fine. I felt great the whole way through. I did my whole book tour with this little secret, and felt great about it. Then when I got home from the biggest part of the book tour, around Thanksgiving, was right at the end of the first trimester, and I could start telling people," she explains.

So many mothers can relate to the relief one feels in that moment where you finally feel comfortable telling your friends and family that you're expecting, and can finally put on some maternity pants. "I had to buy a lot of new clothes that I hadn't anticipated, just so that I had things to wear on book tour that fit. But, I wasn't full on into maternity clothes, and I didn't want to look pregnant, because no one knew I was pregnant, so I had to be very smart about concealing it. That became a bit of a struggle. But, in the end, I felt great, and it worked out perfectly," Simmons recalls.

On building her own village

These days, Simmons' closet isn't as much of a concern as the bed is. She tells Motherly Kole is a pretty good sleeper, and she and Abrams are more relaxed about his sleeping patterns than they were about Dahlia's, but of course with a new baby in the house, "no one's getting enough sleep, ever, as a new parent."

That's one of the reasons Simmons has been strategic about building a support system for her family in New York City, because her family isn't there and she can't just drive over to Grandma's house for a break when Kole has kept her up at night.

"I realized as soon as I had my daughter how valuable that is. It would've been incredible if I had chosen to live in the same city as my parents or my in-laws, and we would've had built-in support and family, and cousins, and aunts, and all those people. But, we don't," she says, noting that today, a lot of people don't.

"You need hands. You need help. It is so exhausting, and there's so many pieces to it. You can't be alone, and it's very isolating, the experience of early motherhood, those early weeks. So, the second time around, what has been great is we already have a system. We know what to expect, and we have help."

The family already had childcare in place for Dahlia, something that Simmons has been sure to budget for in her quest to "create and outsource" a local support system in NYC. She says it's a big part of her financial planning.

"Sometimes it feels counterintuitive to be making a certain amount of money, and spending it all on childcare. Like, what's the point in working? I could just stay home and save all that money," she explains, adding that there's a lot of trade-offs and reasons why it is so worth it to her. "It's very fraught with layers of back and forth. Mom guilt versus work life, and the career that I spent 20 years creating."

On why moms need support

Simmons says she loves her work, she's proud of it and that it's made her a better mom. "I can show my daughter that I can go and do it for my own mental health, and then can come back and be a mother to my children, too, and be more present when I am."

A Canadian whose career brought her to America, Simmons points out the United States could do better in supporting working mothers, through affordable childcare and parental leave.

"I come from Canada where all of my friends got 365 days off with each of their children, no questions asked. Now, there's also paternity, or co-spouse leave, that would tack on another six months if they wanted. So, those examples are hard to look at when I find that I'm going back to work after just a handful of weeks, which seems insane," she tells Motherly.

"The physical and mental weight of returning to work so quickly after having a child, no matter who you are, and how fraught that is with complicated feeling, not only emotions, but physically...Even in the best case scenarios, childbirth is still really intense, and physically taxing."

Simmons obviously isn't going to take a year of parental leave (she's already back at work in a some capacities), but she is taking time now to prepare herself and her family for the TV projects she has on the horizon.

"Right now, I'm hoping to have a really quiet and lovely summer with my kids, and get to know this little guy who has just come into our lives, and just kind of take care of myself, because that's I think the biggest factor in motherhood," she says.

Rest up Gail. You deserve it.

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As the saying goes, "failing to prepare is preparing to fail," and that seriously applies to parenting. With no fewer than one dozen items to wrangle before walking out the door on an ordinary errand, mamas have plenty on their mind. That is why one of the very best gifts you can give the mamas in your life this year is to reduce her mental load with some gear she can depend on when she's out and about.

Although it may be impossible to guarantee completely smooth outings with kids in tow, here are the items we rely on for making getting out of the house less of a chore.

1. Bugaboo Bee 5 stroller

This stroller is a dream come true for any mama on the go. (Meaning: All of us!) Lightweight, compact and easy to maneuver with just one hand, this is made for navigating busy sidewalks with ease—or just fitting in the trunk without a major wrestling match. It's designed for little passengers to love just as much, too, with a bassinet option for newborn riders that can be easily swapped with a comfy, reclining seat that can face forward or backward for bigger kids.

$699

2. Bugaboo wheel board

This wheel board will let big brother or sister easily hitch a ride on the stroller if their little legs aren't quite up for a full walk. We love the smart details that went into the design, including a slightly offset position so Mom or Dad can walk without bumping their legs. And because toddlers have strong opinions of their own, it's brilliant that the wheel board allows them to sit or stand.

$125

3. Nuby Keepeez cup strap

If you know a little one gearing up for the major leagues with a killer throwing arm, this is a must-have so parents aren't buying new sippy cups on a weekly basis. Perfect for tethering to high chairs, strollers, car seats and shopping carts, it allows Mama to feel confident she'll return home with everything she left with in the first place.

$6.99

4. Bugaboo footmuff

For those mamas who live anywhere where the temps regularly dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, this ultra-soft, comfortable footmuff is a lifesaver. Made with water-repellant microfleece, it keeps little ones dry and cozy—whether there is melting snow, a good drizzle or simply a spilled sippy cup.

$129.95

5. Bugaboo stroller organizer

Because we know #mombrain is no joke, we are all for products that will help us stay organized—especially when out and about. With multiple zipper pockets, a sleek design and velcro straps that help it easily convert to a handbag when stepping away from the stroller, it helps keep essentials from spare diapers to the car keys within reach.

$39.95

6. Bugaboo Turtle car seat

It may be called a car seat, but we love that this one is specifically designed to securely click into a stroller frame, too. (Meaning there is no need to wake up a sleeping baby for a car-to-stroller transfer!) More reasons to love it are the lightweight design, UPF 50+ sun protection shade and Merino wool inlay, meaning it's baby and mama friendly.

$349

7. Chicco QuickSeat hook-on chair

This hook-on baby chair will almost certainly earn a spot on your most-used list. Perfect for dining out or simply giving your baby a space to sit, it's portable and beyond easy to install. (Plus, it's a great alternative to those questionably clean high chairs at many restaurants!)

$57.99

8. Bugaboo stroller cup holder

Chasing after kids when out and about can work up a thirst, just like neighborhood strolls in the chillier months can get, well, chilly. So we love that this cup holder will help mama keep something for herself to drink close at hand. Designed to accommodate bottles of all sizes and easy to click onto any compatible stroller, it's a perfect stocking stuffer.

$29.95

9. Bugaboo soft wool blanket

Fair warning with this luxe stroller blanket: It's so cozy that you might want to buy another one for yourself! Made with Merino wool that helps it stand up to any elements parents might encounter during an outing, it will help baby stay warm during the winter and cool enough as the temps start to pick up.

$109.95

10. Munchkin silicone placemats

Made to roll and stow in a diaper bag, these silicone placemats will make dining out a (relatively) less messy experience. With raised edges that will help contain spills and a grippy bottom, they will stay in place on tables so that parents might be able to enjoy their own meals, too.

$8.99

11. Bugaboo Breezy seat liner

Designed to keep baby warm when it's cool and cool when it's warm, this seat liner will minimize fusses during all seasons—which is one of the very best gifts you can give a mama. Because accidents of all types can happen on the go, we also love that this seat liner is reversible! With a number of colors, it's also a fun way to help a stroller to stand out at the playground.

$79.95

12. OXO Tot Handy stroller hook

If you ever catch yourself thinking it would be nice to have another hand, these stroller clips are the next-best solution for when you are out and about. Perfect for lugging a bag or anchoring a cup, you'll want a set for every stroller you own.

$14.99

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

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New mama Shay Mitchell is the latest celeb to prove that breastfeeding can be so glam.

Eleven months after Rachel McAdams' viral breast pumping photo from her Girls Girls Girls shoot, Michell posted her own a gorgeous portrait she captioned "Breast friends."

The pun is so intended and Shay obviously intends to normalize breastfeeding.

Shay isn't the only celeb to follow in McAdam's footsteps.

Earlier this year Hilary Duff posted an Instagram shot comparing her own pumping moment to McAdams'. In the black and white photo she's seen using a manual breast pump while wearing a parka and a disposable plastic hair cap (it looks like she's getting her hair done).

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With plastic wrap on her head and a towel draped over her shoulders she looks a lot less glam than McAdams did in diamonds and Versace, but that's kind of the point.

"Am I doing this right?" Duff captioned a comparison of the shots.

Yes, mama. You're doing this right.

Whether you've got a Willow tucked into your ball gown like Nicole Phelps did, or are going hands-free with a double electric pump like McAdams, or are nursing in a Target dressing room like Jessica Alba did, or are feeding your baby a bottle full of formula (Alba did that, too), you're doing this right.

We don't all look like movie stars when we're living this mom life, but Duff reminds us that movie stars don't always look like that either.

Sometimes, they (and we) look like multitasking mamas, and it's okay to laugh about it together.

[A version of this story was first posted January 4, 2019. It has been updated.]

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Vogue cover star Ashley Graham has received a lot of advice about pregnancy from some pretty famous friends. Since the moment she announced her pregnancy in August, Ashley Graham has been sharing gorgeous pictures of her body's evolution. But as we all know pregnancy is just the teeniest sliver of the iceberg that is motherhood, and there have been a whole lot of mothers eager to tell her so.

In the new issue of Vogue, the supermodel and some of her famous friends share the advice they've been giving the mom-to-be.

"Now all anyone wants to talk to me about is being pregnant," said Graham, who is due to have her baby boy with husband Justin Ervin in January. "There's just this camaraderie. It's a secret society that I didn't know about."


While most of us don't take too kindly to unsolicited parenting advice, we might feel a little differently if Serena Williams was texting it to us.

Here are some of the choice bits of motherhood wisdom Graham has received:

Kim Kardashian: Pregnancy is harder than giving birth (but every mama has her own journey)

"Ashley, the pregnancy may be the hardest part, but the birth is the easiest," Kim Kardashian told Graham at Williams' fashion show this September.

Kim has had famously hard, complicated pregnancies, so that was her experience, but not every mother feels this way. For some pregnancy would rank as easier, while some would say that birth wasn't even as hard as the postpartum recovery.

Every mama's journey is different.

Jordan Foster: Friends make pregnancy and motherhood easier

Graham said she had a hard time during the first four months when she was keeping her pregnancy a secret and her body was going through all its crazy hormonal changes. "I felt like I didn't have anyone to talk to. I was gaining weight rapidly. And I felt alone. And the one piece of advice that my stylist, Jordan Foster, gave me was: Make pregnant friends. None of my friends were in relationships, let alone pregnant. And now I have nine pregnant friends."

We're so happy that Ashley found nine fellow mamas to connect with. Jordan gives good advice!

Serena Williams: It's okay to be scared

Serena Williams told Graham that it's okay to be afraid, there's a lot happening when your body transforms during pregnancy. It's okay to have moments when you admit that there is a lot going on.

"I was one of those people who wanted to know every ugly detail of what happens . . . down there . . . what happens everywhere," Serena Williams told Vogue of her conversations with Graham. "Like, why are my nipples so big a week into being pregnant? This makes no sense; the baby doesn't need to eat yet. I wanted to know every single thing, and I still love talking about it. Because I feel like it's important to kind of change the narrative and be like, it's normal to feel scared, and not be one of those women who are like, 'Oh, it's so great!' Just be scared out of your mind. That's normal."

Serena Williams: Don't compare yourself to other postpartum mamas 

Not that Graham, of all people, is prone to thinking her body should look like everyone else's, but Williams wanted to reiterate this. "I had a little problem with the lies of girls on Instagram—like, coming out of the hospital holding the baby and . . . you know . . . looking thinner than before," Williams said. "That's not happening to me! That's one thing I've learned, and the thing I tell Ashley: Everybody—literally every body—is different. You might jump back in an hour. I didn't."

Amy Schumer: You'll get why parents are so excited to give advice.

Amy Schumer understands a thing or two about the unsolicited advice people offer to pregnant mamas and new parents, but now that she's got a few months of parenthood under her belt she also understands why parents offer it. It often comes from a good place, even if the timing isn't great.

"People are so in your face when you're pregnant because they're so f---ing excited for you. And you don't get it. You can't possibly get it. And then after you've had a baby you're like, 'Oh, I get it!'," Amy Schumer said she told Graham.

But Schumer also told Graham she's gonna hold herself back from offering unsolicited advice, but reminded Graham that she's only a phone call away if the new mama does ever want to hear Schumer's suggestions.

Graham is taking all this advice in, while "not putting too much pressure on myself" she said.

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There's nothing Beyoncé can't do, at least as far as we can see. From dropping record-breaking albums to starring in movies to dominating stadium tours, the woman seems almost superhuman. But even Beyoncé can admit that working motherhood is really, really hard. She recently opened up about her struggles—and we never thought we'd say this—but we kind of feel like we can relate to Beyoncé.

The superstar recently opened up about everything from body image to hitting up Target in a brand new interview. But here's what we're taking away form the conversation: Beyoncé's raw, confessional comments about juggling motherhood and career.

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"I think the most stressful thing for me is balancing work and life," Beyoncé tells Elle when asked what stresses her out. "Making sure I am present for my kids—dropping Blue off at school, taking Rumi and Sir to their activities, making time for date nights with my husband, and being home in time to have dinner with my family—all while running a company can be challenging."

Say it louder, Beyoncé! It's crazy to hear that even the most iconic celebrity of all worries about things like school drop off. Admittedly, we don't know exactly what Bey's juggle looks like. We have no idea what it feels like to be trailed by the paparazzi or sell out stadiums or have access to absolutely everything money can buy. But here's what we do understand: The incredible pressure that comes with trying to fit too many things into too few hours, and the feeling that we wish we could be multiple places at once.

Something else we can relate to? Beyoncé's feelings about her body and its evolution over the years. "If someone told me 15 years ago that my body would go through so many changes and fluctuations, and that I would feel more womanly and secure with my curves, I would not have believed them," she says. "But children and maturity have taught me to value myself beyond my physical appearance and really understand that I am more than enough no matter what stage I'm at in life."

Amen to that, Mama!

And most relatable of all is this answer she provided. When a fan asked, "With all the hats you wear (chairwoman, global entertainer) and all the titles we give you (Queen, Yoncé), which brings you the greatest joy?" via email, here's what Queen B had to say: "Being Blue, Rumi, and Sir's mom."

We feel this so hard. And it's so gratifying to see that even Beyoncé—with all the massive, unprecedented things she's accomplished—knows that when it comes right down to it, nothing compares to being a mama.

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It's so interesting how the popularity of baby names ebb and flow over time. Think about the most popular names when you were growing up—chances are, you probably don't see too many new babies being given those monikers in 2019. Khaleesi overtook Brittany in terms of popularity, for example.

But if you're noticing that names like Charlotte, Henry and Amelia seem to appear in a lot of your friends' birth announcements, you're onto something: These are three of the most popular names from 2019.

BabyNames.com has released a list of the top baby names of this year, and you may find a few of them (but not necessarily all of them!) a little surprising. 2018's biggest boy name, Atticus, dropped off the top 10 list. Also missing from this list? Sophia, the beautiful female name that has dominated on a global scale in previous years.

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But some names have held their popularity: Liam, Owen, Olivia and Violet are a few of the names that trended both last year and this year.

RANK

BOYS

GIRLS

1

Liam

Charlotte

2

Oliver

Amelia

3

Theodore

Violet

4

Declan

Aria/Arya

5

Henry

Aurora

6

Owen

Ava

7

Finn

Olivia

8

Caleb

Vivienne

9

Emmett

Hazel

10

Benjamin

Nora

The top name for baby boys probably won't come as a surprise to most. It's Liam, which has been a consistent powerhouse for a few years now. It's easy to see why—Liam is one of those names that everyone just loves. With that being said, if you're hoping to avoid giving your child a very common name, you may want to cross this one off the list, along with Oliver and Theodore (these were the top three boys' names). And if you're expecting a girl, forget about Charlotte, Amelia and Violet, which took the three top spots.

"It seems there is definitely a royal influence to baby names this year," says BabyNames.com founder and CEO, Jennifer Moss. "Both Liam and Charlotte are linked directly to the British Royal Family. Liam is a shorter version of the name William, like the Duke of Cambridge, and Charlotte is the name of his daughter."

Classic names that have always been incredibly popular are expected to become less common as well. "For 2020 and beyond we see some traditional Biblical names like David, Michael, and Luke dropping off the top 100. This is almost unprecedented," says Moss. "Those are being replaced with more unique Biblical names like Josiah, Gabriel, and Elijah."

Expect lots of nods to nature and flowers to become more popular in common years, with names like Violet, Iris, Juniper, Rose, Daisy and Dahlia gaining speed. Want to see how your child's name stacks up? Check out the full list of 2019's top baby names at BabyNames.com.

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