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Deciding to start a family is a huge, life-altering decision, and for couples who need to use in vitro fertilization, that decision all too often comes with a huge, life-altering price tag.

As a same-sex couple, Texans Ashleigh and Bliss Coulter knew they would need to turn to IVF to start a family, and thanks to some new developments in reproductive technology, they were not only able to both carry their baby at different stages of pregnancy, but also save money and time in the IVF process.

The Coulters made international headlines this fall when news broke that they had both carried their son, Stetson (now 4 months old) thanks to a procedure called effortless IVF, and the INVOcell device, a small medical device that basically uses a woman's vagina as an incubator.

"I wanted to have a child that was biologically mine, but I didn't want to carry the child," Bliss tells Motherly. Her wife, Ashleigh (seen above holding Stetson), did want to be pregnant.

It's common for same-sex couples to turn to reciprocal IVF (also called "shared motherhood") when one woman wants a biological child but her partner wants to be the one to be pregnant. Reciprocal IVF sees one partner's eggs fertilized and then implanted in her spouse's body.

It doesn't come cheap (costs per IVF cycle range between $16,000 and $30,000, according to WinFertility), but for some couples, it is the perfect way to start a family.

The Coulters knew that's what they wanted, but when they heard about the work Drs. Kathy and Kevin Doody of the Center for Assisted Reproduction (CARE Fertility) were doing, they wondered if the method the Doodys pioneered, effortless IVF, could allow them to add a layer to their reciprocal IVF plan—and remove the need for a laboratory incubator by using Bliss' own body.

When the couple met with Dr. Kathy Doody to inquire about whether effortless IVF with the INVOcell device could be used in reciprocal IVF, they were thrilled to hear the doctor say she couldn't see why not. "We've done close to 200 effortless IVF cycles with heterosexual couples," Dr. Doody tells Motherly. "But this is a special opportunity that same-sex couples can share in."

Dr. Doody and her husband are passionate about helping more couples (both same-sex and heterosexual) access IVF by reducing the costs associated with the procedure. The effortless IVF method makes things more affordable by reducing sonogram and monitoring appointments and by using the patient's health, age, and weight to determine the dosage of medication (which reduces the costs of the medication and eliminates the need for appointments for medication adjustments).

"I think the onus rests on us as physicians, it is our obligation to figure out ways to help as many patients as we can rather than just stick to a very confined model of what we think IVF should be," Dr. Doody says.

"The way the cost is less is just not with the device. There are fewer visits, there's no blood work during their IVF cycle, [and] they have a fixed dosing protocol," she explains.

For the Coulters, having fewer costly appointments than are required with traditional IVF was a great bonus, but the fact that Bliss got to carry the embryo that would be implanted in Ashleigh was even better, and actually easier than they expected.

Regarding the INVOcell device, Bliss tells Motherly "there was no side effects, it didn't hurt at all. I continued to ride my horses like I do, and so that was pretty cool. That kind of took me by surprise in a good way."

After the embryo that would become Stetson was done incubating in Bliss and moved to Ashleigh, another welcome surprise came along. Although Dr. Doody seemed super confident about the likelihood of success, somewhere in the back of her mind Ashleigh has worried that it wouldn't work. "It was something that had never been done, honestly," she tells Motherly. "I was so shocked that it happened on the first try. I think that was the biggest thing for me."

The first time she felt Stetson kick, it all became more real. Finally, she and Bliss were going to be parents. A shared conception experience followed by an uncomplicated pregnancy and the birth of a healthy baby boy. It was an absolute dream come true.

Both the Coulters and Dr. Doody tell Motherly they hope the story of Stetson's conception not only helps same-sex couples share in the IVF experience, but that it also makes IVF more accessible to all couples who are working within a budget or live far from an IVF clinic.

As Dr. Doody points out, there are places in America where there isn't an IVF clinic in the entire state, and Bliss says that with the minimal appointments she and Ashleigh experienced, she could see effortless IVF being a good option for people who live far from a clinic and need to keep out-of-state appointments to a minimum.

"The concept of effortless IVF is to make IVF more accessible to more patients," says Dr. Doody. Whether that means making reciprocal IVF a more shared experience for two mamas or reducing the burden of the investment on couples in general, she's keen to help more families experience the life-altering results of IVF with a less life-altering price tag.

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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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When Anastacia Gencarelli shared the story of how her 2-year-old daughter ended up being hospitalized for milk anemia she was not trying to scare anyone—she just wanted other parents to know that "milk anemia is a thing"because she didn't.

But when her Facebook post went viral and the headlines were super scary that didn't quite tell the whole story.

"Toddler who was nearly killed by COW'S MILK," the Daily Mail's headline reads.

Yes, Gencarelli's 2-year-old daughter Mia was hospitalized after drinking too much milk, but it is more complicated than that, we have learned.

Here is what you need to know about this viral story + milk anemia.

As Gencarelli explained in her original Facebook post, she shared her story to spread awareness of the existence of milk anemia. While it is well documented that overconsumption of milk can have a negative effect on a toddler's iron levels, it's not something all parents know.

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Basically, cow's milk is not a high iron food and what iron it does contain is not well absorbed. So if a child stops consuming breastmilk and/or iron-fortified formula or cereal and starts drinking a lot of cow's milk without adding other sources of iron, they're at risk for anemia.

Anemia can be treated or prevented with supplements, but the preferred method of prevention is through iron-rich foods. "Ideally, we would prevent iron deficiency and iron-deficiency anemia with a diet consisting of foods that are naturally rich in iron," Dr. Robert Baker, co-author of an American Academy of Pediatrics report on the prevention of iron deficiency and iron-deficiency anemia has previously explained.

"Feeding older infants and toddlers foods like meat, shellfish, legumes and iron-rich fruits and vegetables, as well as iron-fortified cereals and fruits rich in vitamin C, which help iron absorption, can help prevent iron deficiency," he said.

Gencarelli tells Motherly her daughter was drinking 4 to 6 bottles of cow's milk a day and that while she's not a particularly picky eater she is not a huge fan of meat.

Doctors recommend toddlers consume 2.5 servings of dairy per day, and a study in the journal Pediatrics found 2 cups a day is the best amount of milk for toddlers.

"We saw that two cups of cow's milk per day was enough to maintain adequate vitamin D levels for most children, while also maintaining iron stores. With additional cow's milk, there was a further reduction in iron stores without greater benefit from vitamin D," Dr. Jonathon Maguire, a pediatrician at St. Michael's Hospital and the lead author of the study has previous explained.

As reported by CBC, drinking from a bottle rather than a cup is linked to a more dramatic decrease in toddler's iron stores. It's possible that serving milk in a bottle contributes to parental underreporting of milk consumption. Parents might not even realize that milk is keeping their child full, which makes it hard to get iron rich foods into them.

So what can parents do to prevent milk anemia?

If you are concerned your child may be anemic talk to your doctor right away and consider offering more iron-rich foods at home.

Kacie Barnes, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), tells Motherly that while extreme cases like the one described by Gencarelli are not common, mild iron deficiency is common. That's why she recommends serving meat, as it contains the best absorbed type of iron.

"Even babies can eat ground or soft cooked, tender meats. Think crockpot, stewed, or braised," says Barnes, who recommends chili as a family-friendly iron-rich meal (just keep the salt and the spicy stuff out of your little one's serving).

She continues: "Beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas contain iron, so I encourage parents of babies and toddlers to serve those often, especially if their little one doesn't eat much (or any) meat. Vitamin C boosts iron absorption, so it's helpful to serve iron rich foods alongside fruit or veggies like citrus, strawberries, or broccoli. Another helpful trick: Cook with a cast iron pan. Small amounts of iron do absorb into food when you cook with it—and this is a good thing!"

The bottom line:

It's important to remember that Gencarelli's story is the story of her individual child, who is currently undergoing further medial care to deal not just with the anemia, but other issues that presented afterward. When her daughter is discharged from the hospital Gencarelli will be continuing to serve iron supplements and says her medical team has provided her with some iron-rich recipes.

Her post went viral not because she was trying to scare anyone away from milk, but because she was trying to save other mamas from being as scared as she was when her little girl got sick. You only know what you know, and now that she knows her daughter was consuming too much milk she plans to serve fewer servings.

We hope that Mia has a quick recovery and we're thankful that Gencarelli shared her story online. Her family is in a lot of pain right now (something made worse by the many mean comments she's received about her daughter's milk consumption) and she just wants to prevent other families from feeling that pain, too.

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Temperatures are dropping, Christmas decorations are flooding the shelves, and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. But take a break from prepping for the holidays, mama, and check out the headlines that made waves this week.

Here at Motherly we know mamas are busy, so we make sure to keep track of everything you may have missed on the Internet this week.

There are the viral stories making Team Motherly smile right now:

This judge went viral for supporting a new mom + new lawyer in the most wonderful way

Juliana Lamar just accomplished something major: She graduated law school and was sworn into the Tennessee bar...and she did it all while raising her 1-year-old son. Doing all of this at the same had to have been incredibly difficult, but oh so rewarding. She celebrated her incredible achievements as a working mother in the most special way, thanks to a wonderful judge.

Judge Richard Jinkins encouraged the mama to bring her son along when she was sworn into the state bar, and he even held on the little boy while his mother recited her oath. Not surprisingly, the incredibly sweet video of the judge carrying the 1-year-old as he watched his mother officially become a lawyer has gone viral.

"On the day of my swearing-in, right before we began, Judge said he wanted Beckham to take part in the moment," Lamar, who counts the judge as a major inspiration and supporter, tells Buzzfeed. "And I am so glad he did because to have my son take part in one of the greatest moments of my life was truly a blessing."

Lamar's colleague shared footage of the incredibly sweet incident. "Y'all. Judge Dinkins of the Tennessee Court of Appeals swore in my law school colleague with her baby on his hip, and I've honestly never loved him more," a tweet from the colleague reads. "She's one of four women in our class who became moms while in law school. Women are amazing."

Why this refreshingly honest birth plan from Reddit is going viral

Pregnant people talk a lot about birth plans. You might even type out a few different versions before settling on the one you want to show your medical team. But the thing is, even if you spend months planning out the perfect birth plan, things can change so quickly.

That's why the internet is loving this birth plan that was uploaded to Reddit. The person who typed this up is so realistic, so honest and so authentically advocating for herself.

"I don't have a plan," reads the first bullet point.

"I've never done this before," she notes in the second.

"I have no idea what I am doing," she explains in the third bullet.

So many first time mamas can relate to this feeling, and also to a passage that is highlighted.

It reads: "I am not trying to be a hero! Please assume that I want every option available to me for pain management and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let me know in real and update time if any of the pain management options are nearing the point where they are no longer available to me as I progress through labor."

This is a mama who knows herself and also knows that birth plans can change so quickly.

Mom's photo of laundry Christmas tree goes viral on Instagram 

sincerelymumsy

Australian mom and Instagrammer Jessi Roberts (aka @sincerelymumsy) is going viral this week thanks to her hilarious Christmas tree hack.

Instead of dealing with her laundry, this genius mama made it into festive decor.

It actually happened last year, when Roberts family was about to go on a trip. "Last years Christmas tree 🤣 We where going away for 2 weeks and I couldn't and didn't have time to do the washing... so Like any creative person... I improvise 💁🏼♀️ I left it up for 2 weeks... @thebaysidedentist [Roberts' partner] wasn't impressed," she writes on Instagram.

Roberts' original caption back in 2018 was equally hilarious: "The best way to avoid doing the washing - turn it into a Christmas tree," she wrote. "It's free. I'll wash this after Christmas or maybe the 'elf on the shelf' can help me."

This is a Christmas decor hack we can totally see catching on.

A FB moms group help this baby get a liver—and went viral for it 

Moms groups on the internet sometimes get an unfair reputation. You say "Facebook moms group" and people often imagine an online space where mom shaming is common, and while that may be true in some instances, these communities are more often sources of support, not shame.

No story highlights this better than Robin Bliven's. When she posted about how her private group ended up connecting mamas and getting a liver for a baby boy who needed one, the story made national headlines and proved how supportive these groups can be. Internet communities are real communities, and some are amazing places to be.

"You can talk smack about mom groups on Facebook all you want... but don't talk smack about mine, because we crowd sourced a freaking organ," Bliven wrote on Facebook.

When one member of the Facebook group, Beth Rescsanski, learned her baby, Cal, needed a liver transplant over 100 moms in the group were screened to see if they were potential donors. That's 100 fellow parents who were willing to have surgery for someone else's baby. That's the definition of a supportive community!

In the end, single mom Andrea Alberto was a match and donated part of her own liver to baby Cal. The mom of two says it wasn't hard choice.

"I knew organ donation was something I would be willing to do, so when I found out Cal was being listed for transplant, it was a very easy decision," Alberto told TODAY Parents."If there is someone in need and there is something you can reasonably do to help them, why wouldn't you do it? I like to think that if it was one of my kids in need, someone from my extended network would step in to help."

American Girl celebrates diversity by including model with Down syndrome

The American Girl dolls taught a generation about history and showed children reflections of themselves in an era where diverse dolls were hard to come by. Now, in 2019, the company continues to highlight diversity and give children the representation they crave. This can be seen in the new holiday catalog where 4-year-old Ivy Kimble is among the young models.

"There's not a lot of print or media with a lot of kids with Down syndrome," her mom Kristin Kimble told WLS-TV.

Kimble told Today she's so proud of Ivy, and so happy that American Girl is celebrating all girls. "I'm so proud of Ivy," Kimble says. "She's showing the world, 'Look at me, I'm here. I'm doing it. I'm an American Girl.'"

Gal Gadot perfectly captures our feelings about motherhood in this viral Instagram post 

You never really understand the meaning of the phrase "time flies" until you become a parent. Another thing you don't quite understand until you welcome your children? How deep your capacity to love really is. Actress Gal Gadot just nailed both of those ideas in a single social media post.

The famous mama shared a note to her daughter, Alma, on her eighth birthday. "I'm so lucky to be your mother. Thank you for teaching me so much about life without even knowing you are and for giving me the most precious title I could ever ask for. I promise I'll do anything for you, love and protect you forever," she wrote in the Instagram post.

The mama continued: "Just please, don't grow up so fast," she writes. "Take your time. I can't believe you're 8 already . Love you to the moon through all galaxies double the number of grain of sand in the universe."

ALL. THE. FEELS. Hasn't she just perfectly captured what it feels like to watch your children grow?

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As a business person, Aston Kutcher did better than anyone ever expected the kid from That 70's Show to do, and his wife and former co-star, Mila Kunis has also made a ton of money—she's among the highest-paid actresses of her generation. These two are wildly successful and they recognize how privileged their kids are because of it, but they have a plan to teach their children work ethic. Kutcher explained the plan last year on an episode of Dax Shepard's podcast Armchair Expert.

"My kids are living a really privileged life, and they don't even know it," he told Shepard. "And they'll never know it, because this is the only one that they'll know."

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He goes on to explain how he and Kunis don't plan to create trust funds for the kids and want to put their wealth into philanthropic efforts instead. "I'm not setting up a trust for them. We'll end up giving our money away to charity and to various things," he said.

According to Kutcher, the only way his two kids are getting money from him is if they come to dad with a good business plan. If they do that, he'll be happy to invest in their vision. "I want them to be really resourceful. Hopefully they'll be motivated to have what they had, or some version of what they had," he explained.

We all want our kids to be successful, but sometimes too much help can stunt their growth. It's good to hear Kutcher and Kunis are so dedicated to making sure their children understand the value of money and can stand on their own two feet.


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An experiment at Microsoft's Japan headquarters over the summer has given new proof to advocates of the shorter work week. With the office closed on Fridays, productivity actually rose by 40%, NPR reports.

If Microsoft is finding success with a 4-day workweek, could it work for other companies? And would it work for working parents?

In 2018, a company that does will and trust management in New Zealand conducted a similar experiment, paying employees for 40 hours while requiring them to work only 32. They found that productivity stayed the same, but employees reported being more satisfied with their job, feeling less stressed and having a better work-life balance. Again and again, social scientists and economists are making the case that more isn't more when it comes to time spent at work. Reducing hours even has benefits to the environment, resulting in less commuting, and it can lower energy costs for businesses that don't have to maintain lights and climate control in an empty office.

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For working parents, cutting a day off the week could reduce the cost of childcare, not to mention increase the amount of time we could spend with our kids. Throw in the possibility of an alternating schedule with a spouse or partner and you might only have to pay for three days of care.

Some experts are hopeful the 4-day workweek will spread. "Hopefully, it gains traction," Eddy Ng, a professor of management at Bucknell University in Pennslyvania told Global News. "I think it's good for productivity, it's good for mental health and it forces us to rethink how we do work."

However, a 4-day week might not be the best solution for parents of school-age kids as employees would be working longer hours each day, which could interfere with after-school pick up and childcare.

It's not a one-size-fits-all solution, but this has the potential to be a part of a change in work culture. Work-life balance reforms need to happen, and we need companies to be flexible and innovative to make life easier for working parents. A 4-day work week is one great idea, but parents also need increased flexibility, and more understanding from coworkers and bosses, no matter how many days per week we're spending in the office.

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