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When you aren't partners, but you are co-parents: How to find peace for all

I had been divorced for a couple years when my former husband called with a surprise. Thankfully, it wasn't the type of surprise he delivered the night he sat me at the table and told me he had been unfaithful for more than a decade and was leaving me for someone he met in Las Vegas.

No, this surprise had to do with our 12-year-old son. He said he was taking him to China for a vacation. I got that feeling you get when you walk in on a conversation and everyone is laughing and looking at you like you know what they're talking about.

China?

How had this come about? I searched my memory for some mention of anything remotely Chinese on my son's wish list. Had the two of them been to see the First Emperor's Terracotta Warriors on display at the Field Museum? Or taken a school field trip to Chinatown that I didn't know about?

"Um… that would be cool, I guess," I said, still processing the random nature of his declaration. By the time I gathered my thoughts enough to pose some questions and concerns, he announced that he had bought tickets to travel during a school week and over days that were technically mine on the parenting schedule.

"I can't change it," he said. "If I do, I'll have to pay $1,000 and I know you don't want that."

What I didn't want was to be told what to think or how to feel. An immediate, familiar pressure gripped my chest as I recalled all the activities and decisions that had already occurred behind my back. That he would plan something so extravagant for our son without discussing it with me felt too unfair. I was already struggling with the realities of co-parenting our three children, still getting used to the myriad ways a divorced mom must learn to let go as she is eased out of her job.

After college, I worked as a secretary in London for a few months and learned that, rather than firing people, workers are "made redundant." It means the same thing, but sounds so much nicer. I've been made redundant as a mother—no longer needed or useful in all the ways I once was.

This shows up in small ways:

Tell me about your science project. I don't want to talk about it. I told dad all about it.

Want to see the new Marvel movie? Sorry, mom, we saw it with dad.

Guess what? I got pizza for dinner! (A chorus of groans.) We had pizza two nights in a row with dad!

And in big ways, like feeling helpless and broken during that stretch when my daughter called, in tears, begging to come home every time she was at her dad's. Or having no words of comfort when my boys expressed their anger about their dad's girlfriend moving in.

All of those impotent moments were triggered again by the thought of my son flying halfway around the world without me. I imagined him sleep-deprived and anxious from the long flight, wandering lost in a crowded street market, even starving, thanks to his finicky diet.

Overprotective? Maybe. But once your trust in someone is so completely shattered, how do you patch enough of it together to cover some areas and not others? I believe my kids' dad is, as a parent, loving and devoted. But I believed that about him as a husband, too, and I was wrong.

I don't blame myself for being guarded. I believe that any mother who has ever experienced betrayal would likely volunteer to go through it again rather than see her kids suffer a similar disappointment. At the same time, I have to be careful not to color my kids' experiences with my disappointments. For me, this meant smiling while I packed a suitcase and waved bon voyage to my baby. It also meant feeling genuine happiness when my baby returned unscathed, unperturbed and a little more worldly.

Yes, I have learned some wonderful lessons on this road back from betrayal.

Here are the big three:

1. Respond rather than react

One of the best decisions I made, early in the divorce process, was to treat negotiations as business agreements and relegate them to emails rather than phone calls. That way I can take my time and formulate a clear-headed answer on my timeline. Reacting equals losing power. Responding equals reclaiming power.

2. Have your facts straight

In the case of the China trip, I assumed that my son couldn't be taken out of the country without my permission. But when I checked our parenting agreement, I saw that my former husband only needed written permission from me the first 24 months following the divorce. Wow. That shocked me, but there it was, in black and white. Gathering the facts gave me time to gather my thoughts enough to get clear about my objections and whether they were ones I had a right to make. As galling as it is to have to follow rules with a rule-breaker who broke your heart, do it anyway.

3. Come from a "well-fed" place

This is the juicy center, the meat inside the sandwich. Everything revolves around my ability to get quiet, tune into and take responsibility for my inner world. What are my motivations? Is this about me or my kids? Am I fighting for the sake of fighting? Am I settling an old score? Am I bored, lonely or craving drama? I need to look at whether I'm feeding myself what I need rather than entering into a "hungry" exchange with my former husband.

Of course life, in its perfection, always provides us with opportunities to practice these skills. I had another chance when our daughter turned 13 and her dad decided it was her turn for an extravagant trip—to Thailand. This time I was prepared.

My response? Don't forget your sunscreen. Oh, and bring me back a Buddha.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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Neve Campbell recently went from a mama of one to two when she and her husband, JJ Feild, adopted a baby son they named Raynor.

Raynor is a super unique baby name. While Neve's son shares his name with a garage door manufacturing company and a character from the Starcraft video game, he probably won't share it with anyone in his future elementary school.

So why did Campbell and Feild pick a name that's literally off the Social Security Administration's baby name chart? Well, because his 6-year-old brother's name isn't very common either.

"Our son Caspian has a unique name, I like having a unique name," Campbell explained on a recent episode of Live with Kelly and Ryan. "So we weren't gonna call him Bob because you can't be Bob and Caspian."

Baby name experts agree with Campbell

Linda Rosenkrantz of Nameberry.com previously offered this advice to Motherly readers:

"If you already have children, consider how the new baby's name would blend with the others. I can't imagine Kendyl and Keeley with a brother named Ezekiel."

The Kendyl and Keely in Rosenkrantz's example are the daughters of country star Jason Aldean, whose wife Brittany was expecting this time last year (and is again now).

The Aldeans ended up choosing Memphis as the name for their now 7-month-old baby boy, and while it's not as matchy-matchy as Kendyl and Keely's are, it does seem to flow well alongside them.

The same can be said for Raynor and Caspian.

Campbell was totally right. 'Bob' just wouldn't have been a good fit.

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When model Mara Martin was one of 16 finalists selected to walk in the 2018 Sports Illustrated Swim Search show, she was thrilled to fulfill a lifelong dream. And when she woke up the day after the show to see that she and her baby daughter had made headlines around the world, she was thrilled all over again.

Martin breastfed her 5-month-old daughter Aria while walking in the runway, and the story spread quickly.


"It is truly so humbling and unreal to say the least," Martin wrote in an Instagram post Monday. "I'm so grateful to be able to share this message and hopefully normalize breastfeeding and also show others that women CAN DO IT ALL! But to be honest, the real reason I can't believe it is a headline is because it shouldn't be a headline!!! My story of being a mother and feeding her while walking is just that."

SI Swimsuit Editor MJ Day says the breastfeeding moment wasn't planned in advance, but it worked out wonderfully. Day was speaking with the models backstage when she noticed Aria was peacefully nursing away. Having breastfed her own two children, Day recognized this as a powerful moment in the making, according to SI Swimsuit.

"I asked Mara if she would want to walk and continue to nurse. She said 'Oh my gosh, yes! Really? Are you sure?', and I said absolutely! I loved the idea to be able to allow Mara to keep nursing and further highlight how incredible and beautiful women are," Day explained.

Martin hopes that her moment in the spotlight can help other mamas feel comfortable nursing when and where they feel like it, but she doesn't want to overshadow some of the other women who took part in the show.

"One woman is going to boot camp in two weeks to serve our country," she wrote. "One woman had a mastectomy (@allynrose), and another is a cancer survivor, 2x paralympic gold medalist, as well as a mother herself (@bren_hucks you rock) Those are the stories that our world should be discussing!!!!"

And thanks to Martin's powerful motherhood moment, now, people are.

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Usually when celebrities post swimsuit photos on Instagram they don't exactly look like your average beach-going mom, but former Bachelorette (and mom of two) Ali Fedotowsky posted a series of bikini photos on Monday that are both beautiful and relatable.

"This might be my most vulnerable post on Instagram ever," she wrote in the caption for the photos which show a postpartum belly that looks like a real postpartum belly.

"At the end of the day, I know it's important to be open and honest about my postpartum body in hopes that it helps even one person out there who is struggling with their own body image," Fedotowsky (who just gave birth to her second child in May) wrote.

In the first photo of the series she's wearing a sarong around her stomach, but in the second and third photos Fedotowsky reveals the kind of stomach many mamas sport: It's not perfectly taut, she's not showing off any abs, but it is definity beautiful.

"If you swipe to see the second photo in this post, you see that my body has changed. My skin around my stomach is very loose and stretched out, I'm 15lbs heavier than I used to be, and my cup size has grown quite significantly," Fedotowsky writes.

The photos are a sponsored post for Lilly and Lime Swimwear (a line made for women with larger busts) but that doesn't mean it wasn't brave. In fact, the fact that it's an ad makes it even more amazing because research shows that when advertising only shows us bodies that don't look like our own, women become "generally more dissatisfied with their body and appearance".

Ali Fedotowsky

On her blog Fedotowsky notes that a lot of comments on her previous Instagram posts have been followers remarking how slim she looks, or how much they wish they looked like she does postpartum. By dropping that sarong and showing her tummy Fedotowsky is showing other mothers that there is nothing wrong with their own.

"While I appreciate the positive comments, you guys are always so good to me, I keep trying to explain that I'm just good at picking out clothes that flatter my body and hide my tummy," she wrote on her blog.

"I bounced back pretty quickly after I gave birth to Molly. But things are different this time and I'm OK with that. I'm learning to love my body and embrace how it's changed. I hope I get back to my pre-pregnancy shape one day, but that may never happen. And if it doesn't, that's OK."

Ali Fedotowsky

It is okay, because our bodies are more than our swimsuit selfies. They the vessels that carry us through life and carry our children and provide a safe, warm place for those children feel love.

Loose skin is a beautiful thing.


Thanks for keeping it real, Ali.

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