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These powerful viral photos are changing the conversation about pregnancy and infant loss

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Dana Dewedoff-Carney has a beautiful family. On paper, she's a mom of three. But in her heart, she has five children. She's had two miscarriages, one last year at five weeks, and another this past summer.

"I lost our son in June. I was 14 weeks pregnant, but he had passed away at 12," she tells Motherly, explaining that she and her husband had already named their boy Benjamin.

He never got a chance to live in this world, but he is changing it. His mama is the force behind Project Benjamin, a photo series that is going viral and changing the way people talk about pregnancy and infant loss.


Dewedoff-Carney started Rise for Women, a New Jersey-based organization dedicated to empowering women and connecting them with the resources they need to thrive. Rise for Women was born out of a painful time for Dewedoff-Carney. She was a single mom of three, and she was struggling, although from the outside she looked fine.

After launching Rise for Women Dewedoff-Carney created the hashtag #StruggleDoesNotHaveALook, which took on a whole new meaning this year after she and her now husband lost their babies. She came up with another hashtag, #TheyMatterToo, to remember them, and invited other moms to join in a photo session.

Each mother had her portrait taken with a chalkboard bearing a phase that someone told her after her miscarriage.

In Dewedoff-Carney's case, a doctor who perhaps meant to be kind told her the baby she lost "was the wrong baby." Other women in the photo series were told they could always adopt, or that they should be happy with the children they already have. Dewedoff-Carney says sometimes people don't realize how much their words cut those suffering a loss.

"I know people are not saying these things to be malicious and hurt us, but if they could just be a support and say, 'I am so sorry for your loss, I'm here for you,' that is so helpful," she explains.

Experts agree. Jessica McCormack is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice at The Self Care Path in Burr Ridge, Illinois. She says parents who've suffered a pregnancy loss don't need people to try to offer solutions or minimize their grief, but just to validate it.

"You aren't trying to fix their emotions, you are simply stating, 'I hear you, that was so hard for you, this really sucks right now.' No need to fix, no need to tell someone it will be okay. It's a time to just give a hug and tell them it's okay to feel how they feel. This often creates comfort just by knowing someone is there for you," she tells Motherly, adding that it is totally normal for parents to struggle after a loss.

"It's a completely normal experience to have a bunch of grief, sadness, depression, anxiety, shame, guilt and jealousy of others with healthy successful pregnancies," McCormack explains.


For Dewedoff-Carney, that's exactly what Project Benjamin is all about. She says too often conversations about the feelings one has after a miscarriage or infant death are happening behind closed doors or in private Facebook groups. She hopes her photo series will help people realize they're not alone, and that the woman down the street (or on Instagram) who seems to have it all may be suffering herself.

By having a very public conversation about pregnancy loss, Dewedoff-Carney and her fellow moms are hoping more people will understand what they're going through, and not try to minimize it.

Ashlyn Biedebach is a Registered Nurse and founder of By The Brook Birth Doula. She says "when a woman suffers a loss, at any gestational age, it is truly a loss, not just of a baby, but of hope and an idea of the future."

Biedebach suggests if parents who've suffered a loss encounter loved ones who don't seem to be recognizing their baby, they try to give them some grace, but that doesn't mean you have to pretend it didn't happen.

"Well-meaning family members may intentionally choose to move past painful experiences, even if you are still deep in the grief of the loss of your baby. Bringing up your loss in a gentle way, or having an intentional conversation with those who are moving on can help, but also talking with a counselor, too."

As a therapist, McCormack agrees. "Since it's roughly 1 in 4 women that have a pregnancy that ends in miscarriage, women need support," she tells Motherly, recommending that women who've had a loss talk to their OB-GYN or family physician and ask if there are any support groups in their community.

If your doctor doesn't refer you to a support group you can find a therapist yourself. McCormack suggests women simply search the psychologytoday.com therapist directory by entering their zip code along with the keywords "miscarriage" and "fertility." The therapy doesn't have to be just for mom, either. Sometimes dads need to talk, too.

"I also encourage couples to go to therapy after something like this, as men tend to feel lost and uncertain as to how to process their own feelings while supporting their partner," says McCormack.

Both McCormack and Biedebach agree that talking about this kind of loss, whether in person or over social media, is important. Biedebach says, for some parents, honoring their baby through a social media post is their way of remembering and recognizing their importance. McCormack notes that a social media post can also be a good way to invite a larger quantity of people to support you in your time of need.

"It also reduces the stigma by bringing to light that it is completely normal for women to experience something like this," she explains.

That's Dewedoff-Carney's goal, and while she can't travel the county photographing mothers herself, she's inviting anyone to join the conversation by taking their own photo, sharing their story and using the hashtags #StruggleDoesNotHaveALook and #TheyMatterToo. Since her photos went viral, women have been commenting and sharing their stories publicly, and it's brought Dewedoff-Carney to tears.

"They're naming the children that they lost," she explains. "They're doing that, they're speaking their truth, and they're letting it out."

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As mamas, we naturally become the magic-makers for our families. We sing the songs that make the waits seem shorter, dispense the kisses that help boo-boos hurt less, carry the seemingly bottomless bags of treasures, and find ways to turn even the most hum-drum days into something memorable.

Sometimes it's on a family vacation or when exploring a new locale, but often it's in our own backyards or living rooms. Here are 12 ways to create magical moments with kids no matter where your adventures take you.


1. Keep it simple

Mary Poppins may be practically perfect in every way, but―trust us―your most magical memories don't require perfection. Spend the morning building blanket forts or break out the cookie cutters to serve their sandwich in a fun shape and you'll quickly learn that, for kids, the most magical moments are often the simplest.

2. Get on their level

Sometimes creating a memorable moment can be as easy as getting down on the floor and playing with your children. So don't be afraid to get on your hands and knees, to swing from the monkey bars, or turn watching your favorite movie into an ultimate snuggle sesh.

3. Reimagine the ordinary

As Mary says, "the cover is not the book." Teach your child to see the world beyond initial impressions by encouraging them to imagine a whole new world as you play―a world where the laundry basket can be a pirate ship or a pile of blankets can be a castle.

4. Get a little messy

Stomp in muddy puddles. Break out the finger paint. Bake a cake and don't worry about frosting drips on the counter. The messes will wait, mama. For now, let your children―and yourself―live in these moments that will all too soon become favorite memories.

5. Throw out the plan

The best-laid plans...are rarely the most exciting. And often the most magical moments happen by accident. So let go of the plan, embrace the unexpected, and remember that your child doesn't care if the day goes according to the schedule.

6. Take it outside

There's never a wrong time of year to make magic outside. Take a stroll through a spring rainstorm, catch the first winter snowflakes on your tongue, or camp out under a meteor shower this summer. Mother Nature is a natural at creating experiences you'll both remember forever.

7. Share your childhood memories

Chances are if you found it magical as a child, then your kids will too. Introduce your favorite books and movies (pro tip: Plan a double feature with an original like Mary Poppins followed with the sequel, Mary Poppins Returns!) or book a trip to your favorite family vacation spot from the past. You could even try to recreate photos from your old childhood with your kids so you can hang on to the memory forever.

8. Just add music

Even when you're doing something as humdrum as prepping dinner or tidying up the living room, a little music has a way of upping the fun factor. Tell Alexa to cue up your favorite station for a spontaneous family dance party or use your child's favorite movie soundtrack for a quick game of "Clean and Freeze" to pick up toys at the end of the day.

9. Say "yes"

Sometimes it can feel like you're constantly telling your child "no." While it's not possible to grant every request (sorry, kiddo, still can't let you drive the car!), plan a "yes" day for a little extra magic. That means every (reasonable) request gets an affirmative response for 24 hours. Trust us―they'll never forget it.

10. Let them take the lead

A day planned by your kid―can you imagine that? Instead of trying to plan what you think will lead to the best memories, put your kid in the driver's seat by letting them make the itinerary. If you have more than one child, break up the planning so one gets to pick the activity while the other chooses your lunch menu. You just might end up with a day you never expected.

11. Ask more questions

Odds are, your child might not remember every activity you plan―but they will remember the moments you made them feel special. By focusing the conversation on your little one―their likes, dislikes, goals, or even just craziest dreams―you teach them that their perspective matters and that you are their biggest fan.

12. Turn a bad day around

Not every magical moment will start from something good. But the days where things don't go to plan can often turn out to be the greatest memories, especially when you find a way to turn even a negative experience into a positive memory. So don't get discouraged if you wake up to rain clouds on your beach day or drop the eggs on the floor before breakfast―take a cue from Mary Poppins and find a way to turn the whole day a little "turtle."

Mary Poppins Returns available now on Digital & out on Blue-ray March 19! Let the magic begin in your house with a night where everything is possible—even the impossible ✨

One year ago, a video brought parents around the world to tears on World Down Syndrome Day. It's been viewed almost 5.5 million times since then, and the message behind it is still gaining momentum today. The Carpool Karaoke style video was produced by a parent-led Down Syndrome awareness organization called Wouldn't Change a Thing as a way to show people that families dealing with Down syndrome are just families like any family raising children.

In the video 50 moms from the UK and their 4-year-old kids sing along to 'A Thousand Years' by Christina Perri (aka the Twilight theme). It's a song about love, and it couldn't be a more perfect soundtrack for this group of mamas, who use a simplified form of sign language, Makaton, to amplify their message in the video.

Regardless, the 50 moms were a little shocked (but happy) to see their video go as viral as it did. "We definitely wanted everyone to see it," one of the mothers, Rebecca Carless told the BBC. "The idea is, we are just normal mums, we love our kids, they love us, and they are just like other 4-year-olds, we wouldn't change them."


This year, Wouldn't Change a Thing created another musical number to raise awareness about the lives of kids with Down syndrome.

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This one is set to Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" and shows the kids just being kids and having fun. It has already racked up nearly 40,000 views as of this writing.

These kids are clearly so very loved, and the parents behind these videos want the world to know it every day, but especially on World Down Syndrome Day.

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The term "snowplow parent" is creeping into our feeds and conversations, and like its predecessor, "helicopter parent" the phrase paints an unflattering portrait of the type of parents it tries to define.

The phrase has been floating around the internet for years but was recently popularized by writers Claire Cain Miller and Jonah Engel Bromwichba, who, in a recent New York Times article, defined snowplow parents as "machines chugging ahead, clearing any obstacles in their child's path to success, so they don't have to encounter failure, frustration or lost opportunities."

All of us want our children to be happy, successful and have opportunities, but the recent college admissions scandal involving actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin shows what can happen when so-called snowplow parents take things too far.

Most of us don't have $500,000 to spend clearing an effortless path to college for our children, but plowing obstacles out of their childhoods can cost us even more. When we take all the hard bits out of the road to adulthood, our kids have no idea what to do once they arrive.

If we do everything for our kids, we rob them of the resiliency that children develop when they overcome obstacles, and of the important life skills they develop when they pick themselves up after a fall and pick up more responsibilities. And we also rob ourselves of a future in which we're not parenting an adult.

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A recent poll by The New York Times and Morning Consult found that three-quarters of parents with children between 18 and 28 are doing things like reminding kids of deadlines at college and making appointments for their haircuts and doctors visits. A shocking 11% said they would contact their child's employer if they had a problem at work.

Most of us do not want to be booking haircuts for a 20-year-old or calling our child's boss when they're old enough to vote and legally drink. Instead of vilifying snowplow parents (most of whom likely had the best intentions) let's learn some lessons from them so that we can raise a generation that grows up ready for #adulting.

Here are five lessons we can learn from snowplow parents:

1) We need to let our kids fail so that they can overcome

It is hard to see our children disappointed, hurt or sad when a choice they made backfires, but as one mama, Tunde Wackman, once wrote for Motherly, "I have to remind myself that consequences are gifts in disguise, though, not a dereliction of my motherly 'duty' to protect my children from challenges."

If we pick up the blocks when they tumble, or correct their homework before they hand it in, or rush home to grab the book report they forgot, our kids don't have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, and more importantly, they lose an opportunity to learn that they can bounce back from one.

2) We need to say 'no' to our kids and let them feel their feelings

It can be hard to look at your crying child and tell them "no" knowing that a "yes" would protect them from feeling bad, but sometimes we've got to let them feel their emotions, even when it is hard.

"If we never take off the bubble wrap and rarely say no, our children may become incapable of tolerating or managing the inconveniences of life—they'll demand instant gratification and, over time, develop impulse control issues," Ilene S. Cohen, Ph.D., a psychotherapist, previously wrote for Motherly.

According to Cohen, "Research shows that children who have been overly protected from their own emotions lack a sense of agency over their own lives and are more prone to develop unfulfilling relationships in the future."

When our child breaks their toy or drops their ice cream, rushing to buy a new one can numb the pain temporarily, but letting them feel the disappointment or frustration and teaching them that it is okay to feel that way also teaches them that these are feelings that they have the power to overcome.

3) We need to praise effort as much as results

Our children need to know that trying is important. We need to praise our children for doing things that are hard and tell them often that they can do hard things. This promotes a growth mindset, where kids know their abilities and skills aren't fixed and can grow with practice, and helps kids feel confident in their ability to overcome challenges. When a child is praised for not giving up, they're more likely to keep going when times get tough.

4) We need to give our children increasing levels of responsibility

When it comes to household chores, like making the bed or loading this dishwasher, sometimes it feels like it would be more efficient if we just did it ourselves rather than letting a 3-year-old try, but we have to let them try. Even very young kids are capable of taking on small responsibilities, and it's so much easier to start when they're three than when they're 22.

5) We need to get our kids thinking proactively

As Dr. Laura Markham previously wrote for Motherly, it's not enough to tell our children to do something, we've got to train them to be thinking about what they need to do. "For instance, to the dallying child in the morning, instead of barking 'Brush your teeth! Is your backpack packed? Don't forget your lunch!' you could ask, 'What's the next thing you need to do to get ready for school?' The goal is to keep them focused on their list, morning after morning until they internalize it and begin managing their own morning tasks," Markham writes.

If we don't want to be calling a college senior to remind them their essay is due, we should stop reminding our children about their responsibilities and instead ask them which one comes next.

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Today's moms spend more time with their kids than ever before, but we're also working a ton in paid and unpaid roles. According to a recent study out of the UK, mothers who work full-time and are raising two or more kids are 40% more stressed than working women with no children.

So many moms feel like if they could just add more hours to the day so they do could more they would be less stressed, but the key to decreasing our stress and maximizing our potential might actually be doing less, not more.

Tiffany Dufu is a mother of two, the founder and CEO of The Cru; a peer coaching service for professional women, and the author of Drop the Ball: Achieving More By Doing Less. On the latest episode of The Motherly Podcast, sponsored by Prudential, Dufu tells Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety that the key to achieving more, in motherhood and our careers, is making strategic choices about what you can drop.

For Dufu, who witnessed her own mother fall into poverty, financial stability was an important part of what she felt would make her a good mom. "Some women have children and they want to be at home. They want to stay at home. I had children and I wanted to put my foot on the gas pedal in terms of my career. I wanted to make money," she explains.

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And before her kids arrived, she had an idea of what that would look like. In her mind's eye she saw herself keeping a clean house, sitting down to dinner with her family each night and still breaking boundaries in her career. But her first day back at work after her maternity leave was shockingly different than how she'd pictured working motherhood.

She found herself sitting on the floor of the bathroom, expressing breast milk into the toilet because she "couldn't handle both the pump and the bottle."

"It was like literally a mess and I was crying on my way home in my designer suit with like gross milk on my nice silk blouse," she explains. "It was a huge turning point because it was the first time that reality hit."

In the 12 years since that episode, Dufu has been redefining working motherhood in a way that works for her, rewriting the cultural programming girls grow up absorbing. "From the moment that you were wrapped in a pink blanket you've been receiving messages about who you are and what you should be. And that's a very kind of daunting realization for someone who feels like I did, that you're in the driver's seat of your own life."

Dufu's used that driver's seat to clear a road for other women. She's run a national women's leadership organization that's trained thousands of women to run for office, and helped so many women develop careers they are passionate about. But in order to do this, Dufu had to decide which metaphorical balls she was going to drop.

"I don't manage my kid's social calendar and that usually means that my kids miss a lot of birthday parties because we don't live in an evolved world in which people send birthday party invitations to children's fathers," she explains. "So when it comes in my inbox and I have to ask myself my 'dropped the ball' question, [I ask] is responding to this birthday party invite my highest and best use in raising a conscious global citizen?'"

If the answer is no, they skip the birthday party.

For Dufu, motherhood isn't about doing it all, it's about choosing what to do by being real about how much time is in the day and being strategic about how she invests that time. "It means that we hedge our bets and we decide I'm not going to puree this baby food today because I'm working on a better future for this child," says Dufu.

Sometimes being the mom and person you want to be means you won't be following a script pre-approved by society, but you will be free to write your own story.

To hear more about Tiffany Dufu's experiences in motherhood and her career listen to The Motherly Podcast, sponsored by Prudential, for the full interview.

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Do you remember how big your child was at birth? Joy Buckley, a third-time mama from Upstate New York will never forget.

Her daughter Harper was born on March 12 at the Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, New York, weighing in at 15 pounds, 5 ounces.

Harper is Buckley's third child. After struggling with infertility for years, she and her husband decided to adopt. They were raising their daughter when they were surprised to find out Buckley was pregnant.

Her first child was born in 2016 and came into the world weighing 11 pounds, which is still a lot higher than the average weight or 7.5 pounds (but anything 5.5 pounds and 10 pounds is considered normal).

Knowing that her first biological child's weight was off the charts, Buckley prepared herself for Harper to be a heavyweight, but she had no idea her baby girl would be the biggest baby ever born in that hospital.

"I knew she was gonna be big," Buckley told WEMT 18 News, "but I didn't anticipate no 15-pound baby."

Harper was born via C-section and the process was "pretty intense", Buckley told HuffPost.


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"The next day I felt as if I had been run down by two tractor trailers," the mom of three explains.

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Harper required care in the NICU after her birth to have her sugar and oxygen levels monitored, and both mama and baby are now recovering from their unique birth experience.

According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, diabetes is the most common cause for a baby being born so large (the Washington Post reports Buckley has Type 2 diabetes) but a high birth weight can also be related to how much weight a mother gains in pregnancy, and "some babies are large because their parents are large."

Buckley told Women's Health Harper is "so large because of big genetics per the doctor," and her brother's weight seems to back up that statement.

Whatever caused Harper to weigh so much, her mama is just glad she's here and hopes her birth gives hope to other couples struggling with infertility. "I don't care about the state record. I don't care about the news articles," Buckley told The New York Post. "I care that I was given the opportunity to become a mom again."

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