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What I Learned About Being a Parent From Staring at the Grand Canyon

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The feeling in my legs disappeared – dragging the color in my face along with it – as I watched my adult kids and husband perch themselves on the edge of the Grand Canyon.


An ache filled my womb, now 18 years barren, which dispersed fear like medicine in an IV. Risk-taking is not in my DNA, so seeing everyone I love one wind gust away from certain death turned my stomach.

After capturing the moment on my iPhone, I mustered up some courage and cat crawled my way over to join my family. It’s surreal having a front row seat to one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Gazing into the vastness is indescribable. Sitting mere inches from a 6,000-foot drop is strangely blissful and nauseating; and mostly a bad idea.

Nonetheless, inhaling the magic of such a massive display of beauty with offspring in tow set the stage for cavernous insight into the past 22 years of my parenting journey. It was as if the walls of the crater beckoned me to embrace the emotional connection point where the miracle of giving birth and staring into an abyss intersect.

Whether you are pregnant, cuddling a newborn, in the midst of grade school years, riding the waves of tweens and teens, or trying to accept an empty nest, perhaps these whispers will settle in your heart and inspire your journey.

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Momspeak from a huge hole in the ground

1 | The vastness is far reaching.

Like the canyon, there are no foreseeable boundaries along the journey of raising children. Holding a newborn is overwhelming both in love and responsibility. Watching our kids learn to walk, speak, read, play, create, interact with the world provides limitless awe and joy. Witnessing the Houdini-like evolution towards independence is radical. How humbling to know our small role in bringing up our kids merely sets in motion a generational pull longer, farther, wider, and deeper than our eyes will ever see.

2 | Standing on the edge takes your breath away.

Regardless of the current childrearing stage we are wading through, our kids are always on the edge of something new. In the early years, anticipating the next phase is exciting. As kids get older, new fears and stresses have a tendency to weigh down our delight.

In this case, as I watched my grown kids literally dangle their feet over the rim of a massive gorge, I witnessed the real truth of all three being on the brink of living on their own. Permanently. I have no idea when or how this happened. What I do know is, rather than fast forwarding and/or worrying about what comes next, the blessing lies in taking in the view right where our kids are at. Living for the moments that take our breath away at every stage allows us to pause and savor the mixed bag of here and now.

4 | You can never see the other side.

Parenting is full of unknowns. We’re faced with choices every day about how to best care for, instruct, and protect our kids. Many of these decisions we cast into the wind on a bubble gently blown through a tiny wand hoping the end result lands on solid ground before bursting. Truth is, only God knows what lay ahead. We do our best, both in preparing our kids and then trusting in the outcome. Though we fear what we can’t see, maybe the never-ending horizon of motherhood spares us from viewing something even scarier on the other side.

5 | Fences do have a purpose.

A little fence over a mile deep crater seems utterly pointless. Anyone can swing a leg up and over and find themselves face down in the Colorado River. But, these feeble barricades serve a purpose in certain areas of the park, providing a safe view for those too scared to stand on an unprotected brim. If the park restricted access to all areas of the canyon except from designated sections alone, spectators would miss out on the splendor from countless vantage points.

Boundaries are necessary and healthy in certain instances for our kids. They are particularly helpful while we teach them the laws of nature and foster their well-being. Restrictions can also keep our children from thriving and learning from their mistakes. Knowing the when and how of boundary-setting is a great challenge for us as parents.

Eventually our kids need to set their own limits. If fear drives us to continuously protect them, we hamper their ability to figure out what works for them, accept defeat/disappointment, and manage life on their own.

6 | All kinds of hidden gems exist below the surface.

The canyon is gargantuan; difficult to truly comprehend. But hiking down a few hundred feet reveals a world of flourishing plant life, scurrying animals, and colorful geology – aspects hidden from view unless we trek beneath the ridge.

Same goes with our kids. We see the surface – demeanor, appearance, attitude – while underneath lies dreams, hopes, fears, insecurities, joys, unspoken emotions. The soul of our child is hidden unless we delve beneath the veneer through genuine communication. The quality of questions we ask, investments made in supporting their pursuits, interest taken in emotional welfare all create for us a window into the life within.

7 | What goes down may not come up.

Chances are a fall into the canyon doesn’t end well. The lucky ones survive if the descent is marked with gradual grades rather than a sheer drop-off. Parenting is hard. Period. We make countless mistakes, feel hopeless and lost in certain situations, and worry too much.

Burying guilt over our failures, stuffing down our despair, and drilling doubt into our psyche are all actions which can take root in our soul. In doing so, we risk preventing these negative feelings from ever emerging to the healing light of day. I’ve learned this the hard way by jumping into emotional pits and hoping for the best. Thankfully I’ve been able to climb my way out over the years, but I know I would have been a better mother in certain seasons with a healthier approach.

8 | Rain changes perspective.

Googling pictures of the Grand Canyon results in hundreds of images capturing the glorious cavern glowing like a box of Crayolas, rainbows aplenty and glistening sunsets. When you plan a trip you expect and hope to see the same.

As our family gazed into the gorge for the very first time, the sky was grey and dumping a monsoon of rain. Much of the cavern was hidden beneath clouds and shadows replaced brilliant colors. But when you’re taking in such an enigma, the awe outweighs the expectation. Our spirits were moved as we stared slack-jawed into the monstrosity; the rain only added to the beauty.

Often times my mothering experience leaves me soaked to the bone from the storms of life. This happens when I allow expectations to dictate my reactions. Having expectations is a recipe for disappointment. Raising a family is a haphazard affair and the more we choose to roll with things and be wowed by the journey the more spectacular the experience.

9 | Fear grips you when you look down.

I’ve spent too many years – even still – looking down and feeling scared and paralyzed. Facing our fears means keeping our heads up and focusing on things which bring us peace and comfort. Even something as simple as gazing into the eyes of our children can wash away the most debilitating fear. This in turn gives us strength to endure those moments we find ourselves on the edge of something traumatic, pressing, uncomfortable. Looking out around us opens our eyes to blessings which may otherwise go unnoticed.

10 | Everything is small in comparison.

The Grand Canyon dwarfs everything in its path. Even the breathtaking river at the bottom looks insignificant. If we do an inventory of our daily struggles and trials of parenting we will find many are woefully small in the grand scheme of raising a family. Sometimes the biggest mountain we have to climb lies between our ears, as our thoughts create virtual realities filled with stress and strain.

It takes mindfulness and determination to accept there is something much greater than us at work in every situation. If we allow the big picture to grab our attention, the prickly details are conveniently lost in the grandeur.

Standing on a precipice with my adult children reminded me that the chasm caused by physical separation runs deep, but the connection through heartstrings still grips you with majestic force. When you’ve parented for over two decades, having crossed the threshold from hands-on to hands-off, the essence of what love has to offer, both divine and earthly, inverts your perspective.

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Did you hear that? That was the sound of Nordstrom and Maisonette making all your kid's summer wardrobe dreams come true.

Nordstrom partnered with Maisonette to create the perfect in-store pop-up shop from May 24th-June 23rd, featuring some of our favorite baby and kids brands, like Pehr, Zestt Organics, Lali and more. (Trust us, these items are going to take your Instagram feed to the next level of cuteness. 😍) Items range from $15 to $200, so there's something for every budget.

Pop-In@Nordstrom x Maisonette

Maisonette has long been a go-to for some of the best children's products from around the world, whether it's tastefully designed outfits, adorable accessories, or handmade toys we actually don't mind seeing sprawled across the living room rug. Now their whimsical, colorful aesthetic will be available at Nordstrom.

The pop-in shops will be featured in nine Nordstrom locations: Costa Mesa, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Chicago, IL; Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; Bellevue, WA; Seattle, WA; Toronto, ON; and Vancouver, BC.

Don't live nearby? Don't stress! Mamas all across the U.S. and Canada will be able to access the pop-in merchandise online at nordstrom.com/pop

But don't delay―these heirloom-quality pieces will only be available at Nordstrom during the pop-in's run, and then they'll be over faster than your spring break vacation. Happy shopping! 🛍

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

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For decades, doctors have prescribed progesterone, one of the key hormones your body needs during pregnancy, to prevent a miscarriage. The hormone, produced by the ovaries, is necessary to prepare the body for implantation. As the pregnancy progresses, the placenta produces progesterone, which suppresses uterine contractions and early labor.

But a new study out of the UK finds that administering progesterone to women experiencing bleeding in their first trimester does not result in dramatically more successful births than a placebo. Yet, for a small group of mothers-to-be who had experienced "previous recurrent miscarriages," the numbers showed promise.

The study, conducted at Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research at the University of Birmingham in the UK, is the largest of its kind, involving 4,153 pregnant women who were experiencing bleeding in those risky (and nerve-wracking) early weeks. The women were randomly split into two groups, with one group receiving 400 milligrams of progesterone via a vaginal suppository, and the other receiving a placebo of the same amount. Both groups were given the suppositories through their 16th week of pregnancy.

Of the group given progesterone, 75% went on to have a successful, full-term birth, compared to 72% for the placebo.

As the study notes, for most women, the administration of progesterone "did not result in a significantly higher incidence of live births than placebo." But for women who had experienced one or two previous miscarriages, the result was a 4% increase in the number of successful births. And for women who had experienced three or more recurrent miscarriages, the number jumped to a 15% increase.

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Dr. Arri Coomarasamy, Professor of Gynecology at the University of Birmingham and Director of Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research, said the implications for that group are "huge." "Our finding that women who are at risk of a miscarriage because of current pregnancy bleeding and a history of a previous miscarriage could benefit from progesterone treatment has huge implications for practice," he said.

It's estimated that 1 in 5 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. And while even a spot of blood no doubt increases the fear in every expectant mother's mind, bleeding is actually a very common occurrence during pregnancy, Coomarasamy said. Still, first trimester bleeding is particularly risky, with a third of women who experience it going on to miscarry.

So for women who have been through it multiple times, Coomarasamy's findings are an important avenue to explore. "This treatment could save thousands of babies who may have otherwise been lost to a miscarriage," he added.

The study is among a number of recent groundbreaking discoveries made by doctors looking to further understand what causes miscarriages and what can be done to prevent them. While about 70% of miscarriages are attributed to chromosomal abnormalities, doctors recently learned that certain genetic abnormalities, which exist in a small group of parents-to-be, could be discovered by testing the mother and father, as well as the embryo.

Doctors have also discovered that even knowing the sex of your baby could predict the complications a mother may face, thus helping medical professionals to assist in keeping the pregnancy viable.

But while there is no sweeping solution to stop miscarriages, for some couples, the use of progesterone does offer a glimmer of hope. "The results from this study are important for parents who have experienced miscarriage," Jane Brewin, chief executive of Tommy's said. "They now have a robust and effective treatment option which will save many lives and prevent much heartache."

Brewin added that studies like this one are imperative to our understanding of how the creation of life, which remains both a miracle and a mystery, truly works. "It gives us confidence to believe that further research will yield more treatments and ultimately make many more miscarriages preventable," she said.

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It's never easy to give up a career and launch a whole new one, but when I decided to end my time as an opera singer and move into the field of sales, I knew I could do it. After all, I had the perfect role model: my mom.

When I was growing up, she worked as a dental hygienist, but when I started college, she took some courses in sales. She was single with two kids in college, which was a driving force to make more money. But above that, she truly had a passion for sales. In no time, she got jobs and excelled at them, ultimately earning her the title of Vendor Representative of the Year at her electronics company.

When I entered the field of sales, an unusual and unexpected twist followed. Several years into my career, I was hired by a different electronics company. My mom and I ended up selling similar products to some of the same businesses. (Neither of our companies realized this, and we have different last names.)

But rather than feeling uncomfortable, I saw this as a great opportunity. She and I were both committed to doing our best. More often than not, she beat me when we went after the same piece of business. But in the process, I learned so much from her. I was able to see how her work ethic, commitment and style drove her success. I had even more to emulate.

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Here are some of the biggest business lessons I learned from my working mom:

1. Use your existing skill set to differentiate yourself.

As a dental hygienist, my mom knew how to talk to people and make them feel comfortable. She had also served as a youth leader at three different churches where my dad preached. In each town, she found at-risk kids, brought them together and developed programs for them. She had learned how to help people improve themselves and make their lives better.

In sales, she did the same thing, focusing on how the products or services she was selling could genuinely make a difference in the lives of her customers. Those skills translated seamlessly into her new career.

2. Start strong from day one—don't wait for permission to launch your full potential.

From day one at a job, my mom showed up with energy and vigor to get going. She didn't take time to be tentative. Instead, she leaned into her tasks—the equivalent of blasting out of the gate in a race. Having seen how well this worked for her, I strive to do the same.

3. Have empathy, it's essential.

Many women have been falsely accused of being "too emotional" in business. However, empathy is a necessity and drives better results. As a businesswoman, my mom set herself apart by demonstrating genuine empathy for her clients and her colleagues. She loves getting to know people's stories. That understanding is a key component in her finalizing deals and helping her company reach higher levels of success.

4. Learn often—you're never done building your skill set.

My mom is the reason I spend at least three months out of each year getting a new certification or learning a new skill. She's always working to improve, harness new technologies or develop new competencies—and she's passed on that eagerness to learn to me. She knows that to stay on top, you have to keep learning.

5. Bring on the charm.

By nature, I'm analytical. I like to present the numbers to clients, showing the data to help sway their decisions. And that has its place, but charm is universal. Being someone people want to do business with makes a huge difference. If I had a nickel for every time a prospect told me, "I love your mother," I could retire now! Business, especially sales, is about the connections you make as much as the value you bring.

Our paths have taken our careers in different directions, but along the way, I've done my best to incorporate all these skills. Thank you, mom, for teaching me all this, and much more.

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Every mom has her own list of character traits each of she hopes to instill in her children, but there is one that stands out as a big priority for the majority of millennial mothers.

Motherly's 2019 State of Motherhood survey revealed that kindness is incredibly important to today's moms. It is the number one trait we want to cultivate in our children, and according to stats from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, this emphasis on kindness couldn't come at a better time.

In recent years kids and parents have been straying from kindness, but these Ivy League experts have some great ideas about how today's moms can get the next generation back on track so they can become the caring adults of tomorrow.

Between 2013 and 2014, as part of Harvard's Making Caring Common project, researchers surveyed 10,000 middle and high school students across the nation. They found that no matter what race, class or culture the kids identified with, the majority of the students surveyed valued their own personal success and happiness way more than that of others.

Why do kids value their own success so much more than things like caring and fairness? Well, apparently, mom and dad told them to.

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Eighty percent of the 10,000 students said their parents taught them that their own happiness and high achievement were more important than caring for others. (So much for sharing is caring.)

The folks at Harvard say that valuing your own ambition is obviously a good thing (in moderation) in today's competitive world, but prioritizing it so much more than ethical values like kindness, caring and fairness makes kids more likely to be cruel, disrespectful and dishonest.

So how do we fix this? Here's Harvard's four-step plan for raising kinder kids.

1. Help them practice being nice

Giving kids daily opportunities to practice caring and kind acts helps make ethical behavior second nature. They could help you with chores, help a friend with homework or work on a project to help homelessness.

All those tasks would help a child flex their empathy muscles. The key is to increase the challenges over time so your child can develop a stronger capacity for caregiving as they grow.

2. Help them see multiple perspectives

The researchers want kids to “zoom in" and listen closely to the people around them, but also see the bigger picture. “By zooming out and taking multiple perspectives, including the perspectives of those who are too often invisible (such as the new kid in class, someone who doesn't speak their language, or the school custodian), young people expand their circle of concern and become able to consider the justice of their communities and society," the study's authors' wrote.

3. Model kindness

Our kids are watching, so if we want them to be kinder, it's something we should try to cultivate in ourselves. The Harvard team suggests parents make an effort to widen our circles of concern and deepen our understanding of issues of fairness and justice.

4. Teach kids to cope with destructive feelings

According to the researchers, the ability to care about others can be overwhelmed by a kid's feelings of anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings. They suggest we teach our kids teach that while all feelings are okay to feel, some ways of dealing with them are not helpful, or kind (for example, “Hitting your classmate might make you happy, but it won't make them happy and isn't very kind. Counting to 10 and talking about why you're mad is more productive than hitting.")

While the folks at Harvard are concerned that so many kids are being taught to value their own happiness above all, they were also encouraged by the students who do prioritize caring and kindness. One of the students surveyed wrote, “People should always put others before themselves and focus on contributing something to the world that will improve life for future generations."

If we follow the advice of Harvard researchers, the world will see more kids that think like that, and that's what future generations need.

[A version of this post was originally published November 8, 2017. It has been updated.]

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These days more women are having babies into their 40s, but the idea that women are facing down the biological clock is pretty pervasive—once you're over 35, you automatically receive that "advanced maternal age" classification, while your male partner's age may never even be mentioned. The pressure on older moms is unfair, because according to new research from Rutgers University, men may face age-related fertility decline too and America's dads are getting older.

It's a new idea, but this finding actually takes 40 years worth of research into account—which, coincidentally, is around the age male fertility may start to decline. According to Rutgers researchers, the medical community hasn't quite pinpointed the onset of advanced age, but it hovers somewhere between ages 35 and 45.

The study which appears in the journal Maturitas, finds that a father's age may not just affect his fertility, but also the health of his partner and offspring.

Based on previously conducted research, the team behind this study found evidence that men over 45 could put their partners at greater risk for pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Babies born to older fathers also have an increased likelihood of premature birth, late stillbirth, low Apgar scores, low birthweight, newborn seizures and more. The risks appear to exist later in life, too: Research suggests children of older fathers have greater risk of childhood cancers, cognitive issues and autism.

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There's been plenty of studies surrounding advanced maternal age, but research on advanced paternal age is pretty slim—scientists don't quite understand how age correlates to these factors at this point. But researchers from Rutgers believe that age-related decline in testosterone and sperm quality degradation may be to blame. "Just as people lose muscle strength, flexibility and endurance with age, in men, sperm also tend to lose 'fitness' over the life cycle," Gloria Bachmann, director of the Women's Health Institute at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, explains in a release for this news.

As we've previously reported, more and more men are waiting until later in life to have children. According to a 2017 Stanford study, children born to fathers over 40 represent 9% of U.S. births, and the average age of first-time fathers has climbed by three-and-a-half years over the past four decades —so this research matters now more than ever, and it may represent the first step towards setting certain standards in place for men who choose to delay parenthood.

The biggest thing to come out of this research may be the need for more awareness surrounding advanced paternal age. This particular study's authors believe doctors should be starting to have conversations with their male patients, possibly even encouraging them to consider banking sperm if they're considering parenthood later in life.

Women certainly tend to be aware of the age-related risks to their fertility, and many regularly hear that they should freeze their eggs if they're not ready for motherhood. And while it's still too early to say whether we'll ever examine paternal age this closely, this research may set a whole new conversation in motion.

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