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Moms and dads the world over all worry about their kids, wondering if they’ll grow up to be happy, healthy, well-adjusted humans. But unlike parents in other countries, American parents seem to take a regular bashing about what we’re doing wrong.


To further fan the flames of our insecurity, just scan the ever-burgeoning parenting section in a local bookstore for hundreds of titles on how to “do” every aspect of parenting better, from potty training to Ivy League preparation. Our bundle of joy turns us into a bundle of nerves as we constantly strive to raise the bar on our own parenting skills. As Washington Post journalist Brigid Shulte points out on NPR’s Tell Me More, we’re an achievement culture, always wanting to be our best and pushing our kids to be their best.

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The persistent portrayal of how American parents raise their kids shows that we’re (apparently) a society of helicopter parents who hyper-focus on enrichment, but who, according to Tiger Mom Amy Chua, seem perfectly content letting our kids turn out badly. We feel the push-pull of simultaneously being over-involved and over-scheduled, yet not driving our kids hard enough to achieve perfection.

Besides being maligned and feeling insecure, we’re also perplexed, as new parenting styles pop up every year, sometimes contradicting our own approach and making us second-guess our parenting skills. In the end, many American parents feel dazed, confused, and filled with self-doubt, wondering if we’re doing it all wrong.

“We’re so very afraid of getting it wrong that we overdo it to try to get it right,” says Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford University, in an essay published in the 2016 edition of “The Parents League Review.”

But, are American parents really that bad? Do we truly suck at raising our own kids?

No, and we need to stop thinking that we’re doing everything wrong.

Fortunately, more than 50 percent of parents with children younger than 18 think they do a very good job raising their kids, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey of 1,807 U.S. parents.  The findings also show that parents (whether married or single) care a lot about how others view their parenting skills. Roughly nine out of ten married or cohabiting parents (93 percent) say it matters a lot that their spouse or partner sees them as a good parent. And parents still want to impress their own parents, as 72 percent of those with a living parent want their own parents to think they’re doing a good job raising their kids.

“It’s time to put an end to the everything-you-do-is-wrong school of parent criticism, which puts us all in an impossible bind,” writes Perri Klass, M.D., Professor of Journalism and Pediatrics at New York University, in a New York Times blog.

Shulte echoes that sentiment in her NPR interview, saying that “it doesn’t do anybody any good…  it just fosters an element of competition among parents that is really not very helpful for anybody and probably the least helpful for the child.”

Our best bet? We need to ignore the guilt-inducing finger-pointing and keep in mind there’s no one “right way” to raise kids. Instead of focusing on parenting trends, societal pressures, media-driven values, and mommy wars, we need to focus more on praise, support and acknowledgement of all the good we are doing.

What, specifically, are American parents doing right?

1 | More moms breastfeed.

Research continues to demonstrate that breastfeeding provides many substantial physical and mental health benefits to both infants and mothers. Increasingly, mothers in the U.S. are heeding the message, according to Child Trends, the nation’s leading nonprofit research organization focused on improving the lives of children, youth, and their families.

Between 2000 and 2011, the U.S. saw a growing proportion of infants who were breastfed, with the biggest increase (70 percent) of infants still being breastfed at 12 months (from 16 to 27 percent). Overall, more than three-quarters of infants were breastfed for at least some duration, an increase of 12 percent (from 71 to 79 percent).

2 | Parents protect their kids and their community through vaccinations.

According to a 2015 study in “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,” vaccination rates among children ages 19-35 months for 2014 remained high. Over 90 percent of children received vaccinations for measles-mumps-rubella (MMR); polio; hepatitis B; and varicella.

3 | Families still eat dinner together.

A 2013 Gallup poll of U.S. families shows that, despite our busy lifestyle, the majority of U.S. families still eat dinner together. Among adults with children younger than 18, more than 50 percent eat dinner together at home at least six nights a week. 

4 | Parents spend more time on educational activities than previous generations.

We read to our kids, ask them questions, play math games, and teach life skills. Americans of all socioeconomic backgrounds devote increasing amounts of time to stretching kids’ minds compared to our parents or grandparents, says the Institute for Family Studies. Although parents with higher levels of education are more likely to devote time to educationally enriching activities than less educated parents, in general, we’re all doing better than we did just a few decades ago.

5 | Parents set a good example of civic involvement.

According to 2014 statistics from the Corporation for National and Community Service, 32.7 percent of parents volunteer, donating 2.3 billion hours of service in activities such as fundraising, tutoring, mentoring, coaching, and collecting/distributing food. And 2013 data shows that 96.1 percent frequently talk with neighbors, 44.5 percent of parents participate in groups and/or organizations, and 89.8 percent of parents engage in “informal volunteering” (such as helping out neighbors).

6 | Teens get high marks for giving back.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, teenagers (16 to 19 years old) continue to have a relatively high volunteer rate, at 26.4 percent, compared to 20- to 24-year-olds (18.4 percent), and 25 to 34 years (22.3 percent).

7 | Substance use among teens is declining.

Recent findings from NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse shows a decrease in the use of alcohol, cigarettes, and many illicit drugs over the last five years among American 8th, 10th, and 12th graders – many to their lowest levels since this survey’s inception.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Adolescent Health reports similar findings, citing that tobacco use by adolescents has declined substantially in the last 40 years. And a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration notes that, from 2002 to 2013, the rate of underage drinking decreased 6.1 percent.

8 | Teen pregnancies and sexual activity are declining.

According to 2014 findings by the Guttmacher Institute, the U.S. teenage pregnancy rate reached its lowest point in more than 30 years, down 51 percent from its peak in 1990. And a 2015 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that teen sexual activity dropped dramatically over the past 25 years. In 2011–2013, 44 percent of female teenagers and 47 percent of male teenagers aged 15–19 had experienced sexual intercourse, declining significantly (by 14 percent for females and 22 percent for males) since 1988.

9 | High school graduation rates reach record high.

In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education announced that the U.S. high school graduation rate has steadily increased for the past four consecutive years, rising to an all-time high in the 2013-14 school year, with 82 percent of teens graduating.

While American parents are doing a good job at parenting, we need to take into account that there’s more at play than a general attitude toward parenting. We can’t discount the various political differences that figure into the parenting equation – those that often set parents up for success. For example, many non-U.S. governments often foot the bill for benefits that Americans need to pay for out of pocket – like childcare – so it’s no wonder other parents around the world sometimes appear to fare better.

“Don’t beat yourself up for failing to achieve perfect work-life balance,” writes Pamela Druckerman in The New York Times. An American journalist and the author of “Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting,” Druckerman points out in the article that “the French have national paid maternity leave, subsidized nannies, excellent state day care and free universal preschool, and yet they blame the government for not helping parents enough. We Americans have none of the above, yet we blame ourselves.”

What can we learn from – and teach – other cultures?

Despite our different approaches, we can still learn a lot of lessons from the way parents in other countries raise their kids.

“We like the idea of children who can speak their own mind, give their own opinions and be their own person. This is a part of being independent,” says Christine Gross-Loh, mother of four and author of “Parenting Without Borders,” in an ABC News interview. “But there’s a whole other piece I think we’ve been neglecting, and that’s the idea of self-reliance and self-responsibility and those are the sorts of traits that I see being fostered in other countries that are not fostered as well by many parents here in the United States.”

Gross-Loh, who traveled the world to research parenting through a global lens, culls the world’s “best practices” for raising kids, including insights from China, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and the United States.

“I absolutely think American parents are doing a lot of things right,” says Gross-Loh. “I’ve been struck by how much effort we put into raising tolerant and caring kids who have a sense of the world as diverse and multicultural. We read them books that show diverse characters, we talk to them about race and gender and bias and justice. This sets us apart from other countries I’m familiar with where there is more homogeneity and less urgency in putting these issues on the table.

The bottom line is this: There is no one right way to be a good mom or dad, but we can all learn from each other. So relax, American parents. You’re doing just fine.

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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.

$99.95

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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[Trigger warning: This is the story of a woman whose mother passed away from cancer.]

I was nine weeks pregnant, and my own mama was in the ICU on the day of my first ultrasound. I flinched at the cold gel, looked at my midwife and told her, "We really need a win today."

She put the ultrasound probe on my belly and there it was; that reassuring "whomp, whomp, whomp" of my baby's heartbeat filled the room, It was our first precious win in what was about to become a season of loss.

Carrying our good news, my husband Kelvin and I flew to Washington that afternoon and told our families. My mama was in a hospital bed when I told her, too sick to hug me, but overjoyed all the same.

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I've never met a woman stronger than my mama. I'm not certain I ever will.

Tiny in stature but enormous in hope, she refused to let anything beat her. When I was little, she was diagnosed with sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disease that her doctors could not make go away. As the years rolled by, sarcoidosis took a slow, steady toll on her body, quietly creeping into her lungs, her liver and her spleen. She had a lumpectomy, a lymphadenectomy, chemotherapy and radiation to beat breast cancer. She had her spleen removed as a result of the sarcoidosis.

She was then diagnosed with smoldering myeloma; she and her doctors quietly waited and watched for it to show its true colors.

The day I told my mama I was pregnant, she was in the middle of a four-week stint in the ICU, her lungs bravely fighting a dangerous combination of flu, pneumonia, sarcoidosis and fungal infection.

So we talked of death and life, diapers and baby names, fear and hope. We spoke of trusting in what we can't control. I grieved, and I celebrated, sharing our news, growing our baby, and desperately praying for my mama.

My pregnancy

I'm a labor and delivery nurse, both a blessing and a curse when you're pregnant with your own. I'd seen so many births, had so much time to decide what I wanted—what I hoped it would look like. But I'd also seen the things that could happen. I shared due dates with mamas who came into our triage, their babies struggling to live while I quietly and gratefully rubbed my own belly.

Knowledge is power, but at times, it can also bring fear.

Over the next few months, I tried to ride all the waves of worry and elation, fear and joy. Yes, I knew too much to be blissfully naïve, but I was also a first-time mama, joyfully marveling over every new thing. I wanted what many want: a healthy baby, an unmedicated delivery, and the privilege of breastfeeding. I choose to see a midwife, as I had loved the care I had watched them give.

But ultimately, like my patients, I knew I couldn't control much—I just had to trust.

When I was seven months pregnant, my mama was diagnosed with lymphoma. It was cancer number three on an already exhausted body, and it quickly became clear that my baby would not have the privilege of knowing their Nana the way that I desperately wanted them too. This was, finally, the thing that would beat her.

Her plans to be there when our baby was born, to fold tiny baby clothes, to make me dinner and to share naps with our sweet newborn quickly unraveled.

Kelvin would not get the privilege of proudly proclaiming gender and weight and length to my anxious mama in a hospital waiting room.

I would not get the sweet privilege of my mama taking care of me, her own baby girl.

It was the most painful collision of two equally hard and beautiful truths. I was losing my mama and becoming a mama at the same time—a roller coaster of emotion, unlike any I had ever known.

How was I supposed to hold inexplicable joy and inexplicable grief at the same time? How could I be a mama without my own mama? Would she somehow get to meet my baby? Who would I call? Who would I cry to? Would my baby be okay if they only got a broken version of me? Who was going to tell me I would be okay when all things seemed to say that I would not?

I was staring at mamahood, sure to be the greatest challenge I had ever faced, while painfully coming to terms with the likely truth that I was going to have to do it without her. So there I sat, amidst baby kicks and hiccups, a new crib and a guest room we would no longer need, grieving, desperate, grateful—again, I just had to trust.

My labor started

I was 39 weeks and two days pregnant when I went into labor. It was 2:26 am, and aside from my approaching due date, I had gone to bed with zero indication that labor was coming. Contractions woke me, quietly and painlessly, but clearly present.

I lay in my bed, contemplating whether to wake Kelvin. I went to the bathroom, drank some water—all the things I told my patients to do, I did.

And still, they came—every 8 minutes, then 7 minutes.

At some point, I got out of bed, doing laps around our tiny house. I labored alone, quietly, for four hours. I walked and walked, making my body prove to my nurse's head that it was real.

Six minutes, 5 minutes, 4 minutes—my labor pattern was textbook. Finally, I woke Kelvin, certain that our baby was coming.

He and I continued to labor together at home, the minutes both short and long, as we waited for the right time to head to the hospital. Somewhere in those hours, I stopped thinking like a nurse, instead of a woman in labor like anyone else.

Four minutes, 3 minutes.

And then there it was, a contraction that felt different, that said, "time to go." Kelvin questioned me once, as our birth instructor had told him to, but I insisted. "Trust me, Kelvin; I want to go."

I remember no car ride more than I remember that one. My husband's eyes on me in the back seat saying, "Good job, babe, 18 minutes to go… we're almost there, 8 minutes to go."

We arrived at the hospital

We pulled into my hospital, my workplace, at 10 am. I ran up the stairs, vaguely noticing the familiar faces sneaking smiles at me.

In triage, we learned that I was eight centimeters with a bulging bag of water (which means it would likely break at any moment). Things moved quickly then, as they do when a mama is that far along. They placed me on the monitors and my nurse brain briefly kicked back in—the baby's heart tones were perfect, and the contractions regular.

The monitors came off, and we moved to our room. Kelvin and I continued to labor together.

Three minutes, 2 minutes.

The room stayed quiet. I had been clear with my coworkers and friends that I wanted no one in the room except those who had to be there.

I remember the pain, panic and fear, all emotions I'd been told I would feel as I transitioned, as I got closer. There were brief intermittent checks of the baby's heart, the rhythm always steady. I got myself onto my hands and knees on the floor, looked up at my midwife, "I think I have to push." It was too soon, wasn't it? I'd only been in active labor for a few hours. But my midwife knew to listen.

"Okay, Laura. I trust you."

My husband ran to the bathroom, and I asked my midwife to check my cervix. I was 10 centimeters, and my bag of waters was still intact. I asked her to break it; I was ready to be done. Water went everywhere, all over the floor and up my back. Meconium, too—our baby was ready to come out.

My husband came out of the door, panic on his face. A lot can happen in two minutes.

I looked at him and said, "I'm complete. I need to push." I pushed once on the floor, but I wanted to be in bed. I panicked with the next push—it was an indescribable sensation of fullness and pain. My nurse and my husband simply said, "Breathe Laura. Trust your body."

I knew I needed to charge right through it. It took four more minutes, two more contractions and six more pushes. And then the baby was out and on my chest.

I looked to Kelvin. "A girl," he said, tears streaming down his face. "We have a daughter."

The time was 12:26 pm. The day—my mama's birthday.

My baby and her Nana

Emmeline Jean, 7 pounds 4 ounces, 20.5 inches long, was born my own mama's birthday. She was named after her Nana, Tammy Jean.

Emme and I Facetimed my mama daily for four weeks until we flew home for Christmas so they could finally meet.

That Christmas was beautiful but hard. My mama's hair was thinning and falling out. We found out the chemotherapy wasn't working, so the plan was to try radiation next. Over the next few months, my mama's health continued to decline. I quit my job and flew home many times, trying to get Emme and me as much time as possible with my precious mama.

Those trips were painfully lovely, Emme and her Nana the most incredible picture of life and loss, joy and anger, of enduring hope in the hardest circumstances.

My mama died on April 29th, 2017, five months after Emme was born.

Though they never blew out their candles together, I still consider their shared birthday nothing but a miracle. It's a hard day for me each year, but I don't ever want Emme to feel my sadness. The joy of celebrating Emme's life is such a balm for my pain, the sweetest reminder of my mama's legacy.

The love of my mama was a love unlike any I have ever known. Her loss has been both everything and nothing that I thought it would be—an unraveling of who I am, and the slow, steady and painful process of redefining myself as a mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend.

Today, two years and one more granddaughter later, a little bit broken and a little bit okay, we continue to (try to) trust in what we can't control.

The sweet privilege of loving my own girls has been the most precious glimpse of how much my mama loved me—limitless and unconditionally.

Lo Mansfield

Life

I walked out of my doctor's office and the New Mexican sun was blinding. Its rays shined too brightly on my reality, or at least what I thought was my new reality.

The doctor had just told me my unborn son had Down syndrome. "At worst he'll never feed himself and at best he'll mop the floors of a fast-food restaurant one day," the doctor unkindly said to me while I clutched my bulging midsection with one hand and wiped a tear away with the other.

At night I was exhausted from pregnancy and could normally fall asleep with ease. But then morning would come and I was faced with my reality all over again—that's when the tears would start. Getting out of bed was the hardest task I did each day. One morning my mom had to pull the covers off of me, she turned on the shower and then brushed my hair because I couldn't do it.

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The first 27 years of my life went just as I planned. I worked in the field I had dreamed of as a TV News Anchor, I married the love of my life, I had a daughter, I was having a son. But the doctor made me believe this new child would have a life not worth living, so I grieved like a death had taken place. I grieved for him but I mostly grieved for myself. I thought my life had shattered; I was left walking barefoot in the shards of the unexpected.

The grief had passed, I was starting to see how the doctor boxed in my son's life based on his own outdated notions and biases, but I believed him because I unknowingly had my own. I was consumed by all I thought my child wouldn't be able to do instead of thinking about all he could do. Even after the grief fog had lifted, I realized I still had a lot of work to do in how I viewed disability and my son's life. I needed a better telescope.

Through research and new relationships, I realized disability isn't always something someone has, but instead is a large part of who someone is. I didn't want my son to be defined by Down syndrome, and slowly I realized that was my own bias, my unknown ableism, working against him. I learned about school inclusion, how special education is not a location where children are sent, but a service meant to come to the child. I started getting involved in the Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network—an organization aimed at changing diagnosis experiences like the one I had. As the love for my son grew deeper, so did I.

However, it would take me a bit longer to realize I not only needed to broaden my horizons in how I viewed disability and how I viewed my son but myself. My life. It would take me a while to realize I had boxed myself in.

The view I once had of my life was not the only life that was possible. I thought the way to happiness meant: a TV career, a husband and 3.5 typically developing children. I had such a narrow view of success and the potential life had for me. It took being hit by the unexpected to open up my worldview.

I once thought life was about checking as many boxes as possible and grabbing as much happiness along the way. I have since come to learn a good life is one full of love and purpose and my child with Down syndrome has given me both. I see how he has had a trickle-down effect on our family. His sister is more empathetic than others her age, his pre-teen cousins are concerned with social justice in ways most haven't yet awoken to. I thought Down syndrome was darkness, instead, it is light. Through it, I and those who know my son can see the world more clearly.

What I initially thought was the worst thing ever ended up being an unexpected life lesson. What I once thought was a tragedy, ended up being a blessing. Without Down syndrome, he wouldn't be who he is. Without my child with Down syndrome, I wouldn't be who I am— changed.

My unexpected motherhood opened me up to possibilities I never thought possible.

It took the unexpected to ignite a new passion, a new fire, inside of me. I thought the pain, the unexpected element introduced in my life, meant my life was ending. I thought my life had shattered, but instead, the baby inside of me was slowly pulling everything into place. He gave me a new and better beginning.

Life

As life begins to speed up this holiday season, it's important to unwind from the hustle and bustle with a celebration with friends and family. A good drink can add a festive touch while warming you up and refreshing your palate. Whether you're a bartender in the making or a novice, we've got you covered.

If you're a mixologist, dive in and enjoy crafting these tasty cocktails. Feel free to get fancy and add your own twist to the recipes. If you're a newbie, know that you don't have to be a bartender to whip up tasty drinks this year. Follow each recipe step by step and spend more time enjoying the holiday. Cheers!

Here are nine easy to make cocktails to enjoy (and impress your guests) this holiday season:

Zesty diplo cider

Zesty diplo cider

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Diplomatico Mantuano Rum
  • ¾ cups water
  • lemon spice tea bag
  • 1 oz apple cider
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • cinnamon stick
  • lemon slice
  1. Bring water to boil in saucepan; toss in lemon spice tea bag and steep for 5 minutes.
  2. Remove bag and stir in sugar, apple cider, Diplomatico Mantuano Rum and cinnamon stick.
  3. Heat just to steaming.
  4. Garnish with cinnamon stick and lemon slice. Optional: add ½ tsp of butter to mug.

Apple cinnamon daiquiri

Apple cinnamon daiquiri

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Diplomatico Planas Rum
  • ½ oz Apple Schnapps
  • ¼ oz Cinnamon Schnapps
  • ½ oz Freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ¾ oz Pressed apple juice
  1. Shake all ingredients with ice and fine strain into a chilled glass.
  2. Garnish with a cinnamon stick or apple wedge.

Prepare to be empressed

Prepare to be empressed

Ingredients:

  • 1.5oz Empress 1908
  • .25oz Italicu
  • .5oz lime Juice
  • .5oz rosemary-infused simple syrup
  1. Shake ingredients on ice, strain into a chilled coupe.
  2. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

Spiced old fashioned

Spiced old fashioned

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Partida Añejo
  • 2 Bar spoons of Maple syrup
  • 2 Slices of Fresno Chili's Dash Angostura Bitters
  • Orange Peel
  1. In an old-fashioned glass muddle the fresno chili slices, bitters and maple syrup.
  2. Add ice and Partida Añejo.
  3. Stir to mix all ingredients.
  4. Garnish with an orange twist.

Americano cocktail

Americano cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ oz Boissiere Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 ½ oz Campari
  • Soda
  1. Build directly in a highball glass on the rocks.
  2. Top with soda.
  3. Garnish with an orange slice.

Pumpkin pie martini

Pumpkin pie martini

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Jaisalmer Indian Gin
  • 1 oz Dos Maderas Rum
  • ½ oz Half and Half
  • 2 Tbsp Pumpkin Puree (canned or homemade)
  • 1 oz Maple Syrup
  • ¼ tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 3 Ice Cubes
  • Maple Syrup
  • 1 Graham Cracker
  • ½ tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp Granulated Sugar

For the Rim:

  1. Crush graham cracker in a Ziploc bag or food processor until it resembles sand.
  2. Stir in the cinnamon and sugar. Line the rim of a martini glass with maple syrup.
  3. Dip/roll in the cracker mix. Set aside.

For the Martini:

  1. In a cocktail shaker, combine the ice and remaining cocktail ingredients.
  2. Shake vigorously until shaker chilled to the touch.
  3. Strain and pour cocktail into the prepared martini glass.
  4. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and nutmeg.

Peach tree old fashioned

Peach tree old fashioned

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Peerless Rye
  • 1 tsp. Barrel-Aged Maple Syrup
  • 4 Large Peach Slices
  • 2 Dashes Black Walnut Bitters
  • Orchid for Garnish
  1. Muddle two peach slices in a mixing glass, add all other ingredients and stir with ice for about 15 seconds.
  2. Double fine strain into a rocks glass full of crushed ice and garnish with remaining peach slices and orchid.

East Indian gimlet

East Indian gimlet

Ingredients:

  • 1.5oz Jaisalmer Gin
  • 1.5oz lime juice
  • .75oz Ginger Simple Syrup
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup chopped peeled ginger
  • .25oz St. Germain
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, for garnish

For the Ginger Simple Syrup:

  1. Bring sugar, ginger, and ¾ cup water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar.
  2. Remove from heat and let sit 20 minutes.
  3. Strain into a jar, cover and chill.

For the cocktail:

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Pour in the gin, lime juice and ginger syrup.
  3. Shake until well chilled. Strain into cocktail glass.
  4. Garnish with fresh rosemary.
Life

Congrats, you're expecting! You're excited about the tiny bundle of joy growing in your womb, and you're reading through the Google search results to prepare for this new adventure. You planned out the music to play when laboring (Enya is relaxing). You have your stretchy pants picked out for post-labor comfort, and are plotting out which brand of lavender aromatherapy you'll use to ease your labor pains. You may also be planning to breastfeed.

This is where I burst your bubble. The number one rule of parenthood that you will soon learn is that you can't plan for everything, and, most of the time, you can't really plan for much of anything.

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No matter how many adorable, organic cotton onesies you order from that boutique you fell in love with on that trip to Laos, your baby will spit up on all of them and you will end up buying cheap onesies in bulk. You may end up taking all the medicine you said you'd never take during labor or welcome baby into the world via a C-section.

And your plans might go out the window when you're faced with real-time decisions that you didn't think to Google. Breastfeeding is one of those things that might not always go as planned.

And yet, as with many of the surprises parenthood brings, I'm here to tell you it will be okay.

Many expecting moms want to breastfeed­. After all, society says breast is best, but few people tell you just how hard it can be. And no one stops to think that using hyperboles like "liquid gold" to describe breast milk is a huge disservice to the many who end up not being able to or who really don't want to breastfeed.

You might have a nurse in the hospital who puts baby on your nipple and tries to teach them how to latch. But when it's 2 a.m. and your 1-day-old baby is screaming with hunger and you're not producing enough milk to satisfy them (and baby is not remembering the lesson from the nurse earlier in the day), the whole breastfeeding thing can feel less like the euphoric bonding experience you preemptively imagined and more like a gut-wrenching impossibility that makes you want to rip all of your hair out of your head.

But you refrain from ripping all of your hair out of your head. Mostly because too many other parts of your body already hurt. And that would require more energy than you have.

You might take all the herbs and pay all the certified lactations consultants and attend all the La Leche meetings, and yet, it's still not happening. Maybe baby isn't latching. Maybe it simply doesn't feel good. Maybe your breast milk doesn't agree with baby. Maybe you bought all the pumping accoutrement and try all of the elimination diet suggestions until you're practically eating just lettuce and iced water exclusively, but baby is still gassy and fussy and sick. Maybe you just don't want to breastfeed. It's your body, after all. They're your precious breasts.

You have a right to do what you want with them and you shouldn't feel pressure to use them to nourish the next generation if that makes you feel uncomfortable. Or if you have to return to work sooner than Mother Nature intended and you don't want to risk leaking during important meetings, or stopping to pump every three hours. All of these things happened to me, and they happen to a lot of us. And it's not the end of the world.

So I'm here to tell you it's okay if breastfeeding doesn't work out.

I know you may feel shame or a sense of failure. You may fear that your baby will get more ear infections, or be overweight, or that you won't bond as strongly, or they'll miss out on all of the other benefits of breastfeeding.

I experienced all of the feelings of guilt and remorse when breastfeeding didn't work out for me and my little one. I felt like I did something wrong and was failing my child. But the truth is whether you breastfeed or formula feed, it's unlikely to have a discernible effect on your child's long-term health or wellbeing. In fact, studies indicate breastfed babies do not have a cognitive advantage over other children.

Worrying about the fact that you're a failed breastfeeder could, though, have a negative impact on your own mental health. One study found that women who planned to breastfeed but were not able to were twice as likely to suffer from postpartum depression as women who were able to feed their babies as planned.

So how do you deal with these feelings? Perspective helps. There are generations of human beings, namely the majority of those born in the decades of the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, and even '90s, who were exclusive formula babies. Our moms didn't breastfeed because they were taught formula was the preferred, "healthier" alternative, and it didn't require tiny humans hanging off their bodies all day, which must have been a revelation at the time.

Social pressure to breastfeed places undue pressure on new moms to produce or fail your baby. It comes from online forums and social media groups, and even from doctors and other professionals. I have seen new moms going to great lengths to avoid supplementing with formula, out of the misguided belief that it's somehow wrong or because they'd been made to feel that doing so would mean "throwing in the towel."

All that matters is that baby gets fed. It doesn't matter how that happens. Whether you feed your baby breast milk or formula, the only thing that's important is that baby is getting the nourishment they need.

When I finally gave up trying to feed my baby my milk, I ended up donating nearly 1,000 ounces of pumped milk to a mom who wasn't able to produce her own milk and had a sick, underweight baby who could only tolerate breast milk.

In the end, I was able to feed my healthy baby with formula that suited him best, and I helped someone else's baby thrive. When I was finally able to get over my guilt and disappointment in not being able to breastfeed, I realized that some might not call that a failure at all; in fact, some might see it as twice as successful.

This story originally appeared on Apparently.

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