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And there he sat. And sat. And then my firstborn, fresh from the maternity ward, sat some more. We had just arrived home from the hospital and placed our son directly in the center of the living room. He was still straitjacketed in his car seat, cocooned beneath two blankets that reached his lower lip. An oversized beanie half covered his dark eyes. He squinted at us. My husband and I glanced at each other. Now what? Did we really have to remove the bubble wrap?

Yes. Yes, we did have to remove it. I’m sure there is a law against keeping your kid in restraints, even if you think it’s for their own good. A few years later, we had to remove it again when we brought home our daughter. But it wasn’t easy.

Who knew there would be so much to worry about, to consider, to debate, when raising kids? Parents of older kids know. Now that my babies have made it to the teen and tween years I know. As the saying goes, if I knew then what I know now, well I would have saved myself a lot of angst and time. So I’m sharing the main things I wish I had known back then. If all else fails, go straight to number 9. You’re welcome.

1 | You will seriously screw up and it will turn out okay

I consider myself pretty vigilant, borderline neurotic even. Yet once, when my son was an infant, I accidentally locked him inside my running car and had to call the police for help. You’re probably wondering how that can even happen. Well, it’s not easy, but trust me it can be done. Another time, I managed to unlock the seatbelt holding in the car seat and didn’t realize it until I took a sharp turn and heard the thump, thump, thump of the car seat, with child harnessed inside, tumbling across my back seat.  

No one’s perfect. The kids survive. Fortunately they are resilient little buggers.

2 | Make sleep a priority

When you first bring a newborn home you’ll probably hear the advice to sleep when the baby sleeps. Sounded like a good idea to me until I realized, “Wow, this baby never friggin sleeps!”

One drizzly evening, completely exhausted, I walked the neighborhood with my child nestled inside one of those kangaroo-type baby carriers that make you feel pregnant again, particularly in the lower back area. As I spied people in their homes sitting down for dinner, I had a mini-meltdown that I couldn’t simply sit at a table.  At that point, I realized the importance of sleep.

One recent study found that pulling an all-nighter is worse for your body than months of unhealthy eating. If sleep is cut short, we wake up less prepared to concentrate, to make decisions, or to engage fully in activities.

I thought that since I was on maternity leave I should be able to easily stay up all night with our newborn. Dumb idea. Better idea: I didn’t have the funds to hire a night nurse so I split the night with my husband. I was responsible for any cries until 2:30 a.m. My husband was responsible for any cries after 2:30 a.m. This way we each had about seven hours of sleep a night. I was much happier and probably so were my neighbors since I wasn’t peeping in on them anymore.

3 | Your child will learn to read

These days, kids are required to reach a certain reading level as early as kindergarten. I remember the panic I felt hearing parents talk about their 5-year-old reading prodigies.

Practice your head-nod and ignore. Maybe their kids really are reading “The World According to Garp,” because they need more challenge, but I’ve discovered being first doesn’t really matter. Both of my kids couldn’t read novels in kindergarten, but they can now when they actually need to. Your children will learn on their personal timetable, but they will get there.

4 | Let them go outside without a coat

Starting at age 4, my son would appear to suffer a seizure following any glimpse of a winter coat. He claimed to always be hot and never put a coat on without a battle. One time, finally all bundled up, he glared at me and said, “When you’re really old and you have a broken brain, I’m going to make you wear four sweaters. Four! In the summer!”  

It took years, but I realized this is one battle that is not necessary. Shedding a coat will not make your child sick. When you look to see what the CDC says about ways to prevent colds there’s nothing about coats. 

The important thing when it comes to cold prevention is actually washing your hands. So if my kids don’t want to wear a coat or want to wear shorts in the winter, I learned to let them make the decision themselves and suffer the natural consequences. “Oh, you’re cold? I guess next time you should wear your coat.”

5 | Embrace the grocery store

Nowhere is private once you have kids. I’ve been in the middle of a shower and my daughter has popped her head in asking me to braid her hair. Umm, I’m in the shower? Whenever I’m on the phone, even when I hide in the basement, my kids find me. They sidle up to my hip, tip-tap their feet and correct my discussions. “No mom, I didn’t say I loved the field trip, I said I liked it. Geeez.” This is why I nominate the grocery store as the premiere parent haven. I leave the kids at home and up and down the aisles I go, round and round in a walking meditation, catching up on all my phone calls, enjoying the peace and quiet. Sometimes I’ll even have a snack. No sharing required.

6 | Phones are fine

Screen time is evil, according to… pretty much everyone. My pediatrician often gives a screen-time warning at checkups, suggesting no more than an hour a day.  Recently she scared my daughter half to death noting how you can become addicted to electronic devices the same way people can become addicted to drugs and become homeless. Was she saying watching too much YouTube will make you homeless? Maybe?

I’ve realized, however, that with some basic rules, phones can be taken off the worry list. My children received phones on their eleventh birthdays. We check them frequently and keep them in our room at night.

We’ve seen the phone provide a lot of benefits. It helps with responsibility. My kids have to keep track of their phones and call in when they are out. I know where they are either by calling them or through the free Find My iPhone app that tracks phone locations. Their phones also provide an opening to talk about serious issues while they are still at an age when they’ll listen (sort of).

We’ve had the “no dick pics” conversation regarding the consequences of distributing inappropriate images, for example.  We’ve also exchanged numerous texts that are silly, fun and keep us connected. Without my kids having phones I never would have known about mustache monkeys and that would be just sad.

7 | Make them run

Increasing research shows that physical activity, like running, provides a number of benefits for kids, boosting their psychological well-being and academic performance. Running elevates endorphin levels; running can produce a meditative state, or maybe it’s just because it gets your kid the hell out of your face and you both have a chance to take a breather from one another. Whatever the reason, I’ve found that sending my kids out for a run means they will come back in a much calmer mood. Most of us can run. No special equipment is needed, just a nudge out the door. Buh bye.

8 | Good food equals good mood

Gold fish were one of my go-to snacks for the kids until I spoke with a nutritionist who mentioned how eating crackers like goldfish are basically like eating air. She told me to instead focus on snacks that include protein or fiber, such as nuts, cheese, peanut butter on whole-wheat toast, hummus or eggs.

I made the change and quickly noticed a difference. The protein helps provide fuel to keep young brains charged for the long school day and keeps my kids’ moods more even. I also hear much fewer complaints about stomachaches since the added fiber keeps things moving in the digestive tract.

9 | When things really suck, try ice cream

No matter the setback, whether it’s a bad grade, a diss from a peer, or a skinned knee, ice cream helps. Something about the treat’s creamy, sweet goodness just seems to make kids feel better. Plus it has protein in it. Just saying.

Now I just need some better strategies to handle the tween and teen years. So far, my best tactic is banishment. “Go to your room!” is a favorite phrase. Too bad my kids can’t stay in their rooms forever. Again, I’m sure there is a law against that. But while they are in there, I think I’ll have some ice cream.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Seeing your baby for the first time is an amazing experience for any parent. For most parents, the months preceding this meeting were probably spent imagining what the baby was experiencing inside the womb, trying to paint a realistic picture on top of that two-dimensional black and white ultrasound photo.

But thanks to Brazillian birth photographer Janaina Oliveira and a baby boy named Noah, parents around the world are now better able to imagine what their baby's world looked like between the ultrasound picture and their first breath.

While most babies are born without their amniotic sac intact, Noah entered the world (via C-section), still cocooned inside his. This is known as an en caul birth, and while it wasn't the first Oliveira has captured through her lens, it is likely now the most famous of her photographs.

After she posted Noah's birth photos to Instagram, Oliveira's photos went viral, making headlines around the world.

This slideshow is amazing.

In a Facebook post, Noah's mom Monyck Valasco explains that she had a tough pregnancy with Noah, and is so grateful that he did not arrive too early.

Noah is now something of a celebrity in his hometown of Vila Velha, Brazil, but local media reports he was actually one of three en caul babies born at the Praia da Costa Hospital in just one month. Birth photographer Janaina Oliveira actually captured all three en caul births on camera. Little Matais arrived before Noah, and baby Laura came afterward, both en caul.

These photographs are as breathtaking as the babies featured in them and remind mothers around the world that our bodies were once someone's whole world. And now they are ours.

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Alexis Ohanian has made a lot of important decisions in his life. The decision to co-found Reddit is a pretty big one. So was marrying Serena Williams. But right up there with changing internet culture and making a commitment to his partner, the venture capitalist lists taking time off after his daughter's birth as a significant, life-changing choice.

"My understanding of showing up and being present for my wife was taken to a whole new level when Olympia was born. I was able to take 16 weeks of paid leave from Reddit, and it was one of the most important decisions I've made," Ohanian says in an essay for Glamour.

A nearly four-month parental leave is something too few American mothers, let alone fathers, get to take. Even when fathers work for companies that offer generous parental leave packages, they often don't use the benefit for fear of being sidelined or seen as uncommitted. A recent survey by Talking Talent found fathers typically use only 32% of the time available to them.

In his essay, Ohanian recognizes that he is privileged in a way most parents aren't.

"It helped that I was a founder and didn't have to worry about what people might say about my 'commitment' to the company, but it was incredible to be able to spend quality time with Olympia. And it was perhaps even more meaningful to be there for my wife and to adjust to this new life we created together—especially after all the complications she had during and after the birth," he explains.

(The GOAT's husband is making the same points that we at Motherly make all the time.)

He continues: "There is a lot of research about the benefits of taking leave, not only for the cognitive and emotional development of the child but for the couple. However, many fathers in this country are not afforded the privilege of parental leave. And even when they are, there is often a stigma that prevents them from doing so. I see taking leave as one of the most fundamental ways to 'show up' for your partner and your family, and I cherished all 16 weeks I was able to take."


By first taking his leave and then speaking out about the ways in which it benefited his family, Ohanian is using his privileged position to de-stigmatize fathers taking leave, and advocate for more robust parental leave policies for all parents, and his influence doesn't end there. He's trying to show the world that parents shouldn't have to cut off the parent part of themselves in order to be successful in their careers.

He says that when his parental leave finished he transitioned from being a full-time dad to a "business dad."

"I'm fortunate to be my own boss, which comes with the freedoms of doing things like bringing my daughter into the office, or working remotely from virtually anywhere Serena competes. My partners at Initialized are used to seeing Olympia jump on camera—along with her doll Qai Qai—or hearing her babbling on a call. I tell them with pride, 'Olympia's at work today!' And I'll post some photos on Instagram or Twitter so my followers can see it too," Ohanian explains.

"The more we normalize this, on social media and in real life, the better, because I know this kind of dynamic makes a lot of men uncomfortable (and selfishly I want Olympia to hear me talking about start-ups!)," he says.

This is the future of family-friendly work culture. Take it from a guy who created an entire internet culture.

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Trigger warning: Some of these responses describe a women's experiences with child loss.

Anxiety is one of those concepts you can never truly grasp until you face it yourself. And, each person's anxiety can announce itself in different ways—for some, it's postpartum anger, while for others, it's an overwhelming feeling of worry about a pregnancy. This can be especially prevalent if you're at high risk, concerned about telling your boss or undergoing medical issues. If you suffer from anxiety, know you're not alone in this mama. In fact, women are twice as likely to develop an anxiety disorder than men.

These mamas shared how they manage and cope with their anxiety on Chairman Mom:

1. Hypnobirthing class

"I took a hynobirthing class at a nearby parents resource center—it was phenomenal. The class changed my emotional forecast for both the pregnancy and delivery. I uncovered a calm existence that lived dormant inside a very anxious body. For quick help at my fingertips, I love the Headspace app. My favorite quote pops up on the screen before I tap to complete a meditation 'Rather than the mind leading the breath, allow the breath to lead the mind. Keep glowing!'" —Jenny

2. Journaling

"It took my husband and I three years to have our IVF miracle baby after a devastating miscarriage last summer. I was wracked with anxiety for the entire duration of my pregnancy and it got worse as I got closer to his due date. The one thing that helped me was to journal. I wrote to the baby constantly about every step of the process and was very raw and real about the emotions I was experiencing each step of the way."—Anonymous

3. Set some ground rules

"[While I was on strict bedrest for 10 weeks] I tried to set ground rules for myself—I 'indulged' in worst case scenario/message board/Googling for exactly 30 minutes each day, and had to fill the rest of the bedrest time with other positive activities. I controlled for the factors I could, and just tried to chill out about everything else. Easier said than done, but I forced myself to breath deeply and try to limit the physical effects of my anxiety."—Milo

4. Therapy

"I feel like this could be my answer for many questions, but I say get to therapy. Anxiety can be a normal part of parenthood and it's a good idea to take the time before baby comes to build your tool kit and to feel like, even though it is full of unknowns, you have prepared your heart for the wild ride that is motherhood. I am an anxious person by nature, a worrier, a big feeler— learning that this is okay and that I can use it to my advantage has been empowering beyond measure. You are not alone and you will get through this. Hugs to you. If you are an "action person" and can't/won't get into therapy right now, this workbook has a lot of good, practical exercises."—Stratton

5. Reading this book

"I found a book called Finding Calm for the Expectant Mom useful. The major anxiety reducer for me during pregnancy was walking, because it was the only time I didn't feel sick early on and then later it was the only time the baby wasn't kicking me (which is supremely comforting and yet not). I found going with a mid-wife rather than a doctor helped alleviate a lot of anxiety. In Ontario (Canada) this is covered by OHIP (provincial health insurance). Midwives have way more time and patience. All appointments are booked for 30 minutes, so you never feel rushed."—Sian

6. Find a super knowledgeable OB

"I'm currently pregnant (second trimester) with two complications one of which can cause stillbirth. I found the best way to reduce anxiety was finding a super knowledgeable OB that I could talk to about treatments and milestones. Ask them about what kind of monitoring they'll do for you in the third trimester (NST/BPPs). Talk about contingency plans. I also found a doula that has been wonderful to talk with about the process of birth and the potential of NICU time and emergency c-sections (both not that uncommon with other women that have the same condition I do.) I whole heartedly recommend finding a therapist that you can talk with about your fears and anxieties. Look for ones who specialize in new moms. If there are any support groups for mamas with your high risk condition I also urge you to seek them out. Setting a limit for how much time you spend there is also extremely wise. And know that there are women who will experience loss in those groups. That doesn't mean you will." —Anonymous

7. Yoga, working out + meditation

"[After a miscarriage] what I've learned is that all that worrying didn't make a difference. It didn't make me feel any more prepared or okay once I lost the baby. And it limited how much I enjoyed those three months that I was pregnant. Next time I'm not going to read anything or Google anything or read any odds. I'm just going to take everyday as a gift. I know that's easier said than done. Yoga, working out, meditation. Being around people who don't know because then you can't talk about it or obsess about it. Warm baths, tea. Just be super super nice to yourself. Don't worry about what you should be eating or shouldn't be eating, etc."—Anonymous

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Having a new baby is incredibly hard. And beautiful and fulfilling and rewarding, of course—but definitely, definitely hard.

Especially the nights.

Watching the last rays of sunlight disappear would make my heart race. My 3-week-old baby didn't sleep for more than an hour and a half at a time and had zero regard for what time it was.

She was so tiny and helpless—and it was my responsibility to keep her safe and fed and healthy. For me, that was easier during the day. Because at night, it felt unfair knowing my husband and toddler were fast asleep a few rooms over.

The minute our newborn would wake, I would spring to action. Bottle, breast, pacing the floor, bouncing on an exercise ball, loud shushing into her tiny ear—I would do whatever it would take to get her to quiet down so she wouldn't wake the rest of the house.

The evenings also started to feel very isolating. It's hardly appropriate to call your mom or friend or sister at 1 a.m. when your baby starts spitting up a curdled milk mixture so hard it comes out of her nose. And even if I did call anyway, it wouldn't matter because they wouldn't answer because they'd be sleeping.

I was used to anticipating a lack of sleep each night, which was terrifying. I felt such dread knowing I would only get a collective two and a half hours of sleep before my toddler would wake up at 5:30 a.m, ready for his morning dance party.

Fear would strike me at night, too. An incapacitating, all-consuming fear that something might happen to my sweet baby girl while she was lying peacefully in her safe crib, in her baby-proofed nursery. I often wondered how I was even supposed to sleep with such intense worry on my mind.

I would stare for hours into the pitch black night, half of me thankful my baby was healthy, the other half of me terrified something would happen to her.

I'd feel irrational in the late hours of the night (or more likely, the wee, wee hours of the early morning) often reacting with full-on annoyance because as soon as she'd started to fall asleep I'd think, this is it—I can finally get some rest, only for her to wake up a few minutes later. I'd snap, "Seriously? All you do is eat!" at my tiny baby, which would automatically trigger intense guilt over what felt like such an uncontrolled emotional response.

"It gets better" and "sleep when the baby sleeps" are two sentiments I hope never to hear again in my life because—does it get better? Well, yes it does. Children don't usually turn into adults who only sleep for 90 minutes at a time. And sleeping when the baby sleeps sounds good in theory but it's impractical. Plus, neither statement helps at 3 a.m., TBH.

I went to extreme measures to quell my anxiety. I sent my husband to Walmart in the middle of a tropical depression to buy a rock 'n play. Then I sent him back when he returned with the version that didn't vibrate. I put a $300 Owlet monitor on a credit card. I used Amazon one-day shipping to obtain a copy of Dr. Harvey Karp's The Happiest Baby on the Block.

I eventually found there's no magic solution to aid in this season of parenting. It helps to find a community of women going through the same struggles. Prioritizing self-care and spending time connecting with your significant other are also healthy ways of dealing.

But I'm going to level with you—for the first three months of my baby's life, I didn't have time to seek out a support group, wash my hair or converse about one meaningful thing with my spouse.

I was in survival mode and the only thing that helped me was time passing and binge watching Downton Abbey.

And walks around the block. And coffee.

If you loved the newborn stage and came through it with fond memories—I applaud you.

If you gave it all you had and emerged on the other side with a baby who (mainly) sleeps through the night and is somewhat happy, most of the time—you deserve a standing ovation.

You managed to prevail in a time that required intense mental and physical stamina, and you nailed it. Great job, mama.

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