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In anticipation of the first long flight with my husband, Gus, and our six-month-old, Maggie, I solicited advice on Facebook, and within hours, whoosh! A deluge of commentary.


There was that which was helpful: Have a change of clothes for her and for you. Plastic bags in case you have poopy/vomity clothes.

There was that which was contradictory: Travel as light as you can versus Bring a nursing pillow, car seat, carrier, and stroller.

And then there was that which alarmed my parents: Nebutol suppositories and Benadryl=baby sleeping pills

From New York City, where we live in the East Village, we were heading to Santa Rosa, California, Gus’s hometown located in Sonoma County, land of gorgeous vineyards within 30 minutes of epic cliff-lined ocean views and the redwood groves.

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Gus owns a restaurant, The Spinster Sisters, in an up-and-coming arts neighborhood near downtown Santa Rosa, and there was an apartment above it where we could stay. The plan was to introduce Maggie to Gus’s family and friends and attend my cousin’s wedding in Berkeley, only about an hour away.

We flew American Airlines, business class, a real treat thanks to the miles Gus had accrued working on both coasts. Given that Maggie is very social, and I’m content (and grateful) with her in the arms of friendly strangers, I considered making a onesie for her that said, “Want to hold me? Just ask!”

Alas, Maggie made every attempt to decimate the relaxation potential of premium seating.

She cried at take off. She cried several times in the middle of the flight, for long periods, the ramped up wailing of a child who wants badly to fall asleep but can’t get comfortable and/or has popped eardrums due to cabin pressure.

I could have been luxuriating with my husband over the course of six blessed uninterrupted hours of time, tucked under blankets, our seats fully extended with unlimited movies and warm nuts. So, too, could have our co-passengers.

Maggie’s crying sends a kind of electric shock current through my veins. This doesn’t happen to Gus. He doesn’t get ruffled. It was he who quelled the first storm by holding her close on his chest until she conked out.

The stewardesses were also wonderful. During a bout of crying, one of them offered to take Maggie to the area where the other flight attendants were hanging out. They entertained and were entertained by her for 20 minutes or so and returned her happy.

“You must be missing her,” the stewardess said.

“Nope,” I said.

We landed and picked up our rental car from Fox. We’d requested a car seat in advance, but they took an hour to produce one because the first had no base and the second was for a toddler, and all of their equipment was kept (it seemed) three thousand miles away from the waiting area.

An hour or so later, we arrived in Santa Rosa. Maggie crashed immediately in the Pack ’n Play I’d shipped in advance. Gus and I went downstairs for a glass of wine and a bite to eat. (Yes, I left my baby alone and without a monitor.)

I’m not much of a drinker, but I find that hours and hours spent with my daughter makes alcohol taste amazing. 

A few weeks earlier, I’d posted a babysitting job on care.com. Reading responses and interviewing potentials took maybe a couple of hours, and I found a local babysitter, Michelle, a recent college grad and theater major from Austin who moved to the area after hiking the John Muir Trail.

She came for four hours a day, enough time for me to complete my work for the Wall Street Journal (I’m an arts journalist), return emails, and have a break from watching Maggie. For me, the two main pleasures of motherhood are being with her and being away from her. “Just enough childcare to take the edge off” is how a friend of mine puts it.

Michelle was fabulous: energetic, kind, and loving. Every day, she took Maggie to a nearby park, and back at the apartment, she turned kitchen instruments into toys. She found my daughter to be an uncomplicated charge who delights in kids, dogs, fans, and her feet. I worked from inside the restaurant downstairs, so I was never too far away from them.

I didn’t do all that much during the time we spent in Santa Rosa, no site seeing, no hikes, no performing arts. For hours, I sat with Maggie and Gus on the benches outside the restaurant, chit-chatting with neighbors and acquainting Maggie with their dogs.

Occasionally, parents would come in with their babies. I gave one most of Maggie’s clothes, at least those I knew she’d grow out of soon. One woman offered us figs from her tree, another a tour of her gallery. We watched afternoons and early evenings pass and soaked up a culture different than ours in the East Village.

Maggie adjusted to the time zone immediately (we didn’t).

At the end of each day we ate with family and friends at their various homes spread around wine country. Night after night after night, we put Maggie to bed in different bedrooms in strange homes, and she fell soundly asleep allowing us to hang out for hours. After transporting her back home, she slept till morning.

These are moments as a mom when my kid seems like such an adorable, adaptable champ, and every adventure imaginable seems possible. Then there are other kinds of moments.

En route to Berkeley, she cried for much of the hour-long drive. At the rehearsal dinner, in trying to catch up with family while simultaneously tending to Maggie’s diaper, I put her down on a dinner table. The second her parts hit the plein air, she produced a long fountain of urine that soaked the table cloth.

“Her pee’s actually really clean,” I found myself saying to a witness.

That night, we stayed in an adorable Airbnb one-room cottage where she made fussy noises every couple of hours and where my husband snored. I ended up grabbing seat cushions and fashioning a bed for myself in the walk-in shower.

The next morning, for the wedding ceremony, I tarted her up in an exquisite Il Gufo two piece a generous friend had gifted her on which she pooped profusely in the parking lot of Tilden Park, the site of the outdoor wedding, before anyone could see her in it. One of those over-the-top and up-the-back emissions. Her backup outfit, culled from the bottom of my diaper bag and the trunk of the car, looked like something culled from the bottom of a bag and the trunk of a car.

Hours into the event, Maggie needed a nap so badly she fell asleep on Gus’s jacket draped upon a picnic table surrounded by guests making merry. Bugs snacked on her skin. On the return trip, we ran into traffic and out of formula. The next morning, she and I woke with colds.

But there were plenty of worthwhile moments, both macro (the wedding was for one of my favorite cousins, whose mother died of pancreatic cancer at 55 and is my daughter’s namesake) and micro (there was a harpist who absolutely riveted Maggie and, together, for many minutes, we gazed at the instrument surrounded by the music and her wonderment).

Recently, I attended the memorial service for the filmmaker Albert Maysles. One of the best comments came from his wife, who said that sometimes Al ran out of gas on purpose because he enjoyed the serendipity of meeting good samaritans.

Traveling with Maggie is like that – I know that sometimes we’ll get stuck, but she is a magnet for strangers of tremendous warmth, and I enjoy the serendipity of meeting them.

However, the world is not populated entirely by lovers of babies. The flight back was a gauntlet: a red eye, without Gus, who stayed on in Santa Rosa for business. While Maggie and I settled in, a woman came down the aisle to our row, saw Maggie, turned to her friend a few rows down and said, “I am NOT sitting with a baby.”

Then she said it again, and pivoted to find a stewardess against the tide of boarding passengers. Immediately, in the tone I use to identify fruits and animals and objects of all kinds to Maggie, I identified this woman as an expletive. It just flew out of my mouth. At that moment, between the three of us, it’s hard to say who was the least mature.

Our would-be neighbor in the sky was unsuccessful in her plight for a different seat. The flight was full, so she put her headphones on and settled in for the nightmare she anticipated.

Maggie, attached to me in the carrier, fell asleep shortly after take off on my chest. It reminded me of the first two months of her life when she slept on my chest every night. I fell asleep, too, until I felt her moving around and kicking.

I couldn’t tell if it had been five minutes or five hours that had passed, so I asked the stewardess how much longer we had, and when she said 50 minutes, I once again had that euphoria: My baby is a champ! We can do anything together! We arrived back home at 6 a.m. and she fell right asleep. Me, too.

Showing my daughter the world has been woven into my vision of motherhood forever, and I’ve known un-ambivalently that I wanted to be a mother since about the time I knew what a mother was.

When she was first born, in late March, this particular desire to travel with her intensified, I think in large part because I feared that she would prevent me from traveling, keep me beholden to her napping, sleeping, and feeding schedule, keep me stuck in the house exhausted and overwhelmed.

There are trips we can’t take any time soon. I have a friend with amazing connections in Bhutan, and I’d love to explore her nanny’s homeland of Ethiopia. But I don’t have the courage to be so far from a Western hospital, to be in such unpredictable territory. (I also don’t have sufficient dough.)

Still, I can save and fantasize and plan to make these trips, and others, to her father’s ancestral homeland in Sweden, to Japan, where I’ve spent a not insignificant amount of time, to all the spots on my wish list: Cuba, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Zimbabwe, Kenya, South Africa, Argentina, Peru, Chile, Haiti, Iceland, Turkey, France, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Tibet, Fiji, New Zealand. 

She won’t remember any of the trips we take until she’s at least five years old, but that doesn’t mean that nothing registers. She’ll have my memories and photographs to see when she gets older and something sweeter still: the strengthened alliance, the confidence in each other, that builds with every trip.

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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.

$79.95

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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Can you believe it's already time to start decorating for the holidays? And this year, Target is making it easier than ever to create inviting holiday spaces that are still neat, organized and clutter-free. Whether your style is whimsical, traditional or rustic, there are plenty of neutral creams, frosty whites and touches of evergreen that will take you through the holidays and well into the new year with style.

This holiday also marks the 3-year anniversary of the launch of Joanna Gaines' Hearth & Hand with Magnolia line. The collection features nearly 300 new pieces from gifting and décor to entertaining. Oh, and this season they have faux Christmas trees!

Ready to create your own modern winter wonderland at home? Grab our favorite minimalist piece:

Joy wire Christmas wreath

Joy wire Christmas wreath

The word "Joy" isn't a holiday classic for nothing—it's sure to bring lots of smiles and laughs to any home. And when it's atop the garland in this festive wreath, it's an instant pick-me-up. Plus, for an extra twist: This comes pre-strung with white LED bulbs for a little light to brighten dark spaces.

$45

Mini cable-knit stocking

Mini cable-knit stocking

This stocking brings simplistic holiday cheer to just about any living space. This mini size is perfect for little ones or if you just want stockings that don't take up too much space.

$4

Faux white pine garland

Faux white pine garland

Bring the outdoors indoors with a garland that can be framed around your door. Or add holiday spirit to your table runner with a garland centerpiece. We love how realistic this one looks for such an affordable price.

$24.99

Whitewash advent calendar

Whitewash advent calendar

Let's be honest, advent calendars are nice, but some have gone a bit overboard in how complicated they are. But not this one. The cutout shape of a tree features rows of numbers, while a roaming wreath moves the countdown along. Simple, yet chic.

$20

Round tree skirt

Round tree skirt

No tree is complete without a beautiful tree skirt. This striped one is a must-have for a farmhouse-inspired atmosphere. Even better if you want a splash of rustic charm that matches your other holiday décor.

$39.99

Mini marquee star wall sign

Mini marquee star wall sign

Brighten up your living room with this attention-grabbing statement piece. Hang the star sign on your entryway wall to help welcome guests, or place it on your mantel, shelf or end table alongside other accents to add touches of holiday cheer in a minimalist way.

$8

Ceramic house decorative figurine

Ceramic house decorative figurine

This tiny house with windows, door and a chimney lends realistic, whimsical appeal, but the solid ceramic design allows it to be used from season to season. Place a small light inside to light up your mantle when standard candles won't suffice.

$8

Wood garland

Wood garland

Sometimes less is more! Upgrade your staircase or tree with this simplistic wooded garland. Pair with fresh cedar and grapevine twigs to create a striking focal point on your home.

$12.99

Joy wall decor

Joy wall decor

Create holiday cheer in a small way by adding holiday wall art that sparks a bit of joy.

For a refined look, the decor offers a hardwood frame and the sawtooth back allows for easy display on tiny spaces that need a touch of holiday spirit.

$9.99

Stocking holder

Stocking holder

Minimalists will rejoice for this multi-tasking stocking holder—acting as both festive signage and a holder for multiple stockings. It's simple, charming and will look great on your mantle for years to come.

$29.99
Holiday Shopping Guides

Madison Vining, mama of six, recently posted an honest message that went viral on Instagram. In it she described how we can't really have the full picture of someone's life just by what they post on social media. It's little fragments of their life, which probably leave out the really good moments when people decide to put the phone down to be present, and also the really bad moments they don't want documented.

The post, which has almost 12,000 likes and hundreds of comments, received a lot of praise from other parents thanking her for hitting the nail on the head.

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The post reads:

"Instagram stories. Let's talk.

If someone uses the maximum amount of stories allowed in a day (all the teeny tiny dots) guess what? All together, it totals less than an hour of their 24-hour day. Does that surprise you? It's true. It's a peek of 1/24th of their day. Furthermore, it's probably the calmest parts. After all, when was the last time you got into a fight with your husband and thought "Hang on, let me insta-story this!" or had your hands full of screaming babies and thought "Hang on... let me try and hold a phone, too!"

I really want to challenge you.

Before you look at her life and become jealous: you likely did not see her raise her voice as she struggled through schoolwork with her kids, or her picking up trash after the dog ripped it up and dragged it all over the driveway, or her doctor give her a terrifying diagnosis, or her son's preschool teacher call and say he's been a problem... Again. Or her crying because she hates her body and hasn't felt like herself in so long. Or her going to bed each day feeling guilty and like she didn't do enough for everyone. Or her husband being out of work. Or her dad who walked out on her as a kid and it still hurts. Or her burning dinner and yelling a swear word in front of her kids.

Yeah, you don't see all the bad.

But you know what? Before you look at her life and become critical, know that you didn't see her singing worship music and taking extra time as she changed her baby's diaper. You didn't see her driving all the way to recycle center when the trash would have been easier. You didn't see her close her laptop, close her eyes, and stop to pray for someone she doesn't know. You didn't see her tell her daughter, "Just keep killing them with kindness, baby" as she sobbed in her arms about a bully. You didn't see her give up "me time" to prioritize date night with her husband. You didn't see her take her oldest to lunch. You didn't see her anonymous donation.

You don't see a lot of the beautiful things that happen in her life and in her heart, because they're sacred and the first thought that pops into her mind isn't, "I should grab my phone right now."

You don't see it all. Be kind to one another."

Thank you for saying what many think, mama.

Life

Do you feel it?

That little spark ✨ in the air that only comes around this time of year is starting to buzz and pop around us. There's nothing quite like the joy and excitement that comes with counting down to the holidays—especially with your kids who think last Christmas was forever ago.

And what better way to count down to Christmas than with an Advent calendar? We've rounded up our favorites that you can use year after year, mama.

House advent calendar

It's perfectly neutral to go with any type of holiday decor, but is made to bring a spark of magic and fun as your kids rush each morning to find out what's inside the tiny drawers.

$55.30

Advent calendar wreath

This has to be the most unique advent calendar we've ever seen. We love everything about it: The simple metal hoop, the greenery and the 24 kraft boxes that can be filled with goodies for both adults and kids. It's so pretty, we might even leave it up past Christmas!

$35

Countdown to Christmas advent calendar

We love that you can fill this one with your own treats that can change as your kids grow. And it doesn't have to be sweets. It can be filled with stickers, little toys, handmade goodies and more.

$38

Modern farmhouse Christmas countdown

No treats required for this simple, beautiful sign.

$34.95

Metal advent calendar

This sleek metal sign comes with 25 small muslin bags and 30 cards you can tuck into each one. The cards have an activity or kind gesture you and your kids can do to celebrate the season.

$40

Ernie and Irene llama advent calendar

Add a touch of whimsy and coziness with this sweet calendar featuring a knit llama.

$128

DIY advent calendar kit

For the crafty mamas in the group, this sweet kit has everything you and your family need to create your advent calendar together. Once you've assembled all the houses, you can fill it with whatever treats your family will love.

$36

Customizable advent calendar

This sweet and modern fabric calendar can be customized with your family name or cherished holiday phrase. It also comes with a set of 24 activity cards you can pop into each pocket.

$107

Clever Creations traditional wooden Christmas advent calendar

Clever Creations Traditional Wooden Christmas Advent Calendar

This beautiful calendar is a showpiece. It lights up to create a cozy and festive scene.

$43

Light-up stacking house glitter advent calendar

Enjoy a tower of pre-lit cottages that will light up your home each day leading up to Christmas.

$149

My Kindness advent calendar

My Kindness Advent Calendar

The holidays are all about giving—and that doesn't stop with just material items. We can give in the form of kindness every single day, and this calendar helps us do just that.

$75

Blue and gray Christmas socks advent calendar garland

We love the twist on a traditional calendar with this sweet garland of 24 stockings.

$29.69

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Even though I'm almost halfway through my pregnancy, I still don't trust that I'm pregnant. Some people might feel this way in the beginning of theirs (at least for a little while); shocked into disbelief that some very specific cells in our bodies can become babies. But I have a hard time believing because of my bump. Or rather, because I don't appear to have one at all.

I thought the bump would be a big part of my pregnancy and I'm bummed it's not. I assumed it would knight me into the world of impending motherhood, where you hold a funeral for all the clothes you will never fit into again; where the other people in your yoga class think you're being lazy but they don't realize you have to modify the poses so you don't squish the baby; and where you believe (unreasonably) that your dog will calm down on walks because he senses you're suddenly much more afraid of falling.

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Even without it, I do get a lot of reminders that I'm pregnant: My nipples itch constantly. I need to use the bathroom every 30 minutes (sometimes 20!). I just started getting heartburn, which I've never had before. My hobbies are picking fights with my husband, going to sleep at 8pm and not knowing what to eat for lunch because nothing is appetizing. Today I did, however, put salt on a half sour pickle.

But I'm still skeptical because my body hasn't changed. If you saw me on the street today, you would not be able to tell I'm expecting a boy in April.

I've coveted the baby bump ever since I experienced a miscarriage earlier this year. With that pregnancy, I had no symptoms at all (no nausea, no stomach twinges, no breast pain, no nothing), which I thought was a little weird, but I assumed everything would be fine. Then after the doctor confirmed I miscarried at six weeks, it made sense why I didn't feel anything.

When I found out I was pregnant this time, I was obsessed with what and how I felt and I interpreted every tiny disruption from the norm as an assurance the baby was still in there and okay. This helped ease my anxiety for a while.

A second failed pregnancy felt imminent when friends and acquaintances began remarking that I was "not showing" or "hardly showing." It seemed that while I had accumulated many pieces of pregnancy that I didn't have before, I was still missing the most universally accepted indicator I was doing a good job supporting the growth of a healthy baby: The bump.

But since I don't have it, it feels like I'm already a bad mother. It feels like my body is gaslighting me. Am I even really pregnant if there's no bump to indicate I am? It's easy to explain the symptoms away without one, as if they are caused by other factors like the weather or doing too much physical activity or just being in my 30s. It's feels like my body is betraying me. After all I've been through, my body can't (or won't) do the biggest thing that would reassure me this pregnancy is going to work out? What other mischief is it capable of?

The longed baby bump arrives at different times during pregnancy for different people and I know there are no benefits to comparing my pregnancy to anyone else's. The best thing for my health (and therefore the health of the baby) is to try and remain as calm as possible. There's no evidence to suggest anything's wrong with the baby. All my blood tests come back normal, as do all the routine screens for things like spina bifida and trisomies.

But once you doubt your body for the first time, it's very easy to do it again. From there, it's not long until you're doubting each individual piece of yourself. In addition to struggling with the fact that I don't have a bump, I also worry about my motherly intuition—that special sauce that will get me through the toughest parts of having a newborn. It would be nice if I could simply acquire it before the birth, like the baby bottles or the baby bathtub or any of the other numerous items on our baby shower registry.

Friends and family say it doesn't happen that way—it shows up after birth. This doesn't seem right! It feels like I need to have these instincts before the baby arrives. They all say, "It's hard to believe, but you'll be fine. Once the baby is here, that's when your instincts kick in. It's almost like you wake up one morning and you know enough to get through the coming days." This may be acceptable to other people, but I find it hard to believe because I have only ever been uncomfortable around infants.

I don't want my child to doubt himself the way I doubt myself. I would like him to be confident in his skills, his knowledge, in who he is as a person. I also know that in order for him to be this way, I have to show him how.

So for the next five months, I'm going to practice trusting myself. I'm going to trust my body -- that it will do what I expect it to do, which is help my baby develop and grow until he can be born. Even if it doesn't look like the bodies of any other pregnant people I see, I will believe it is working in my favor. Even if it is not as obvious that I am pregnant as I think it should be.

I'm also not going to worry I don't know enough to have a baby. I'm sure someone will say to me soon, no one knows enough to have a baby before they have a baby. Until they say it, I'm going to say it to myself. I will say it to myself when I am in the shower and when I am loading the dishwasher and when I am looking for something to watch on Netflix and when I am reading a book that I am not sure if I'm enjoying. And I will say it to pregnant women when they see I have a baby and ask for advice.

I will trust that I am going to be a good mother, for him.

Life
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