A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

Let’s talk about being a father when you’re in public safety – whether it’s Police, Fire, or EMS. I’m a father of three (soon to be four) beautiful little girls. Some of you that know me personally understand just how much those little girls run my life. So you should know that when I proudly proclaim, “I am the king of the house,” it only applies if my wife and daughters aren’t there. Once they get home, I’m more of a court jester.


That said, every day I’m on shift I get up, strap on my tough guy fireman uniform, get in my tough guy fireman vehicle, and go to my tough guy fireman station. And while I’m there I usually do tough guy fireman stuff like saving orphans and kittens and orphaned kittens. And respond to emails (actually a pretty daunting task).

I’ve been doing all of this tough guy fireman stuff since before my kids were born. When my wife told me she was pregnant with our first child, one of the first thoughts I had was, “this child is going to be able to tell all the other kids that her dad is a tough fireman. Nobody is going to mess with her.” I took pride in the fact that when it came time for the kids to bring us to school for “show-off-your-parents-and-their-cool-jobs” day, my child would be the envy of the other kids because her dad was an awesome tough guy fireman.

Now that we’ve gotten all that BS out of the way, let me tell you about the time a “tough” fireman was reduced to a slobbering, sniveling mess in the arms of his then-two-year-old daughter.

It was early 2012. I was riding seat (in-charge for you donut-eaters) with two other firefighters assigned to my apparatus. I was at the end of what would be an 18-month stretch of terrible calls. Every First Responder has a call that they can never forget. It’s part of the job. Most of the time it’s a specific, stressful incident that can often make you question why you started down this road of a thankless, underpaid career. These kinds of calls are (thankfully) usually few and far between. The worst of them involve children. Again, these calls are rare, yet profound.

I had made five in 18 months. Five pediatric fatalities. All of them under three years of age. I had racked up a career’s worth of crappy incidents in an 18-month period. I was mentally at the breaking point and on the verge of burnout but did nothing about it because I was a tough guy fireman. At no point during those 18 months did I seek out professional counseling or even peer support, because that’s not something tough guy firemen do. We clean the blood from our boots and get back on the truck. We don’t whine about our feelings. We get over it. Right? Right??

I might’ve been a tough guy fireman, but man was I a dummy.

Then, the incident that finally tipped the scales occurred. It was a clear, crisp morning. We were doing what firemen do best – making sure the recliners couldn’t escape. The station alert opened up and let us know that we were going to yet another motor vehicle accident. We climbed up into the apparatus and started heading for the dispatched address. Nobody in the pumper was too excited because, duh, we’re tough guy firemen. We do this stuff all the time.

I had just finished putting us enroute over the radio when we heard the voice of an unusually stressed dispatcher. The additional information now stated that the simple motor vehicle accident we were responding to was, in fact, an auto versus pedestrian. And the pedestrian on the receiving end of said auto was a little girl.

The stress level inside that pumper went from stoner college dropout to bomb disposal technician in a matter of seconds. The mental rolodex of all the tough guy fireman stuff I was supposed to do started flipping at a high rate of speed in my head. Stay calm. Give orders. Follow your training. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Then we arrived on scene and my brain lit the rolodex on fire, threw it on the ground, and pissed on the ashes. The scene was utter chaos. There were people everywhere. Residents near the incident, hearing the commotion, flooded out of their houses to see what was going on. And the strangest part was that there was no centralization to the mob. Everybody was wandering around, many of them shouting or crying or just in a state of confusion. There were so many people that it actually took a brief second for us to figure out where the patient was.

Then we saw her. She looked like she could have been sleeping. In that moment, my brain decided to cooperate. It picked the rolodex back up off the ground, dusted it off, and directed me to go to work. I won’t go into too much detail other than to tell you that from the point we got to the patient, until we handed off care to the hospital, the men and women I was with at that scene performed flawlessly. Everybody knew what to do and was performing tasks that needed to be done before anybody had to ask them to do it. Every life-saving measure was exhausted trying to save this little girl’s life.

Unfortunately, our efforts could not overcome her injuries. This happens. It had happened. This pediatric fatality was now number six in an 18-month period. I fully expected to deal with this one like I had dealt with all the other ones. We would go back to the station. Everybody would retreat to their corners of the building. The rest of the shift would be quiet, with nobody wanting to admit just how much we were affected. We would get off in the morning, still not having acknowledged the gravity of what had happened. Then we would come back to work the next shift like nothing had happened and get ready for the next one. That’s how tough guy firemen handle it. That’s just “what we do”.

Hey, look! There’s that big dummy I’ve been talking about.

During that incident, I rode to the hospital in the back of the ambulance to assist with the life-saving efforts. The Deputy Chief for the department drove his Tahoe to the hospital to pick me up and bring me back to the scene so that I could be reunited with my crew. I had been through this same routine before. Chief picks me up, brings me back to the scene, we stay there until we get released by DPS, go back to the station, and so on.

But this time felt … different. I remember pulling back up to the scene. My Deputy Chief (who was well aware of my recent history with pediatric incidents) put his Tahoe in park, looked over at me and asked, “what do you want to do?”

I blinked for a second, not understanding what he was asking me. Then, it clicked.

He’s asking you if you’re okay to get back on the truck, you tough guy dummy.

In that moment, I realized I had absolutely no desire to get back on the apparatus with my crew. For the first time in my career as a firefighter, I honestly did not want to wash the blood from my boots and get back on the truck. I would like to say I was alarmed by this realization, but I actually wasn’t feeling much of anything at that moment. Looking back at it now, this tough guy fireman was in shock. That’s the best way to describe it. I felt … nothing.

I looked back at him for a moment, then looked forward, past the windshield to where the rest of my crew stood among the flashing lights and scene tape. Before I realized I was speaking, my face hole formed and spoke the words, “I want to go home.” My Deputy Chief, understanding what needed to happen, silently put the truck in reverse, turned around, and started heading back to the station.

As I left the station, I called my wife. I told her that there was a bad call at work and that I was heading home. Then I realized how bad that sounded and had to reassure her that I wasn’t hurt or anything, it was just a bad call and I no longer wanted to be there. Then I realized how strange that sounded and said to hell with it, I’ll explain it when you get home. She feigned understanding and told me since I was getting home early (about 18 hours early), our daughter would be super excited if I surprised her at daycare and picked her up. So I did. Still in a state of semi-shock, I picked our daughter up from daycare and brought her home.

Our daughter neither understood nor particularly cared why there was a break in protocol and daddy was picking her up. I had freed her from that hellish prison of juice, cookies, and nap time. She could finally return to the barbie doll saga that she had started to play out in our living room the day before.

So that’s what she did. As soon as we walked in the front door of our house, she bolted towards her toy box, retrieved the plastic main characters of her imagined world and began to play. I walked to “my chair” (a leather recliner that had the same texture as a well-used football – every dad should have one) and sat down. I sat there, staring at my two-year-old daughter, but actually looking past her into … nothing.

Most people know this as the “thousand-yard stare.” I sat in my chair, staring off into space, reflecting on the day’s events. At that moment, I felt locked in my own head. I relived that incident a hundred times as I sat there. I felt alone, angry, sad, worthless, inadequate, untrained, and a multitude of other feelings all at the same time.

I didn’t notice my daughter had stopped playing and was staring back at me until she stood and began to walk towards me. I then realized the sadness and despair that she must have seen on my face. This was something she had never seen before. I was the tough guy dad fireman. I didn’t get sad. I was the tough dummy. I mean tough fireman dummy. I mean tough guy fireman.

In that moment, my two-year-old daughter realized that her tough guy fireman dad was hurting. She put her barbies down, walked over to me, climbed up on my lap, and put her head down on my chest. She put her hand right over my heart and began to pat me, like I had done for her so many nights when I was trying to get her to go to sleep. Then she started to whisper, in the sweet voice that could only come from a two-year-old little girl, “Shhhh. It’s ok daddy.” And she kept repeating that over and over as she patted my chest. Never raising her head. Never squirming to go back and play. In that place in time, in that moment, she was taking care of her daddy.

My face started leaking. Slowly at first, then more gradually until I was full-on ugly crying. All of the mental anguish that had been building for the past 18 months had come to a head that day. I sat in my chair, my little girl in my lap, her taking care of me as if she had done it a hundred times before.

That’s when I realized something about fathers in general and, more specifically, those of us in public safety positions. It’s okay for your kids to think you’re an invincible superhero. But don’t go believing that crap yourself. Ask for help when you need it. Knock off all the bravado crap and take charge of your well-being. Because if it gets to the point that you’re slobbering and crying like a baby in the arms of your two-year-old, maybe you’re past due for some support.

I sought out peer support. I talked with those who have been through what I have. I learned techniques to handle some of the more difficult aspects of this job. That way, I can be the superhero they need me to be, when they need me to be.

One of my favorite quotes is about kids looking up to their parents. It simply states:

“They want to be just like you. Be worth being.”

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Whether you're filling out your own registry or shopping for a soon-to-be-mama in your life, it can be hard to narrow down what exactly new moms need (versus what will just end up cluttering the nursery). That's why we paired up with the baby gear experts at Pottery Barn Kids to create a registry guide featuring everything from the gear you'll use over and over to the perfect gifts under $50.

Check out the picks below, and happy shopping (and registering)!

MUST-HAVE BABY GEAR

These five gift ideas are designed to make #momlife easier while solving some of the most common parenting dilemmas.

1. Doona All-In-One Infant Car Seat/Stroller

One of the first things you learn when you become a mom? Those infant car seats are heavy. Which is what makes the Doona All-In-One Infant Car Seat/Stroller so genius. It's the world's first completely integrated mobility solution, quickly transforming from safe car seat to functional stroller without any extra parts. Simply pop out the wheels, pull up the handle bar, and you're ready to roll.

Doona All-in-one Infant Car Seat / Stroller, $499

BUY


GIFTS THAT CAN BE PERSONALIZED

Even the most utilitarian gift feels a little more special with some personalization. Here are some of our favorite options that can be customized with baby's name or monogram.

1. Nursery Blankets

You'll never forget the blanket you bring your newborn home in. And with Pottery Barn Kids' assortment of blankets, there's a wrap to suit every new mama's style. Choose from fuzzy neutral patterns or stylish printed options, and add baby's name for an extra personal touch.

Nursery Blankets, Starting at $39.50

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GIFTS THAT GROW WITH THEM

Save money and space by gifting items that will last long after baby's first year. These clever gift items will have mama saying "thank you!" for years to come.

1. west elm x pbk Mid-Century Convertible Crib

A convertible crib is an investment in years of sweet dreams. We love this mid-century-style option made from sustainably sourced wood with child-safe, water-based finishes. When your baby outgrows their crib (sniff!), it easily converts into a toddler bed with the matching conversion kit.

west elm x pbk Mid-Century Convertible Crib, $399

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GIFTS UNDER $50

Sometimes the littlest gifts mean the most. Here are our favorite gifts under $50 they'll be sure to cherish.

1. west elm x pbk Dot Muslin Swaddle Set

When you're raising a newborn, you can never have too many swaddles. Perfect for naptime, burp cloths, stroller covers, and spontaneous play mats, a muslin swaddle will always come in handy. And we especially love this neutral patterned collection in platinum, nightshade, and peacock.

west elm x pbk Dot Muslin Swaddle Set, $45.50

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Learn more and explore all Pottery Barn Kids' registry must-haves here.

In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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They say there's no use in crying over it, but for pumping mamas, spilled milk is a major upset.

When you're working so hard to make sure your baby has breast milk, you don't want to lose a drop, and Chrissy Teigen knows this all too well.

The mom of two posted a video to social media Wednesday showing her efforts to rescue breastmilk from a tabletop. She used various utensils and a syringe to try to get the milk back in the bottle.

"I spilled my breastmilk and this is how important it is in this house," she says while suctioning up milk with what appears to be a baster.

In a follow-up video Teigen continues to try to rescue the spilled milk.

"We're trying," she says as she suctions up a drop or two. "I got some."

Teigen is currently breastfeeding baby Miles, her son with husband John Legend, and has been very public about the fact that she pumps a lot as a working mom.

She's also been open about the fact that milk supply has always been an issue for her, not just with Miles but with Luna, too.

"I actually loved [pumping] because I'm a collector of things, and so when I found out I could pump I [did it] so much because I knew the more you pumped, the more milk you'd make," she told POPSUGAR back in March. "So I loved collecting my breast milk and seeing how much I could get, even if it was very, very little."

Like a lot of moms, Teigen did struggle emotionally when a pump session wouldn't get her the ounces she wanted.

"I wasn't producing a lot of milk, and it was frustrating. When you're frustrated, [it can also make you] not produce that much."

Research backs her up. Stress has been linked to lower milk production. Because of that, she's trying to stay positive this time around, but captioned her video post "EVERY DROP COUNTS IN THIS HOUSE" because, well, they do.


So many mothers can relate. Have you ever tried to save your breastmilk?

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What is it about networking that's just kind of...awful? Typically inconvenient and often awkward, formal networking events rarely yield the results most women (and especially mamas) are looking for.

Whether you're reentering the workforce post-baby leave or simply looking to make a complicated career switch as a busy mom (or just struggling to juggle play dates and professional meetings), making the right connections is often a hurdle that's difficult to surmount. And more and more often, networking comes up short in providing what moms really need.

When time is truly at a premium—a session swapping business cards can be hard to prioritize. Shapr wants to change all that.

Designed with busy people in mind, Shapr is an app with an algorithm that uses tagged interests, location, and professional experience to match you with 10-15 inspiring professional connections a day. You swipe to indicate interest in networking with any of them, and if the interest is mutual, you're connected. (But don't worry, that's where the similarities to that dating app end.)

It makes it easier to connect with the right people.

From there, you can chat, video conference, and even meet in person with potential mentors, partners, and investors while growing your real-life network. No more wasting hours trying to pick someone's brain only to discover they don't have the right experience you need. And no more awkward, stilted small talk—even suggests a few preset icebreakers to help get the conversation rolling more quickly.

The best part? You could do virtually all your connecting from your couch post-bedtime.

It simplifies switching careers or industries.

Sysamone Phaphone is a real mom who was fed up with traditional networking options. When she quit her full-time job in healthcare to pursue founding a startup, she quickly realized that in-person networking events weren't only failing to connect her to the right people, they were also difficult for a single mom of two to even attend. "I was complaining to a friend that I was so tired and didn't know how I was going to keep doing it this way when she recommended the Shapr app," Phaphone says. "I tried it right there at dinner and started swiping. [Later], in my pajamas, I got my first connection."

From there, Phaphone was hooked. Her network suddenly exploded with developers, potential partners she could work with, and even people to hire for the roles she needed. She was also able to connect with and empower other women in tech. Now, checking in with Shapr connections is just part of her routine. "I look for connections after drop-off at school and on my commute into the city," she says. "Then after bedtime is done, I go on to check if there is anyone I've connected with."

It helps you find a mentor—no matter where they live.

Another common roadblock Shapr removes? Location. While you probably wouldn't fly to LA from New York for a networking event, the Shapr app lets you connect and chat with the person who best meets your needs—regardless of where they're based. Even better for parents, the "mom penalty" many women contend with when trying to get back into the workforce doesn't exist on Shapr—if you have the right experience, the connections will still come.

To connect, simply create your account, enter up to ten hashtags you want to follow (either industry related like #film or #tech or by person you're seeking, such as #developer or #uxui), preset what you're looking for (investors, collaborators, etc.), and indicate how you prefer to meet. To connect with more people at once, Shapr also has community groups within the app around interest topics that you can join. And even though the connection begins in the digital space, it often results in the in-person experiences mamas crave.

"I wish I could encourage more moms and dads to use it because it has been a lifesaver for me," Phaphone says. "It empowered my career and career choices, and it provides so much convenience. I can put my kids to bed and not go to an event, but still meet 20 people in a night."

For women looking to grow their business, position, or simply achieve a little self-growth, Shapr is changing the way we connect. This powerful new app could change everything, mama. Download it today to get started.

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