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It was Friday, February 26 at about 7:30 in the evening. My nine-month-old son was fast asleep in his nursery and I was lying in my four-year-old son’s bed watching his eyelids grow heavy, his long eyelashes brushing the top of his cheeks as he drifted off to sleep.


Typically, I like to wait a few minutes before leaving his room, partially to make sure he doesn’t wake up the moment I stir and partially because I just love watching him sleep. After a day of using up every ounce of energy in his body, witnessing him surrender to exhaustion has become a favorite mom moment.

Tonight as he drifted off, our dog began barking. I appreciate this habit for its protective instincts, and I also loathe its ability to wake sleeping children – usually over a passing bicycle or a much smaller dog. I sneaked out of my son’s room to see what had the dog so worked up. To my delight, I found one of my dearest friends standing on the front porch.

When you have young children, surprise visits from friends are about as frequent as days free of temper tantrums. I eagerly opened the door. “What are you doing here?”

The picture of composure, she responded, “I’m here to sit with you while you call John.” I stared at her. Utterly frozen in trying to process her words, complete thoughts evaded me. Instead I was left with – John.

Husband. Headaches. MRI…brain tumor. These moments, these life-changing moments, they really do happen the way you see it in the movies.

I think I managed to say “Oh my god” before slowly sinking to the floor – though there was a chair within arm’s reach I could have sat in. When you realize that your 36-year-old husband, the father of your two young sons and the man you love with all your heart, has just been told he has a brain tumor, chairs don’t feel stable enough. The ground is the only place to go.

Of course I knew John had had an MRI that afternoon. His recent onset of migraine-like headaches had led us to schedule an appointment with a Neurologist, who ordered the MRI as a routine measure. I didn’t go with him that day because, quite frankly, neither of us thought I needed to be there. He would be in and out, and we would hear the results the following week.

But when you have a tumor the size of a grapefruit in the front left lobe of your brain, that’s not exactly how MRIs go. My husband had just finished tying his shoes when the technician came in the room, phone in hand, and said, “Your Doctor wants to talk to you.” The next words he heard were, ”You have a large tumor in your brain, and you need to go to the Emergency Room, immediately.”

It’s almost too overwhelming to put myself in his position upon hearing such news. But my husband, being the incredible partner he is, was able to put himself in my position. The moment he heard his life had taken a very sharp turn, he thought about me, home with our two sleeping boys, and he called a trusted friend to be with me as I heard the news.

If there were ever an example of how I know for sure that I married the right person, this is it.

I’m not sure I’m ready, or even able, to put into words what the months since that night have been like for me as a wife. I could sum them up clinically with terms such as “awake surgery,” during which my husband was awoken, brain exposed, to make sure that while removing the tumor, the doctors weren’t also permanently damaging his speech and motor functions. I could say things like, “daily radiation and chemotherapy” or “medical bills” and “disability”. I could talk about “focal seizures,” “short term memory loss,” or “Grade 3 Glioma.” To really talk about those things, I need to process them more fully, and there just hasn’t been any space to do that. Not right now anyway.

I recently read an article by a woman going through a very traumatic life event. She talked about how her choice each day was to “feel or function.” This resonates with me so strongly. If I choose to feel, I would likely hole up in my bedroom for days on end, crying and trying to understand why this is happening to us, wondering if we’ll ever get through it, wondering if I’m going to lose him, and how the hell I could ever live without him.

Instead, I choose to function. I choose function for my husband, who needs a strong, resilient partner to help him as he fights for his life. I choose function for the job that needs a capable, attentive employee to continue to do her job. And, above all, I choose function for the two young boys who rely on me to get up each day and be their mother, to make sure they continue to grow and thrive and feel safe in such uncertain times. 

So instead of trying to tell you what this feels like, I’m going to tell you what its like to function as the mommy of children whose daddy has cancer. Specifically, the mommy of our now five-year-old son, Cooper.

Cooper loves to play. This is not out of the norm for young kids. Playing is what they do best. But my kid loves to play and compete with such intensity that I sometimes wonder if I’m raising the next Michael Phelps. His competitive spirit is inspiring and exhausting at the same time, and he has the chops to back it up. From puzzles to piñatas, Rochambeau to soccer, all he wants to do is play. Play and win, which he usually does.

I, on the other hand, don’t care much for games. I don’t enjoy running or hiding behind trees or pretending to be a character from “Star Wars”. I don’t like water gun battles or playing t-ball for hours on end. But as the mother of this game-loving child, I am forever being asked, begged even, to participate in the play.

I have an arsenal of excuses to get out of such requests. Too tired, too busy, need to make dinner, need to clean up, can’t run because I’ll pee my pants. You know, the usual. It’s not that I don’t love being with my son (most days); I’m just not the game-playing kind of mom. I prefer a kinder, slower sort of quality time – Uno, for example, where I can sit down and also eat a snack.

My husband, however, is most definitely the game-playing kind of dad. He’s the kind of dad who can stay outside all day long and play game after game with the kids, taking breaks only for snacks, water, and “nature pees.” At social functions, you can usually find him leading games of soccer or catch with all our son’s friends while I enjoy a glass of wine with my mom pals. His childlike-spirit is infections, and his love of sports is unparalleled. For my eldest son, you could say the apple fell very close to John’s tree.

Throughout surgery, recovery, and subsequent treatment rounds, John’s inability to play as much as he used to has been one of the hardest things for Cooper to grasp. And one of the most heartbreaking for me to witness.

This is why, one day a few weeks ago, during a particularly tough round of chemo, I did something very unlike me. After dinner, Cooper made his usual request for someone to play tag with him in the backyard. “Please, mommy,” he said, “let’s just try, and if our bellies start to hurt, we’ll stop, okay?”

I looked into his pleading eyes and thought about my husband, unable to run, unable to even stand up without feeling overwhelming nausea. So I said yes. I said yes because I needed to believe that we could still have fun. Cancer may be robbing us of many things – my husband’s health, our security and peace of mind, our financial stability, our intimacy. But it isn’t going to steal my son’s joy.

As soon as we started playing tag that night, that’s what we both felt – pure joy. I suddenly realized how many beautiful things come from simply playing a game together. Things that cancer cannot stop, no matter how hard it tries. 

Cancer can’t stop my son’s hair from blowing in the wind because he’s running at lightning speed to escape my grasp. Cancer can’t silence the sound of his belly laughs as I try to trick him into looking the other way so I can sneak up on him from a different direction. Cancer can’t block the grass from tickling our bare toes as we sprint through it. Cancer can’t even come close to quieting the sound of my son singing “I got the moooooooooves like Jagger” as he races to the safe zone on the porch.

So while cancer may have taken a seat at our table, it’s not in our yard. Not when my son and I are playing tag. We do this every night now, no matter how tough the day has been.

Tiffany J Photography

I’m not going to end this by saying that you should start loving the things your kids love because you never know when you or your spouse will get cancer. That’s no way to live. It’s totally within your rights as a parent to hate playing with Legos. Those little plastic things invade every space of your home and hurt like hell when you step on them. If you don’t think you can spend one more minute dressing up an American Girl doll for yet another tea party, you shouldn’t have to! It’s hard enough parenting children without having to play with their toys all the time.

What I will say is that one day, maybe in the not so distant future, you may find yourself longing for something simple, something you can count on. You may find yourself needing to step up to the parental plate and do something you don’t enjoy because your kids need you in a whole different way.

And you may just find yourself trying to catch your breath, not from crying, but from running like hell to escape a tag from the hands of a child you and your husband created. And it may just be the best feeling youve ever felt in your life.

So if youll excuse me, Im off to the backyard.

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While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

"This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

Price: $15.99

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2. Dr. Brown's Baby First Year Transition Bottles

"My daughter easily transitioned back and forth between breastfeeding and these bottles." —Elizabeth

Price: $24.98

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3. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

"When I was breastfeeding, it was important to me to feel like a part of things, to be around people, entertain guests, etc. Especially since so much of being a new mom can feel isolating. So having the ability to cover up but still breastfeed out in the open, instead of disappearing into a room somewhere for long stretches alone to feed, made me feel better."—Renata

Price: $11.99

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4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

"I suffered from extreme engorgement during the first weeks after delivery with both of my children. I wouldn't have survived had it not been for these packs that provided cold therapy for engorgement and hot therapy for clogged milk ducts." —Deena

Price: $10.25

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5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

"Being a working and pumping mama, these quick clean wipes made pumping at the office so much easier, and quicker. I could give everything a quick wipe down between pumping sessions. And did not need a set of spare parts for the office." —Ashley

Price: $19.99

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6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

"This nipple butter is everything, you don't need to wash it off before baby feeds/you pump. I even put some on my lips at the hospital and it saved me from chapped lips and nips." —Conz

Price: $12.95

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7. Medela Double Electric Pump

"I had latch issues and terrible postpartum anxiety, and was always worried my son wasn't getting enough milk. So I relied heavily on my breast pump so that I could feed him bottles and know exactly how much he was drinking. This Medela pump and I were best friends for almost an entire year" —Karell

Price: $199.99 Receive a $50 gift card with purchase at walmart.com

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8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

"I overproduced in the first couple weeks (and my milk would come in pretty much every time my baby LOOKED at my boobs), so Lansinoh disposable nursing pads saved me from many awkward leak situations!" —Justine

Price: $9.79

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9. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump

"This has been a huge help in saving the extra milk from the letdown during breastfeeding and preventing leaks on my clothes!" —Rachel

Price: $12.99

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10. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

"Because I didn't plan to breastfeed I didn't buy a pump before birth. When I decided to try, I needed a pump so my husband ran out and bought this. It was easy to use, easy to wash and more convenient than our borrowed electric pump." —Heather

Price: $26.99

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11. Milkies Fenugreek

"I struggled with supply for my first and adding this to my regimen really helped with increasing milk." —Mary N.

Price: $14.95

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12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

"I exclusively pumped for a year with my first and these are hands down the best storage bags. All others always managed to crack eventually. These can hold a great amount and I haven't had a leak! And I have used over 300-400 of these!" —Carla

Price: $13.19

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13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

"The Kiinde system made pumping and storing breastmilk so easy. It was awesome to be able pump directly into the storage bags, and then use the same bags in the bottle to feed my baby." —Diana

Price: $21.99

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

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Orange Is the New Black star Danielle Brooks is pregnant and frustrated. The actress took to Instagram this week to lament the lack of plus-sized options for pregnant people.

"It's so hard to find some clothes to wear today....Although I get to pregnant I still can't find no clothes. It's so hard to find some clothes when you're pregnant," she sings in a lighthearted yet serious video.

"It's so hard to find cute plus size maternity fashion while pregnant, but ima push through," she captioned the clip.

Brooks has been talking a lot this week about the issues people who wear plus size clothing face not just when trying to find clothes but in simply moving through a world that does not support them.

"I feel like the world has built these invisible bullets to bully us in telling us who we're supposed to be and what we're supposed to look like. And I've always had this desire to prove people wrong—to say that this body that I'm in is enough," she told SHAPE (she's on the new cover).

"Now that I'm about to be a mother, it means even more—to make sure that this human being I'm going to bring into the world knows that they are enough," she said.

Danielle Brooks is the body-positive hero we need right now. Now can someone make her some cute maternity clothes, please?

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In prior decades, body image issues usually didn't hit the scene until kids reached adolescence. But thanks to social media, and our culture's relentless pursuit of thinness, we now have to find creative ways to teach young children how to develop healthy body images.

Before I dive into some practical tips to help kids improve body image, I want to first diminish any shame that you might be feeling if you have body issues of your own. It's so important to remember that you downloaded every internal message from somewhere else. Of course, it's critical to work on your own issues, but it's also important to know it is not your fault that you developed them in the first place!

So, whether you are struggling with your own body image, or you love your body, here are some tools to help your child feel better about the precious body he or she lives in:

1. Break the spell

How do you know if your child has a bad body image? Perhaps they've begun making negative comments about their size or shape. Maybe they are comparing their body to others. Maybe they are avoiding foods or activities they once enjoyed because they feel uncomfortable about their body.

Often the most common response a parent has is to reassure their child that they are “fine," or “beautiful" or “perfect." And while there is certainly nothing wrong with some reassurance, it simply may not be enough to overpower the cultural messages kids are surrounded by. Reassure them that they are perfect just the way they are.

2. Unkind mind, kind mind and quiet mind

This little menu of options encourages kids to identify and differentiate between three different thinking states within themselves. I refer to them as “mind moods." Try teaching your child about these three states of mind and brainstorming examples of each. For example, unkind mind = “I hate my thighs." Kind mind = “I love singing." Quiet mind = Peacefully resting or playing.

This will raise their awareness of their thoughts and help them to choose their mind moods more consciously. As they learn to turn up the volume of their kind minds and spend more time in their quiet minds, they begin to feel more present and peaceful.

Once you have helped your child identify their unkind mind as a distinct voice, they can then try on some different responses and see which ones help bring them some relief. Try asking them to write or say all the messages their unkind mind is saying and practicing using strong, soft, silly or silent responses. Kids can learn that their unkind mind is not all of who they are, and that it doesn't have to run the show.

3. Get to the root

This concept helps kids discover what triggers their body dissatisfaction. You can help your child by asking questions or taking guesses about what might have started their bad body image. For example, I helped one 7-year old get to the root of her body obsession by noticing it started when there was a death in her family. Right around that time, her best friend started talking about dieting, so she latched onto food obsession as a distracting coping tool.

Once we uncovered this, she was able to learn about healthy grieving and truly healthy eating (as opposed to what the diet culture deems as healthy—which can actually be unhealthy).

4. Mind movies vs. really real

Try asking your child to show you some things around them that are real (i.e. things they can see, touch or hear). Then ask them if they can show you one single thought in their minds. You can playfully challenge them to take a thought out of their head and show it to you or fold it up and put it in their pocket. This tool teaches kids how to be more present.

Of course, they might use their imagination to do this, but with some finesse, you can teach your child to distinguish between the mind movies that cause them stress and the really real things around them. This is an immensely helpful tool that will not only help them with body image (since body image is one long mind movie) but will also improve the quality of their lives in general.

5. Dog talk and cat chat

Many kids cannot relate to the concept of being kind to themselves but ask a child how they feel about their favorite pet, and a doorway to their compassion, kindness and unconditional acceptance opens. For non-pet lovers, you can ask your child to imagine how they would speak to a baby or their best friend.

Dog talk and cat chat can help teach youngsters how to take the loving words and tones they use toward a beloved pet, and direct these sentiments toward themselves and their bodies.

6. Do an internal upgrade

In addition to helping your child combat the messages they receive out in the world, you can also work on the messages they get in your home. Again, if you struggle with body image, it is not your fault, but you can work on healing—and not only will you feel more peace, but your child will benefit as well.

To the best of your ability, refrain from talking about foods as “good" or “bad." Refrain from making negative comments about your (or anyone else's) weight or looks. Refrain from praising someone (or yourself) for weight loss.

Practice welcoming your child's tears and anger without trying to change their feelings before they are ready. Practice eating all food groups in moderation. Foster a positive, grateful attitude about your body.

May you and your child feel comfortable in your bodies, eat all foods in moderation, move and rest in ways that feel good, and find abundant sweetness and fulfillment in life.

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Learn + Play

After a long day of doing seemingly everything, when our partners get home it kind of becomes a habit to ask, "How was your day?" In between prepping dinner, handing off the kids, finishing your own work, we don't exactly get much value from this question. Sure, it may open up the opportunity to complain about that awful thing that happened or excitedly share that presentation you killed at work—but it usually stops there.

I could do a better job of really talking in my relationship. After 12 years and two kids, sometimes all we can come up with post bedtime routine is, "You good? I'm good. Fire up the Netflix."

Here are 21 questions to dig deeper into your marriage after a long day—see where they take you!

  1. Did you listen to anything interesting today?
  2. If you could do any part of today over again, what would it be?
  3. How much coffee did you drink today?
  4. Will you remember any specific part of today a year from now? Five years?
  5. Did you take any photos today? What did you photograph?
  6. What app did you open most today?
  7. How can I make your day easier in five minutes?
  8. If we were leaving for vacation tonight, where do you wish we would be heading?
  9. If you won $500 and had to spend it on yourself today, what would you buy?
  10. If your day was turned into a movie, who would you cast?
  11. What did you say today that you could have never expected to come out of your mouth?
  12. What did you do to take care of yourself today?
  13. When did you feel appreciated today?
  14. If you could guarantee one thing for tomorrow what would it be?
  15. If we traded places tomorrow what advice would you give me for the day?
  16. What made you laugh today?
  17. Imagine committing the next year to learning one thing in your spare time. What would it be?
  18. Did you give anyone side-eye today? Why?
  19. What do you wish you did more of today?
  20. What do you wish you did less of today?
  21. Are you even listening to me right now?

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Love + Village

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.

"Before Olympia was born, I had never thought much about paternity leave and, to be honest, Reddit's company policy was not my idea. Our vice president of people and culture, Katelin Holloway, brought it up to me in a meeting and it sounded O.K., so why not?" Ohanian writes in an op-ed for New York Times Parenting.

He continues: "Then came Olympia, after near-fatal complications forced my wife, Serena, to undergo an emergency C-section. Serena spent days in recovery fighting for her life against pulmonary embolisms. When we came home with our baby girl, Serena had a hole in her abdomen that needed bandage changes daily. She was on medication. She couldn't walk."

The experience changed the way Ohanian viewed paternity leave. It was no longer something that just sounded like a good thing, it was a necessary thing for his family. It was crucial that he take it and now he is advocating for more fathers to be able to. In his piece for the NYT Ohanian points out something that Motherly has previously reported on: It is hard for fathers to take paternity leave even when their government or employer offers it.

A report from Dove Men+Care and Promundo (a global organization dedicated to gender equality) found 85% of dads surveyed in the United States, the UK, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands would do anything to be very involved in the early weeks and months after their child's birth or adoption, but less than 50% of fathers take as much time as they are entitled to.

Dads need paid leave, but even when they have it social pressures and unrealistic cultural expectations keep them from taking it and they choose not to take all the time they can. Ohanian wants lawmakers and business leaders to make sure that dads can take leave and he wants to help fathers choose to actually take it.

"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 previously wrote in an essay for Glamour.

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 wrote for Glamour.

In his NYT piece, Ohanian goes further: "I get that not every father has the flexibility to take leave without the fear that doing so could negatively impact his career. But my message to these guys is simple: Taking leave pays off, and it's continued to pay dividends for me two years later. It should be no surprise that I also encourage all of our employees to take their full leave at Initialized Capital, where I am managing partner; we recently had three dads on paid paternity leave at the same time."

The GOAT's husband is making the same points that we at Motherly make all the time. Research supports paid leave for all parents. It benefits the baby and the parents and that benefits society.

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.

[A version of this post was originally published February 19, 2019. It has been updated.]

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