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During my second pregnancy, all seems well for the first several weeks. Then one morning, it’s as if someone has flipped a switch that was buried deep in my immune system. I wake up with pains in my abdomen and an uneasy feeling I cannot shake.

Specialist appointments follow. “You’re measuring normally,” the OB-GYN verifies at an 18-week ultrasound – the last time I hear the word “normal” during this pregnancy. Lab tests quickly confirm what we’re dealing with: my body has elected to wage war on itself, focusing its wrath on my digestive system.

Despite an aggressive course of medication, my health deteriorates. The high-risk OB-GYN delicately broaches the topic of ending the pregnancy, which I refuse. Instead, I focus on what I need to do: take in enough nutrition so the baby can grow. My husband painstakingly prepares three-egg omelets for breakfast and brings protein-packed smoothies to my bedside, but eating remains an agonizing ordeal. The little girl growing inside me has to subsist on the most meager of rations.

When Lily is born at 31 weeks, she measures small for gestational age. “A little bit IUGR,” notes the doctor gently, referring to Intrauterine Growth Restriction, in which a baby does not grow to a normal weight during pregnancy. After 41 days in the neonatal intensive care unit, she’s discharged weighing four pounds – almost two pounds heavier than when she entered the world.

Lily is healthy. But her subsequent growth remains a concern that’s always on our minds. We follow the neonatologist’s advice and supplement breastfeeding with special, high-calorie formula. When Lily starts solid foods, she seems hesitant at first, turning her face away. This makes us nervous, so we start applauding and cheering manically whenever she takes a tiny bite, something we never did with our oldest child.

As Lily enters the toddler years, we continue to watch her like a hawk at meals. “One more bite, just one more bite,” I plead. In my head, the drumbeat continues: You must eat. You must eat. If you don’t eat, you will not grow, and we can’t have that. I can’t fail you again.

When Lily turns four and remains at the lowest percentiles on the growth chart, our pediatrician cheerily ships us off to the endocrinologist. I sit at the appointment with my child, a happy, bright preschooler who is blissfully unaware that everyone in the room is analyzing her from all angles, as if she’s a puzzle they want to solve. The lead doctor briefly discusses human growth hormone, and how it can be prescribed if lab work reveals any abnormalities. I feel my blood pressure rising.

I watch as my sweet girl endures the sharp poke of a needle, her eyes widening in hurt surprise. Next, a technician grasps my daughter’s wrist for an X-ray – a test that assesses growth by calculating bone age. This procedure is painless, but my daughter has had enough. She wails, squirming away from the cold examination bench, her happy mood finally shattered.

A few weeks later, we learn that the results are all normal. We start to relax just a little bit about food and nutrition, realizing that our daughter will grow and gain weight as she needs to, whether we choreograph every meal or not. We remember that nourishing her development means more than simply filling her belly, and that small size does not equate failure, nor does it affect her potential to live a meaningful life.

The type of growth that doctors measure is the kind that’s easy to see and track in a logical fashion. It makes sense, and it can be helpful. But it’s not the only information that matters.

Lately, I’ve been thinking that if I had my own chart, I’d plot an entirely different set of milestones, markers that have nothing to do with my daughter’s physical growth. Like the first time she was able to swim underwater to her dad, or the first time she read through an entire book on her own. Or her dance recital last year, when we dropped her off at the theater entrance and she skipped away to play with her friends, carefree and completely oblivious to her parents. Just like any other five-year-old. These are milestones worth celebrating, reminders that growth cannot be measured only by pounds or inches.

I think of all of these experiences like points holding my daughter in space on her own curve. Her path may not be linear. It won’t be the same as everyone else’s. She’ll probably always be small for her age. But I know that she is growing – exactly as she was meant to – each and every day.

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Parents in New Jersey will soon get more money and more time for parental leave after welcoming a baby.

This week New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed off on legislation that extends New Jersey's paid family leave from six weeks to 12.

It also increases the benefit cap from 53% of the average weekly wage to 70%, meaning the maximum benefit for a parent on family leave will be $860 a week, up from $650.

It might not seem like a huge difference, but by raising the benefit from two-thirds of a parent's pay to 85%, lawmakers in New Jersey are hoping to encourage more parents to actually take leave, which is good for the parents, their baby and their family. "Especially for that new mom and dad, we know that more time spent bonding with a child can lead to a better long-term outcome for that child," Murphy said at a press conference this week.

The law will also make it easier for people to take time off when a family member is sick.

Because NJ's paid leave is funded through payroll deductions, workers could see an increase in those deductions, but Murphy is betting that workers and businesses will see the benefits in increasing paid leave benefits. "Morale goes up, productivity goes up, and more money goes into the system," Murphy said. "And increasingly, companies big and small realize that a happy workforce and a secure workforce is a key ingredient to their success."

The new benefits will go into effect in July 2020 (making next Halloween a good time to get pregnant in the Garden State).

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Whether you just need to stock up on diapers or you've had your eye on a specific piece of baby gear, you might want to swing by your local Walmart this Saturday, February 23rd.

Walmart's big "Baby Savings Day" is happening from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at participating Walmarts (but more deals can be found online at Walmart.com already and the website deals are happening for the rest of the month).

About 3,000 of the 3,570 Supercenter locations are participating in the sale (check here to see if your local Walmart is).

The deals vary, but in general you can expect up to 30% off on items like cribs, strollers, car seats, wipes, diapers and formula.

Some items, like this Graco Modes 3 Lite Travel System have been marked down by more than $100. Other hot items include this Lille Baby Complete Carrier (It's usually $119, going for $99 during the sale) and the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat (for as low as $199).

So if you're in need of baby gear, you should check out this sale. Travel gear isn't the only category that's been marked down, there are some steep discounts on breast pumps, too.

Many of the Walmart locations will also be offering samples and expert demos of certain products on Saturday so it's worth checking out!

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Any Schumer has not had an easy pregnancy. She intended to keep working, but if you follow her on social media you know she's been very sick through each trimester.

And now in her final trimester she's had to cancel her tour due to hyperemesis gravidarum, also known as HG. It's a rare but very serious form of extreme morning sickness, and on Friday evening Schumer announced she is canceling the rest of her tour because of it.

“I vomit every time [I] ride in a car even for 5 minutes," Schumer explained in an Instagram post.

Due to the constant vomiting she's not cleared to fly and just can't continue to the tour.

This is not the first time Schumer has had to make an announcement about HG. Back in November, just weeks after announcing her pregnancy, she had to cancel shows and again broke the news via Instagram.

She posted a photo of herself in a hospital bed with her little dog Tati, and spelled out the details of her health issues in the caption. "I have hyperemesis and it blows," Schumer wrote.

Poor Amy. Hyperemesis gravidarum is really tough.

Kate Middleton, Ayesha Curry and Motherly co-founder Elizabeth Tenety are among those who, like Schumer, have suffered from this form of severe morning sickness that can be totally debilitating.

As she previously wrote for Motherly, Tenety remembers becoming desperately ill, being confined to her apartment (mostly her bed) and never being far from a trash can, "I lost 10% of my body weight. I became severely dehydrated. I couldn't work. I couldn't even get out of bed. I could barely talk on the phone to tell my doctor how sick I was—begging them to please give me something, anything—to help."

Thankfully, she found relief through a prescription for Zofran, an anti-nausea drug.

Schumer probably knows all about that drug. It looks she is getting the medical help she obviously needs, and she was totally right to cancel the tour in order to stay as healthy as possible.

We're glad to see Schumer is getting help, and totally understand why she would have to cancel her shows. Any mama who has been through HG will tell you, that wouldn't be a show you'd want front row seats for anyway.

Get well soon, Amy!

[A version of this post was published November 15, 2018. It has been updated.]

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As a military spouse, Cydney Cooper is used to doing things alone. But when she delivered her twin daughters early after complications due to Influenza A, she was missing her husband Skylar more than ever.

Recovering from the flu and an emergency C-section, and trying to parent the couple's two older boys and be with her new infant daughters in the NICU, Cydney was exhausted and scared and just wanted her husband who was deployed in Kuwait with the Army and wasn't expected home for weeks.

Alone in the NICU 12 days after giving birth, Cydney was texting an update on the twins to her husband when he walked through the door to shoulder some of the massive burden this mama was carrying.

"I was typing up their summary as best I could and trying to remember every detail to tell him when I looked up and saw him standing there. Shock, relief, and the feeling that everything was just alright hit me at once. I just finally let go," she explains in a statement to Motherly.

The moment was captured on video thanks to a family member who was in on Skylar's surprise and the reunion has now gone viral, having been viewed millions of times. It's an incredible moment for the couple who hadn't seen each other since Skylar had a three-day pass in seven months earlier.

Cydney had been caring for the couple's two boys and progressing in her pregnancy when, just over a week before the viral video was taken, she tested positive for Influenza A and went into preterm labor. "My husband was gone, my babies were early, I had the flu, and I was terrified," she tells Motherly.

"Over the next 48 hours they were able to stop my labor and I was discharged from the hospital. It only lasted two days and I went right back up and was in full on labor that was too far to stop."

Cydney needed an emergency C-section due to the babies' positioning, and her medical team could not allow anyone who had previously been around her into the operating room because anyone close to Cydney had been exposed to the flu.

"So I went in alone. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and held my hand through the entire thing but at the same time, I felt very very alone and scared. [Skylar] had been present for our first two and he was my rock and I didn't have him when I wanted him the most. But I did it! He was messaging me the second they wheeled me to recovery. Little did I know he was already working on being on his way."

When he found out his baby girls were coming early Skylar did everything he could to get home, and seeing him walk into the NICU is a moment Cydney will hold in her heart and her memory forever. "I had been having to hop back and forth from our sons to our daughters and felt guilty constantly because I couldn't be with all of them especially with their dad gone. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life and I won't be forgetting it."

It's so hard for a military spouse to do everything alone after a baby comes, and the military does recognize this. Just last month the Army doubled the amount of leave qualifying secondary caregivers (most often dads) can take after a birth or adoption, from 10 days to 21 so that moms like Cydney don't have to do it all alone.

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