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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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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent. Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, is more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued so the crisis can be averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

For me, the fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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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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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas


Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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