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Being a parent is a hard job. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, it challenges your knowledge, skills, and capacity. All of a sudden, you’re responsible for a tiny, vulnerable person who requires you to know exactly what they need with little practice or assistance.


When your child is diagnosed with a serious illness, the task of parenting can seem insurmountable.

As a new parent, I read all the parenting journals, researched how to meet my son’s needs, and engaged in every playgroup, read-and-rhyme time, and child focused activity you could imagine. Despite all of my attempts to be a prepared parent, at 11 months, my son quite innocently pulled on the cord of a lamp and caused himself a concussion. This concussion led to a frantic trip to the hospital with a hysterical baby who was projectile vomiting for a CT scan to rule out a skull fracture.

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Thankfully, there was no skull fracture. What was revealed, however, was an area of concern – a cyst-like area that required further investigation. All of a sudden, specialists were assessing my son’s case with concerned faces and hushed tones. At this stage, I had no concerns about my son’s development. The possibility that he may have experienced a brain injury was horrifying.

The next few weeks were a flurry of MRI scans and pediatric, neurologist, eye specialist, physiotherapy, and occupational therapy appointments. In the end, it was revealed that my son had experienced a stroke at some time during his first 11 months, which had caused the destruction of several areas in his brain.

My world was suddenly filled with medical language that was both confusing and concerning, “helpful” information and support from family and friends, questions about my son’s capacity, and sleepless nights of worry.

After a week of wallowing in our situation, my husband and I decided it was time to take control. The following steps helped us cope with our son’s illness and maintain our sanity:

1 | Avoid Dr. Google

Google is not the place to get answers, unless they are sites recommended by medical professionals or you are accessing support groups. There’s a lot of bogus information out there. I think that is enough said on the topic.

2 | You do not need to be a medical expert

We met with so many doctors about our son’s diagnosis. Each doctor had his or her own speciality and was highly skilled and knowledgeable. At first, we left each appointment bamboozled, trying to remember the words the doctors had used so we could look them up later.

To feel more prepared for these meetings, we made lists of questions we wanted to ask. We also assigned roles for each meeting. One person would be responsible for asking questions, and the other would take notes so we could review the information later.

We also started to ask for information. If anyone spoke about a diagnosis or a test, we would ask for a fact sheet. Surprisingly, most doctors were happy to print off information for us to take home. We started to leave appointments feeling informed and actually understanding what was happening to our son and why.

3 | It is okay to get a second opinion

Our son’s stroke caused significant and permanent damage. Our neurologist asked to present our son’s case to his fellow neurologists to seek input on the best treatment plan. We, of course agreed; in the case of medical treatment, the more the merrier! This led us to question some of the recommendations made by our treating doctors.

We decided that, before making any significant decisions in our son’s care, we would seek a second opinion to support the recommendation. If that recommendation differed, we sought the outcomes for both pathways, deciding on the best and, where possible, least intrusive option for our son.

While I understand that this is not always possible, you can always ask your treating professional about other options and why they have chosen this specific treatment.

4 | Learn to say thanks, but no thanks

The minute people found out that our son had experienced a stroke, they wanted to share their stories about people they knew who had strokes or children with brain damage. It’s how people try to connect and normalise your experience, but honestly, it was largely unhelpful and annoying.

In the end, I started to say, “Thanks for trying to share, but we are just focused on our son’s diagnosis. We aren’t comparing him to other people, because we don’t want to set up expectations or limitations.”

All in all, most people were happy to take our feedback, and the “I have a friend…” stories decreased dramatically.

5 | You need to take care of you

After my son was diagnosed, I became so focused on his health that I completely neglected my own. It didn’t help that I was six weeks pregnant with his sister at the time, but my body suffered. I became plagued with every virus imaginable, overall fatigue, and went into decline. It wasn’t until my obstetrician commented on how different I looked this pregnancy that I realized I had forgotten myself in the process.

When I started taking care of me again, everything got a little bit easier. Simple things like eating frequently and healthily, making sure we took turns to help my son at night so we could both get sleep, and taking at least 10 minutes to myself each day helped to re-balance me. I felt far more equipped to deal with medical appointments, doctor’s jargon, and meeting my son’s needs.

6 | Make humor your friend

I’m a firm believer that laughter is the best medicine. We would not have survived this journey if we hadn’t been able to laugh at our situation. After the shock had worn off, my husband and I were both able to joke about the fact that my son had been cleared of one serious injury only to be handed another.

When our son does something endearing but inevitably…let’s call it quirky, it has become a standing joke to say, “Well, he has had a stroke.” By quirky, I mean like when he smelled each piece of our clean laundry last week and said which family member each piece smelled like. I mean, you have to kind of hope that is the stroke, or else he’s going to be some kind of Sherlock Holmes.

7 | Access your support networks

People will offer to help you. TAKE THEM UP ON THEIR OFFER! You are not an island, and it takes a village. These may be clichés, but they are true. You will get tired, you will get overwhelmed, and you will need someone who can share the load.

Call a friend when you need to debrief. Let your mother do the load of laundry. Invite your brother to the doctor’s appointment. Doing it on your own may seem brave, but it’s a fool’s errand. People want to show their love and support. Allow them to help you in practical ways.

8 | Don’t set limitations

From the outset, my husband and I agreed that we would not allow our son’s diagnosis to control his life. We have never expected less from him because of it. To be honest, we probably have higher expectations than most parents.

I firmly believe that if you set a limit, your child will reach it and go no further. I want my son to be whatever his heart desires, and until I am proven wrong, I refuse to believe he is not capable of doing anything a child of his age should be capable of doing.

While I understand this is not the case for all children diagnosed with an illness, it is about ensuring the way that you parent doesn’t limit your child’s capacity for greatness or provide them with a reason not to exceed expectations. Let’s face it. We all think our children are amazing. This is simply about letting them know they are capable of accomplishing great feats.

Parenting a child with a serious illness is a great gift. You have the opportunity to witness your child’s resilience, tenacity, and fierceness in a way that many parents miss.

I wish you luck on your journey and good outcomes for your child.

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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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There's a lot of discussion about the importance of early education—but what about soft skills like respect and kindness? How can mamas teach children important values like cooperation, gratitude, empathy or politeness?

These values are basic, foundational beliefs that help us know right from wrong, that give balance and meaning to life and that enable us to form community bonds with one another. These soft skills are crucial for kids to learn at any age, and it's important for them to be reinforced, both in the classroom and at home, throughout their childhood.

Here are fundamental ways to build character in your young children:

Kindness

Performing random acts of kindness can have a positive influence on both the individual showing and receiving the kindness. As a family, think of ways that each one of you can show kindness to others. Some ideas may include baking cookies for the mail carrier, donating an unopened toy to a local charity, purchasing canned goods for a homeless shelter or leaving notes and drawings for the neighbors. Include your child in the process so they can see firsthand the joy that kindness can bring to others.

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Responsibility

Children have a strong desire to mimic adult family members. Encourage your child to help complete simple chores in and around the house. Children feel a great sense of accomplishment when they can do their share and feel that sense of responsibility. Two-year-olds will enjoy folding towels, putting books away, putting paper in the recycling box and tending to the garden. Older children may enjoy helping out in the kitchen or with yard work.

Patience

Patience is the ability to demonstrate self-control while waiting for an event to occur. It also refers to the ability to remain calm in the face of frustration. This is a skill which develops in children as they mature. While it is important to practice patience, adults should also be realistic in their expectations, evaluate daily routines and eliminate long periods of wait time from the schedule.

Politeness

Schedule a time when the whole family can sit down together for dinner. Model good manners and encourage older siblings and other members of the family to do the same. Use phrases such as, "Can you please pass the potatoes?" or "Thank you." Be sure to provide your child with guidance, by explaining what to do as opposed to what not to do.

Flexibility

Change your routines at home to encourage children to be flexible in their thinking and to try new things. Try being flexible in the small things: enjoy breakfast for dinner, eat ice cream with a fork, have your child read a bedtime story to you or have a picnic in the living room. Let your child know it is okay to do things in a different way.

Empathy

Children are beginning to understand different emotions and that others have feelings. Throughout their childhood, talk about their feelings and share one's own feeling with them as well. By taking the time to listen to how children are feeling, you will demonstrate to them that you care and reinforce with them that you fully understand how they are feeling.

Cooperation

Coordinate playdates or take your children to events where they can practice introducing themselves to other children, and potentially with adults. Find games and other activities that require turn-taking and sharing.

Gratitude

Encourage your child to spend five minutes every day listing the things they are grateful for. This could be done together just before bedtime or after dinner.

Respect

As parents, our goal is to teach children to recognize that even though people have different likes and dislikes or beliefs and ideas, they must treat each other with manners and positivity. Respect should be shown when sharing, cleaning up, and listening to others. Always teach and model the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. Also remind children that respect can be shown towards things in the classroom. Treating materials and toys correctly shows appreciation for the things we have.
Learn + Play

Medical researchers and providers consider a woman's postpartum period to be up to 12 months after the delivery of baby, but too often, health insurance doesn't see it the same way. Nearly half of the births in the United States are covered by Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and while the babies who are born during these births are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP for a year, their mothers often lose their coverage 60 days after delivering their child. There is clear data showing 70% of new moms will have at least one health complication within a year of giving birth.

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This week, members of Congress' Subcommittee on Health met to mark up H.R. 4996, the "Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services (MOMS) Act of 2019, and it was favorably forwarded to the full Committee.

What does this mean? It means that while this bill still has a ways to go before it potentially becomes law, its success would see states get the option to provide 12 months of continuous coverage postpartum coverage to mothers on Medicaid. This would save lives.

As we at Motherly have said many times, it takes a considerable amount of time and energy to heal from birth. A mother may not be healed 60 days out from delivering. She may still require medical care for perinatal mood disorders, breast issues like thrush and mastitis, diabetes, and the consequences of traumatic births, like severe vaginal tearing.

Cutting off Medicaid when her baby is only 2 months old makes mom and baby vulnerable, and the Helping Moms Act could protect families from dire consequences.

The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and according to the CDC, "about 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications." This is not okay, and while H.R. 4996 is not yet signed into law this bill could help change this. It could help address the racial disparities that see so many Black mothers and Native American mothers dying from preventable causes in the first year of motherhood.

A report from nine American maternal mortality review committees found that there were three leading causes of death that occurred between 43 days and one year postpartum: cardiomyopathy (32.4%), mental health conditions (16.2%), and embolism (10.8%) and multiple state maternal mortality review committees have recommended extending Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum in order to prevent these deaths.

Basically, making sure that moms have have continuous access to health care the year after a birth means doctors can spot issues with things like depression, heart disease and high blood pressure at regular check-ups and treat these conditions before they become fatal.

The Helping Moms Act is a step forward in the fight for maternal health and it proves that maternal health is truly a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize the value in providing support for mothers during the postpartum period.

The Helping MOMS Act was was introduced by Democratic Congresswoman Robin Kelly of Illinois, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust. It was co-lead by Texas Republican Michael Burgess (who is also a medical doctor), as well as Georgia Republican Buddy Carter, Washington Republicans Jaime Herrera Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ayanna Pressley from Massachusettes and Lauren Underwood of Illinois (both Democrats).

"Incentivizing postpartum Medicaid expansion is a critical first step in preventing maternal deaths by ensuring new moms can see their doctor. I'm proud that my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, came together to put an end to the sad reality of American moms dying while growing their families," said Kelly. "We can't allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. This is a good, bipartisan first step, but it must be the first of many."

It doesn't matter what your political stripes, reducing America's maternal mortality stats should be a priority.

News

Whether you're having a low-key Friendsgiving with your closest friends or prepping to host your first big Thanksgiving dinner with both families, figuring out all of the menu details can be the most overwhelming step. How much should I cook? What ingredients do I need? How does one actually cook a turkey this big?

But, don't worry, mama—HelloFresh is lending a helping hand this year with their Thanksgiving box in collaboration with Jessica Alba. Because you already have enough on your plate (and we're not talking stuffing).


Here are the details. You can choose from two Thanksgiving boxes: Turkey ($152) or beef tenderloin ($132). The turkey box serves 8-10 people while the beef one will serve 4-6 and both are $6.99 to ship. We got to try both and they're equally delicious so you can't go wrong with either one, but the turkey does require a 4-day thaw period so keep that in mind. And if you're wondering what the sides are, here's a sneak peek:

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  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Green bean casserole with crispy onions
  • Ciabatta stuffing with chick sausage and cranberries
  • Cranberry sauce with orange, ginger and cinnamon
  • Apple ginger crisp with cinnamon pecan crumble

While someone still has to do the actual cooking, it's designed to take the stress out of Thanksgiving dinner so you can focus on spending time with your loved ones (or watching Hallmark Christmas movies). You don't have to worry about grocery shopping, portion sizes, recipe curation or forgetting that essential thing you needed to make the meal perfect. Everything is super simple to make from start to finish—it even comes with a cooking timeline.

Orders are open through November 21 and can be delivered anytime through November 24. Even better? You don't need a subscription to order.


ORDER A BOX

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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My mother's death propelled me to start the process of becoming a parent as a 43-year-old single woman. As my connection to her remained strong in spirit after her death, I was ready to experience the same bond with my own child. I began the journey with Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI), and after three failed attempts at getting pregnant, I decided to adopt.

The adoption process is a lengthy and humbling one—one that includes fingerprints, background checks, references, classes, doing a profile of yourself and your life that birth parents eventually use to choose adoptive families.

After my application was approved, a young couple chose me just a month later. I couldn't believe my fortune. But I had to get to work and prepare the house for my baby's arrival. I bought the best of everything—bassinets, clothes, diapers, car seats… the list goes on. I told close friends and family that it was finally happening.

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But all of this was in vain. The day I was supposed to pick my daughter up, I learned that the birth parents had changed their minds. They no longer wanted to give their daughter up for adoption. As time passed, it was difficult to endure no interest from potential parents but the faith in believing what is meant to be continued. To increase my potential, I enrolled with a second adoption agency.

A few months later, as I was getting ready to try IVF for the first time, I received a phone call to let me know that a woman had selected me to adopt her child. So I opted out of IVF and found myself in a hospital delivery room with the birth mother, assisting her in the delivery of MY child. It was a boy! I was so thrilled, and he was just adorable.

After six years of losses and disappointments, I was able to bring him home and awaited the final word that the mother and father have given the needed consent. I was getting ready to watch the Super Bowl with him dressed in football gear, I got a phone call.

Once again, the adoption agency informed me that the birth mother had changed her mind. That evening, I had to return the baby to his birth mom. I was heartbroken, and my hopes were shattered.

What now? Going back to IVF meant starting from scratch, and that would take a minimum of six months before being able to really start getting pregnant. I was 49 years old, and the clock was ticking. I really wanted to be a mom by the age of 50.

I was in Chicago, recovering from a collapsed lung, when I received yet another phone call from the adoption agency. An expecting mom had chosen me and had already signed over all of her rights. This little girl was mine. For real, this time. But I had to get to Southern New Jersey by Thursday to pick her up from the hospital.

After negotiating with my doctor to give me the green light to leave while recovering from my condition, I hopped on a train, and 22 hours later, I arrived to New York City in a massive snow storm. I took longer than expected to get to her, but after navigating the icy roads of New Jersey, I met my daughter!

She is now 2 years old, and she has changed my life in ways that just can't be fully described. What I can say is that I now understand my mother's love even more and her devotion to me and my siblings, and as I am sharing the same with my daughter, my bond to my mother keeps on growing.

Becoming a mom at 49 was never what I had envisioned. But whether you are trying to conceive or have decided to adopt a child, the road to becoming a parent is rarely easy. I know that inner strength and believing in what was meant to be kept me moving forward.

Life
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