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You could say we’re each experiencing a kind of “middle-age.”

First there’s my son, Ryan. He’s nine. He’s in the middle years of his childhood, halfway to adulthood.  He’s loving this time in his life. Each birthday brings more things for him to do, to learn, to experience.  Just within the last few years, he’s mastered new skills – riding a two-wheeler, tying his shoelaces, typing without looking at a keyboard. They are big accomplishments, and accomplishments that were only possible because he was developmentally ready for them; he had gotten older.

Ryan has many more things he’s looking forward to. He’s eagerly awaiting his next birthday, the year he reaches double-digits. He’s longing to be old enough to watch PG-13 movies and to ride in the front seat of our car. To one day own his own phone and computer. To shave like the men in his life. To one day know for certain that he’s grown up to be “fuzzy” like his Daddy or smooth and bare-chested like his Grandpa.

Ryan is excited about this time in his life. And he should be. He’s a happy, healthy, secure boy who regards his future with hope and possibility.

Then there’s me. A middle-age woman who doesn’t look at aging with the same optimism as my son. Because even though I’m only 41 years old, there are many moments when I feel more “senior citizen” than “middle age.”

I think back to the book (and movie) “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.” The protagonist, Stella Payne, is a 40-year-old woman, who describes herself as being in the “prime” of her life.

I don’t feel like a middle-age woman in her prime. I don’t even know what the “prime” of my life is. Did I already have it? Did I miss it? Was I so busy going to school, working part-time jobs, earning my degree, becoming a teacher that I missed the “prime years” of my life?  And then there’s the most scary question: Is the best part of me done and over with and all that’s left will be downhill from here?

I’m already retired from my teaching career. I retired days before my 37th birthday. It was a premature retirement, after only 12 years on the job. But a necessary retirement under my doctor’s advice. My rheumatologist informed me that the stress and exhaustion involved with teaching 30-plus students each day was not going to help the daily pain, weakness, and fatigue I felt. My autoimmune disease would only worsen if I kept pushing myself and continued to teach.

In many respects, I feel as if I’ve hit fast-forward a few decades. I’m already reliant on a fixed income. My disability check arrives each month, with no possibility of a promotion or raise unless the state of California grants me a cost-of-living increase. There is a disabled placard in my car’s glove compartment. A line-up of prescription bottles on my kitchen counter. And I have a growing sense of weariness and fear as one ailment leads to another; each unanswered medical question leads to another doctor, another test, another scan.

Like Ryan, I want to keep celebrating birthdays. But, I feel so much more trepidation than Ryan.

Ryan has questions about the future. He wonders what it will be like to go to middle school and have different teachers for different subjects. He wonders when he’ll take his first airplane ride.  He wonders where he’ll go to college, and if he’ll live at home or nearby or in a completely different state.

I have questions too. Will I maintain my independence, my “tough chick” attitude that got me through college while commuting on six public buses a day?

I think about the next half of my life, and I’m frightened. My body feels as if it has prematurely aged because of my autoimmune disease. What will happen as I continue to age and my body naturally weakens, slows down, and in some shape or form changes even more than it already has?

I don’t have the answers yet. No one does. I do know that I can’t stay in this place of fear and pessimism. Because of Ryan. On the floor completing a puzzle, riding our bikes together, dancing around the living room, day-long excursions to the museum. Even if the activities increase my pain, they bring my son and I happiness and shared moments together.

In a sense, having a child gives parents a second chance. A second chance to experience moments from a fresh new perspective. But more than that, I’m realizing that Ryan is my prime. Together we’re on this journey. The prime of my life is Ryan’s childhood. His milestones become mine.

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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This month isn't just the start of a new year, but the start of a new life for those due in 2019. If you're expecting a baby this year you've got plenty of celebrity company, mama.

Here are some fellow mamas-to-be expecting in 2019:

Alexa and Carlos PenaVega 

The Spy Kids actress and mom to 2-year-old Ocean will soon have to get herself a double stroller because PenaVega and her husband Carlos are expecting again.

"Holy Moly!!! Guys!!! We are having another baby!!!!" captioned an Instagram post. "Do we wake Ocean up and tell him??!! Beyond blessed and excited to continue growing this family!!! Get ready for a whole new set of adventures!!!"

Over on Carlos' IG the proud dad made a good point: " This year we will officially be able to say we have 'kids!' Our minds are blown," he write.

Jessa Duggar and Ben Seewald

In January Counting On Jessa Seewald (formerly Jessa Duggar) announced via Instagram that she is pregnant with her third child with husband Ben Seewald.

We love that she was able to make the announcement in her own time, not worrying about speculation about her midsection. She's been over that for a while.

[Update: January 18, added PenaVega]

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The shape appeals to kids and the organic and gluten-free labels appeal to parents in the freezer aisle, but if you've got a bag of Perdue's Simply Smart Organics Gluten Free Chicken Breast Nuggets, don't cook them.

The company is recalling 49,632 bags of the frozen, fully cooked Simply Smart Organics Gluten Free Chicken Breast Nuggets because they might be contaminated with wood.

According to the USDA, Perdue received three complaints about wood In the nuggets, but no one has been hurt.

The nuggets were manufactured on October 25, 2018 with a "Best By" date of October 25, 2019. The UPC code is 72745-80656. (The USDA provides an example of the packaging here so you'll know where to look for the code).

In a statement on the Perdue website the company's Vice President for Quality Assurance, Jeff Shaw, explains that "After a thorough investigation, we strongly believe this to be an isolated incident, as only a minimal amount of these packages has the potential to contain pieces of wood."

If you have these nuggets in your freezer you can call Perdue 877-727-3447 to ask for a refund.

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