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Here’s the thing about having kids: once you feel comfortable in any given stage, your kids get older and grow into new and wholly different stages.

So even when I feel like I know what I’m doing, I really don’t. The saying, “Fly by the seat of your pants,” might as well be my mommy-motto. Except, my pants are usually dirty, or are leggings, and are often times still in the washer.

All this said, I’ve gotten rather comfortable flying by the seat of my dirty leggings. Once I accepted that mothering has a huge learning curve and you do the best you can, I settled into a very happy role of learning alongside my kids. I definitely do not have all the answers, but I’m okay with not having the answers, because I know my kids. We will figure it out together. Just like I shape my kids into the people they will be, they shape me into the mom and person I want to be.

Except there’s one thing I’ve been struggling with lately, and I definitely do not have the answer.

I’ve been struggling with religion. Particularly, how do you talk to your kids about religion, especially if you disagree? I guess this is a new stage with a new learning curve.

Growing up Christian

For those who do not know me, my husband, or our childhoods, we both grew up in the same small town in Virginia. We grew up in (different) churches. There was Sunday school, Bible study, mission trips, and more. I was baptized at age 11 and my husband worked the after-school daycare at his church.

We were born and raised Christians. While I grew up questioning everything because, well, that’s just who I am, my husband accepted everything at face value. When we got married, we did so under God by a pastor from my church. We tried out churches in every town we lived in, and even had our son recognized by the church I was baptized in. Our daughter never got around to being recognized, but she and my son were gifted with many Bibles, angels, books about Jesus, and crosses. It runs in both of our families, and in us too. Until it didn’t anymore.

Questioning the faith

I do not know when this change happened. I’m still not sure it happened with me. I have recently messaged my pastor (in the past two weeks) because I am still questioning everything. However, my husband is a nuclear engineer, and damn if his studies do not defy what we’ve both been taught.

Faith is believing without seeing. It means having a deep, existential understanding that what you are taught in the church and read in the Bible are true. My sister has an enviable faith. Between me, my brother, and my sister, I feel my sister has the strongest faith. She always seemed to take church a little more seriously, mission trips a little more to heart, and, as she grew older, she shaped her life and her family around God. Not only does she (pun intended) religiously attend church, but she also volunteers at the nursery, attends weekly Bible study, works nine to five as a child therapist, raises two children under the age of five, houses foster children on any given day, and does everything else a modern woman and wife does. She doesn’t simply claim to be a Christian, she lives as one.

She’s also faced many hard challenges. When you have so much going on in your life, you’re inviting that many more chances for something to go wrong. From the trivial like locking her keys in her car, to the more trying things like sick children, she has never wavered or broken in her faith.

I do not have faith like my sister, but I do watch her, and especially her kids, and see how much fulfillment and peace they find in their religion. At times I envy them. I feel like I should be doing that. My husband felt like he should be doing that. We tried doing that, but we weren’t getting the same results.

Losing our religion

My husband is now a complete atheist. He’s scientific by nature and has traveled too far into the wormhole of astro- and metaphysics to firmly hold the belief that Jonah got swallowed by a whale or a giant got defeated with a slingshot. And, while most of these stories are metaphorical, he asked me what differentiates them between everyday fairy tales: stories that also teach lessons and are metaphorical. I couldn’t answer him.

Bringing all this back to our children, our son is old enough now to where he is making real-world connections to Jesus and Bible stories. He is asking huge philosophical and religious questions and, frankly, I cannot answer them. Some I do not have the answer to, some make me uncomfortable, and some make me mad.

My husband no longer puts on the pretense of being religious in front of our kids. When he is asked the deep, soul-searching questions, he deftly dodges with a noncommittal answer that leaves our kids satisfied. He does not choose the Biblical children’s books we used to read to them at night anymore. Instead, he takes them to space shows at the Children’s Museum and discusses math and science concepts. His perspective is that he’s teaching them the truth, but this truth negates religious truth, which is the truth my children believe in. I’m stuck somewhere in the middle, with no way to answer my kids’ questions, and fearful of committing one way or another.

My son told me a couple months ago that he wanted to die. You haven’t felt fear or sadness until your five-year-old (or any age child, for that matter) tells you that he no longer wishes to live. In a matter of seconds, I went from fear to anger to sadness to defeat to clarity until I could confront and discuss what the hell he was saying.

I’ll never forget this moment. We were both sitting on my bathroom floor and tears began to fill my eyes. I was devastated and heartbroken. He was confused. As it turns out, he had heard that Jesus was so awesome and that Heaven was so cool that he wanted to just go ahead and go. Skip what would hopefully be an extremely fulfilling and successful life so he could sit on the clouds and watch TV with Jesus.

My first thought was, “Sweet baby boy, Heaven isn’t real.” Then I was shocked all over again. What was I thinking?! Of course Heaven was real. I’d been indoctrinated with that my whole life. I believed it, but suddenly, confronted with the idea of my son taking his life so he could go on a permanent vacation with the man in the sky, I wasn’t so sure.

Finding your own truth

That was a hard conversation. Finding the line between shattering belief systems and getting my point across was like trying to juggle coffee mugs while playing hopscotch barefoot in the gravel. I wanted my son to know the truth, to know what’s real, but that’s a personal thing, isn’t it?

My sister’s truth is different than my husband’s. My own truth is different than both of theirs. As a parent, it’s my duty to teach my children and help mold them into kind, smart, caring people. However, is it my job to tell them what faith to believe or not to believe in? Or, for that matter, to tell them that religion is all a fairytale?

I do not have this answer. At almost 29 years old, I’m still trying to find what I believe. I cannot refute evolution, I believe the world is billions of years old, I think the story of Noah and the Ark is allegorical, but I also believe in the message of Christ. I find importance and power in nature. I cannot label myself wholly as one thing, so am I the best candidate for trying to shape my children in this manner? Me, the lady flying by the seat of her yoga pants that have never seen a yoga position a day in their life? I don’t think so, and that’s okay.

Here it is: I believe that religion, faith, spirituality – whatever you want to call it – is a personal choice. I cannot tell you how to raise your children any more than I can make my children believe in Zeus or Buddha or Christ. How I think it’s best my husband and I raise our children, though, is to let them learn through exploration. It’s important to me that they know these subjects are personal, and that even though Tom preaches his belief as the truth, and Dick has another version, and Harry doesn’t believe in anything at all, that that is okay. None of them are wrong.

Strength and answers together

At the end of an exhausting day of parenting, I want to go to sleep knowing my kids are informed. I want them to have all the options to choose from, so they can find their own way to their beliefs. Religion is a huge thing. It is literally a thing people chose to dedicate their lives to. I do not want to tell my kids some things are true and others aren’t because, well, I don’t know. I don’t want them to be scared or guilted or misinformed and resent me and my husband because we led them astray. I do not have these heavy-hitting answers. My children have moved into a new stage that I am adjusting to. This is one of those stages where we will learn from each other.

My kids do not need to believe what I believe, or what my husband believes, or what anyone else believes. This is a hard road to navigate, but together, I know we will arrive at an answer that strengthens us all, even if it is not found in the Bible, Quran, or even an astrophysics textbook.

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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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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For most breastfeeding mothers, being away from your baby means lugging a breast pump with you to work or through airport security and painstakingly packing up your milk to bring or send back to your baby. But a mother who made headlines this week can't take her milk to her baby because she doesn't know when she will see her again.

Maria Domingo-Garcia is among the hundreds of workers picked up by ICE at food processing plants in Mississippi on August 7. When she left for work that day she said goodbye to her husband and three children, including the 4-month-old daughter she was nursing. All three children are U.S. citizens, CNN reports.

Mom's lawyers say she was not able to nurse or pump since being detained 

Earlier this week, when Domingo-Garcia had been separated from her daughter for 12 days, her lawyers told media that she was in a lot of pain as she had not been able to breastfeed or pump for nearly two weeks.

Not being able to drain one's breasts can lead to engorgement, which can lead to mastitis. Both engorgement and mastitis are painful, and mastitis can even be deadly if mothers cannot get medical help.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement stated that a nurse has examined Domingo-Garcia and that she's not producing milk. Her lawyers say they were not present for or aware of this examination, and one of them, Ybarra Maldonado, suggests that the stress Domingo-Garcia is under may have impacted her ability to lactate.

"If during a test she didn't produce milk, perhaps it's because she's been detained for 12 days and going through a horrible situation," Maldonado told CNN.

Indeed, it is possible for a mother to stop lactating if she is separated from her baby for as long as Domingo-Garcia has been. Diana Spalding, midwife and Motherly's Digital Education Editor, says that "the process by which lactation ceases varies so much. It depends on many variables including how long and how frequently a woman was breastfeeding or pumping, how slow or fast she stopped, her emotional state, and simply her individual anatomy. It is 100% possible that Domingo-Garcia had been lactating prior to being taken by ICE."

While attorneys and ICE officials continue to debate whether or not this mother was lactating, her husband continues to try to bottle feed their daughter, an American citizen who is now going without her mother and without breastmilk.

The children are being hurt

One in four children in America has immigrant parents, according to a recent report by the Urban Institute. What's more, 75% of those children (including Domingo-Garcia's) have parents who have been in the US for more than 10 years. Like Domingo-Garcia's kids, 91% of the children of immigrants are citizens. But only 61% of the parents in these families can say the same.

That means there are more than 7 million kids in the US (most of whom are American) who have non-citizen parents and are extremely vulnerable to the same kind of trauma Domingo-Garcia's children are going through. And to call it trauma isn't speculation—it's science. We know that separating children from their parents does long term damage to kids.

"The effect is catastrophic," Charles Nelson, a pediatrics professor at Harvard Medical School told the Washington Post last year. "There's so much research on this that if people paid attention at all to the science, they would never do this."

That is why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stands against the detention of immigrant children, who may soon be detained indefinitely if a plan announced Wednesday proceeds. The AAP also warns against separating children from their parents or primary caregiver unless that person is abusing the child.

"It is the position of the AAP that children in the custody of their parents should never be detained, nor should they be separated from a parent, unless a competent family court makes that determination. In every decision about children, government decision-makers should prioritize the best interests of the child," the APP noted in its 2017 policy statement Detention of Immigrant Children.

Domingo-Garcia's children are not being detained, but they are being hurt by their mother's detention and child advocates say far too many children know their pain.

​When mom or dad is taken

Domingo-Garcia was far from the only immigrant parents working in Mississippi food processing plants the day of the ICE raid that changed her family's life. There were so many more parents who didn't come home that day. The day that also happened to be the first day of school in Scott County.

School superintendent Tony McGee told The Clarion Ledger his staff were working hard to help the children who were displaced or impacted by the ICE raids, and he acknowledged that the situation will impact students' academic abilities. "We'll worry about the school part of it after we get all this sorted out," he said. "You can't expect a child to stay focused on the schoolwork when he's trying to focus on where Mom and Dad are."

Indeed, research links parental incarceration with children developing attention deficit disorders, developmental and speech delays, learning disabilities and behavior problems.

And yet, in some ways, parental incarceration may be better for children than parental detention, which is what Domingo-Garcia's experience is defined as. Incarceration is something that follows a conviction and is a long-term thing. Kids whose parents are convicted of a crime and sent to prison often know where mom or dad is and may even get to maintain a relationship with them.

Detention, on the other hand, is a temporary, more slippery state. The children of those in ICE facilities don't know when or if they are coming home or if they will be deported.

There are other ways in which having a parent incarcerated in prison is different than having one detained in an ICE facility. In some American prisons, moms are permitted to nurse their babies. If Domingo-Garcia had gone to prison in New Mexico she would have the right to breastfeed and the right to pump milk for her baby. But she went to work in Mississippi instead.

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If you're about to be a parent, whether it's for the first time or not, then you've probably thought about all the changes in your life that are coming—especially in the area of finances. Having a baby alters your financial picture. If you take maternity or paternity leave, those changes can be even more pronounced.

If you have student loans in repayment, you may find it difficult to make monthly loan payment with a new baby, and you might be wondering how to make it work.

So how do you handle student loan payments while on maternity leave?

Here are the options available to student loan borrowers:

Family leave deferment

If you have a federal student loan, you can ask for a parental leave/working mother deferment, which offers you time without payments. Becoming a new mother isn't cause for an automatic deferment, like a job loss or serious illness, and so you'll have to work with your servicer directly to request this type of deferment. Navient, one of the largest federal loan servicers, offers information about this deferment on their website.

To be eligible, you'll need to either be pregnant or have a baby less than six months old. You must prove this via a birth certificate or doctor's statement confirming your pregnancy.

In addition, you cannot be working full-time or attending school during the deferment period. If you're hoping to ask for a deferment without taking the time off work, you'll find your request denied. The maximum length of a deferment is six months.


A forbearance allows you to either make a smaller payment or postpone payments completely. Like the deferment, you'll need to contact your servicer and request it. If it's approved, you can take some time off of your student loans while you're off work. Just be aware that even during forbearance, interest continues to accrue, which means your total balance will increase during that time.

Income-based repayment plan

If you'd prefer to keep making payments but just need the amount reduced, you can apply for a new income-based repayment plan. The Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan caps your monthly payment at 10% to 15% of your discretionary income. And since it's also based upon the size of your family, it will account for the fact that your family size has changed, and your discretionary income has decreased. To apply, contact your loan servicer.

Pay as you earn (PAYE) plan

Another option is the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) plan, which allows you to pay 10% of your income, but only up to the payment amount you would have paid on the standard plan. Because the income and family size are reassessed each year, this plan is great for growing families. It allows you to get a temporary reprieve with lower payments. Then, as you further your career and increase your income, your payment gets back on schedule. Your servicer can help get you set up with the PAYE plan. Your spouse's income is only counted if you file taxes as married jointly.

Revised pay as you earn (REPAYE) plan

Under the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plan, you'll pay the same 10% of your income, with annual reassessment of your situation. You won't, however, get a break from counting your spouse's income. With REPAYE, all income counts regardless of how you file your taxes. The good news is that anything left on your balance will be forgiven after 20 years. Talk to your servicer to see if it's a good fit.

Income contingent-repayment (ICR) plan

The Income Contingent-Repayment (ICR) plan is either 20% of your discretionary income, or what you'd pay on a fixed repayment for 12 years, whichever is less. Just as in the other options, you must update your income and family size each year even if nothing changed. In addition, you may have to pay taxes on any amount that is forgiven because the government considers it income. It does, however, work on subsidized, unsubsidized, PLUS, and even consolidation loans, and can be applied for with your servicer.

Budgeting for a baby

There's no way around it—having a baby brings a lot of new expenses. From the things you'll need to buy before the baby comes, to the amount of diapers, bottles and other things your child will need in their first year, you'll need to figure out how much that will cost and how to correctly budget for it. Babycenter.com has a calculator that can help you break down what your child will cost in a given year. You can divide that number by 12 to understand the monthly costs.

Then, you'll want to identify where you can cut back, if possible, to continue meeting your monthly student loan obligations. For some, that might mean eating out less and bypassing the afternoon latte. For others, it'll require a full restructuring of the budget, especially if you plan to take maternity leave that's not fully paid. Since most maternity leaves are unpaid, you'll need to consider expenses, monthly bills, or other obligations that normally comes out of your paycheck and add those to the budget for the time that you're home.

After you get a handle on what your finances will look like and you have a functional budget, don't wait for your child to arrive before trying to live on that budget. In fact, the sooner you start cutting back, the better. That way, you can get a head start on saving, and you'll also be able to adjust any facets of your budget that prove unworkable.

The bottom line

Having a baby is a joyful experience. But caring for a newborn brings enough stress without the anxiety of how you'll pay student loans while you're on maternity or paternity leave. The best time to plan for your new family member is long before you bring them home. Take the time to talk to your servicer, make a budget and prepare your finances for your baby.

Originally posted on lendedu.

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Learn + Play

Michael Bublé knows how to make music that makes us feel all the feels, and his viral lyric video for his song "Forever Now" proves it.

If you've got kids heading back to school, watch this at your own risk and with some tissues handy, mama.

Michael Bublé - Forever Now [Official Lyric Video] youtu.be

The video is a simple animation of a child's room as it transforms over time from a nursery to the packed-up bedroom of a young adult leaving the nest. We held it together until it got to this part: "It wasn't so long ago, we walked together and you held my hand. and now you're getting too big to want to."

The video reminds us of the classic children's book Love You Forever, and that the babies in our arms today will one day be in someone else's arms.

Right now, when our days are filled with bottle washing and shoe getting and making sure that no one falls asleep in their car seat the days sometimes feel so long, but Bublé's telling us something that we sometimes forget: One day we will be looking back and wondering why these long days went by so fast.

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It would be easy to look at one of Tori Roloff's (of Little People, Big World) stunning maternity photos and think everything is going perfectly for the soon-to-be mother of two, who is expecting a baby girl with her husband Zach. But Tori is keeping it real: Though the photos may show her in a pretty dress, cradling her baby bump against a stunning backdrop, Tori isn't loving every second of her pregnancy. And you know what? That's okay.

The pregnancy is so rough, Tori initially didn't even want to commemorate it with photos (though we bet she's glad she did upon seeing the finished product!).

"I'm not one of those women who loves being pregnant," Tori writes alongside one maternity photo, which she posted to Instagram. "In fact there's not a lot of times I do love being pregnant. Don't get me wrong. I thank God for this amazing gift every single day and I know how blessed I am but it definitely hasn't made me feel my best."

But let's make one thing clear: Just because Tori is clearly finding parts of pregnancy unpleasant, that doesn't mean she isn't immensely grateful for the chance to carry her baby.

"This photo truly embodies what I LOVE about pregnancy. My growing bump is a symbol of a healthy girlsie [sic]. It's a reminder that I'm in a position that many women dream of and trust me—I do not take it for granted," she adds.

One Instagram user sums up our feelings on this post pretty perfectly. "Pregnancy is so hard and I think some people assume that if you don't love it, you're ungrateful. I think you can recognize the difficulties of pregnancy and still be grateful for it — they're not mutually exclusive. This photograph is stunning and you are glowing. Embrace your feelings, no matter what they are. You're valid in them! Sending you big love," she writes in the post's comments.

Our take? Pregnancy is not easy...at all! Morning sickness, exhaustion, back pain, hip pain, belly pain...let's just say expectant mamas can be in a lot of discomfort and voicing that discomfort is totally acceptable.

Yes, pregnancy is an amazing blessing (and one that not every woman gets to or wants to experience), but not enjoying every single second of it doesn't take away from the gratitude an expectant mom feels. So to Tori (and all the other uncomfortable preggos out there), here's what we'll say: Don't beat yourself up for not loving pregnancy. It doesn't mean you love your baby — or the privilege of carrying them—any less.

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