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I had just driven 45 minutes north for our second weekly homeschooling playdate with a new bunch of moms and kids when I got the call. My son had spent the last 45 minutes excitedly talking about who he was going to see and what he was going to do. I was looking forward to adult conversation. We unloaded the arsenal of Nerf guns and made our way towards virtual strangers verging on future friends.


Five minutes after we’d arrived, my phone rang. I recognized the area code and “719” hospital prefix. I had seen it seven years earlier when my father was in the hospital recovering from a massive stroke.

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I heard my mother’s voice and as she spoke, I anticipated devastating news about my father. In the moments that followed I would hear words fall out of my mother’s mouth that would bring me to my knees in the middle of a park peppered with laughing, screaming children and gossiping moms.

“It’s your sister. She’s had either a stroke or a heart attack. They’re working on her now.” I heard commotion in the background and multiple emotionless “Code blue” announcements over the hospital intercom.

“Wait. What?! Is she conscious?” I couldn’t make sense of it. My sister is 44. She has a six-year-old boy. She’s happily married. She’s seemingly healthy. Oh my god. Her son.

I tried to take it all in; to ask sound, sensible questions.

My mother was eerily calm and I knew that was her emotional armor – an attempt at self preservation at a time when life as usual temporarily suspends itself.

“I need you to come home.”

In the midst of this brief obscene phone call, I processed a week’s worth of thoughts. We had just arrived at the park. My son would lose his shit if we left only moments after parking the car. He’s seven and family emergencies are surely just inconveniences. Then all the rational yet ridiculous “have tos” pushed their way in. I have to get home. I have to pack. I have to water the plants. I have to get my dog. I have to give the neighbors a key. I have to cancel our recently planned trip.

My son was playing off in the distance. I was about to share intimate family news with a group of women I had only met one other time. I didn’t have time to worry about awkward or appropriate. I wasn’t going to politely excuse myself. I wanted to vomit. I needed to talk to someone other than myself.

This new mom tribe provided me with an outlet for all the jumbled thoughts running through my head. They hugged me and comforted me while I tried to balance being a mom, a daughter, a sister, and an aunt.

I allowed my son to play while I stayed in contact with my mother, knowing that I could do nothing seven hours away. Never have I felt so helpless. I couldn’t move fast enough and yet speed wouldn’t change a thing.

“She’s on a ventilator. They’ve installed a stent and an Impella device to help her heart function. She is not conscious and they are cooling her body to keep brain activity calm. Her pupils are fixed. We have to wait and see.”

With bags packed, and the house in order, my son, dog and I headed out. My husband was away for business. When we finally pulled in at 1:15 a.m. I could think only of whisking myself away to the hospital to see my sister. My mom informed me earlier, however, that we would all go and visit early in the morning so I put my son to bed and tried to close my eyes. I stared at the ceiling imagining the worst yet hoping, begging, praying for the best.

Only one day earlier, I had seen my vibrant sister’s face via FaceTime for a few brief moments while our son’s ran around like rabid animals with our phones sharing Pokémon and Minecraft stories.

We spoke briefly about my writing and about our upcoming visit. There were no deep thoughts or big “I love yous.” I simply had the beautiful gift of seeing my sister sitting on her couch smiling and sharing.

In the morning, a few hours after our arrival, my mother, father and I went to the hospital. Hollow and drained, we all floated to the intensive care room where my once smiling sister was now laid out – swollen, fragile, broken. Tubes and a blue gown modestly covered her unresponsive, child-like body. I squeezed her cold tiny size five feet with green painted toenails.

I kept thinking, She’s a MOTHER! Her six-year-old son still needs mama hugs and mama kisses. One day he’ll seek her sage advice for a future he isn’t comfortable navigating on his own.

Images of my precious nephew living a motherless future flooded my mind and ripped me up inside. Up to this point, he had been told, “Mommy is very sick and in the hospital,” but the reality of the situation was safely out of reach, for all of us.

I had time to think about a lot – our innocent childhood and shared bubble baths, our volatile teen years, a sister bonding trip to NY, our weddings and baby showers, our children whom we call “brousins” (brother-cousins), and conversations about our aging parents for whom we would care together as a team in the future.

I thought about motherhood and the indescribable, all-encompassing body, soul, and spirit love that is motherhood and it pained me to think that this magnificent love might not be enough to keep my sister alive for her son.

I stayed at the hospital all day and headed back home for a few hours of sleep with my son and nephew. As we all lay in bed together, I listened to the brousins trade stories about “farts and toots.” My nephew laughed about how his mom’s toots “blow him to the other side of the bed at night.”

The boys giggled uncontrollably and I turned my head and hid my tears. The juxtaposition of light-hearted silliness with the heaviness of altered lives and futures felt inappropriate.

I knew in that moment that my six-year-old nephew would never have another night like that with his mommy. No nighttime stories, no cuddles. No more sister phone calls chatting about our boys and their futures. No more jokes about who got the better nose or, “Guess who’s older?” during our shared birth month of May. No more shopping sprees or phone calls en route to work. Simply no more.

Only a couple of hours later, I received a call urging me to return to the hospital. I learned what we all had feared – my sister’s brain had been robbed of much needed oxygen for far too long and all the medicine and man-made devices couldn’t repair her damaged heart.

It was time to let her go.

My sister could not will her body to remain on this earthly plane for her son. She would never have given up and yet the choice wasn’t hers to make. Life was unfairly taken away from her.

I watched her take her last breath. I watched her body turn from colorful peach to lifeless grey. I kissed her freckled face and stroked her curly auburn hair for the last time. I touched her petite feet and hands in a way that a mother caresses her child’s.

My baby sister is on a different journey now and I am left to live a lonelier future without her. I move through waves of grief but I take comfort knowing that she experienced the most intense and beautiful love possible as a mother during the last six years of her life.

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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.
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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.

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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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