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Everyone around here calls it the pink beach.


Aura says it’s because of all the crushed shells and how the sand is cut through with specks of quartz. It creates a kind of high-frequency energy that attracts seekers. It’s hard to get to, she says. You have to hike through a forest of Guanacaste and Ceiba trees, heliconia flowers and wild ginger. The silk floss tree with its thorny trunk lines a steep rocky path toward the ocean. A branch recently fell on a small child and he had to be airlifted to the hospital in San Jose.

Perfect! we say.

She eyes us skeptically and reaches for Freddi’s toe. You have sunscreen?

Babies can’t wear sunscreen until six months.

Sunhat?

He’ll rip it off.

Long sleeves then.

I point to the red heat rash on Freddi’s belly, clustering in the fatty folds of his neck and upper thighs.

We’ll find shade, I promise and then we jump into the car before we lose our nerve. I grip Freddi in my lap as we bounce through dusty potholes and turn quickly to avoid the ruts left by the rainy season. When a couple roars past on a motorcycle, kicking up a cloud of dust, I cover Freddi’s mouth and Piotr sighs. His bike is in New Jersey, parked in his mother’s garage until he can convince me that a side-car would be perfect for the baby and me.

If we were in India… he begins, a phrase he often uses when we travel.

We’d all be on a motorcycle, I finish. I look out the window and show Freddi las vacas.

Mooooooo, I say.

Photo Credit: Piotr Redlinski

Two winters ago, we traveled to Nicaragua to save our relationship.

On our last afternoon, we set out for a walk. Wearing nothing but our bathing suits, we carried a small backpack with water, half of a joint, two scarves that could serve as towels or sunshade, and a copy of Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary. The sad tenor of Toibin’s voice and the doubts he creates in Mary matched the mood of that vacation. Believing what we want may give us comfort, but it’s not the truth. And what is the true story? Mary’s account suggests that we lie to ourselves too much to ever discover such a thing.

That day years ago, some kind of discovery was in order because, as was usual then, we were arguing about everything. The way Piotr slept in too late, the way I talked too much, the way he wanted to improvise, the way I wanted to plan, the way I was restless to do stuff, the way he preferred to slowly feel out his days.

Underneath the bickering, however, was the bigger question that had begun to weigh us down—would we have kids and when?

I was 36 and needed to know. He was 40 and still unsure. The anxiety drove us to near constant fighting and, on the verge of breaking up, we did, instead, what we believed we do best. Distracted ourselves with travel.

We picked Nicaragua’s San Juan del Sur on a whim when an acquaintance mentioned a sweet yoga studio and a café bookstore with fresh juices. Like many travelers, we need very little to inspire in us enough vision to simply go, but, however new and beautiful and distant this place, we could not escape our load of irritation and disappointment.


Underneath the bickering, however, was the bigger question that had begun to weigh us down—would we have kids and when?


We walked in silence, fearing that our words would open up more layers of dissatisfaction. The sand was hot beneath our feet so we walked in the water, the splashing of our feet the only sound. We rounded several craggy points and traversed slippery rock ledges until we came to the beach. Gasping in a rare moment of mutual delight, we gazed at the white sand shining in a curve around the cove. One small tree with just enough shade beckoned us.

There, we spread our scarves and lay down, listening to a breeze clap the leaves together, looking up occasionally at the pale, cloudless sky. When Piotr reached for the knot on my bikini top, I let him tug it until it came undone. Soon, he slipped out of his bathing suit, and we found a moment of release from our thoughts.

Afterward, I propped myself up on an elbow and looked out at the water. Piotr’s fingers followed the freckles on my collarbone, found constellations on my forearms. Maybe this is all we need, he said. A piece of beach, a tree or two, the horizon line. Then we could be happy.

Before I agreed, I imagined a child in the picture. Yes, I said, then we could be happy.

Our love may have confused us, but we couldn’t stop following it.

It took us to Mexico and Nicaragua, Jamaica and Aruba, Turkey and Poland. It led us across the country on a motorcycle and through the mountains of British Columbia. We camped with it in the desert and skied with it through a blizzard. We once stood in the Atlantic ocean and tried to toss it away. When that didn’t work, we threw ourselves onto the sand and decided we might as well get married. The constant tide rocked us back and forth until we wound up in each other’s arms.

Later, I told him that having a baby would be easier than the hardest travel he’d done. Easier than his trip through the Himalayas on an Enfield and his month-long trek on the Inca Trail.

He doubted it.

Babies are not as fragile as they seem, I said.

Maybe not, Piotr responded, but what about the parents?

Photo Credit: Piotr Redlinski

The baby fits into our life, I answered, naïve, yet sure of my parenting philosophy, long before I myself became a parent. We need to travel, so the baby travels, too.


We need to travel, so the baby travels, too.


Our friends disagreed. Experienced parents issued caution. Neighbors modeled different plans.

A friend described her baby’s first year: All I wanted to do was stay home and protect her. Another didn’t leave the house for six months, and that was just to collect the mail. One guy at a party—away from his toddlers for the first time in months—could not stop talking about them.

Listen, he told us, don’t do anything extreme before the first year is up.

Like what? we asked.

Like get divorced. You’ll want to, he added, but don’t.

So we should get divorced after the year is up? He laughed, not knowing that with us, that was a reasonable possibility.

In late September, the baby came. Eight pounds, fifteen ounces. Grumpy, sleepy-eyed and covered in a slick of dark hair. A miracle. We called him Frederik. Derived from German, it means peaceful ruler, and we joked that he would harmonize our union.

Then came three months of new parenthood in a six-hundred-square-foot apartment, two emergency trips to the hospital, a brutal Brooklyn winter upon us and a daily soundtrack of bone-rattling construction pile drivers. We were still waiting for the harmony.

Stomp your feet and clap your hands! I sang to Freddi again, everybody ready for a barnyard dance!

Piotr groaned from his well-worn spot on the couch. If we don’t go somewhere soon, he announced, anywhere…

There was no need to finish the sentence.

As in traveling, parenting uncovers vulnerabilities and delusions.

You can prepare and imagine as much as you want, but reality is the great revealer. You think, a cross-country motorcycle trip? No problem. Camp wherever it looks pretty? Let’s do it.

You think of yourself as tough, adventurous, open to new experiences, but then you realize that straddling a bike for six hours a day destroys your knees and that camping on that bluff means you’ll stay awake all night in howling wind. You soon find you’re someone who desires an ultra padded bike seat or stares longingly at the $69.99-a-night Days Inn with indoor pool and hot tub.

Taking the trip is the only thing that prepares you for the trip. It’s a humbling, necessary process. It’s the same with parenting, except that parenting is less forgiving and, of course, considering the miracle of genetic roulette, it provides more unexpected variables.

It’s possible to travel the same route as a previous explorer and have a similar experience. You can even cut short a trip if reality is not matching up to expectation, but as our midwife noted after our first sleepless nights with Freddi, there are no refunds or returns after having a child.

Photo Credit: Piotr Redlinski

In Costa Rica, the Ticos say pura vida as a hello and goodbye, a gesture of welcome and a sign of gratitude, a form of agreement and an expression of satisfaction. It literally means “pure life” but it can be used in countless ways. When I wrote a friend yesterday to tell him we might be late for a lunch date, he responded, No rush, pura vida. It often borders on the absurd. How are you? Pura vida. I’ll have the fish. Pura vida. Did the iguana on the roof keep you up last night? Pura vida.

It caught on after the main character of a 1956 Mexican movie called Pura Vida used the phrase in characteristically absurd ways. Costa Rica is a largely Catholic country, but pura vida is its spiritual mantra. Let go, it says. Take the good with the bad. It’s alright, even when it’s not.

I believe that the experience of a place has more to do with our state of mind than where we are, but in our case, it was important that we ended up in the land of pura vida. If that phrase was the only souvenir we took back to New York, our trip would have been well worth it.


After the fishermen bring in the day’s catch, people don’t do much in Playa Garza.

The surf is better up north in Playa Guiones. The cafes are more crowded down south in Playa Samara. Here, we are told, nothing has changed in decades. Mostly, it’s just teenage girls in cut offs and flip-flops flirting with the checkout guy at the Super Arraya #4. It’s a white bearded gringo asleep in a hammock at the express cevicheria. It’s two men on horseback who drive the cattle from the mountain towards the beach. It’s a family of fifteen building a campfire under a full moon, liters of coke and cans of Imperial in a cooler.

One day, a crowd gathers to watch a skinny whip of a man hold a machete in his teeth and climb a palm tree. After he lowers the clump of coconuts to the ground, he and a few buddies crack them open and guzzle them down, tossing the husks behind them like frat boys on spring break. The crowd disperses. He says to us, pura vida.

The breakfast of kings, Piotr responds, and the guy laughs, revealing two more teeth than Freddi.

For the first few weeks we’re staying up the hill at Villa Matisse, the home of an older couple, a Swiss and a Nicaraguan. In the mornings, Aura makes strong coffee and blends melon and ice smoothies. Stefan sits bare-chested at the long dining table made of Guanacaste wood and talks to us of the area’s real estate and development, of turtle poachers and why the local government won’t pave the roads.

But in the end, he says, raising his hairy shoulders in a signature shrug, there are two sides to all things, verdad?

Aura flips her long black ponytail back and forth like a horse twitching her tail and makes faces at

Freddi. Mi cosita! she cries, Que guapito!

Please, they say, stay as long as you want. We’ll find room for you.

People loved to warn us against traveling with a baby.

The road dust that could predispose him to asthma. The heat that could cause dehydration. The mosquitoes that could transmit dengue fever. The stingrays that could spike through his foot. The scorpions that hide in the sheets. My pediatrician urged us to stay in a resort.

We don’t travel that way, I said.

What way? She asked. I looked at Freddi, half-naked on the examination table, his skin as sensitive as a moth’s wing.

The safe way, I answered.

So, you travel dangerously?

We don’t look for danger, I said. I mean, not always. Just sometimes? We want to be surprised.

Having a baby isn’t surprising enough?

I laughed because of course it is and of course it isn’t, but how to explain that to someone who equated travel with resorts?

Photo Credit: Piotr Redlinski

Still, weighted down with warnings, I amassed our gear. Baby Tylenol for teething and infant Benadryl for unforeseen allergic reactions; tea tree oil for sand fly bites and calendula cream for diaper rash; a kid-sized travel tent for nighttime and beach time and a bouncy chair for morning coffee time; nail clippers; thermometer; nasal aspirator and nail file; onesies for three-month-olds and six-month-olds; two sunhats; rattle; flute; two packs of eco friendly diapers; baby wipes; mosquito repellent; spit up cloths; teething toys; baby blankets; dust-blocking bandanas; three baby carriers including a waterproof sling; and four books, including his favorite Barnyard Dance.


Maybe I should not have promised that life with a baby would barely alter our lives


Costa Ricans have babies, too, Piotr said, eyeing the luggage like an overworked pack mule that might refuse to carry this load.

I know, I know. I looked away, the adventurer in me feeling ashamed. But check it out! I added. No stroller. No car seat. That’s something, right? Keeping it light!

He grumbled as he hauled our gear to the elevator, perhaps replaying past travel experiences where we carried one small bag each and endured conditions that both tested and thrilled us. Where we jumped blindly into bottomless cenotes and made love on deserted beaches.

Maybe I should not have promised that life with a baby would barely alter our lives. I cringed watching Piotr drag the bags away, hearing my naively confident words ring in my ears, It will be easy! We’re the parents, and he’ll have to fit into our life!

The three of us are naked in the soft light of six a.m, exploring the deserted end of Playa Garza while fisherman on the sea wait for the day’s catch.

Later, we will eat the filet de pescado at Soda Tereza where Tereza serves plates of beans and rice and fried plantains from her beachfront kitchen. She will demand to hold the baby as we eat, settling him into her sagging breasts and parading him around to the other diners. Que lindo! The Ticos will say. Que precioso! They will raise their cervezas to us and smile, and we will forget the morning and the doubts it raised about being here. Maybe, we will think, we have underestimated the power of el bebe guapito.

Thanks to Freddi, we are becoming morning people, discovering the pristine nature of that hour—an unwritten page set out before us. Shade from the Manzanilla tree dapples the sand and the occasional shell glints in the morning sun. Freddi’s eyes are wide. Muy curioso, Aura would say. Piotr snuggles him into the crook of his right arm, and he becomes all flesh and soft, white skin. I follow behind, thinking how someday Freddi might be taller than Piotr or just as hairy. How he will become a man, traveling the world on his own.

There is trash on the beach, but not much. A mangled flip-flop. Wave-bitten boogie board. Plastic bucket. Trapped inside the bucket are hundreds of hermit crabs. Piotr leans close to show Freddi. He tells him that they carry their houses on their backs, the ultimate gypsies of the animal kingdom.

They can sleep anywhere, live anywhere, Piotr says. You can be that free when you grow up.


It’s harder than I thought. Piotr doesn’t ask to what I’m referring—traveling with a baby? Parenting? Trying to protect our son?


Piotr holds one in his hand, remaining still until the crab uncurls from his quarters, his beady eyes as curioso as Freddi’s.

Pura vida, Piotr says bringing it closer so Freddi can see in detail the marvel of life.

The attack is so sudden and Freddi so surprised that at first we laugh. But Freddi’s silence is disturbing, that open-mouthed, breathless pause before a piercing scream of agony. The crab latched onto his finger and was not letting go. We pull hard, but the crab is strong and his claw cuts into Freddi’s finger.

Later, when Freddi has been nursed to sleep and his finger stops bleeding, Piotr describes how he had been ready to take the crab in his mouth and crunch him to death with his teeth. I, on the other hand, had been paralyzed, standing there naked with milk leaking from my breasts.

The sun rises above the point and the day begins. Shifting the blanket over Freddi’s eyes I say, It’s harder than I thought. Piotr doesn’t ask to what I’m referring—traveling with a baby? Parenting? Trying to protect our son? He wraps a towel around us, unable to do much more than that.

We came for the surprise of travel, but surprise doesn’t always work with parenthood.

We don’t wake up slowly and sip coffee in bed. We don’t make love in the heat of the morning. We can’t swim together in the ocean, or camp out on the beach between ten and four. We don’t go to dinner after six-thirty unless we want a fussy baby. We don’t hit the road to follow a travel tip—like when we heard about ta kite surfing school on Lake Arenal or great Calypso music on the Caribbean coast. We give up the idea of exploring a tree-house community since kids under 12 are not welcome. We toy with visiting Malacriazna, the deadliest rodeo bull in Costa Rica, but our hearts are not in it. After a month in Costa Rica, we long for the lightness of the past—albeit selectively so, considering the tension that travel occasionally created for us.

What we’ve lost has been made up for in Freddi’s simple enthusiasms: how he kicks his legs gleefully at the sound of the ocean and loves the stray dogs who follow us on our morning beach walk; how he wakes up happy, charmed by the tropical light streaming through the wooden shutters and the shadows of palms dancing on the white walls; how his babbling is as new and exotic as the birdsong outside; how his body is in a constant state of discovery, mirroring the baby howler monkeys that follow their mamas across the tree tops.

Photo: Piotr Redlinski

As if the lush growth here is contagious, Freddi’s first two teeth burst through his gums our second week in Costa Rica. The following month he learns to roll over, hold an object, sit up. Maybe he would have developed at the same rate if we stayed in Brooklyn, but that seems impossible. Removing him from the brittle, cramped space of the city in winter feels like one thing we’ve done right.

We are also evolving, perhaps. Though maybe we will only know how or in what way in retrospect—when Freddi is grown and we can travel again on our own. Perhaps we’ll be like those older couples we keep running into who look longingly at us as we bounce Freddi around over lunch, take turns eating and picking up whatever he has dropped on the floor.

I swore I’d never say this to anyone, but enjoy it, one woman said. It all goes so fast.

We nod. We smile. But later we remark how quickly these self-appointed guides have forgotten how it all felt in the moment. If preparing for the future as a traveler or a parent is a delusional, however comforting, exercise, then the past is even more of a fiction.

Just the other day we met a Spanish couple in their thirties who were impressed that we were traveling with a baby. We want to have one soon, the woman explained. But we love to travel, the man added. Is it very disruptive?

It’s not so hard, I instantly said. Sure, you’re a little tied down, but it’s totally possible.

Piotr looked at me like we’d never met.

Do it! I told them emphatically. You’ll hate it, but you’ll adjust. What else are you going to do? Stay home?

We all laughed. There couldn’t be a more ridiculous suggestion than that.

We couldn’t see the cenote from where we stood. The man beckoned us closer.

Vengas, he said, pointing. Es aqui.

Inching forward, we saw the shadow of a hole.

It’s just a dirty well, Piotr whispered. Nothing but a black hole.

This was a few years ago, on our first trip together in Mexico. We were still getting to know each other, and there is nothing like traveling to either speed up or quell intimacy.

A handwritten sign had promised the best swimming experience in Mexico. Five dollars, it read, to blow your mind.

We didn’t need to talk about it. We gave the man our money and followed him down a trail, past a pen of rabbits and a rusty swing set into a clearing. When a small boy appeared behind us, the man sent him back.

I’d never seen a cenote in real life, but I had studied pictures. Underground caverns of clear blue water and domed, rocky roofs. Sunlight streamed down in shafts so soft it all looked like a dream.

Our guide undressed and, standing naked before us, smiled. His skin was tan and lean.

Tu tambien, he invited. Es mejor.

It turned out we should strip too, that it would be better that way.

I bet it would, Piotr muttered, moving toward me.

Then the man raised his arms above his head, stepped into the hole and disappeared. Maybe there was a splash. Maybe not. I took my clothes off and leapt. The cave was dark, but there was enough light to see Piotr’s body fall, following me down the narrow opening. The water caught us, refreshing and cool, if a little shocking, and we swam toward each other, calling out, our voices bouncing around the dome and scaring bats from their roost.

It’s like a church beneath the earth, I whispered.

Or a beautiful grave, Piotr said.

We stayed all afternoon, swimming through caverns, marveling at a secret world. Later, Piotr told me how scared and impressed he was when I jumped. It was that evocative combination, he said, that steeled his love.

We bump through town at ten miles an hour on our way to the pink beach, slowing more for a dog meandering down the middle of the road.

Freddi whines in my arms, trying to avoid the sun coming through the window. I wrap him in a scarf and nurse him. I’m thinking about dehydration and sun poisoning. Piotr’s worried I’ll give him heat stroke.

Relax, I say.

You relax, he says.

We laugh before it gets tense. It’s eighty-five degrees and with the smell of burning leaves and trash in the air. I associate the smell with my favorite places around the world. It signals that we are here rather than there, and isn’t that something to feel good about?

We park the car and gather scarves, baby tent, towels, blanket, water and a book to read aloud, like we used to on the beach. It’s Lolita this time. Lolita. Love of my life, fire of my loins. We needed titillation on this trip. We needed the illicit fantasy, the perverse behavior. We needed to remember how dangerous love can be.

The trail is easier than we thought. We are relieved and disappointed, but the beach is perfect: all white sand, blue water and gentle waves. There’s no sign of rose quartz, but I hope the vibration will be powerful enough to reset our energy.

We lay down under the crown of a Guanacaste tree, dropping clothes and towels near a pile of driftwood. Freddi waves his arms as we near the water and opens his mouth wide as the ocean rolls over his toes.

Piotr goes for a walk, and I decide to test out a new sling. Whipping the fabric off the ground, I wrap Freddi in it like a delicate gift, attaching him to my body, careful to cover as much of his skin as possible. Just as I’m tying the ends beneath his legs, a sting runs from my ring finger to my forearm. I scream so loud that Freddi blinks uncontrollably, as if the sound actually hit him in the face. I drop the sling and see the scorpion. He clings stubbornly to the fabric as it falls around my legs, and I shriek again, feeling the pain in my finger and fearing that it will attack again—either my leg or Freddi’s.

What was I thinking coming here with a baby? I am angry and sickened by how close the scorpion came to stinging Freddi. The warnings rush back. I am selfish and naïve, unfit to be a parent. Piotr and I will never travel again after this. My carelessness will be the end of our adventures and probably our relationship. Or else it will be all boring resorts and extended family vacations and he’ll remind me forever of my stupid promise about how easy this would be.

When Piotr returns, he is as wild-haired and blissful as Adam before the fall. I wave my hand at him.

There’s always a snake in the garden! I call out.

What? He asks.

A scorpion!

In a garden?

Why did we come here? I ask.

He looks around, confused. I point to the insect, still poised to sting.

Piotr inspects it and whistles in appreciation. Five inches long and the color of dark caramel, the scorpion is as beautiful as he is menacing.

Pu -ra vi-da, Piotr says slowly, drawing out the words.

But it’s bad! I say, shaking out my finger for dramatic effect. He kisses it and drapes his arm around Freddi and me. There is a look of fear and relief, surprise and admiration on his face. I think it means that we’ve arrived.

We’ll take our thrills where we can find them. Maybe by the end of the month we’ll exchange the car for a motorcycle, sit Freddi between us and wrap our faces in bandanas. Maybe we’ll pay a visit to Malacrianza. His rodeo days are over now. We could still see him, though, just a tired old bull, grazing through a field passing the time.


Photos by Piotr Redlinski

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

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

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This is birth: A surrogacy journey shares the incredible story of how one surrogate came to carry four children for a couple, and how they all became like family to each other in the process.

We had the honor of catching up with surrogate Jessica Pretz to learn more about how this incredible story came to be.

Five years ago, when surrogate Jessica met intended parents Sharon and Lake, she felt an immediate click. "It was like going on a first date and meeting with someone you knew you were supposed to be aligned with. We all just felt that connection."

Jessica had given birth to three of her own children, and had recently finished her first journey as a surrogate, carrying twins for another couple. Jessica agreed to be a gestational carrier for Sharon and Lake.

Throughout that first pregnancy, the intended parents, Jessica and her family all became very close. Jessica, who is currently a Surrogate Coordinator for Circle Surrogacy, clarifies that this is not always the case with surrogacy—this particular connection is unique.

"The relationship I have with Sharon and Lake is quite different than the one I have with my first intended parents. I respect the level of contact and communication that each intended parent desires. Their family was very involved with the pregnancy and wanted to take part in as many appointments as possible, help with fundal height measurements."

Watch their surrogacy journey captured by Jennifer Hamilton of Mamarazzi Photography here:

Sharon and Lake were by Jessica's side throughout the birth of their first child, Campbell, and even "caught'" him when he was born. When they asked if she wanted to carry a sibling for him just moments after Campbell was born, Jessica says she didn't need to hesitate before saying yes.

"There was no doubt in my mind that I would love to carry another for them. They are everything I could ask for in intended parents and they are a joy to go through pregnancy with."

Less than two years later, Jessica gave birth to Sharon and Lake's second child, Sailor, in what Jessica describes as an "amazing, fast water birth."

After carrying two of their children, she initially hesitated to take on another surrogacy journey.

"I knew after the second journey that they had remaining embryos left. I had six pregnancies under my belt at that point, all of which were vaginal and unmedicated births. I had no complications as of yet, and I was fearful of something going wrong. I tossed up the idea of them using another surrogate to carry their remaining two over the course of two more journeys. I only would have done one more pregnancy as I was ready to not be pregnant or pumping breastmilk and spend time focusing on my own family."

But after some discussion and consulting with her family, Sharon and Lake, her birth team and reproductive endocrinologist, they all decided to do one more journey together—and transfer the last two remaining embryos. Both took— and they became pregnant with twins. In their birth film, you can see the emotional moment when the twin pregnancy is confirmed, while Jessica is on the phone with Sharon and Lake from the ultrasound room.

Initial fears aside, Jessica explains how the decision itself was, ultimately, second nature: "Deciding to carry all four of their kids really wasn't a hard decision. I am a big part of their lives and most importantly their kid's stories. It would have been odd for me to not help them complete their family."

Watching the birth film, it is truly powerful to witness the love, support and familial connection between Jessica, Sharon and Lake while their twins are born. In one sweet moment, Sharon is embracing Jessica during labor as they both cry.

Even after the birth of their twins, Sharon, Lake, Jessica and her family have all stayed close—even vacationing together. Jessica says she and Sharon are close friends who talk about parenting, marriage and life in general. "It's really a beautiful connection we share."

On how it feels to be a surrogate, Jessica shares, "The best part of being a surrogate is getting to see a couple become a family and the look on their faces when they first see their baby or babies. It is truly an honor to carry these babies and be entrusted with their care."

As a mother of four children herself, we wanted to know more about how Jessica's family has reacted to her surrogacy journeys. "My family is extremely supportive of my surrogate pregnancies and quite proud of the joy I have been able to bring to others through surrogacy. The intended parents I have carried for have become family to us and my own biological family regularly communicates via social media with them."

She continues, "My kids are little advocates and educators on surrogacy. I feel that my children have learned selflessness and sacrifice through my journeys. I always say that while it is the woman who is pregnant, the journey of surrogacy takes the whole family's support."

We're so thankful to both of these families for allowing us to share their incredible surrogacy story.

This is birth: A Surrogacy Journey was captured by Jennifer Hamilton of Mamarazzi Photography.

We started our This is: Birth film series to give representation to the many varied ways women give birth. Watch more curated birth films here.

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Life

When women become mothers, they usually have two options: Go back to work or stay home with the little one. This is how it was when I had my first child, and I was angry that there weren't more flexible options for mothers who wanted to work, but on their own terms.

It can be tough to feel inspired when you're thrown back into (or continue to remain in) a 40-hour workweek that isn't flexible. Luckily, we can create better working options (and a happier life in general) for mamas, but we're going to have to do it ourselves, starting with our mindset.

Here are nine phrases we can tell ourselves to be productive and efficient mamas:

1. "My kids come first, but so do I."

It's okay to carve out time that's just for you, whether that means quiet time alone, meeting up with a friend or signing up for a class. At the end of the day, a happy, fulfilled mama leads to happier kids.

2. "My kids are young, but I can still achieve my goals."

If you want to start your own business, or move to another country or accept that promotion, do it now. Only you know when it's the right time, but it's a myth that your motherly duties require you to wait until your kids graduate from college before you can start doing what inspires you.

3. "It's never too late to make a change."

Maybe you invested time and money to get a degree, and you're afraid of veering off-course to do something you really love that's completely unrelated. Or maybe you're intimidated about rejoining the workforce after taking a break to raise kids. I've seen over and over that it's never too late to find out what happens when you follow your passion.

4. "I'm not ready yet, but I will be."

What does "ready" look like? Spoiler: you won't be ready for every challenge that comes your way. But that's okay. Figuring it out as you go is the only way to learn when you're in uncharted waters. Not feeling ready means you have some self-awareness about your weaknesses, and that's a great place to start. When you embrace the unknown, you learn more about yourself and will likely have a lot of fun along the way.

5. "I can do it all...with help."

Mothers are superhero multi-taskers, but doing it all can have a negative impact on your life and relationships over time. Establishing boundaries is key to a happy, healthy life. At work, giving someone else an opportunity to shine shows that you're a team player, not just in it for yourself. This applies to your children, too. You know what your kids are capable of and can help them build confidence by giving them responsibility.

When we're honest and open about our struggles, it draws people in. Leaning on a community will lighten the load and deepen your relationships with the ones you let in. Use Facebook groups and social media to find your village. Find your village today.

6. "I'm okay just the way I am."

People may look very polished and shiny when they post photos on Facebook or Instagram, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Comparing yourself to others is not helpful; you have to find what works for you and block out the rest. If it works for you, then you're doing it right.

7. "I have to leave early to take my kid to __________."

If you're leaving work early because your daughter's ballet recital is important to you, own that, and don't apologize, because you're not alone.

8. "I will be present in every moment."

I know it's tempting to check your phone while you're watching your kids on the playground, but dividing your attention doesn't make you more productive. Moms are awesome multi-taskers, but give your full attention and be present wherever you are. Whether at work or with your kids, quality is more important than quantity.

9. "I am good enough."

If you're having a moment of self-criticism, stop and ask yourself: Would I say this to a friend? If you would never utter bad words to someone else, don't say these things over yourself Be kind and give yourself the benefit of the doubt. You are good enough.

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Learn + Play

As a parent, you might want to do the right things for our environment, especially knowing your children will inherit it. At the same time, with a tiny human relying on you, time is incredibly valuable.

What is a carbon footprint?

Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon emitted as a direct or indirect result of an activity, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, fluorinated gases and others. Unfortunately, carbon is being released at a much faster rate than it can be absorbed by natural processes.

Currently, the average U.S. per capita carbon footprint is 18.3 tons, and the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project reports in order to hold the global temperature rise to 2˚C or less, everyone on earth will need to average an annual carbon footprint of 1.87 tons by 2050. This seems like a lofty goal, but there are things we can do to shift emissions in a more positive direction.

As a scientist focusing on sustainability, here are nine ways to reduce your carbon footprint in under five minutes:

1. Host a kids clothing and toy swap party.

It's no secret that kids outgrow clothing and toys quickly. Consider gathering fellow parents and friends, pooling together the items your kids no longer need, and going "shopping" for what you need.

Exchanging what you already have reduces greenhouse gas emissions in a few ways. It lowers the amount of power needed to produce brand new clothing and toys, and it shifts demand away from the plane and truck fuel used to fulfill online orders. Plus, it's an opportunity to socialize and save your hard-earned money.

2. Offer chores that save energy.

Recycling and turning off the lights, air conditioner and the heat may be simple tasks, but they'll teach your little ones how to keep a green household. Explain that the less power you consume, the lower your carbon footprint and that by properly sorting recycling and food scraps, the less greenhouse gas emissions there'll be in landfills. You can have kids help to place recycling in the right bins each day.

3. Encourage other modes of transportation.

Biking and walking are fabulous ways to reduce carbon emissions. Encouraging your kid to get on two wheels or to take a family walk to dinner. If you have to drive, see if you can carpool with friends or family to cut down on the amount of car time.

4. Use reusable diapers when possible.

Producing disposable diapers costs a lot of energy and emits greenhouse gases. While disposable diapers can be totally necessary, using reusable diapers even just a small percentage of the time (perhaps only on the weekends) helps lower our overall consumption and landfill waste.

But, if you must use disposable diapers, buy biodegradable ones that can be composted after you use them.

5. Switch to clean makeup.

Putting on makeup can be a moment of self-care, but clean beauty is more environmentally-friendly and healthier than traditional makeup, which can be made with harmful chemicals. Plus, many women love the peace of mind that comes with using makeup free of harmful chemicals around their children.

Most traditional makeup brands use ingredients derived from fossil fuels, while clean makeup companies use more plant-based ingredients. Going clean shifts demand away from non-renewable resources towards more renewable ones which ultimately helps the environment. Clean beauty companies are also much more likely to use energy-efficient manufacturing practices, use fewer resources including fewer ingredients, reduce packaging waste, and be more responsible about sourcing ingredients in a way that's kind to the earth.

6. Consider how you feed your baby.

Breastfeeding is great for the environment! You can make your impact even bigger by choosing eco-conscious products like reusable breast pads, or reusable breast milk storage items.

If you are bottle-feeding, opt for glass bottles if possible. And when you buy formula, see if you can find large containers instead of small—it will reduce the amount of garbage you throw out.

7. Encourage your kids to conserve water.

The more water-efficient your house is, the better as treating and pumping water uses energy. Teach your children to turn off the faucet when they're brushing their teeth, and get them in the habit of taking showers of a reasonable length instead of baths that require three times more water than a shower.

8. Use reusable grocery bags.

Producing paper and plastic bags takes energy. Find a few reusable bags–it's a bonus if they're cute and fun to use–and bring them with you to the store. If you forget to use the bags, store them in places you always see. For example, you might put the bags in the driver's seat next to your purse on your way to the store. And once you get home and unpack the groceries and put them in your entryway where you'll see them the next time you're heading to the car.

9. Join your energy provider's energy-saving program.

Many energy providers offer the free option to get your power from energy-efficient sources, like wind power. Place a quick call and ask about your options. They should be able to switch you over immediately and once it's done, you don't have to worry about it on your to-do list anymore.

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Learn + Play

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 had 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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News
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