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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.

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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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Hilaria Baldwin has worn her emotions on her sleeve in recent months sharing the heartbreaking news of her miscarriage and then the happy news of her current pregnancy—and she's all about being her authentic self.

The yoga guru thrives on having her hands full. In fact, on top of raising her four children with husband Alec Baldwin and her work, Hilaria recently decided to foster a new puppy, because what is life without a little chaos!

Motherly caught up with Hilaria this week and she didn't hesitate to dish on a variety of things relating to motherhood. From how she and her husband juggle parenting duties, to how she handled introducing her children to their younger siblings when they were born, and, of course, how she deals with online criticism.

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Motherly: Congrats on the baby news! We loved that you got your four little ones involved with the reveal. Are they excited to have another sibling?

Hilaria Baldwin: They're really, really excited. Carmen is super excited not only because she not only has very much wanted a sister—she has Ireland [Alec's daughter from his marriage to Kim Basinger] but she lives far—so she wants someone who comes and lives in our house.

I've made a lot of people and finally, another one came out a girl. We never [intended] to have a big family… you know, I had Carmen and then I had Rafa and then I got pregnant pretty soon after I had Rafa and it was another boy, and then we said, 'Let's try!' and we had another boy. The three boys are within three years, so they're such a joy to watch [together]. As much as Carmen is a part of their little group, she's always sort of said, 'Hey, I would love to have a little sister.' So, it's been really exciting to see her get excited.

Motherly: So many parents struggle with introducing their kids to their new sibling and deal with the fear of the older child feeling jealous or left out. How did you handle that? Do you have any advice for parents going through these emotions?

HB: I think at this point we have such a crew that like, my kids are just used to a crowd all the time and it's like our house is super fun and there's always something going on. And so, you know, one to two [kids] was kind of difficult. And then for me, three we were a group and then four it was like nothing happened. You know, the kids, they love babies because they've been around so many babies. They love being together as they're always playing together and fight as well.

In terms of like introducing, one of the things that is like a ground rule for me is that— Alec and I have this on our wedding rings so it's long before we got pregnant— [it is the Spanish phrase] for 'We are a good team.' And that's our motto. It's like everything is a team in the house. There's no excluding, there is no toy that particularly belongs to somebody...They will have a blanket maybe that they sleep with or something like that, but it's not off limits to everybody else.

Of course, they break these rules at grab toys and don't want to share to do all the things that normal kids do, but the rule we keep coming to is that we want to keep everyone happy and accepted, so I think that helps. They all call the babies their babies, and I think that that helps, because it's not like mommy comes home and had this new baby and they're excluded.

Like everything else it's just embracing the fact that we're all scared. And kids really follow the guidance of the parents. If you make it fun and special, that we have the baby and it's about them, then they're gonna follow that lead. If you make it like, 'Oh, don't do that [to] baby, don't touch, be careful' and that kind of thing, it's not going to be as much of a group enjoyment thing.

Motherly: Busy Philipps recently opened up about how she almost divorced her husband over uneven parenting responsibilities. How do you and Alec divide the duties?

HB: I didn't hear about that, but I feel like that's very common…I am somebody who takes pride and am very specific about how I want things to be done. Like, I cook for my kids every night. I bathe them morning and night. When somebody gets into a fight, I want to be there to be able to deal with the dynamic. You know, with Alec, he'll sort of roll his eyes because I'm like, 'You're not doing it the way that I want it to be!'

I almost prefer to do it. I'll wake up with the kids at night. It's kind of my personality and I really enjoy it. You know, some people want support by saying, 'Hey, it's your turn to change the diaper.' But what [Alec] does for me that really, really means something is he'll look at me and he'll say, 'You're such a good mommy' and my kids will say that to me, and that's all I want in return. I'm somebody that I don't require a lot of sleep. I'm a busy body. I'm happy to check things off the list. I'm very type A, but I want to be the one who does this because I know how I want it to get done.

Motherly: You're so open about everything on social media. Do you ever feel like you want to hide more or is it therapeutic for you?

HB: I think it's a combination. I think that it's mostly therapeutic. I was always a very open person, and then all of a sudden I joined this really weird public life world and it was a very traumatic experience of everyday people are looking at you trying to find out your business. Alex was like a very old school celebrity in terms of 'this is my private life, close the doors'. We don't [have to] say anything. I mean he has been a little more outspoken than like the average sort of old school celebrities. And I tried to do that for awhile and it made me not like who I was.

And I really just started realizing, I was changing because this is how they're telling me to behave. And so I said, 'You know what, I'm not doing this anymore.' I said, 'I'm going to be open. And people are going to see that.' Once you marry somebody who is famous and your economics change...It doesn't mean that you have to be different.

And, yes, do I have my days where I really kind of want to close down and be more quiet? Sure. But in the end I realized that everybody has those days. And that's one of those the things that makes us common and connected. And that's what I've really enjoyed with this journey that we're on.

Motherly: Do you have ways that you personally deal with online criticism, or do you just kind of turn a blind eye and try to not focus on the negativity?

HB: I think I go through phases and I think a lot of it has to do with your philosophy, your emotions, where you are not just in that phase in your life. I've done things from literally copying the comment and posting it on my story. And I think that using that as a place of saying, 'Hey, this is bullying. This happened to me too and this isn't okay.' And if this person is bullying me, I guarantee you that they're bullying other people. So I'll do that. Sometimes I'll block, sometimes I'll respond.

This lady wrote me last night and [told me] I should be careful because with [yoga] twisting you can cause a miscarriage. And I had just suffered a miscarriage, so I basically should know better, and that that happened to her, that she twisted and then she had a miscarriage … Now, yes, in yoga you should not do the lower belly twists when you're pregnant, but that being said, if you twist, it's not going to cause a miscarriage...And that's one thing that, I mean I responded to her and I just responded to her saying, 'I lost my baby because my baby's heart wasn't good, not because I did something wrong.'

Too often women look at ourselves and point blame, we think, 'Well, we must have done something.' Let me tell you something from having a miscarriage: The first thing that all doctors tell you is, 'I want you to know that you didn't do anything wrong.'

Motherly: Can you tell us a little about how you're dealing with picky eating in your household?

HB: I was dealing with the pickiness of my kids and particularly Rafael, who's like my super, super picky eater. We had to sort of get very creative because he literally would prefer to not need, then to eat something he doesn't want to eat. And he is that typical picky eater where he wants he'll eat like four or five things and you know, they're good things, we're lucky with him, he likes tofu and lentils.

But at the same time, we're constantly trying to think of other things. So, I found Health Warrior bars when he was going through some really picky times and they were great because you can put them in your bag for on-the-go, and he would eat them and it wouldn't be a fight, and I know that they have really good ingredients.

The other thing we discovered from them—because getting kids to eat vegetables is really, really difficult as well —is a protein powder that it's like all plant based. So what I do is I'll make a shake for them every single day that has tons of kale and broccoli and all this kind of stuff in it. I'll put this chocolate protein powder in it and they call it a chocolate shake… So those have been like two life savers and so when they came to me and they said that they wanted to do something together, it just felt very natural and I wanted to spread the word because they've helped our family so much.

For more from Hilaria check out Season 2 of the Mom Brain podcast, co-hosted by Hilaria and Daphne Oz.

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News

After my son was born I found myself thrown into the darkest period of my life, overtaken by postpartum depression and anxiety. My days were awash in panic attacks from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed, with crying spells that hit without warning in between.

Most of my visitors didn't know any of this.

When they stopped by to deliver a meal or meet the baby, most people asked the question we all ask of new mothers: "How are you doing?" I answered with the automatic response we all give when asked this question: "I'm doing okay," adding with a sideways glance and shrug, "Tired, but that's just how it is."

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"How are you doing?" It's a great question to ask when we see a friend on the street or sit down for coffee to catch up on life. But when we ask it of a new mother, we subconsciously ask her to take the complex period after birth, with its hormonal shifts and emotional ups and downs, and boil it down to one sentiment.

The postpartum period deserves a better question.

The reality for each mother is different, and the answer to such a simple question may be kept private for fear of making her visitors uncomfortable if she senses they expect a glowing new mother, drunk on oxytocin.

A better question for any visitor, or even if you see a woman with a new baby on the street, is: "How are you feeling, emotionally?"

This question doesn't just invite a response, it shows a new mother that you are ready and unafraid to hear about her feelings, whatever they may be.

It shows her you understand that she may be delighted in her new baby, but are open to the possibility that she is also feeling grief for her past life, sadness at the lack of support, disappointment in the grueling and unforgiving schedule a newborn demands.

This question is even more important today, where most women are not surrounded by a village following the birth of a baby. They may be alone, doing the hard work with just the help of their partner, or if they're lucky, close friends and family. They may have no space to process what's happened to them and so they begin the habitual process of setting themselves aside for the sake of others.

A few weeks ago I was at a friend's cookout. A woman entered the backyard with a newborn. She sat down and I watched her carefully, as I do all new moms since recovering from my PPD. Scanning for signs that she might be in trouble, or struggling to maintain a facade of togetherness. I didn't see anything, but that didn't matter.

"Hey," I said. "How old is he?"

"Two weeks," she replied, shifting the peacefully sleeping baby from one arm to the other.

"That is such a crazy time," I said, painfully recalling the chaos of my own experience at two weeks postpartum. "And how are you feeling," I ventured. "Emotionally?"

I didn't even know her name. But it didn't matter. I saw a flash of surprise on her face, followed by a faint smile radiating from inside her. And with the door swung wide open, we talked for a long time about what it really feels like to be a new mother.

So how are you feeling today mama, emotionally?


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Life

Yes, it's called the giving season, but who says that “giving" always has to mean toys, clothes or just more stuff? Gifting experiences, from museum memberships to sporting passes, can give your kids more than just another object for their playroom. It can create memories, help build skills and provide fun for the entire family.

#TeamMotherly agrees. We asked what experiences you want for your kiddos instead of toys, and you happily told us. Here are some of the best experience gifts to give:

1. Children's theater season passes

2. Gift card to restaurant for the family

3. Trampoline jump passes

4. Zoo membership

5. Full session for new sport (gymnastics, football camp, etc.)

6. Trip to the bookstore to pick out new books

7. Local + national state park passes for a year

8. Plane ticket to visit someone special (grandma, aunt, etc.)

9. Pass to an art museum

10. Cooking class for kids

11. A farm stay

12. Tickets for child + friend for a local play

13. Pottery making classes

14. Out of country airfare + accommodation (if you want to be truly indulgent)

15. Swim lessons

16. Aquarium yearly pass

17. Subscription box

18. A train ride to somewhere they've never been

19. Musical instrument + lessons

20. Flower or herb seeds to plant a garden

21. Ballet classes + tutu

30. Gift for charity, let the child decide where to give

31. Miniature golf adventure

32. Indoor climbing excursion

33. Mommy + me music classes

34. Tickets for Disney on Ice

35. Passes to the local waterpark

36. A book bundle

37. Music class gift card

38. Camping gear for a weekend away

39. A hot air balloon ride

40. Subscription to Little Passports

41. Year fees for school

42. Whale watching day trip

43. Materials to build terrarium

44. Weekend stay at Great Wolf Lodge

45. Game night bundle

46. Season pass to attraction (Disneyland, Island of Adventure, etc.)

47. YMCA family pass

48. Movie gift card for the local theatre

49. Volunteer trip (Toys for Tots, food bank, etc.)

50. Donation to future college fund

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


Life

The nurses and my husband were pushing the stretcher as I tried to put some makeup on; I have always loved red lipstick and bought a new one for this special occasion. I want to look pretty in the pictures, I can not be seen with this face, I thought.

My brown skin contrasted with the white of the operating room—I was there because twins generally means it's high-risk pregnancy, so this was an extra precaution before starting to push. Doctors were ready; clean and sterilized. My husband was dressed as an astronaut and I? Well, I was disheveled, with huge dark circles and no sleep, but extremely nervous and excited.

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"Push, push, push," they said when everyone was set up, but I was just trying to get my hair in a ponytail. There is nothing glamorous about giving birth.

Labor began shortly before 11:00 in the morning. At 11:04, my daughter was born and by 11:07 my son arrived. The two of them were vaginal deliveries. No cesarean. It was so fast that I didn't have time to put makeup on or do my hair. I had no time to get picture ready even when I had spent 37.5 weeks waiting for this moment.

My daughter cried softly and my son was tiny. I could only hold them for a couple of minutes, just a short skin-to-skin hug before they were taken to the NICU. They needed more oxygen and some tests.

From the operating room, I had time to send photos to the family, give the good news on WhatsApp and post something on Facebook. Their dad ran behind them as they went to the NICU. I was left alone, but not empty. I was happy, proud and full of love; I don't know if the epidural was working its magic, but I was never afraid.

Then I was back in my room. A nurse bathed me, braided my hair and put a little makeup on my exhausted face. My mom came to see me, probably a little disappointed that the twins were not with me. Everything happened so fast. Just half an hour after the delivery, I was in a wheelchair on my way to the NICU to see those little strangers that had formed in my belly.

They were twins, but completely different. My daughter was a brunette, but my son was more likely to be blond; she was fully awake and he was sleeping. You could definitely tell that she would be the one with a strong personality and he would be the sweet mama's boy. They were two tiny individuals that grew together in my belly.

"I'm mom," I introduced myself in a whisper.

It was the second time they saw me and I made sure that I looked a little bit better this time. It was not the makeup or the hair, love made me look pretty and I was full of that wild and inexplicable new emotion.

Then something happened. It was just a second, a click.

We recognized each other and loved each other instantly. My mom told me about that "magical connection" but I never really believed it until I felt it.

I was a brand new mom with no experience at all (I have to confess that I even took classes to learn how to change diapers and use a stroller). And, of course, I didn't know what to tell them or how to lull them; there are no classes to prepare you for that. It was so unexpected that I, a writer and a journalist, was out of words.

I was so in love that I was speechless. They were so tiny and had so many tubes and machines on them that I was afraid to do or say the wrong thing.

So I sang. I sang every single lullaby in Spanish that I could remember while I rocked them to sleep. In the beginning, it was one by one, in their own rooms and then, together, one on each arm, like the family we've been since then.

I spent my first night as a mother away from them, yearning for them and missing them. I spent the second night in a larger room with no crib or babies. The third, the fourth and even the seventh—and others—I spent in the NICU, with them.

Our boy was still in the hospital and our daughter in my arms. I discovered the magic of motherhood amid pediatricians and nurses, pumps and tubes. But, even with all that chaos, I found true joy and the most frightening fear.

It has been five years now. Today they are no longer babies; they say they are a big boy/girl now. I know it's true. Where did the time go?

They have grown a lot, but they are still my babies; they can bathe alone and brush their teeth making circles as the dentist taught them, but they are still looking for my arms, my kisses, my touch and my words of love.

They think they need me, but in reality, I need them more. We're a team; we are family. We love each other, we accept each other, we challenge ourselves, we—almost always—like each other, we push ourselves to the limit, but with the same intensity we love each other.

I'm so blessed to have them in my life. I'm lucky and beyond. I'm so excited to walk with them in this life and I'm so thankful that they chose me to be their mom.

Larga vida, mis cachorros. Los amo.

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Life
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