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“I just want to hit something!” Gabby hisses at me through the space in her mouth where her first two baby teeth have recently fallen out.


She is holding the closest object she could grab – conveniently, her brother’s baseball bat – tightly in her chubby fingers, poised for the strike. Her feet are spread, belly and butt thrust out, shoulders back in righteous six-year-old indignation. Her stance is half tiny ballerina, half Athena the Warrior Goddess, and I find myself torn between scooping her up in my arms and running away.

I can remember when those teeth came in, too – the same first ones, tiny and white and precious. I have them, and all the teeth her brother and sister lost before her, in a wooden box next to my bed. It’s the same wooden box my mother kept next to her bed with our teeth in it – mine and my sister’s – one of the few relics I have from my childhood.

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Now our teeth are all mixed in there together with no way to know whose is whose. Nick says I’m a little weird for keeping them like I have, but they are staying right there, thank you very much. I like the symbolism of it all, all of us jumbled up in there together in my box that was my mother’s box, once just a cheap trinket on the shelves of a souvenir shop on my first sleep-away school trip, until I bought it for her.

 

 

Gabby didn’t know my mother, not in the way I would have liked her to. She wasn’t even born yet when my mother had mostly disappeared, fading into the space she spent the last few years of her life lost in.

Gabby turned three just a few weeks before my mom died. She had sworn she would show up for Gabby’s spaghetti-and-meatballs birthday dinner, and then – in a development that surprised none of us but Gabby – hadn’t.

After I tucked the freshly three-year-old girl into bed that night and kissed the cake frosting from her forehead, I’d gone back downstairs to find that she had left greasy hand prints outlined in spaghetti sauce on the front windows where she must have stood, watching for her grandmother.

That had made me that same kind of angry – the spitting fire kind, the grab a baseball bat kind – not at Gabby, of course, but at my mother. Or maybe at God, or maybe at myself for the small part of me that still (even though it was dumb) willed my mother to walk through the door, too.

As for Gabby, I’m not even sure what she’s mad about, standing there with that bat in her hands. There was a toy, or more accurately, there wasn’t. Someone had taken it from her, or she had lost it, or it hadn’t been hers in the first place and she had only wanted it to be. I’m not sure it matters.

What matters more is that, like me, she’s a feeler, with a very thin filter between her heart and her actions. She’s always a little bit on fire, like there’s a pilot light lit inside of her all the time and sometimes the wind blows just right and she flares up in a big showy rush of baseball-bat-grabbing heat.

She lets me take the bat from her though. Of course she does. And I opt for the scooping, carrying her up into her bed and then lying there with her. Neither of us really knows what to say, and it’s quiet, the only noise our rush of breath, hers ragged with the remnants of cooling anger and a little whistly as it moves through her teeth hole.

You know there are other ways, healthier ways, to deal with your anger, I tell her.

“Like what?”

“Like taking a deep breath,” I say. And we practice, the drawing in, the pause, the release. Again and again, until we are both soft and a little bit melted into each other there on the bed.

Then she asks me one of those Gabby questions, the kind that can’t be answered in any real way, but I try anyway because I am stubborn or because I love her or because I can remember what it felt like to ask someone the big questions – my mother or God or myself – and not get any real answers either.

“Why can’t we keep things?”

I don’t think she means it in any philosophical way, not on purpose anyhow. I think she means that toy, whatever trinket had been taken away from her and inspired her wrath in the first place. Or maybe she means her teeth. Maybe she means her grandmother (because, of course, that’s where my brain goes immediately), or the flare of her anger, or her babyhood. But I doubt it, mostly.

I answer Gabby with a story that bubbles up from the bowels of my memory, surprising us both. I tell her how, many years before, when her Daddy and I were new parents, we took Jack for a walk in his stroller. I tell her how it had been one of those gorgeous days in the fall where you know your communion with the sun is now on borrowed time and so everything feels a little extra bit like a gift. And while life with a new marriage and a new baby was incredibly hard a lot of the time, right then it felt full of promise.

We had hiked up the summit of the reservoir’s water tower, where you could see the whole city and also the dot of white siding that was our own little house. “Look, baby!” Nick and I had said, pointing. “It’s our house!” And Jack, being a baby, said nothing, although knowing him as well as I do now, I suspect he was thinking something snarky about how it takes a special kind of idiot to walk all this way just to look for home.

Just then a butterfly had flown by. Operating on a lark and a wish or just instinct, Nick reached out his hand.

And he caught it.

He had held his hand out to me, an expression of disbelief on his face. In his loosely clenched fingers I could see the flap of the butterfly’s wings.

“No way,” I said. “You caught it??”

“Yup,” he said, and then looked from his hand to me again. “Now what?”

“Well, now you let it go,” I said, because it was the only thing we could do. So we let it go, and it flew away, and Jack squealed, and we headed back toward the white dot that was home.

I tell Gabby how maybe it is always like that butterfly. Maybe, if we are lucky, we catch something and we draw it close to us, marvel at its beauty and marvel even more at the gift that is us holding it. But we can’t hold it forever, and not just because it would be awkward for both us and the butterfly if we did, but because, in doing so, eventually we would destroy the very thing that made the moment beautiful in the first place: its inevitable ending.

Gabby listens intently, her breath softening. “Also,” she says, “if your hands were always full of butterfly, you wouldn’t be able to hold anything else.”

And that’s kind of everything, isn’t it?

It’s the teeth, pushing up and into my baby’s mouth until they come out again and into my box. It’s me giving my mother the box in the first place, only to have the box given back to me when she died. It’s her, here, and then not. It’s having babies and then not having babies anymore, but having these children – these people who can stand on their own, feet slightly spread and fingers holding a bat in my kitchen, lit like flames with anger that is caught, held, and then released later when she surrenders into my arms.

It’s my own anger at my mother, long since burned through into peace and even something that looks a lot like love.

It, at its most basic, is just the ebb and flow of Gabby’s soft breath, the inhale of all the things we pull in and hold close flowing into the exhale of all the things we have to release and set free.

And it’s what came not long after Gabby’s spaghetti-sauced hand prints on my window, shortly after my mother died, when Gabby was still small enough to fold into my lap on the couch. We had been sitting, entwined, until she shifted somehow in my arms just right, and for a second it was there, the smell of my mother’s perfume, clear as day and unmistakably hers.

“My mother is here,” I had said before I even knew what I was saying, and Gabby had leapt up from where she was sitting in my lap and ran to the door, threw it open. “Come in, come in, come in!” she yelled, joyous. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

It was the kind of moment you wanted to hold onto for a little while, a sad moment, but also beautiful, and I was glad by then that I had let go of the butterfly enough to have some space inside my heart for it.

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.


Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

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

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Military families give up so much for their country, particularly when they have small children at home. Those of us who have never witnessed this kind of sacrifice first-hand could use a reminder of it once in a while, which is just one of the reasons we're so happy to see the beautiful photoshoot Mary Chevalier arranged for her husband's return home from Afghanistan.

The photoshoot was extra special because while James Chevalier was serving a nine-month deployment, Mary gave birth to their second son, Caspian.

Getting ready to meet Dad

"During the laboring and birthing process of Caspian, I was surrounded by family, but that did not fill the void of not having my husband by my side," Mary told InsideEdition.com. "He was able to video chat during the labor and birth, but for both of us, it was not enough."

While James had yet to meet Caspian, their 3-year-old son, Gage, missed his dad a whole lot, so this homecoming was going to be a big deal for him too. That's why Mary arranged for her wedding photographer, Brittany Watson, to be with them for their reunion in Atlanta.

Gage was so happy to see his Dad 

"[He] had no idea he was going to be getting to see his daddy that day," Watson wrote on Facebook. "The family met at the Southeastern Railway Museum for Gage to go on a special train ride... little did he know, he'd be doing it with daddy!"

Watson did a beautiful job capturing the high emotions of every single family member, from Gage's surprise, to the delight on baby Caspian's face. It's no wonder her Facebook post went viral last week.

"Caspian is natural, a very happy baby, but both James and I felt like Caspian knew who his father was almost immediately," Mary told Inside Edition. "He was easily comforted by me husband right off the bat and seemed to have an instant connection. It was very emotional."

The moment this dad had been waiting for 

If we're sobbing just looking at the photos, we can't even imagine what it was like in real life.

"We are all so blessed and take so much for granted," Watson wrote. "I cannot contain the joy I feel in my heart when I look at these images, and I hope you feel it too!"


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During both of my pregnancies, I was under the care of an amazing midwife. Every time I went to her office for check-ups, I was mesmerized by the wall of photos participating in what may be the most painfully magical moment of a woman's life: giving birth. But there was a painting that always drew my attention: a woman dressed in orange, holding her newborn baby with a face that could be described as clueless. The line above the canvas read, "Now what?"

I felt like the woman in the painting as I kissed my mother goodbye when my daughter was born. She came from my native Colombia to stay with us for three months. When she left, I realized that my husband had been working as usual during those first 90 days of our new life. My baby was born on a Friday and on Monday he was back at the office. (No parental leave policy for him.)

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Now what? I thought. The quote "It takes a village to raise a child" suddenly started to hit home, literally.

After a few years in Miami, I had some friends, but it truly didn't feel like I had a village. Some were not mothers yet, most of them worked full-time and others didn't live close by. My nomad life left my best friends spread out in different places in the world. I found myself signing up for "mommy and me" classes in search of new mothers, immigrants like me, alone like me.

It seemed like a utopian dream to think about when my grandmothers became mothers. Both of them had 6 and 10 children and they were able to stay sane (or maybe not? I don't know). But at least they had family around—people cooking, offering help. There was a sense of community.

My mother and father grew up in "the village." Big families with so many children that the older siblings ended up taking care of the little ones; aunts were like second mothers and neighbors became family.

When I was about to give birth to my second baby, my sister had just had her baby girl back in Colombia. Once, she called me crying because her maternity leave was almost over. My parents live close to her, so that was a bonus. Hiring a nanny back there is more affordable. But even seeing the positive aspects of it, I wished I could have been there for her, to be each other's village.

The younger me didn't realize that when I took a plane to leave my country in search of new experiences 19 years ago, I was giving up the chance to have my loved ones close by when I became a mother. And when I say close by, I mean as in no planes involved.

It hasn't been easy, but after two kids and plenty of mommy and me classes and random conversations that became true connections, I can say I have a mini-village, a small collection of solitudes coming together to lean on each other. But for some reason, it doesn't truly feel like one of those described in the old books where women gathered to knit while breastfeeding and all the children become like siblings.

Life gets in the way, and everyone gets sucked into their own worlds. In the absence of a true village, we feel the pressure to be and do everything that once was done by a group of people. We often lose perspective of priorities because we are taking care of everything at the same time. Starting to feel sick causes anxiety and even fear because it means so many things need to happen in order for mom—especially if single—to lay down and recover while the children are taken care of. And when the children get sick, that could mean losing money for a working mother or father, because the truth is that most corporations are not designed to nurture families.

In the absence of that model of a village I long for, we tend to rely on social media to have a sense of community and feel supported. We may feel that since we are capable of doing so much—working and stay at home moms equally—perhaps we don't need help. Or quite the opposite: mom guilt kicks in and feelings of not being enough torment our night sleep. Depression and anxiety can enter the picture and just thinking about the amount of energy and time that takes to create true connections, we may often curl up in our little cocoon with our children and partners—if they are present—when they come home.

Now what? was my thought this week while driving back and forth to the pediatrician with my sick son. I can't get the virus, I have to be strong, my daughter can't get ill, my husband needs to be healthy for his work trip next week, we all need to be well for my son's fifth birthday. And so, it goes on. I texted one of my mom friends just to rant. She rants back because her son is also sick. She sent me a heart and an "I'm here if you need to talk."

I am grateful to have talked to her at that random postpartum circle when I first became a mother. She's a Latina immigrant like me and feels exactly like me. I will do it more, get out of my comfort zone and have—sometimes—awkward conversations so I can keep growing my own little village.

It may not look like the one I'd imagined, but still may allow me to be vulnerable even through a text message.

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Halloween is around the corner, but if you are like me you are still trying to figure out what to dress your family (especially the little ones), so here are some cute ideas inspired by famous characters. There's something for everyone—from cartoon lovers to ideas for the entire family!

Here are some adorable character costumes for your family:

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