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It’s 11 a.m. on a Monday morning and Ariel Swift is late. Five minutes to be exact.


The lobby of the Feinberg Pavilion in Chicago hums with movement, as doctors exit the large double doors leading to the attached hospital. They are dressed head to toe in blue scrubs, the only exposed skin is their hands typing methodically away on their phones.

The coffee kiosk I sit next to is the only source of noise as baristas yell out orders for pick up. Iced coffee. Caramel macchiato. Double shot Americano. A gaggle of preteens flood the entrance and laugh as they get caught in the revolving door.

I look up from jotting down questions in my top-spiral notebook and someone is walking toward me with an outstretched hand. It’s Ariel Swift. She apologizes profusely, shaking my hand and introducing herself.

“I’m so sorry I’m late! I’ve been running around all morning.”

She is short, with dirty-blonde hair and nose ring. T-shirt, sweater, jeans. She has a warm laugh and as she pulls her chair out, I realize she is very pregnant. She reminds me of someone who always gets the compliment “you look like a friend of mine,” or a person who evokes life stories out of strangers. The moment before I dive into the interview and start simultaneously scribbling notes and quotes, I feel a wave of serenity wash over me. The professional reporter exterior I’ve crafted melts away, and I feel like we are catching up on old times. I realize Ariel Swift must be very good at her job.

Ariel Swift is a doula. Turn to any television show or movie for the definition of a doula and this is what you’ll likely get: A woman in handmade clothes with scarves and beaded jewelry dripping from every limb. Hair piled on top of her head, possibly barefoot, shaking incense around the room. She will walk in with a knapsack filled with herbs and oils, with techniques that have been passed down for generations “in her culture.” She will probably be racially ambiguous – this is the writers hoping you connect her work with the work of a bayou witch. She’ll asks you to “roar” your baby out and possibly suggests labor is the most pleasure one can have in their life.

Honestly? I equated doula to this stereotype too, before I embarked on this story. Unfortunately for Hollywood, that’s not what most doulas look like today. Many of them look like Ariel Swift.

Swift is the owner and creator of Doulas of Chicago, which services women for pre-, during, and postpartum maternal care. Doula businesses focus on all three aspects of giving birth in an intimate setting, which most health care providers can’t do because of the patient-to-doctor ratios. Prenatal care usually involves checking in with clients about fears or concerns, and how to talk to their doctor. During-care is the big day, where doulas provide phone support during early labor and their presence for active labor and delivery. Postpartum care can involve lactation consulting and visits with the family to see if everything is okay. New mothers can experience postpartum depression, and doulas can recognize those initial stages and facilitate a match with professional help.

What inspired Swift to become a doula was the birth of her first child.

“I didn’t think my doula was very good,” says Swift. “My only criteria was that she look like my mom.”

After that experience, she decided to train with ProDoula and start practicing as a doula. To become certified with ProDoula, you must attend a two-day seminar, which focuses on hands-on work and emotional support. Doula training programs vary and can cover several aspects of work as a doula. After certification, one is able to start taking clients. Since her first client in January of 2012, Swift’s attended 112 births. “Having a doula is like having a person to help you weigh the pros and cons,” says Swift.

Doula vs midwife

Before weighing pros and cons, we should clear something up first. There is the common misconception between doula and midwife. A doula is there to help you emotionally process these life changes and be there during birth to act as a guide. A midwife is medically trained to facilitate a birth, usually in a home birth. Doulas do not perform births, nor should they be advertising that they do so.

Midwife training is split into two categories: CNM (certified nurse-midwife) and CM (certified midwife). Both go through an accreditation process, but a CNM is a certified nurse, whereas a CM is someone in a medical field. Though midwives are trained in some medical aspect, there are still states that outlaw midwives to practice. Recently, Alabama changed its law to allow midwives to start seeing patients and attending home births.

Some question why modern medicine needs doulas and midwives. The United States boasts that we are at the forefront of medical advancements, but sit in a waiting room for two hours and you might think otherwise.

Birth in the US, then and now

The history of the midwife in the US goes back to at least 1660. Before modern medical advancements, home birth was all a woman had. Formal midwife training wasn’t created until 100 years later, and it was still a developing trade for women. Mind you, during this development midwifery was still being practiced in rural areas and low-income communities where it was a necessity to seek a midwife instead of a doctor. Modern medicine thought they were re-inventing the wheel when it came to midwives when in reality it was a practice as old as time. Hospitals weren’t even a thought until around 1751 when voluntary and public hospitals were being built.

Flash forward to the 1930s, when the boom of women going to the hospital for birth was started. At the beginning of the 20th century, most women knew someone who died from childbirth. Now women wanted to feel safe and comfortable, and sterile metal and baby nurseries gave them that. “The perception was that it was the modern way to give birth,” says Sarah Rodriguez, a medical historian at Northwestern University who focuses on women’s health.

Ironically, going to the hospital was a luxury, and not as commonplace as today. But still, this luxury was only for middle-class white women, because America was still in a period of segregation. Many women didn’t speak English or couldn’t afford the new way of birthing, which can even be seen today when it comes to insurance premiums and how costly it can be to have a baby in today’s world. And despite the sterility and perceived safety a hospital birth provides, the numbers paint a troubling picture.

Rising maternal mortality

A recent study by NPR and ProPublica reminded us that the United States has the highest rate of maternal mortality in any developed country, and it hasn’t been just this year. Since 1998, the graphs have been working their way to the top with no end in sight. “It’s embarrassing, horrifying, and sad,” says Maura Winkler, the owner of Chicago Birth and Baby, who is trained as both a doula and a midwife.

Google this issue, and there will be countless articles declaring it doesn’t exist, or or explaining it away because of X, Y, or Z. Putting criticisms aside – such as how the US defines maternal mortality different than other developed countries – there’s still a birth problem within our current healthcare system. Rising rates of maternal mortality currently claim 26.4 deaths per 1,000 live births. For a place like Presence Medical Center in the heart of downtown Chicago, commonly referred to as the “baby factory,” this covers a busy month.

“We have a quilt with lots of holes in it, we don’t have a system,” says Rodriguez. She refers to the various programs and sections of American health care, in place of a baseline care that can help everyone. There are veteran affairs hospitals, children’s cancer hospitals, and even labs where organs are being grown. But when it comes to general care, our system can’t provide safety for something as common and natural as childbirth.

When I tell her about our growing problem, she isn’t fazed.

“I’m not surprised about this,” she says, “If you compare the UK to the US, our maternal mortality stats are quite poor.”

Which many studies do. To grasp how strange it is that America would have such high mortality rates, studies compared our stats to those of other first-world countries. In the UK, maternal mortality rates are falling so drastically one journal claimed your husband is more likely to die during your pregnancy than you are.

Doctors and medical professionals speculate many reasons why women are dying during birth. Today there are more women with pre-existing conditions and high-risk pregnancies. Women are having children later in life and the farther you get away from your 20s, which is physically your most fertile years, the harder it can be to have a smooth pregnancy. That’s why most doulas agencies focus on women who are in their early 30s.

Doctors may label women over 35 as high-risk simply because of age, which can cause problems down the road. When women are labeled high-risk, it can justify a doctor’s desire to medically intervene, even though the woman may be as healthy as ever. These interventions can include C-section, episiotomy, or hooking up a fetal monitor during labor, which limits the mother’s freedom to move around. If active labor lasts longer than around six to seven hours, a C-section is usually the next step. Pushing C-sections on women isn’t putting health first, especially when perfectly healthy natural birth can last up to 16 hours.

“I think doctors don’t want to risk waiting and they go for the extreme quicker,” says Helen Stevenson, a registered nurse who is pregnant with her second child. “I think this scare has led to a rise in C-sections here in the US.” She’s right. C-sections in the United States have risen, from five percent in the 70s to 20 percent by 1996. Pitocin, a drug commonly used in the hospital to induce labor, creates contractions and speeds up the opening of the cervix. For some mothers, this is necessary. But often these drugs are used to start active labor, even though letting nature run its course is a viable option. A Pitocin-induced labor is often painful, forcing your body to start active labor when it’s not prepared for it. Other times it can affect a baby’s breathing during birth.

“Some of them [nurses] slam it into women,” says Kate Ritter, a doula with Chicago Birth and Baby. Ritter experiences birth rooms where women receive procedures like episiotomies and Pitocin. An episiotomy, where a cut is made to further dilate the cervix, was considered efficient when first invented in 1742. Now, it can cause painful healing and is used as a last result.

Ritter recalled an instance where an episiotomy was performed on a client without discussion and against her strict instruction. Ritter wanted to say something to the doctor but held her tongue because ultimately, she acts as an emotional support for the client, not to tell the doctor what to do. Doctors must make quick decisions when a baby is in distress, but for a doula these situations it can put them in a moral dilemma. “A lot of women just need to understand what’s happening,” says Ritter.

The role of the doula

There are ways a doula can facilitate those conversations between provider and client, like playing “dumb doula.” If the doula is the curious one, asking doctors what’s happening step-by-step, it takes the pressure off the mother to ask. Doulas can offer more than just emotional support and can help new mothers have control over what happens to them in childbirth. When speaking to women, that seemed to be the number one priority in their birth plan: having control over what happens to them in the birth room.

“Overall I wanted freedom in my birth plan,” says Reagan Weaver, who recently gave birth to her first child. “To let my body do what it was built to do and for me to find what worked best for me. This being my first child, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect; no one can really prepare you.” Weaver lives in Alabama, so she couldn’t use a midwife because she knew the state didn’t allow these practices yet.

Here’s the thing: There is a glaring discrepancy between the horror stories of childbirth gone wrong and the stories of these doulas. With a doula, the mothers-to-be understand what’s going on and they have someone in their corner during one of the most stressful event in their life.

These doulas can teach women how to speak to their provider and discuss with them all options for their pregnancy. The women who I spoke to whodidn’t use doulas lamented that “if they knew more” or “had enough money” they would have absolutely used a doula.

“I can definitely understand some women wanting more of an intimate/personal experience with their deliveries and the people involved with it,” says Claire Dansereau Auerbach, who recently gave birth to her first child Addie. This makes me wonder why these practices are falling by the wayside and shot down by women choosing birthing plans? Surprisingly, 95 percent of women in low-risk pregnancies can give birth without medical intervention, yet only two percent do.

Cost

It’s surprising to think doulas are what started it all, and yet today they are a luxury.

“Right now the expenses of just having a child are already overwhelming, so I don’t see how we could afford to add anything else,” says Valerie Tull, who works at The University of Alabama in the Center for Public Safety and is expecting her first child in a couple of months. “If doulas ever became an option covered by health insurance I’d definitely consider using one.”

Doula services are an out of pocket expense, not covered under major health insurance companies. Now that these holistic practices are legitimized, they are charging and acting like a business. The average doula service can range from $4,000 to $6,500. On top of the medical fees to give birth in a hospital, which can cost $3,500 or more, it’s easy to understand the financial reasons why women aren’t keen on hiring a doula.

Owners like Swift think doula companies aren’t charging enough. Being a doula is an involved profession that requires you to be on call for a pool of expecting mothers. But accounting for licenses and overhead, this business can cost the doulas quite a bit too. “Because it’s work that involves the heart, not everyone is open to know that it’s a job,” says Swift.

Doulas usually start off as independent workers, which can allow for some wiggle room in price if they let the connection to their client come before money. Which, on one hand, is a bit heart breaking. It’s hard to remember there is a business side to something so pure as helping a woman give birth. On the other hand, these services can’t go unpaid, and if doulas are undercharging their clients because of a soft heart, eventually that doula will go out of business.

Swift sees being a doula as an “altruistic” profession and a passion that is sometimes hard to put a price tag on. Money, passion, and compassion aside, there still is one major thing to consider when discussing holistic childbirth: insurance. Under the current Affordable Care Act, maternity care and child birth are an essential health care. With our disparaging political climate and the notorious health care bill trying to seep its way into congress, things could change. If the proposed healthcare bill were to somehow pass, a number of regulations would make it harder for many to handle pregnancy.

First off, it would gut Planned Parenthood. Regardless of what you think about them, they offer prenatal care for women who don’t have insurance. Not as many of their offices offer the care, but you can’t deny the help they are giving to people in need.

Secondly, it would allow states to regulate what is considered “essential care.” Like previously stated, the ACA considers maternity care and childbirth as an essential care, but in more conservative states that have already proven their lack of understanding of the female body (looking at you, Texas), those legislators could completely change the game for women, and not for the better.

Doing it right

On the flip side, you have facilities like the Presence Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center, located in Chicago, which has in-house midwives. Which means it’s covered under insurance. You can have your child in one of their swanky birth rooms with a midwife, with a team of doctors on-call if anything should go awry.

“It’s a very collaborative relationship,” says Mary Bauer, director of Midwifery Services at Presence and a nurse-midwife. “It’s very respectful, understanding that the two disciplines of midwifery and obstetrics have different philosophies.” Bauer started the midwifery program at Presence after nine years of practice as a midwife. The program has only been established for a year, but so far has proven to be a model that works with patients and providers. The midwives work eight-hour work days, with a lot of time spent with patients individually. It’s like having the backing of a hospital with the intimacy of a private practice.

These programs are popping up around the country, but they are few and far in between. On top of the shaky ground that is our healthcare and the overwhelming statistics, it can seem like right now (and the near future) is a terrible time to start procreating.

It seems to me the problem is a lack of education and understanding. These doula practices are doing the good work, but if people don’t know about them or can’t afford to use them, then more and more women will have difficult or deadly births. As a healthy child of a high-risk pregnancy, I have to believe hospitals want what’s best for you. But as a 23-year-old woman with hopes of children in the future, I am setting up a kiddie pool in my living room and calling nine midwives. When the holistic option seems to be the safer way, my trust in modern medicine fades. The facts speak for themselves: Medical intervention can irreparably damage or kill a mother. It seems hospital lawyers are more in charge of a birth room than mothers, and that’s something no legislation or regulation will stop.

As I dove into my interview with Ariel Swift, past the pleasantries and apologies, I felt a twinge of guilt. I was talking to an expectant mother about how often women die in childbirth. I watched her grab her stomach when I recited my findings on maternal mortality. Even she, a birth professional, isn’t safe.

This is fear. The fear that no matter what we do, things can still go wrong in a split second. It plagues us all, this fear of the unknown. Yet succumbing to fear is the easiest way to complete a self-fulfilling prophecy and put yourself in an early grave. It is the doula, the champion in our corner, who can provide courage, shine a light on the unknown, and lessen our fear as we women perform an act as natural and beautiful as the setting sun.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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When you become a mama, your definition of a smooth morning undergoes a complete evolution. Now, you consider it a win if your real alarm wakes you up and you get to drink coffee while it's still warm. The not-so-smooth mornings? Well, let's face it, that's a rough way to start the day.

When the wake-up call comes early and the coffee has been forgotten in the microwave, it may seem absolutely impossible to carve out any time for yourself. But a centered, confident mama is a happier mama, and there are some simple ways to sneak self-care into your morning to ensure you're putting your best face forward.

Specializing in quick, easy and (we must say) beautiful morning makeup routines, Woosh Beauty understands busy mornings, and has created an 'everything-in-one' makeup palette that is our new secret weapon for feeling like we made the effort to center ourselves, too.

Inspired by Woosh Beauty, here are five ways we've given our morning beauty routines a self-care makeover.

1. Make time (and space) for calm

As moms, time is priceless and that's especially true in the morning. Even if you're racing against the clock, it's worth it (trust us) to hit the pause button for just five minutes before tackling all the to-dos on your list.

With The Fold Out Face from Woosh Beauty, you have all the makeup you need (coverage and color) in one compact, portable palette. That means no scrambling to find your concealer. No opening, closing, then reopening and closing eyeshadows and powders.

Most importantly, no need to set up shop in front of your vanity/bathroom mirror/designated makeup space while keeping one eye on a constantly moving child. The Fold Out Face goes wherever you go and gives you everything you need in the flip of one flap—so you really can focus on yourself.

2. Create rituals that boost confidence

Even if you're going on your third day with the same yoga pants (they're so comfy!), it's important to make time in the morning to do something that will put a confident pep in your step.

While makeup has likely been part of your routine for years, motherhood can take a toll on your skin in new ways—which is why having 13 full-sized cosmetics, made from luxurious high-performing mineral-based formulas, allows you to erase the appearance of under-eye circles, perfect any imperfections and give yourself an effortless glow—all in less than five minutes.

So even if you don't have time to meticulously apply makeup, you can look and feel like you did. 😉

3. Allow our minds to drift 

For most of us, mornings mean going from zero to 60 in about five seconds flat. Before fully immersing yourself in the obligations of the day, it's nice to have just a few minutes to allow your mind to drift away from the to-do list. Woosh Beauty makes having mindspace while checking off "put on makeup" possible by numbering the order in which the cosmetics in The Fold Out Face should be applied.

4. Savor little luxuries

Before you go spend the morning driving kids around to the tune of nursery rhymes and eat a lunch of PB&J crusts, it can make a world of difference to your outlook to lavish in something that is all yours.

We love that Woosh Beauty makes that simple with The Essential Brush Set, a luxe collection of double-ended brushes that are numbered to correspond with the steps in the Fold Out Face, and come in a soft storage bag to keep them away from kids who may mistake them as paint brushes.

5. Be kinder to ourselves

Sometimes, a healthy self-voice for the rest of the day starts with rituals that remind us we're doing good for our bodies, too. By using Woosh Beauty products in your morning beauty routine, which are free of parabens, sulfates, gluten and fragrance—not to mention they are animal cruelty-free—you aren't just applying makeup, you're applying products and using tools that you can feel good about.

In the morning, a seemingly little thing like taking a few minutes for self-care is really a big thing that will continue to pay off with a beautiful outlook throughout the day—and with The Fold-Out Face from Woosh Beauty, it pays off with a beautiful look throughout the day, too.

Motherly readers can receive a 20% discount site wide using the code MOTHERLY at checkout.


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

Just weeks after announcing her pregnancy and letting the world know that's she's determined to keep working while she's expecting, Amy Schumer dropped some bad news Thursday.

She posted a photo of herself in a hospital bed with her little dog Tati, and spelled out the details of her health issues in the caption. "I have hyperemesis and it blows," Schumer wrote, noting that she's had to cancel upcoming shows in Texas due to the condition.

Poor Amy. Hyperemesis gravidarum (also known as HG) is a rare but serious pregnancy complication, and it's really tough.

Kate Middleton, Ayesha Curry and Motherly co-founder Elizabeth Tenety are among those who, like Schumer, have suffered from this form of severe morning sickness that can be totally debilitating.

As she previously wrote for Motherly, Tenety remembers becoming desperately ill, being confined to her apartment (mostly her bed) and never being far from a trash can, "I lost 10% of my body weight. I became severely dehydrated. I couldn't work. I couldn't even get out of bed. I could barely talk on the phone to tell my doctor how sick I was—begging them to please give me something, anything—to help."

Thankfully, she found relief through a prescription for Zofran, an anti-nausea drug.


It looks like Schumer is getting the medical help she obviously needs. In her Instagram post she wrote, "the doctors and nurses taking great care of me and Tati."

She seems to be getting IV fluids (she's probably super dehydrated) and hopefully her team can find a way to get her some relief with Zofran or another form of therapy.

Schumer says she feels very lucky to be pregnant, but HG can make a mama feel downright unlucky. As Schumer notes in her post, most mamas feel better in their second trimester, but HG can make it feel even worse than the first. "I've been even more ill this trimester," she says.

We're glad to see Schumer is getting help, and totally understand why she would have to cancel her shows. Any mama who has been through HG will tell you, that wouldn't be a show you'd want front row seats for anyway.

Get well soon, Amy!

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There's a lot on a mama's to-do list, from running around with the kids to managing her mental load. That's why we love subscription services that do the remembering for us... because mom brain is real.

There are so many on the market that'll fit just about anything you need. Maybe it's a recurring option so you never run out of your household goods—or coffee—or it's toys that streamline your little's learning during the first year. Or, you just want to treat yourself to a little goodie each month.

Whatever you're looking for, here are some of our favorite services:

1. Monti Kids

Sure, it seems like you could just gaze at your newborn all day—but sometimes it's nice to mix it up. With toys tailored to the development of children from the age of zero up to three, the quarterly subscription box from Monti Kids helps integrate Montessori-style learning into the home through a series gradually advancing toys.

Not only are the items premium quality, but they are also thoughtfully selected to stimulate your child's development. Win-win.

Monti Kids, $297 every 3 months

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[In partnership with Monti Kids]

2. Audible

While you might want to devour a good book, finding the time to sit down and have a few minutes of quiet isn't always possible. That's why we're obsessed with Audible, a service by Amazon that lets you download audiobooks and listen to them anywhere—in the carpool line, during a workout, while you're in the shower.

Each month you'll get a new credit that can be used towards an endless array of options. Use this link to score two free audiobooks with a trial.

Audible Subscription, $14.95 per month after 30 day trial

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3. Stitch Fix Kids

Kids grow out of clothes so fast so instead of running to the store to purchase new items every few months, Stitch Fix sends 8-12 handpicked items to try. Tell them about your kids' personality, style and budget, then get your box. Pay for what you like and then send back the rest!

Stitch Fix Kids, Stitch Fix, $20 per box, items are typically $10.00-$35.00

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4. WePlenish

While this one isn't technically its own subscription service, it's pretty similar. The smart container stores your favorite coffee and once you connect it to your Wi-Fi, it begins to update product levels.

Simply link to a consumable (we love using Amazon) and it will automatically reorder it when supplies run low. No more morning panic that there's no coffee left or having to remember to add to your cart.

WePlenish Java, Amazon, $39.99 (consumables prices vary)

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5. Happy Legs Club

If you always seem to forget to pick up new razors, Happy Legs Club is there to help. You'll get to select from one of their premium razors, select your ideal delivery schedule, and never have to add 'razors' to your shopping list again. Plus, we love the free shipping!

Happy Legs Club, starting at $12.00 a cycle

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6. Little Feminist Book Club

For the littles in your life, this book club membership will give them something to look forward to each month. Each box features one or two books about strong female characters and/or people of color, hand-selected by a team of teachers, librarians and parents. Then you get various activities that encourage kids to explore and guide conversations.

Little Feminist Book Club, $63.00 every 3 months

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7. KidPass

Finding new activities for your little has never been easier. A KidPass membership works with thousands of brands so you can enjoy indoor playspaces, sports, museums, zoos, and classes with your child.

We love the flexible plans so you can choose ones that work best for your family—plus, credits rollover for 90 days for those busy months. You can enjoy a free month trial here.

KidPass, KidPass, $49.00-$189.00 per month

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8. Shaker & Spoon

For the cocktail lovers, this is such a fun subscription. Each month, they'll send you everything you need to make about 12 fabulous drinks, including recipes, syrups, bitters, mixers, garnishes and citrus—all centered around one type of alcohol. No alcohol is included in the box, but one bottle will be enough so you can work with what you have at home.

Shaker & Spoon, Shaker & Spoon, $40-50 per month

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9. New Wash

For a cleaner, greener new way to cleanse your hair, New Wash combines essential oils and natural saturated cleansers to keep your hair fresh. Most shampoos use detergents, which strip your hair of the good oils that your hair actually needs (which is why you probably have to use conditioner, too). We love the canister and travel bottle that comes with it!

New Wash Subscription Option, $90.00 per ship (you select frequency)

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10.  Disney Princess Boxes

If you have a princess (or prince) in your life, they're sure to obsess over Disney's new Princess Boxes. Every other . month, a box of magical treasures will arrive at your door with Disney store costumes, a read-along storybook and CD and stickers and surprises.

Disney Princess Enchanting Experience Box, starting at $49.99

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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.

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Childcare was the number one stressor for me as I prepared to return to work. It's something I had to think about early on because if I wanted to go the daycare route, I had to get on waiting lists... a YEAR in advance. Yes, you heard that right... ONE YEAR in advance to find childcare. Daycare was always what I thought I wanted for my baby—I didn't even consider a nanny mostly because of the cost.

However, once I started touring daycares, my heart was breaking. I couldn't imagine leaving my baby with strangers at 4 months old. Strangers that didn't know what each of her cries meant, strangers that wouldn't pay attention to her 24/7 because there were eight other babies in the room, strangers that I didn't know or trust.

These are all the wild thoughts that went through my head:

"What if she cries and no one picks her up to soothe her?"

"What if they pick her up and can't soothe her?"

"Will they remember that she needs her pacifier to fall asleep?"

"What if she gets hand, foot mouth?"

"Will she be sick all the time? Daycares are germ fests right?!"

"Will she be happy and loved?"

"Why am I letting strangers spend more time with my baby vs. me?"

"Shouldn't I stay home to take care of my baby for at least the first year?"

"She's so helpless--she can't talk or tell them what she wants--she's only 4 months!"

I could go on forever. I was a mess. I remember finally finding a daycare my husband and I liked. I went back to give them a deposit and when I walked in, I saw a baby laying in her crib crying and no one paying attention to her.

I ran out of there so fast, security deposit in hand and in tears telling my husband, "I can't do this!"

I took a break from the daycare search and tried to focus on enjoying every minute of maternity leave with Liv. About a month before I was heading back to work, I got a call from the daycare I originally wanted (a nice little year-plus waitlist).

We immediately signed up and secured our spot and I felt so much better. I still hated that I had to leave my 4-month-old baby in the care of someone else, but knew this place had a good reputation. It also gave me comfort to know my sister-in-law worked at a daycare when she was younger, and I knew how much she loved and cared for each of those babies (thank you for helping reassure me Allison).

To prepare for heading back to work, I did a couple trial daycare runs. For the first trial run, I planned on finally doing some self-care—getting my nails done, doing some shopping and maybe even working out. I walked out the door after dropping her off and immediately burst into tears. I made it to one store, got a coffee and was already headed back to the daycare 45 minutes later. The second time was a little better because I had a plan. I went to an event and it helped get my mind off worrying about her 24/7. I made it three hours that day... baby steps right?

I had so much anxiety about leaving her for the full day that I made the daycare employees in the infant room a "instruction manual" on Olivia. I remember emailing it to my mom and sister saying, "Is this okay to send to daycare? Will they think I'm crazy?"

My sister Lindsey said, "No why would they think that?! It's perfect. Olivia is your baby and you say whatever you want."

My mom said "No that's great! At the bottom put 'first time mother'—they will laugh but can use your info." Their responses were perfect and exactly what I needed to hear at the time. Thank you both.

For your viewing pleasure, here is a copy of the doc:

Once I was back at work, I thought about Liv 24/7. Is she okay at daycare? Is she crying? Does she miss me and need me? I counted down the minutes to get back to her and spent the evenings holding her.

Daycare was harder than I thought; coordinating pick up/drop offs, trying to get us out the door to get to work in time, planning bottles and her food for the day, etc. I was a hot mess and in tears most days.

Yes, I forgot bottles and jackets and extra clothes frequently. Yes, she got sick A LOT the first year she was there. I started to wonder if I had chosen the right option for Liv so I started looking into a nanny option.

I started a Nanny vs. Daycare pros and cons list (for those of you that know me, you know I do this for all important life decisions) which went a little something like this:

Pros of Nanny:

  • 1:1 interaction
  • Sick less often!
  • Less stress for mom
  • Help with house + meals
  • Cheaper if I ever have a second child
  • Not overstimulated
  • Another adult that loves Liv
  • Help with grocery shopping
  • Consistency for Liv
  • Works with my schedule
  • Not learning bad habits from other kids
  • Better quality food/more control
  • High turnover at daycare
Pros of Daycare:
  • Interaction with other kids at daycare
  • Social skills
  • Safety in numbers
  • Structured space and hours
  • More cost efficient

Everything except cost was leading me towards a nanny (double what daycare was), but in my gut I always knew I wanted to go the daycare route. It was the stress of figuring out this new working mom life that made me want to change my mind (along with some outsider's opinions).

I decided to stick with daycare and we moved Liv to one closer to our house. My husband and family members were able to help now with pick up/drop off so it wasn't all on me. As she got older (she's 19 months old now), she didn't get sick as often and I loved watching her play with the other kids. While it was hard in the beginning, it HAS gotten easier and I know I made the right choice.

For any moms struggling to choose childcare, I want you to know that whatever choice you make, make the best choice for you and your baby. No one else. And there is no wrong choice. You will figure it out, you will get through this, and your baby will thrive either way. Some days will be harder than others, but the most important thing is that you love your baby.

Originally posted on The Returnity Project.

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Once Thanksgiving arrives, everyone's lives get a little more chaotic. There are holiday concerts and parties coming up and in between are the visits to family, the gift giving and all of the meals.

If you're already feeling a bit overwhelmed, here's a simple strategy to follow, mama.

1. Lay out your plan for the next 6 weeks

Your plan should include:

  • A calendar with all the events you and your family are signed up to attend. You might want to color code them by priority. Green could mean "must attend" while red could mean "optional attendance." You want to give yourself some wiggle room for the unexpected. After all, it's only when you are at your busiest that something will happen to throw a wrench into your plans.
  • To-do items that aren't date-sensitive, but can't be forgotten in the schedule. This could be making time to go to the Christmas tree farm, if you're getting a fresh tree, or putting up outside decorations. Or, it might be letting extended family know your plans for Christmas morning.
  • Gift shopping list, including where you will get each item from. The sooner you can start shopping, the more likely you are to find what you're looking for at the right price and in stock. If you're shopping some Black Friday deals, online or in person, the list can guide you so you're not overspending. If you're hiding gifts from the kids, make sure you note where you put them! There's nothing worse than getting to Christmas Eve and you have no idea where you stashed the presents.
  • Meal plan for days that you have friends or family at home. This can mean your own family, too. It's not just about planning the family dinner on a certain holiday, like Thanksgiving or Hanukkah, but also the days before and after. The more you can have at the ready for busy days, the less likely you will be to rely on the local pizza delivery place.

2. Stock up on what you can

Make a list of items you know you use each year and stock up on those. For example, if you burn the cranberry sauce Thanksgiving morning, you'll be glad that you stocked up on two cans of it and have extras handy in the pantry.

Some ideas of what to add to your cart:

  • Canned goods
  • Water
  • Wine, beer, drinks and mix
  • Wrapping paper, tape and gift bags
  • Extra gifts—have a few bottles of wine or chocolates in gift bags handy for that unexpected gift from the neighbor or crossing guard.
  • Extras of most-used items, like toiletries or favorite snacks
  • Firewood for the fireplace

3. Strategically decorate your home

Making the switch from autumn Thanksgiving decor to holiday mode may leave you scrambling, but it doesn't have to. Ideally, have plastic bins with decorations for each holiday in separate ones so you can put away one set while pulling out the next one, quickly and easily.

They'll also be that much easier to find next year. These can be stored away when they're not being used in a basement closet or storage area, safe and sound. For minimalist mamas, select only your favorite decorations and find ways to incorporate them throughout various holidays.

4. Be realistic when it comes to buying gifts

If you have a large family, you can suggest a Secret Santa method of gifts so your list will be more condensed. But even if you have to buy for everyone, you can plan to get it done in advance.

Leverage online shopping so you don't have to arrange childcare or deal with crowds, or plan to set aside a day that's just for you. Don't overbuy for kids too soon if possible. Kids might change their wish list in the weeks before the holiday. Many mamas found that implementing a three gift Christmas, or an experience gift, can lessen the stress and leave the kids happier.

5. Prepare for gatherings + in-law visits


If you host family or friends during the holidays, get some things done in advance so you're not worrying about them in the moment.

  • Have extras of toothbrushes and toiletries
  • Set aside guest laundry (towels, sheets, etc.) so you don't have to worry about laundry
  • Check with family about allergies or foods that they don't enjoy before you set the menus and buy ingredients
  • Make room in closets for extra coats, boots and clothing
  • Give yourself a present and have a cleaning service come in and do a thorough job of cleaning the house in the days before your mother-in-law arrives
Pro tip: A really nice way to greet people and make them feel at home is to have a basket of slippers in their space or lay out chocolate on their pillow.

Originally posted by Modular Closets.

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