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Hey, mamas, anyone else awake? I’m having a really tough time tonight with anxiety, and have no one to talk to.

I wrote that when my son was five-weeks-old. It was 3 a.m. He was sleeping soundly on my chest, and I remember wondering why I couldn’t just enjoy this moment with him. It was so quiet, even the crickets had stopped their incessant chirping. My son’s breaths whispered across my skin with each exhale: it was a completely pristine moment.

Yet there I sat, anxious and alone. There were so many unknowns, and in the middle of the night, as a new single mom, I had no one to talk to. Within moments, women from around the world were commenting that they were thinking of me, sending positive thoughts, hoping everything was okay, there to talk if I needed. They were awake too, facing their own struggles.

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In those early weeks and months, I remember feeling more than once that social media was my lifeline. The harsh glare off my phone was a beacon of hope, there in the dark with my son cradled against me.

Anxiety is just one of several perinatal mood disorders (PMD) commonly experienced by women during and after pregnancy. Postpartum depression is the most renowned, but PMDs also include psychosis, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies, to name a few. An estimated 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression alone.

Despite their prevalence, women who experience these disorders can feel incredibly isolated. Depression, insomnia, and panic attacks do not fit the socially constructed mold of blissed-out new motherhood. This sets the stage for mothers to be riddled with guilt and shame for not being able to connect, or sleep, or leave the house. There were so many moments when I sat with friends, smiling and nodding, all the while wanting desperately to say: “I am so overwhelmed. I need help.” It’s hard to show the rawness of motherhood, because it still feels so taboo.

Perinatal mood disorders have been the dirty little secret of motherhood for far too long. It’s becoming easier to talk about, as celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Drew Barrymore, and Kristen Bell come forward and share their experiences. Actress Hayden Panettiere’s personal struggle was even mirrored in her character’s storyline on the TV show “Nashville” last year.

And that does help. Yet hearing that these seemingly perfect women have also struggled doesn’t necessarily make a mama feel less alienated as she watches the hours tick by in the night, alone and anxious. This is true largely because our society is highly autonomous. We prize individual triumph and the ability to succeed on your own above a group mentality. This mindset has its benefits, but also tends to alienate new mothers. In fact, this has become such a big issue that psychologists have wondered if postpartum depression is a misnomer, and should instead be called postpartum neglect.

Parenting takes a village

The old adage that it takes a village to raise a child is used frequently because it’s true and relevant. Parents are trying to navigate raising children in a society that has lost its village mentality. The idea that the collective is watching out for the best interest of the child, fostering his growth, and supporting his parents, is truly lost to us. If I didn’t make a concerted effort to get out of the house, I could easily spend day after day isolated at home with my son. This leaves parents, and new mothers especially, feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and alone, which is why the Internet can be such a useful resource – there at your fingertips you have access to a modern virtual village.

Memories of the earliest days of my son’s life are foggy, at best. Though I clearly remember the way his soft little body curved against mine, twitching in his sleep, the nights are a blur of monotony and sleeplessness. Midnight cries and grunts were the new soundtrack of my life. Three o’clock in the morning was my son’s party time, and when I had finally convinced him to fall back to sleep, I was usually too wired to sleep myself.

These moments were both miraculous and torturous – watching him sleep I wondered (as many parents do) how I had managed to make a complete human, but also how such perfection can cause such exhaustion. Shrouded in the darkness, my mind racing, I found myself turning more often than not in those early days to my phone for company. I took my motherhood wireless, and connecting online saved me.

I was lucky enough to stumble across an online mom group aimed at women with a similar due date. In its infancy, the group had hundreds of members, and was a place to turn to during those early, unknown days of pregnancy with questions about spotting and first ultrasounds. After almost two years together, we have whittled the group down to less than 100 members.

Together, we have suffered miscarriages, lost loved ones, divorced, and gotten married or engaged. We have supported each other through surgeries, pediatric scares, and domestic violence. We have cheered on, disagreed with, and learned from each other. We have encouraged mamas to seek medical help for warning signs of postpartum depression. We have laughed and rejoiced, shared stories, and marveled at each other’s little ones as they have grown and learned new skills. Most importantly, we have supported each other, despite our parenting differences. This group, to me, is the epitome of what the virtual village can offer.

I’m also part of some online mom groups that I rarely participate in: ones that are area specific, ones that are for working moms, for single moms, for breastfeeding moms, for writing moms. When it comes to types of mom groups, possibilities are endless. This can be a critical lifeline for mamas who do not have like-minded moms near them: LGBTQ moms, moms who adopted, single moms, moms who formula feed, moms who breastfeed, moms who struggled with fertility, moms who work-out, moms who co-sleep, moms who sleep train – the list goes on.

With access to these groups, you have the ability to contact women with vast experiences and knowledge from your very own living room, and can get support and advice without having to travel 5,000 miles to get it. For many, these online forums can be the first place they realize that they might have a PMD, and that they are not alone.

Moms can be bullies, too

There is, of course, the darker side of virtual villages: mommy shaming and the mommy wars. After experiencing postpartum depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsion after the birth of her daughter, Jessica Hanlin, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and owner of Mama Bird Wellness in Colorado, dedicated her work to helping mothers and families through their own experiences with these struggles.

Her postpartum support group has its own private Facebook page for mamas to connect after-hours. She sees the benefits of the virtual village firsthand, but also warns about the division that can be reached with such easy connection: “More input means more opinions, and often a more direct, less compassionate communication of these opinions.” This is also why it’s important to remember that the mamas we turn to online only hear a snippet of your stories; they do not know your or your baby’s social, personal, or medical histories. They have a window into your life, but their responses are deeply reflective of their own stories.

It’s easy to anonymously deride a mother who is parenting differently than how you would. This is always a risk with online interactions, and mom-bullying should not be taken lightly. Parenting decisions are so personal, and we tend to think that someone is doing it wrong when they are doing it differently than us. A question about supplementing with formula for a baby who isn’t gaining weight can quickly be met with derisive comments about how your body should provide enough, formula feeding ruins your child, why haven’t you done your research, I can’t believe you are going to do that to your child. In other words, you’re a bad mom. And those are some of the nicer comments I’ve seen. These comments can further isolate and alienate a mother who is already deeply struggling. This is why face-to-face interaction and support, from loved ones and professionals, is such an integral part of a successful postpartum existence.

So, what about real life?

I was part of real life groups, too, but rarely spoke up when I went. This was partially because I felt that the other moms just weren’t having the same issues as me. I was the only single mom in most of the groups that I tried out, and the only one dealing with the legal and emotional repercussions of an absent co-parent. I felt that sharing my story would garner more pity or curiosity than useful advice. In this regard, the relative anonymity of my Facebook group made me feel safe – safe to say, “Hey, I’m really struggling,” without feeling that I was a freak show for other moms to gawk at. My virtual village allowed me to show up and be vulnerable when I was struggling the most, when I didn’t want to face anyone or when my real life mama tribe was inaccessible.

For me, in-person mom groups filled a different need: one of camaraderie, and adult conversation. It was rewarding to get out of the house every week and sit in a circle of women who would show up at your door in a heartbeat if you asked for help. Kerry Stokes, doula, childbirth educator and founder of the Full Circle Doula Cooperative, leads a new mom group in her town. Several of the mamas in that group, myself included, have benefited greatly from having a tribe of mothers in their community.

From help packing and moving, to babysitting, play dates, and meal trains, real life moms can offer help where your virtual mamas cannot. Stokes agrees: “I don’t think online support groups are enough for any one mom, but it sure is a start. Motherhood and postpartum is a very raw time, and it needs to be represented and validated as such.” She began her new mom group after struggling herself and not finding the local, in-person tribe that she needed.

Can the Internet stop postpartum neglect?

Of the professionals I spoke with who specialize with the postpartum population, all agreed on the need to balance online and real-life support. Shelly King, a psychotherapist who works with women and couples during pregnancy, postpartum and parenting, believes that virtual villages can and do provide instant access to input, advice, knowledge, and support that mirrors what was once provided by family and extended support networks.

She notes, however, that technology, despite providing instant access to people and resources from around the world, can leave one feeling very disconnected. “Technology is amazing,” King says. “Online networks are so supportive, and yet nothing compares to being seen, heard, and felt in the presence of another kind, caring, nonjudgmental human being.” Going online can certainly help you overcome the stigma and guilt associated with PMDs, but sometimes being truly seen in the moment, in person, outweighs the vast advice you can find online.

It’s no secret that motherhood is a huge and vital job, and one that cannot be accomplished single-handedly. It really does take a village, and after centuries of raising children with that mentality, we are still instinctually driven to find our own personal village.

Yet, at the end of the day, can virtual villages replace real-life help? The short answer is no.

There are benefits of face-to-face interactions that you cannot get online. They are, however, an important fabric of the postpartum support system that can truly help a struggling mother. When it comes to the health and wellbeing of mothers, the more positive support the better. As King points out, using social media as part of the support network is not an either-or situation, but a both-and. Turn to them when you need a little extra support at four o’clock in the morning, or have an issue you want input on from been-there-done-that moms. Then, when the sun finally rises, and the rest of nearby humanity wakes up, find your real-life tribe. 

What do you think: Can the virtual village replace a physical community and help with perinatal mood disorders? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Pop quiz, mama! How many different types of car seats are there? If you guessed three, you're partially correct. The three main types are rear-facing car seats, forward-facing car seats, and booster seats. But then there are a variety of styles as well: infant car seats, convertible seats, all-in-one seats, high-back booster seats, and backless boosters. If you're not totally overwhelmed yet, keep reading, we promise there's good stuff ahead.

There's no arguing that, in the scheme of your baby and child gear buying lifetime, purchasing a car seat is a big deal! Luckily, Walmart.com has everything you need to travel safely with your most precious cargo in the backseat. And right now, you can save big on top-rated car seats and boosters during Best of Baby Month, happening now through September 30 at Walmart.com.

As if that wasn't enough, Walmart will even take the carseat your kiddos have outgrown off your hands for you (and hook you up with a sweet perk, too). Between September 16 and 21, Walmart is partnering with TerraCycle to recycle used car seats. When you bring in an expired car seat or one your child no longer fits into to a participating Walmart store during the trade-in event, you'll receive a $30 gift card to spend on your little one in person or online. Put the money towards a brand new car seat or booster or other baby essentials on your list. To find a participating store check here: www.walmart.com/aboutbestofbabymonth

Ready to shop, mama? Here are the 9 best car seat deals happening this month.


Safety 1st Grow and Go Spring 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

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From rear-facing car seat to belt-positioning booster, Grow and Go Sprint's got you covered through childhood. Whether you choose the grey Silver Lake, Seafarer or pink Camelia color palette, you'll love how this model grows with your little one — not to mention how easy it is to clean. The machine-washable seat pad can be removed without fussing with the harness, and the dual cup holders for snacks and drinks can go straight into the dishwasher.

Price: $134 (regularly $149)

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Baby Trend Hybrid Plus 3-in-1 Booster Car Seat in Bermuda

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When your toddler is ready to face forward, this versatile car seat can be used as a five-point harness booster, a high-back booster, and a backless booster. Padded armrests, harness straps, and seat cushions provide a comfy ride, and the neutral gray seat pads reverse to turquoise for a stylish new look.

Price: $72.00 (regularly $81)

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Baby Trend Hybrid Plus 3-in-1 Booster Car Seat in Olivia

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Looking for something snazzy, mama? This black and hot pink car seat features a playful heart print on its reversible seat pad and soft harness straps. Best of all, with its 100-pound weight limit and three booster configurations, your big kid will get years of use out of this fashionable design.

Price: $72.00 (regularly $81)

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Evenflo Triumph LX Convertible Car Seat

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This rear- and forward-facing car seat keeps kids safer, longer with an adjustable five-point harness that can accommodate children up to 65 lbs. To tighten the harness, simply twist the conveniently placed side knobs; the Infinite Slide Harness ensures an accurate fit every time. As for style, we're big fans of the cozy quilted design, which comes in two colorways: grey and magenta or grey and turquoise.

Price: $116 (regularly $149.99)

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Disney Baby Light 'n Comfy 22 Luxe Infant Car Seat

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Outfitted with an adorable pink-and-white polka dot Minnie Mouse infant insert, even the tiniest of travelers — as small as four pounds! — can journey comfortably and safely. This rear-facing design is lightweight, too; weighing less than 15 lbs, you can easily carry it in the crook of your arm when your hands are full (because chances are they will be).

Price: $67.49 (regularly $89.99)

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Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

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We know it's hard to imagine your tiny newborn will ever hit 100 lbs, but one day it'll happen. And when it does, you'll appreciate not having to buy a new car seat if you start with this 4-in-1 design! Designed to fit kids up to 120 lbs, it transforms four ways, from a rear-facing car seat to a backless belt-positioning booster. With a 6-position recline and a one-hand adjust system for the harness and headrest, you can easily find the perfect fit for your growing child.

Price: $199.99 (regularly $269.99)

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Graco SlimFit All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

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With its unique space-saving design, this 3-in-1 car seat provides 10% more back seat space simply by rotating the dual cup holders. The InRight LATCH system makes installation quick and easy, and whether you're using it as a rear-facing car seat, a forward-facing car seat, or a belt-positioning booster, you can feel confident that your child's safe and comfortable thanks to Graco's Simply Safe Adjust Harness System.

Price: $149.99 (regularly $229.99)

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Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 Platinum XT Infant Car Seat

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Making sure your infant car seat is secure can be tricky, but Graco makes it easy with its one-second LATCH attachment and hassle-free three-step installation using SnugLock technology. In addition to its safety features, what we really love about this rear-facing seat are all of the conveniences, including the ability to create a complete travel system with Click Connect Strollers and a Silent Shade Canopy that expands without waking up your sleeping passenger.

Price: $169.99 (regularly $249.99)

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Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 Elite Infant Car Seat

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With just one click, you can know whether this rear-facing car seat has been installed properly. Then adjust the base four different ways and use the bubble level indicator to find the proper position. When you're out and about, the rotating canopy with window panel will keep baby protected from the sun while allowing you to keep your eye on him.

Price: $129.99 (regularly $219.99)

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

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If I ever want to look alive before dropping my son off to school, there are two things I must put on before leaving the house: eyeliner and mascara. When using eyeliner, I typically use black liner on my top lid, a slightly lighter brown for my bottom lid, and then a nude liner for my water line. It works every time.

My mascara routine is a bit different. Because my natural lashes are thin and not the longest, I always opt for the darkest black I can find, and one that's lengthening and volumizing. For this reason, I was immediately drawn to It Cosmetics Lash Blowout Mascara. The new mascara is developed in partnership with Drybar (the blow dry bar that specializes in just blowouts) and promises to deliver bold and voluminous lashes all day long. I was sold.

Could this really be the blowout my lashes have been waiting for? It turns out, it was much better than most volumizing formulas I've tried.

For starters, the wand is a great size—it's not too big or small, and it's easy to grip—just like my favorite Drybar round brush. As for the formula, it's super light and infused with biotin which helps lashes look stronger and healthier. I also love that it's buildable, and I didn't notice any clumps or flakes between coats.

The real test is that my lashes still looked great at dinnertime. I didn't have smudges or the dreaded raccoon eyes I always get after a long day at work. Surprisingly, the mascara actually stayed in place. To be fair, I haven't compared them with lash-extensions (which are my new go-to since having baby number two), but I'm sure it will hold up nicely.

Overall, I was very impressed with the level of length and fullness this mascara delivered. Indeed, this is the eyelash blowout my lashes have been waiting for. While it won't give you a few extra hours in bed, you'll at least look a little more awake, mama.

It Cosmetics Lash Blowout Mascara

It Cosmetics Lash Blowout Mascara
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Here's how I apply IT Cosmetics Lash Blowout Mascara:

  1. Starting as close to lash line as possible (and looking down), align the brush against your top lashes. Gradually turn upwards, then wiggle the wand back and forth up and down your eyelashes.
  2. Repeat, if needed. Tip: Be sure to allow the mascara to dry between each coat.
  3. Using the same technique, apply mascara to your bottom lashes, brushing the wand down your eyelashes.
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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Life

Having children isn't always as easy as it looks on Instagram. There's so much more to motherhood than serene baby snuggles and matching outfits. But there's a reason we've fallen so deeply in love with motherhood: It's the most beautiful, chaotic ride.

Every single day, we sit back and wonder how something so hard can feel so rewarding. And Eva Mendes just managed to nail the reality of that with one quote.

Eva, who is a mama to daughters Esmerelda and Amada with Ryan Gosling, got real about the messy magic of motherhood in a recent interview.

"It's so fun and beautiful and maddening," the actress tells Access Daily. "It's so hard, of course. But it's like that feeling of…you end your day, you put them to bed and Ryan and I kind of look at each other like, 'We did it, we did it. We came out relatively unscathed.'"

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And just like that, moms all over the world feel seen. We've all been there: Struggling to get through the day (which, for the record is often every bit as fun as it is challenging), only to put those babies to sleep and collapse on the couch in sheer exhaustion. But, after you've caught your breath, you realize just how strong and capable you really are.

One thing Eva learned the hard way? That sleep regressions are very, very real...and they don't just come to an end after your baby's first few months. "I guess they go through a sleep regression, which nobody told me about until I looked it up," she says "I was like, 'Why isn't my 3-year-old sleeping?'"

But, at the end of the day, Eva loves her life as a mom—and the fact that she took a break from her Hollywood career to devote her days to raising her girls. "I'm so thankful I have the opportunity to be home with them," she says.

Thank you for keeping it real, Eva! Momming isn't easy, but it sure is worth it.

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My labor and delivery was short and sweet. I started feeling contractions on Monday morning and by Tuesday night at 8:56 pm my handsome baby boy was born. Only 30 minutes of pushing. Afterward, I was still out of it, to be honest. I held him and did some skin to skin and handed him off to my husband, my mother held him next.

When he was in my mother's arms, I knew he was safe. I started to drift off, the epidural had me feeling drowsy and I had used up all my strength to push this 7 lb baby out. My son's eyes were open and then I guess he went to sleep too. My mother swayed him back and forth. The nurses were in and out, cleaning me up and checking in on us.

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When yet another nurse came in, my mom said to her, "He wasn't latching because he wanted to sleep."

The nurse yelled, "He's not sleeping!"

The next 25 minutes happened in slow motion for me.

After the nurse said these words, she flung my son onto the little baby bed. I looked over and he looked a little blue. Then I heard the loud words of CODE PINK. In matters of seconds about 30 nursing staff descended into my room and crowded around my baby.

I couldn't even see what was happening. I tried to get out the bed but they wouldn't let me and after a couple of failed attempts one of the nurses look at me and said, "He's fine, he's breathing now."

Breathing now? He wasn't breathing before? Again, I tried to push my way to my baby, but once again I was told to not move. They had just performed CPR on my 30-minute old newborn and I couldn't understand what was happening even after a pediatrician tried to explain it to me.

I just started crying. He was fine in my stomach for 39 weeks and 6 days and now I bring him into this world and his heart nearly stops?

I was told he needed to go to the neonatal intensive care unit. I was confused, as I thought the NICU was only for preemies and my son was full term.

After what felt like an eternity we were finally allowed to see our son. My husband wheeled me there and we saw him in the corner alone. I saw the incubator and the wires, he's all bundled up.

The nurse explained all the beeping and showed me the heart rate monitor. He's doing fine. We go over the feeding schedule. I'm exhausted still. I stay with him until about 1 or 2 am. They all suggest I get some sleep. There's no bed in the NICU, so I head back to my room.

The next day was better, he doesn't have to be in the incubator anymore, but the wires remain. By that night or early the next morning, the wires in his nose come out and I try feeding him. I try pumping. It was painful.

He gets his first bath and he loves it. The nurse shampoos his hair (he had a lot!) and he seems so soothed. The nurse explains that because he's full term he doesn't need the same type of support in the NICU. She tells me my baby's strong and he'll be fine.

I look around. I see the other babies, the other moms. They could be there for weeks. And unlike me, the moms have to go home—without their baby.

Friday comes and by now he's done all his tests, blood work came back normal, all tubes have been removed and I get it. I get my going-home package. Finally. I get my instructions on doctor follow-ups and we finally get to go home.

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Life

There have been a lot of iconic entertainment magazine covers featuring pregnant women over the years. Who can forget Demi Moore's bare baby bump on Vanity Fair or Britney Spears' similar nude pose on Harper's Bazaar?

Pregnant women on a magazine covers is nothing new, but a visibly pregnant CEO on the cover of a business magazine, that's a first and it happened this week.

Inc. just put The Wing's CEO Audrey Gelman on the cover and this is a historic moment in publishing and business.

As Gelman told Today this week, "You can't be what you can't see, so I think it's so important for women to see that it's possible to run a fast-growing business and also to start a family."

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She continued: "It's so important to sort of burst that bubble and to have new images of women who are thriving and working professionally while balancing motherhood … My hope is that women see this and again feel the confidence to take greater professional risks while also not shelving their dreams of becoming a mother and starting a family."

The Wing started in 2016 as a co-working space for women and has grown rapidly. As Inc. reports, The Wing has eight locations in the U.S. with plans for more American and international locations by 2020.

Putting Gelman on the cover was an important move by Inc. and Gelman's honesty about her early pregnancy panic ("I can't be pregnant. I have so much to do." she recalls thinking after her pregnancy test) should be applauded.

Gelman says pregnancy made her slow down physically, and that it was actually good for her company: "I had this realization: The way to make my team and my employees feel proud to work for me and for the company was actually not to pretend to be superhuman or totally unaffected by pregnancy."

We need this. We need CEOs to admit that they are human so that corporate leadership can see employees as humans, too. Humans need things like family leave and flexibility, especially when they start raising little humans.

There are a lot of iconic covers featuring pregnant women, but this one is different. She's wearing clothes and she's changing work culture.

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