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“Hey, Mom,” Delia yelled from the other room. How many times in the past 17 years had I heard those words? The nurse and my sister said she shocked the hell out of them by crying “aay ma” just after being born, although it would be later that day before she called me mom for the first time.

I waddled into the doctor’s office and looked around for an empty chair that would hold my nine-months-pregnant body. There were two open and the one by the window looked the sturdiest. Unsure, I slowly lowered myself holding the arms until I could feel the fabric brushing my behind. “Ms. Little,” the nurse called. All that work for nothing; now I had to get up.


“How are you feeling?” my doctor asked a bit too cheerfully as she pressed her cold stethoscope against my belly. My inner voice answered, “It takes me an hour to shower and dress, I pee every five minutes, I’ve gained 50 pounds and I haven’t seen my feet in three months. How the hell do you think I feel?” But my actual voice answered, “Great. Just fine.” Coward.

We eased into friendly conversation as she started the examination and I lay back looking forward to seeing my daughter’s latest escapades. Last week she was sucking her thumb. Suddenly, my doctor’s smile vanished and her eyebrows rose and knitted together, “Excuse me for a minute.”

My eyes opened to two sets staring back at me. It’s never a good thing when you have two doctors staring at you. “What’s wrong?” Silence. “Is my baby okay?” Silence.

“We want you to go to the hospital.” Finally my doctor spoke. “We can’t find the baby’s heartbeat, but that could be because she’s already in the birth canal. We think its best you get to the hospital so we can get you hooked up to a monitor.”

It was the middle of January, but my forehead was damp. I took a deep breath and headed up the stairs to my apartment. “Mom,” I cried to the familiar voice on the other end. “They’re sending me to the hospital.”

I guess he drew the short straw because a male doctor met me at the hospital. “Are you comfortable,” he asked. I leaned back against the pillows and pulled the covers up to my neck. I was cold and hot at the same time and shivered in the thin hospital gown they made me put on with the opening in the front. “Let’s take a look,” he said.

I heard the rubber glove snap as he grabbed the covers. I assumed the position, eyes on the ceiling. “Not quite there yet. Any questions?”

“Can I eat?” All that worrying made me hungry. Honestly, I lived in a perpetual state of hunger – which accounted for my enormous girth and anxious cashiers and fellow customers urging me to go ahead of them in the supermarket checkout line.

“I guess so,” he answered.

On cue, my sister-in-law Linda walked in. Forgetting the pleasantries, I blurted out, “Can you get me a turkey sandwich, chips, and a raspberry Snapple?” Without a word, she turned and left. She returned 15 minutes later with a huge turkey sandwich and a 32-ounce raspberry Snapple. I tore off the plastic wrap and dug in; total bliss ensued until, “I’m here to insert your IV,” the nurse said. Are you kidding me – NOW – you have to do this NOW, my inside voice screamed. “Is this really necessary?” I barked.

She ignored me and tied a rubber band around my left arm and started tapping and pushing on my veins. Ten minutes later, I had track marks from my wrist to my elbow. “Hey! You’ve got one more stick and that’s it!” I said, spewing bits of turkey. “This isn’t wildcat drilling for oil!”

She rolled her eyes and went about her business and I went back to my sandwich. No sooner than she left, two very perky female doctors came in, ponytails swinging and rubber gloves at the ready. I headed them off. “My doctor’s already been here,” I firmly stated. I wondered if they roamed the maternity ward searching for fresh meat.

Again, I was alone with my sandwich until… “You’re eating!” my younger sister hissed as she sped into the room. I guess she was pissed not to find me in the throes of labor.

“Mom told me to get down here and be with you. I almost got a ticket.” My baby sister, Lillian, (affectionately nicknamed “Leadfoot Annie” by our father) normally made the 1 1/2-hour trip from Easton, PA to the Jersey Shore on the weekends in 40-45 minutes. I was impressed she’d done it today in rush hour traffic.

Further chastisement was halted when a nurse entered pushing a fetal monitor. “We’re running behind,” she said matter-of-factly. “We have to get you hooked up.” She roughly pulled the sheets down and pushed my gown open exposing my pregnant belly. She squirted on a cold gel and started strategically placing electrodes on my enormous middle. She’d done three when she stopped. “Before I put all of these on do you have to go to the bathroom?” She eyed my 32-ounce Snapple.

“No,” I replied, taking a big swig.


Buzzzzzzzzz. “Yes, what do you need,” a voice crackled in response.

“I have to go to the bathroom and I need help.” My 32-ounce Snapple was now gone and I was ready to bust.

“Didn’t I ask you if you had to go before I put all these on,” the nurse pointed to the electrodes. She helped me swing my legs to the ground and stand up. I grabbed the IV pole as she bent down and unplugged the fetal monitor. Wrapping the monitor cords around my neck, she barked, “Okay. Let’s go.” Clutching the IV pole with one hand and holding my gown closed with the other, I rolled into the bathroom.

I slid down on the toilet and my hand went to the cords wrapped around my neck. Water and electricity didn’t mix and as thoughts of Looney Tunes characters with smoke coming out of their ears floated around my head.

A drop of pee hit the water. Plop, plop. Several more. No smoke. Plop, plop, plop. No twitching so I let her rip. Ahhh. Relief. Just as I was about to flush, a chilling thought paralyzed me. What if all that fluid wasn’t the Snapple? What if I stood up and…?

Unexpectedly, a strong contraction propelled me off the toilet sending the IV pole one way and the monitor another. The racket of me being torn in different directions with cords flying every which way finally caught the nurse’s attention. “You okay in there?” She rushed in and steadied the two machines and helped me over to the sink. Panting loudly, I supported my belly on the sink and let her wash my hands. Finally, I emerged from the bathroom. As she put me back in bed and readjusted the electrodes, the nurse seemed even more peevish; if that was possible.

I squinted to see the clock on the wall in the semi-darkness of the room. I was wet. I must have wet the bed; the peevish nurse would be none too happy. A sharp pain sliced through my body and my teeth chattered. A rushing river was between my legs and I was doing my best to hold it back. Buzzzzzz.  “Get the doctor!” I screamed, “My baby’s coming!”

The voice answered me back through the remote, “Oh no honey, you’re fine. I see you right here on the monitor and everything is okay. The doctor is sleeping and I don’t want to wake him unless it’s an emergency.”

Before I could answer, several sharp pains hit, leaving me breathless. I wish I had taken those stupid Lamaze classes, I thought as I panted.

Buzzzzzz. “My baby is COMING!” I screamed, enunciating as best I could. Again the same patronizing voice answered. Defeated, I let the remote slip from my hand and onto my belly. Minutes later, buzz…buzz…buzz. I held the button down. “Get that ***** doctor in here, my baby is coming!” (I normally don’t curse, but enough is enough).

Still reeling from my rant and racked with pain, I became aware of rushing footsteps and then the room lit up. “Oh my God, she’s crowning,” the doctor called over his shoulder. “Why wasn’t I called earlier?” He glared at the nurses.

“I told them to call you,” breathlessly adding my two cents and receiving dirty looks in exchange.

“Get ready,” he instructed. “On the next contraction I want you to push.”

I pushed my back into the bed, raising myself on my elbows to get into position when one of the nurses pushed me down. Talk about holding a grudge. I tried to sit up again, and she pushed me down – AGAIN. Now I might be pregnant, and in labor, but I was no punk. I pointed at her, “Push me again and it’s you and me!”

Everything stopped as they all stared at me. I had no further opportunity to throw down the gauntlet, because another contraction hit and the doctor commanded, “Push!” I did – three times. Relief! Wailing filled the air and someone said, “Would you like to see your new daughter?” I barely had time to count fingers and toes before they whisked her away.

Later that afternoon as I came out of my Demerol haze, a bassinet rolled into my room. Expelled from the nursery, Delia loudly protested her innocence. “She’s the loudest, the dirtiest, and the hungriest,” the nurse alleged.

Two black eyes stared at me from the bassinet. They seemed to be saying, “so you’re the one I’m stuck with.” At that moment it didn’t matter that I changed the diapers of three younger siblings. This was different. Very different. As the black eyes bored into me, I became aware of my appearance. Perhaps she’d feel more confident if my hair wasn’t all over my head.

Slowly rising and walking away, her tiny voice shattered the silence, “aay ma.” I stood perfectly still just like the time four months ago when the first fluttering of life stirred inside of me; wondering and willing it to happen again. It did, and louder this time. “Aay ma. Aay ma,” she cried. I stumbled over to the bassinet and lifted the loosely swaddled bundle to my chest. With tears in my eyes I answered, “Yes, my love. I’m your mommy.”

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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.

Our Partners

We all want our children to be confident and resilient, but often the conversation around confidence is tied to the social aspects of a new school year: new friends, the first day of school outfit, who to sit with during lunch. In many cases, we aren't always thinking about the role confidence in learning plays as students take on a new curriculum that comes with a more advanced academic year.

Confidence in learning is an important distinction because this type of confidence is what helps students try new things and overcome the perception that they are inherently bad at a given subject area. Confident learners see failure as a process that requires iteration—or learning from a mistake and trying again—instead of disengaging or shutting down in fear of getting the answer wrong or receiving negative feedback.


At LEGO Education, we believe the best way to build this confidence is by getting students out of their desks and learning in a hands-on way. In fact, our recent survey found that 90% of teachers believe hands-on learning builds students' confidence, and students say they tend to remember topics longer when they learn through hands-on projects.

Learning doesn't end with the school day, and I believe parents like us have an important role to play in continuing to cultivate our children's learning at home.

Here are a few tips to help your child become a confident learner in school:

1. Get involved

There are countless ways for you to be present in your child's education, so don't be afraid to jump in, try new things, and find what works best for you and your family. Whether you advocate for more hands-on learning in your child's school, help in their classroom or ask your child open-ended questions about what they're learning, parent engagement can play a key role in supporting learning inside and outside the classroom.

2. Rethink what failure means

Failure is essential to learning but still comes with a negative connotation—47% of students avoid subjects where they have failed before, yet 90% of teachers agree that students need to learn to fail to become more confident and succeed in school. Remember, failure is a process, not an endpoint. Everyone makes mistakes, but it becomes meaningful when we reflect and learn from it. Instead of reacting negatively, try asking what your child learned and encourage them to try again. You can also use the moment to share your own experience of a time you failed and how your confidence helped you overcome it.

3. Recognize effort, not just success

It can feel natural to reward success, but the learning journey is just as important. Next time, instead of posting the A+ test on the refrigerator, start a conversation with your child about how you noticed how hard they worked and studied leading up to it. By changing how you respond to success you are in turn reshaping how your child perceives what is valuable in the learning process.

4. Provide blank space

Give kids the opportunity to be creative and curious. It's easy to fall into a routine with a packed calendar of extracurricular activities and playdates, but allowing kids the time and space to explore their own curiosities through free play will help reinforce the valuable skills they learn at school. Encourage your child to play in whatever way they'd like—outside, playing pretend, an arts and crafts project. Their imagination and choices might surprise you!

5. Allow kids to be their own heroes

When kids face a roadblock, such as a math problem they can't solve, it's natural to want to jump in and find a solution for them but sometimes it's best to let them try first. In many situations, having the freedom to try it themselves first can also help develop real-world skills such as creative thinking and effective communication, in addition to new academic skills.

6. Let the student become the teacher

If your child is excited about something they've learned in school recently, harness that joy and engagement by asking them to teach you about the topic. Not only are they reinforcing the subject matter in their own brain, but they will also feel confident and empowered teaching an adult and being an expert in something that interests them.

7. Sign up for STEAM teams

Similar to team sports, afterschool STEAM or robotic programs can be a great way to help children build confidence and camaraderie, while also developing skills for the jobs of the future. LEGO Education and non-profit FIRST have run FIRST LEGO League for more than 20 years, creating programs for ages 4-18. I've seen firsthand how the program not only teaches STEAM and robotics skills but also important skills like teamwork, collaboration and critical thinking that are relevant throughout their lives. Find a program near you or start your own team as a coach or mentor.

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Learn + Play

This week an investigation by Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF) made headlines, proclaiming 95% of baby foods the group tested contain at least one toxic chemical, including lead, arsenic, mercury and cadmium. The results are similar to those The Clean Label Project released in 2017.

These reports suggest many commonly consumed products, including formula, baby food in jars and pouches, and snacks contain contaminants like arsenic and lead, in some cases at levels higher than trace amounts.

These reports were not published in peer-reviewed journals, but the items were tested and reviewed by third-party laboratories. The products were screened for heavy metals and other contaminants, and, in many cases, tested positive for things no parent wants to see in their baby's food.


It's important to note that all of us are consuming arsenic in some form. According to the FDA, it's naturally found in soil and water and absorbed by plants, so many foods, including grains (especially rice) and fruits and vegetables contain arsenic.

Everyone is exposed to little bits of arsenic, but long-term exposure to high levels is associated with higher rates of some cancers and heart disease. Previous studies have shown that babies who consume infant formulas and rice products already tend to have higher than average levels of arsenic metabolites in their urine (due in part to the natural levels of arsenic found in rice), so additional arsenic in baby goods is certainly not ideal.

“To reduce the amount of arsenic exposure, it is important all children eat a varied diet, including a variety of infant cereals," says Benard P. Dreyer, MD, FAAP and president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). “The AAP encourages parents to speak with their pediatrician about their children's nutrition. Pediatricians can work with parents to ensure they make good choices and informed decisions about their child's diet."

According to the World Health Organization, arsenic exposure is associated with an array of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

Arsenic was not the only chemical found in the tested products that could potentially pose a danger to the babies consuming them. The new report from HBBF looked at 168 baby foods from 61 brands and found 94% of the products contained lead, 75% contained cadmium and 32% contained mercury.

This is not the first time lead (which can damage a child's brain and nervous system, impact growth and development and cause learning, hearing, speech and behavior problems) has been found in baby food. A previous report released in 2017 by another group, the Environmental Defense Fund, found 20% of 2,164 baby foods tested contained lead.

As the FDA notes, lead is in food because it is in the environment. "It is important for consumers to understand that some contaminants, such as heavy metals like lead or arsenic, are in the environment and cannot simply be removed from food," says Peter Cassell, an FDA spokesperson.

Cassell says the FDA doesn't comment on specific studies but does evaluate them while working to ensure consumer exposure to contaminants is limited to the greatest extent feasible. “Through the Total Diet Study, the FDA tests for approximately 800 contaminants and nutrients in the diet of the average U.S. consumer," Cassel explains.

The FDA works with the food manufacturing industry to limit contaminants as much as possible, especially in foods meant for kids. “We determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether to take enforcement action when we find foods that would be considered contaminated," Cassell adds.

The people at HBBF are calling on the FDA "to use their authority more effectively, and much more quickly, to reduce toxic heavy metals in baby foods," says HBBF research director and study author Jane Houlihan.

HBBF is circulating a petition urging the FDA to take action "by setting health-based limits that include the protection of babies' brain development."

Parents who are concerned about heavy metals in baby foods should also consider speaking with their pediatrician.

"Pediatricians can help parents understand this issue and use AAP guidance to build a healthy diet for children and limit exposure to lead from different sources," says Stephen R. Daniels, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP, chair of the AAP Committee on Nutrition.

[A version of this post was originally published on October 26, 2017. It has been updated.]

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Over the last few months, I've made a new friend called Grief. She first showed up when the midwife told me, "I'm sorry, I don't see a heartbeat anymore." She quickly barged into my life, inviting herself into every moment of every day. She was an overwhelming, overbearing, suffocating presence. But in time, we learned to set some boundaries. Together, we created space for Grief to live in my life without feeling all-consumed.

Grief is pushy. I have learned that when she knocks on the door, it's best to just let her in. She has things to say and she's going to make you listen. Sometimes, we'll sit together for a while before one of us will say "My, look at the time. I've got things to do." Other times, it's a quick visit, and I can move on with my day.


I've learned a good bit about my friend Grief through the experience of having a miscarriage. We've spent a lot of time together, and I've gotten to know her well. I hope this helps you get to know her better, too.

1. Grief can become a friend.

Over time, Grief has morphed from feeling like an invader, an attacker, and a bully to feeling more like a friend with a hand resting on my shoulder. She is gently present, palpable and—unexpectedly—comforting. Grief reminds me of the love I felt; that I have something to miss; that my baby was here. Grief comes to visit much less often, now. Some days, she still barges in unexpectedly. Some days, I go calling for her to come over.

2. Grief will teach you.

Grief has taught me that you never really know what others are going through. She has taught me to try to listen better, to be a better friend, to be more empathetic. Grief has emboldened me and demanded space for my feelings when I felt I couldn't. She's forced me to learn how to ask for help, how to advocate for myself and not apologize when I have needs. She has made my worldview richer, my love deeper and my appreciation for life stronger.

3. Grief will make you brave.

I never knew my own strength before I met Grief. Through her, I witnessed myself suffer and persevere with a strength I didn't know I had. I have felt her fully, and I am less scared of her now. I have walked through the fire with her, and she's shown me that I could do it again if I had to. But we both hope I never do.

4. Grief will bring you together, apart.

Grief has shown me some of her many friends, and through her, we have become friends too. Our relationships with Grief are all different. But, Grief unites us in a way that people who don't know Grief could not understand. In my marriage, Grief has made it clear she has a relationship with both of us, differently. She has shown us that we can visit her together, but more often than not, she wants to spend time with us alone. She visits us on different days, at different times, and in different ways. Learning to know Grief together, and apart, was challenging.

5. Grief knows when you need her before you do.

Grief knows me in a way that a friend knows me. She remembers the milestones and helps me remember too. She has the hard dates etched in her calendar and I'm sure she won't forget them. She's quietly with me, her hand on my shoulder when we see a stroller, a butterfly, a new pregnancy announcement. Sometimes she is there waiting for me before I even realize why.

"Welcome to your third trimester!" my email greeted me this morning. I thought I had unsubscribed from them all, but this one snuck through. An unpleasant reminder of what I already knew: Today should have been a milestone.

I took a moment to let it sink in when I felt her hand on my shoulder. Once you get to know her, Grief can be a really good friend.

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I check my phone. It's 3 am. I wrench myself from bed and zombie-walk into my screaming son's room. Please just let him go back to sleep quickly. I'm so exhausted. I see my 9-month-old son crying and reaching out for me. I immediately pick him up and plop down in the rocking chair feeling discouraged and depleted.

I stare exhaustedly at the wall, contemplating what I should be doing right now.

Should I let him cry it out? Should I give him his stuffed bunny so that he can comfort himself? He should know how to self soothe, right?


I definitely should not be picking him up out of his crib.

I definitely should not be nursing him back to sleep. That is definitely NOT what I am supposed to be doing. (*I know this because I've read about 8,000 articles and a dozen or so books saying just that).

But it's what he wants, and I'm tired. It's what my heart wants, regardless of what the "experts" say I should do. I feel like a failure for giving in. The books say to be firm—he's fine; he's just crying; he's being lazy because he knows I'll swoop in and comfort him back to sleep.

I should be able to treat him like an appliance—follow the instructions without input from my heart. Right? Maybe I can redeem myself by putting him back "drowsy but awake." Yeah, right.

I'll just have to start this whole process over again when he goes from "drowsy but awake" to "wide-eyed and screeching."

In the midst of the mental ping-pong between my head and my heart, a thought suddenly and forcefully rushes in—you're missing it.

I look down into the face of my infant son. His big teary eyes are locked on mine. He smiles, letting a little dribble of milk out of the corner of his smirk. This is what I'm missing. These moments—loving and being loved despite the crippling exhaustion of nursing throughout the night for the last nine months, these moments of real connection, of being a mother.

I'm missing the joy in motherhood under a dark cloud of shoulds. I can't see the good because I'm so focused on the bad.

And just as I am reveling in this epiphany, a chubby little hand reaches up. I watch his hand coming and think, This can't get any better! This sweet child is going to lovingly stroke my cheek! But, it turns out to be so much better than that. He literally slaps me in the face and giggles, delivering humor and lightness as only a child can.

Life is not as serious as I make it out to be most of the time. I've learned this from my children. I prayed that night that my child would go back to bed. I prayed that he would do what he was supposed to, or that I could do what I was supposed to (according to whichever expert I was abiding that week). But all I'm really supposed to do is show up and trust my heart without trying to fix it all, ALL the time.

Life isn't perfect. Otherwise, we wouldn't have moments like these at 3 am that crack us open and lay bare what really matters.

My mantra now is radical acceptance.

It's radical because, for me, it means defiantly and unequivocally accepting what my anxious mind tells me is unacceptable—the messy, the imperfect, the difficult.

It is a radical act of rebellion against the mind and its need to control and fix.

It is choosing to trust my heart and seeing through that lens rather than the broken lens of my mind.

It is seeing the good, the joy, the love, the humor, rather than what is broken and what is wrong.

It is radical for me to look at my life in all its messy splendor and not try to fix, change, or be perfect.

That is a radical act, I assure you, and my mind coils up in a panic every time.

But the moment I overcome that initial coiling and clinching and embrace simple acceptance, the fear and doubt are vacuumed up, and the joy inevitably rushes in. Little miracles, every time. Radical acceptance.

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