A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood
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What does it take to go from business idea to lady boss? This column features an entrepreneur, who happens to be a mom, each week—walking us through the process of how you too can take your ideas from dream to reality. If you missed our last article featuring Kim, who manages her husband’s musical career, on why having a business plan is so important, you can read that here. This week, we’re discussing why seeking funding may be the key to your growing company’s ultimate success.


VONBON is a line of beautiful baby and children’s clothes made from comfortable, sustainable fabrics. Pieces can be spotted on the kids of some of the biggest celebs (including model, Coco Rocha), and the brand has quickly become associated with cool, modern littles.

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Jennifer Wilson, founder of VONBON, shares her secrets of success, including why seeking and securing funding was so important in the rise of her brand. Currently expecting her second child, she’s no stranger to the challenges facing mother entrepreneurs.

But she is proof that motherhood + an incredible career can absolutely coexist.  

The company began in 2013 as a “made-to-order” baby and children’s brand with a focus on the gift-giver. It was created with the thought, “What would friends and family want to get for their loved ones?” Quality was important, style was important, and a sense of luxury permeated through everything.

As a mother now herself, Jennifer changed some of her designs to better suit the functionality and reality of children. Her pieces evolved to include designs that grew with your child, and stood up to the test of hard play. They are now available as ready to ship items, allowing customers to purchase with quick turnaround.

With a studio in downtown Vancouver, Canada, Jenn’s business has experienced huge growth in the last three years, much of which she attributes to seeking funding at key points.

What would you say sets VONBON apart from the large number of other children’s clothing companies?

No doubt that the industry is saturated with an overwhelming amount of choices in baby and children’s wear. What sets us apart is our dedicated commitment to quality, sourcing sustainable and responsible materials and processes for our garments, great attention to detail of fit and function all while creating stylish pieces.

Your kids just love to live in them.

Our fabrics are designed by myself and my team in-house, so there is nothing else like it. It makes our clothing really special and a little piece of me goes into every single item.

Has VONBON grown with or without the help of loans/grants/other forms of funding?

Although I started out with basically no capital, maybe $2000 that I had saved from my full time job earnings, I was able to start my business. I invested that small amount of money in a laptop, some fabric samples and my website domain/ platform. I contracted a graphic designer to help me put my designs into digital format and create my dream fabric. As time went on, I had to move from “made to order” to “ready to ship” items to meet my customer’s needs and I required some help to do that.

Establishing as a “made to order” brand, I was able to take on less risk, test the market and re-invest the money that was being made. Transitioning to “ready to ship” meant that I was going to need to have stock on hand and there was more risk involved with a much bigger upfront cost. There is no way my company would be where it is today, if I had not gained the help of outside investment from Futurepreneur, (a Canadian entrepreneur financing network). Not only does the organization assist with funding, they have an amazing mentorship program that works hand-in-hand.

The mentorship has been just as valuable, if not more so, than the funding I received.

How did you make the decision to seek funding?

It was a no-brainer. My customers wanted a faster turn around time and I needed to have product on hand, that was ready to ship instead of taking a couple of weeks to be made. The sales would have been lost if I wasn’t able to give my customer what they wanted at that moment. It was either move ahead or stop all together, so I made the decision to go for it and seek funding.

What would you say to other entrepreneurs considering funding?

There are many different ways to seek funding, and you as the owner of the company, need to assess what your needs are and find a solution that best works for you. Some people are able to gain investment from friends or family before making the step to seek funding or grants from financial institutions. The process will be different for each individual. I recommend looking into as many resources as you can.

What types of financial challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them?

I think the biggest challenge we faced financially was when I first went out to seek funding. It was nerve-racking and I was second guessing myself on whether I should or not. Looking back, it was just a small stepping stone to where the company is today. Each time we go to manufacture a new collection, our units grow and so does the cost to produce. I don’t think I will ever get over the feeling of, “ Oh my gosh, can we afford to do this?” But then, we do and we grow some more and we keep evolving. It is really exciting, but scary at the same time!

Cash flow can be a problem for many companies, so being creative and evaluating where your cash is tied up, is key in the success of any business.


Do you ever second guess yourself?

If I am going to be totally honest, second-guessing myself probably happens on a weekly basis.

When you pour your blood, sweat and tears into something that is truly your passion, you want to see it succeed. It feels like there is no other option.

Unfortunately, in business, there are more hiccups than smooth rides and it is all about learning to deal with those issues and keep moving forward.

It is VERY easy to become discouraged over the smallest detail or problem, and I have had to push myself to continue to look at the bigger picture and not get hung up on all the day to day road blocks that pop up. Having a strong support system, especially built of other business owners and entrepreneurs has really helped me to rise above those insecurities and focus on what’s ahead. Learning from and sharing with other’s who are going through similar struggles with their businesses and brands has been a huge part of my success.

How has your decision to receive funding impacted VONBON?

Without the funding we received there is no way I would have been able to give my customers what they were asking for. As much as the made-to-order process might work for some brands, I am now competing with the fast fashion market of big box retailers. I needed to be able to give my customer a more quality made item, in less time, and without funding I wouldn’t have been able to achieve that.

How important would you say confidence is in running your own company?

We ALL have our own insecurities and days where we feel completely defeated, but having the confidence in yourself, to get through those down days and push forward is key in the success of any entrepreneur and their company. Like I mentioned before, creating a strong network of other entrepreneurs has been one way to keep my confidence up and be able to feel connected to those with similar struggles. We are all in this together. Learning and growing with one another is essential!

How does being a mother affect the way you run your business?

When I started VONBON it was my baby, I had no children of my own. I would eat, sleep, and breathe VONBON and it started to effect other areas of my life in a negative way, including my marriage. Becoming a mother has made me realign my focus, my priorities and establish some clear guidelines. VONBON continues to be a huge passion of mine, however, since becoming a mother I have learned that it is OK to NOT work all the time. I have a strict schedule of Tuesdays and Thursdays off with my daughter, where I do not work when I am with her. It has allowed me to stop feeling guilty for not working ALL the time and stop feeling guilty for not being a good enough mom. When I am at work, I work hard and when I am at home I “mom” hard and it’s been working really well for me and my family. It is the closest thing to “balance” that I think I will ever achieve.

If there is any one piece of advice you would give to aspiring lady bosses, what would it be?

Be really clear on what your idea of success is personally and professionally. Take the time to write it down as a reminder of what you are working so hard for. Everyone has a different vision of what success looks like for them and their business, and it is very easy to get caught up in the race to do bigger, grow faster and sell more. Be sure to check in with yourself and make sure you are on YOUR path to success.

What does the word “motherly” mean to you?

Motherly means something completely different to me now, than it would have 10 years ago. It means allowing myself the opportunity to nurture all aspects of my life, not just the relationships with my children. Fostering other passions and interests only supports me and my own needs as an individual, allowing me to be a better mother, wife, friend and business owner.

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We've all been there. You first hear those cries that don't sound like any other cries and immediately know what's happening. It's like our mama hearts know when our little ones need us the most. Having little ones feeling under the weather is hard. They can't tell you exactly how they feel. You can't explain to them that they'll feel better soon, and all there is for everyone to do is to take it easy and stay cuddled inside until you can get them to the doctor.

The issue, by this point, is that my son is old enough to know what's coming when we open the medicine cabinet, so giving him something for his throat ends up being like a wrestling match without the fun and giggles. My son especially likes spitting out anything as a way to protest how he's generally feeling, so we both end up covered in sticky syrup feeling defeated. Because, seriously, who thought that using a syringe or pipette to squirt out gooey liquid down an unwilling toddler's mouth was a good idea? (Probably not a parent.)

That's why when I found out there was an easier and more fun way to make these dreaded sick days better, I was all about it.

Enter: Lolleez.

Lolleez are organic throat soothing pops for kids—and adults!—that are made with organic ingredients that you can pronounce and understand like honey and natural fruit pectin. Plus, they're non-GMO as well as gluten, dairy and nut-free i.e. worry-free for all kinds of kiddos. The pops help soothe sore throats while acting like a treat for when kids are feeling under the weather. I also appreciate that the pops are actually flat and on a stick, as opposed to a lozenge or round ball lollipop. They were also created by a mom, which makes me feel a million times more confident about them since I know she knows exactly how hard sick days with a little one can be.

loleez

When I introduced my son to Lolleez pops, everything changed. Suddenly the battle to get him to take something to feel better wasn't... well, a battle. In the few times he's been sick since, he's been more than happy to pop a Lolleez, and I've been more than grateful that soothing him is now as easy as peeling open a wrapper. And, since they come in watermelon, strawberry and orange mango—strawberry is the favorite in this household—he never gets bored of getting a soothing lolly.

Also, they're easy to find—you can get them at stores like Target, CVS and online so I never worry that I'll be caught without in a pinch. After the sick days have run their course and my son starts feeling better, there's nothing like seeing that glow in his eyes come back and have him greet me with a big smile when I come into his room in the morning, ready for the day.

While our littles not feeling well is inevitable, as a mama, I'll do anything to make my child feel better, and I'm so thankful for products that make it just a little easier for the both of us. So here's to enjoying the snuggles that come with sick days, while also looking forward to the giggles that come after them.

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

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It was never my goal to be a mama and a wife. As a teenager, I was completely fine with my decision not to have children. When someone would ask me how many children I wanted, my response would always be none. In my 20's, I traveled the world and focused on building my career. A family of my own was far from my mind. And I was okay with that. Then I hit 30 and something inside me changed.

I'm not sure what exactly changed. Or why it changed. But I started to long for a family of my own.

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Then as if my heart's desire had been answered I met him. We fell in love. And within a few years, I was married to this incredible man. Then we received the best news we could have hoped for. I was pregnant—with a baby boy. The family I had longed for was right here in front of me. I had become this child's mama.

Just like that my whole life's focus changed.

My mind wasn't on my career progression or where in the world I was going to explore next. It was focused on this little human. This little human, who was safely cradled in my arms. This little human who now relied on me to provide him with care, with comfort, with love.

I became defined by my motherhood. And that was okay.

Now I won't lie, as my son grew and we welcomed our second child to our family, there were moments of exhaustion. Moments of frustration. Moments of tears. Moments where I desperately needed some me time.

But here is the truth. Yes, right now I am defined by motherhood. And that's okay. I spent many years longing to be here at this moment. To have my family. To be my children's mama.

I know this is a finite period in my life. So I am choosing to embrace it. I am choosing to find joy in my motherhood journey.

I know my children need me now in a way they won't ever again. And I don't want to miss out on all the beautiful moments right here in front of me.

You see, one day they won't need me to rock them in my arms or lay with them every night till they fall asleep.

One day they won't need me to pick them up and carry them everywhere. In fact, one day they will be too big for me to do that even if I wanted to.

One day they won't need to help them get dressed and put on their shoes.

One day they won't ask me to sing them that song for the 10th time.

One day they won't need me to do all the things for them as they do now.

You see, right now my children are only little. Right now they need me. Right now they choose me.

I am their safe place. I am their comfort. I am honored to be the one that they turn to. I am honored to be the one they call home.

That is why, first and foremost, I am defined by my motherhood. And that is more than okay with me.

This article was previously published here.

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Your to-do list is kind of under control. The kitchen is mostly clean. You just finished that big work project and to celebrate, you scheduled a lunch out with the girls tomorrow while your little one is at school. As you rest your head on the pillow you think to yourself, “Okay! I might actually sorta-kinda have this whole thing under control!"

And then you hear it from down the hallway: cough cough.

Your eyes shoot open. No. It's fine, just a little tickle in her throat. She's fine.

Cough cough cough.

Nope, it's fine. If I lay here and don't move nothing will be...

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“MOOOOOOMMMMMMYYYYYYYYY I don't feeeeeeel goooooooood."

Sigh.

You break out the humidifier, the Tylenol and the snuggles. And then comes the inevitable question—can they go to school tomorrow? It's not an easy question to answer, for sure.

On the one hand, kids are basically walking booger factories at all times—if we kept them home for every sneeze and cough they'd never go to school. On the other hand, we don't want to put our kids in a situation where they could get sicker—or make other kids sick.

When in doubt, you should always give your pediatrician a call for guidance. Most schools have policies on it as well.

But as a general rule of thumb, here's what to know when your child isn't feeling well:

On fevers

The most clear cut of all symptoms are fevers—if they have a fever, they stay home. A fever is any temperature of 100.4 Fahrenheit or greater. A child needs to be fever-free for a full 24-hours before they can return to school.

Note: If your newborn has a fever she needs medical attention right away. It could be an emergency.

On stuffy noses and coughs

A mildly stuffy nose, or an occasional cough isn't enough to warrant a day off from school. But if the mucus is really thick and/or the cough is frequent, loud, or just sounds “gross," it's probably best to keep her home.

Coughs can linger for a long time in children, but if it persists for several days, or she has a fever with it, give your doctor a call. If the cough sounds like a seal barking, and certainly if she is having any trouble breathing, get medical attention right away.

On tummy troubles

Or as my daughter's preschool teacher called it, “intestinal mischief." If your child is vomiting or has diarrhea, they should stay home (and should stay home for 24 hours after the last incident). Make sure everyone at home washes their hands really well, as stomach bugs tend to be very contagious.

Remember to encourage your child to drink lots of fluids. If they aren't drinking, call your doctor right away.

On skin issues

This can be tricky—between marker explosions, dry skin and rashes, it seems like my kids' skin looks different every day. Rashes are almost impossible to diagnose over the phone, so if you are concerned, they'll need to be evaluated by their doctor to help determine the cause (and contagiousness) of the rash.

If you suspect your child has lice, they should stay home as well—and you'll probably have to give the school a call so they can ANONYMOUSLY alert the other parents.

Along the same lines is the dreaded conjunctivitis, or pink eye. Usually your child (or lucky you) will wake up with their eyelids crusted shut, or they'll have a very pink eye with lots of goop (sorry—but we're all moms here, we can handle the eye goop convo right?)

This is highly contagious, so they should for sure stay home from school. Depending on if it's viral or bacterial, you doctor may prescribe medicine that clears it up quickly.

On pain

This one is tough—kids often complain about various boo-boos, especially when it means that they get a Frozen Bandaid out of the deal. If they complain of pain persistently, if the pain prevents them from playing, and of course if you witness a bad injury, keep them home and get medical help right away.

Remember that you know your child best. Ultimately, you get to make the decision. Your pediatrician will be there to guide you, and one day, ONE DAY, you really will get that whole to-do list tackled... we think?

You've got this.

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Learn + Play

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The postpartum period deserves a better question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how are you feeling today mama, emotionally?


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