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In “The Fifth Trimester,” Lauren Smith Brody Helps Working Moms Stay Sane After Baby

In “The Fifth Trimester,” Lauren Smith Brody Helps Working Moms Stay Sane After Baby

When Lauren Smith Brody was on maternity leave from her job as Executive Editor at Glamour magazine, she had no idea what the experience of going back to work would be like after twelve weeks at home with her new baby boy. She was the primary breadwinner and her husband was in medical residency. Going back to work was a no-brainer for her in so many ways, but it wasn’t easy.

Brody always loved her job and the people she worked with, but she found herself dreading going back after her first son was born. “I felt like I didn’t recognize myself,” she said during a phone interview with New York Family.

The sleep deprivation was intense and she was utterly exhausted. Each day felt like she was “just getting by,” which had never, ever been her norm. But with U.S. maternity leave policies being what they are (not good) and in need of a steady income stream, Brody went back and struggled through until she finally got her sea legs a few months into it.

Many parents who’ve dealt with fussy newborns are familiar with Dr. Harvey Karp’s concept of the fourth trimester – the idea that babies are born a trimester too early and therefore need to be made to feel like they’re in the womb again to feel secure. It’s these three months that the baby cries the most and is the incredibly needy of the parents. This is the period of time when women are typically at home on their maternity leave, and they usually return to work right as the fourth trimester is ending, if not beforehand. The fifth trimester, then, is all about the working mom’s return to the office, when she is likely not quite physically, psychologically, or emotionally ready. After all, many women are still breastfeeding when they go back to work and their babies may still be sleeping irregularly and waking up throughout the night. The idea behind Brody’s new book, The Fifth Trimester: The Working Mom’s Guide to Style, Sanity, and Big Success After Baby, is that women in this deeply challenging phase of life are looking for ideas, solutions, and the knowledge that other women have been in their shoes and made it to the other side, with family and career intact.

For Brody, realizing that this was just a transitional period, something that would pass along with the sleepless nights and spit-up, was transformative. It helped her adjust to her new role as working mom in a way that made sense for her, and inspired her to start talking to other moms (more than 700!) and experts for their ideas regarding not just the mental and physical logistics but the emotional evolution of making “mom” part of your work identity. The result is her book – an easy-to-read guide that’s essential for navigating the uncertain waters of balancing a new baby and a career. Pregnant women and new moms who are short on time will easily find themselves swept up by the friendly yet matter-of-fact manner in which Brody presents a litany of information and advice. From getting out the door in the morning looking like you actually got some sleep to what to ask your nanny during the interview. There’s even a quick reference page at the front of the book so readers can go directly to the topic and page they’re seeking.

Coming from a women’s magazine, Brody has a plethora of advice when it comes to making moms look and feel their best. One key piece is to make a miniature wardrobe within your closet. “Don’t let your closet torture you in the morning,” she says. Put everything that fits and is work-appropriate front and center so you can pick from there and make your morning a little easier.

When it comes to negotiating just about anything with your boss or a family member, have a plan and not just a complaint, and show how what you’re asking for isn’t selfish but actually good for everyone. If it’s flex time, then point out how working from home will save on commute time when you can get extra work done instead of waiting for the 6 train. If your company has never offered this benefit to anyone then you could be paving the path and making the company a more desirable place to work. Then just be sure to have a back-pocket plan when you feel out of control (think: exhausted or seriously sad or something that you would normally deal with hits you hard). This should be something that will soothe you. If nature gives you a sense of peace and calm find a park close to your office where you can walk when you’re feeling down. For Brody, she would call home because her dad would always say “I love you” when they hung up the phone and that was what she really needed to hear.

Brody’s book is packed with actionable tips, but one thing she wishes she’d mentioned as a resource for moms looking to network and connect with newborns is Mindr. “It’s a series of really awesome affordable events (conversations and talks) to which parents can bring their babies and come and learn about everything from flower arranging to public policy,” she says. There’s also lots to be said for moms who left the workforce after having babies but are now looking to jump back in. Brody points to the returnship program at Goldman Sachs and career placement company Werk that posts many part-time or work-from-home positions. “The future of work is flexible, and that’s great news for working parents,” Brody adds.

Speaking of good news for working parents, Brody is now doing more speaking engagements and some consulting to spread the word about the Fifth Trimester and how important it is to set up women for success when they get back to their desks. She’s helping companies improve their policies and, as a result, employee retention, along with boosting recruitment and reputation, not to mention their bottom line.

“There is just this burning desire to nurture and mentor that seems to light up for many women after having a baby,” Brody says. “It’s surprising because you’d think there’s no energy left to take care of anyone else, but it’s just the opposite.” Herself being a prime example, Brody hopes to make a real difference in workplace culture and build a movement that will pay it forward for generations to come.

So what does such a busy working mom do in her free time? As far as “me time” goes, Brody always liked walking the three miles to her office when she was an editor, especially the part where she strolled through Central Park. “I would walk by the sea lions at the zoo and just enjoy the fact that I was looking at the sea lions,” she says. These days, she likes to do bar classes at Exhale whenever she can.

Raising kids in Manhattan for her means frequent visits to the little boat pond in Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Biscuits & Bath pet daycare not far from their place on the Upper East Side with Will (in third grade) and Teddy (in kindergarten). These days, they love the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum with its cool graphic design exhibits, the Upper East Side location of the Brooklyn Robot Foundry, the annual Maker Faire in Queens, Tinkersphere in the East Village (where her son Will made his own Raspberry Pi computer!), Dave & Buster’s, and birthday parties at Chelsea Piers. They can frequently be found eating dim sum in Chinatown or Momofoku Ssam Bar on Second Avenue.

“They are both fairly picky eaters (we are working on that right now) and would rather eat a buttered carbohydrate than anything, but they both love tobiko sushi,” Brody says. “Yes, the weird little crunchy red fish eggs. I heart NY.”

To learn more about Lauren Smith Brody, visit thefifthtrimester.com!

Breastfeeding Travel Tips: On the Road

Breastfeeding Travel Tips: On the Road

Traveling while breastfeeding this holiday season? Here are some expert tips from a Certified Lactation Counselor!

Plan Your Route:

  • Use a program like google maps to chart the best course and find rest areas along the way
  • Build extra time into your plans: Trips will take longer than usual with millions on the road. You will need to stop and nurse your baby on average every 2-3 hours while traveling
  • Be patient: Mentally prepare yourself for it to be a long trip. Warn eager grandparents or relatives that you will be arriving later than usual
  • Don’t forget your road trips snacks: Nursing moms need extra calories, so pack water bottles and healthy snacks to keep your energy – and patience- up
  • Pack the right equipment: In addition to diapers, wipes and a change for clothes for baby (and you!), you will want to make sure you have everything you need to breastfeed your baby while en route.

Breastfeeding & Pumping Checklist:

  • If your electric pump is also battery operated, pack extra batteries
  • Pack an extra set of pump parts in case you can’t clean yours while on the road
  • Bring a nursing cover or blanket in case you feel uncomfortable with strangers being able to see in your car
  • Pack a cooler with ice packs, as well as storage bottles or storage bags
  • If you’re using bottles and nipples to feed your expressed breastmilk, it’s always helpful to pack 1-2 more than you think you need

Breastfeeding While Flying Travel Tips:

  • Dress for Success: Wear a nursing bra and shirt that makes breastfeeding as easy as possible
  • Carry-on “Must Have” Items: You’ll want to pack a change of clothes for baby but don’t forget about you! Pack an extra shirt for yourself in your carry-on bag. Also take nursing “must have” items, like your HPA lanolin, or an extra set of disposable nursing pads, and slip them into a carry-on as well
  • Want a Nursing Cover? Pack a cover or blanket in your carry-on if you are uncomfortable nursing in public
  • Breastfeed at Take-Off and Landing: Swallowing helps babies adjust to the change in air pressure. If you can’t nurse then, consider using a soother or pacifier
  • Bringing Breastmilk Through Security: TSA doesn’t restrict size of containers for breastmilk but you need to let security know you’re traveling with it. Here’s some TSA tips!

Molly Petersen is Certified Lactation Counselor at expert with Lansinoh. Learn more at lansinoh.com.

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How To Prepare Your Baby For The End Of Daylight Saving Time

How To Prepare Your Baby For The End Of Daylight Saving Time

I won’t lie, the end of Daylight Saving (DLS) for parents kind of sucks. Babies can’t read clocks, after all, and there is no snooze button built into their internal clocks!

The good news is that it’s super easy to adjust, and only takes a few days. Just think of it like a one-hour time zone change–like a trip to the Midwest (but with a baby who doesn’t get the joys of sleeping in).

Here’s the deal: If your baby usually wakes up at 6am, after DLS (November 5, 2017), she will probably wake up at 5am for a few days. I know, I know, that’s really early, but fear not–it will change!

Here are a few things you can do to make the transition easier:

First, understand that your baby’s body clock will take a few days to adjust. She will wake up on her body clock time for a few days, no matter what time you put her to bed.

From there, you have some options:

The Standard Logic: Most people will suggest that you adjust your baby’s bedtime later for a few days before DLS, by pushing bedtime 15-30 minutes later each day. Following that logic, if her bedtime is usually 7pm, your goal would be to stretch her until 8pm (which will be 7pm on November 5). This strategy can work really well for older and more adaptable babies who can easily tolerate a later bedtime. However, babies under 5 months are usually done for the day by 7pm, so stretching to an 8pm bedtime might be really stressful for all of you. And, she will probably still wake up at 5am for a few days anyway.

What I recommend: Wait until November 5. Know that morning will come earlier than usual (if your baby usually wakes at 7am, the clock will read 6am, because that’s the correct wake up time for your baby’s internal clock!). Keep that in mind when timing naps–they’re going to come a little bit earlier today.

Throughout the day, try to stretch the length of time between naps by 15-20 minutes longer than you usually would, so that you can push bedtime a little later for the next few days*:

Example: Normal wake up for your 4-month-old is 7am. On Sunday, the clock will read 6am. If her morning nap is usually two hours after she wakes up (around 9am), she will be tired at 8am on the new time. Try to stretch it to 8:15-8:30am if you can, and keep doing that for all naps throughout the day. From there, stretch the day incrementally for a few days until her body clock and the new time zone meet!

*Caveat: If you’re sleep training during DLS, especially if you have a baby under 5 months, don’t try to stretch the time between sleeps too much. In fact, it’s probably better to work with her body clock for the first day or two, then once she’s sleeping through the night and feeling more rested, then you can start adjusting her schedule and stretching the days out a little longer.

Another strategy for newborns who are more flexible and not yet in a predictable schedule is to add a short extra nap around 5pm, and just them down at 8pm on Sunday. They will still wake up early for a few days, but they’ll make up the sleep during the days and it will be totally uneventful. Pinky swear!

Natalie Nevares is the founder of Mommywise, a company whose mission is to help parents with babies sleep, feel happy, rested, balanced and connected as couples, and have an identity beyond baby. To learn more, visit mommywise.com!

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All About Early Education: Expert Advice For Your Child’s First 1,000 Days

All About Early Education: Expert Advice For Your Child’s First 1,000 Days

My daughter started preschool this fall and already I’ve seen the strides she’s taking as a developing toddler. She comes home with art projects in hand talking about shapes and colors and numbers while telling me which of her classmates got a boo-boo on the playground and cried. She always seems to come home with a new word, too. Last week it was “careful” and this week it’s “ta-da!” While preschool feels like the start of her early education, I have to think that the time we’ve spent at home, on play dates and playgrounds, during story time at the library, and on walks around the neighborhood must contribute to her early learning, even before she was old enough for a 2s program.

“The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are a critical time of cognitive development,” says Carol Moritz, director of NY Preschool, an affiliate of NY Kids Club. “Experiences during this period of early life impact future academic, social, and emotional success.”

Leading infant learning researcher Dr. Robert Titzer agrees, saying that about 90 percent of the brain is developed within the first five years. With this in mind, I asked a group of five experts for their advice and ideas regarding best practices when it comes to early child development.

At Home With Baby

Many experts agree, early education starts from the very beginning at home. Intentional interaction with your baby can begin even before he or she is born—the music you listen to, the way you talk, and the way you move all impact your child, says Michael Luft, director of preschool at the 14th Street Y. As soon as your baby arrives, meaningful engagement can happen in each and every smile. “Our attunement to their moods and spirit creates possibilities for them to be excited about the world and regulate their emotions,” he adds.

In fact, for the first few months babies can only see about an arm’s length away from their own faces, making it incredibly important to hold, coo, talk, and sing, all while looking in your child’s eyes, says Sally Tannen, the 92nd Street Y’s director of Parenting and Grandparenting Centers. “Babies respond to one-on-one interaction, and you are your baby’s first and best toy.”

One of the most influential—and educational—things to do with your baby in that first year is talk, and talk, and talk some more. “For newborn babies, speak in ‘parentese,’ which means using a slightly higher-pitched voice, elongating the vowel sounds, and slightly over-enunciating,” Titzer says, while adding that you should use simple but descriptive language. Try describing your baby’s senses, from what your little one sees, hears, smells, tastes, and touches, to how he or she moves. Think: “Wooow! That’s a biiig streeetch!”

According to Titzer, the number of new synapses related to language learning peaks just before 11 months, so it’s wise to focus on teaching language, and perhaps a second language if possible. In other words, more is better. It’s also important to isolate words and say just one word at a time while demonstrating its meaning, he says. This will help babies figure out where a single word begins and ends. Titzer also highly recommends teaching your baby the shape bias to help him or her learn words more efficiently. “Sort or organize objects by their shapes much more frequently than by their colors or other attributes,” he says. This indicates that the shape of an object can provide more important information about its function than its color, texture, size, or material, and that’s crucial to conceptualize letters and words.

It’s important not only to spend time with your baby at home—so you can follow their growth and development—but also to take the little one out into the world for new experiences. Luft suggests taking your baby wherever you go, to the grocery store, the park, on the subway or bus, as well as to the zoo, to provide opportunities to interact with other children and their world. And if your baby is being cared for by a nanny or daycare, take the time to have some conversations about how you want caregivers interacting with your child, with emotional and physical responsiveness and mental stimulation with lots of language learning being top of the list.

Human Interaction, Play Groups & Classes

No matter who is caring for your young child, it’s a good idea to keep technology out of sight for the most part (iPads, TVs, phones) and give babies the human interaction they need, Tannen says. Whether it’s Mom, Dad, Grandma, a caring nanny, or a devoted daycare, it’s important for children to learn about the world by hearing a loving adult narrate what they’re doing, even if they aren’t cognitively aware yet.

Going beyond descriptive narration, Roxana Reid, an education consultant and founder of Smart City Kids, points out that parents should provide their children with a good example for emotional stability. After all, kids look to adults for cues when it comes to new people, places, and encounters.“Be upbeat and excited about new situations to help your child become comfortable in unfamiliar environments,” she says.

And if you haven’t found a good playgroup or enrichment class, try to make it a priority. Reid says it’s beneficial for emotional, social, and cognitive development. “The socialization aspect of the class is important for children to begin to understand how to be a successful member of a group,” she says. What’s more, your child will learn how to follow directions from another adult and experience a different kind of structure than at home.

It’s no wonder music classes for children are so popular. According to Gail Ionescu, director of Poppyseed Pre-Nursery, singing and dancing or simply listening to music with your child is an effective way to communicate because it conveys emotion and an appreciation of beauty, which stimulates your child’s mind and curiosity. Be it a stand-alone class or part of a preschool program, music education typically means better math scores too, Moritz adds. “Children exposed to music programs have been found to speak more clearly, develop a larger vocabulary, learn the sound and tone of words, and strengthen social and emotional skills, as well.”

By the time most babies reach their first birthday, they’re incredibly physical, itching to be independent, and keen to conquer their world. “To help your child experience success and give him a feeling of accomplishment, create spaces within your home that will allow him to freely explore,” Reid says. Place baskets around your home with board books and toys that are easily within your child’s reach.

As far as classes, gym-based programming is all about strength, coordination, and stamina, with the added bonus of boosting social skills, self-control, self-efficacy, patience, collaboration skills, and self-esteem. “What surprises people the most is that there is very new research that has established a link between motor skills and cognition,” Moritz adds. The early neural pathways that are formed during gym class have a multitude of benefits. So signing up your baby or tot for a tumbling could mean not only better motor skills, but also higher math and reading scores.

The Value of Nursery School

The rapid brain development that takes place during the first few years coincides with the start of nursery school. This opportunity for an early education taps into a child’s blossoming cognitive skills, which lays the foundation for reading, math, and science, in addition to gross-motor skills, social-emotional growth, character skills, and executive functioning, which includes everything from impulse control to problem solving, Moritz notes. While a child can do just fine or even advance in these areas without structured early education and/or preschool programs, it’s now widely recognized that a quality program gives children a leg up. Nursery school provides for a concentrated time of purposeful learning. A teacher will instruct in a way that may be completely different from a parent or other caregiver. And the classroom means exposure to a wider array of educational materials, which maximizes the potential for early learning, Moritz says

Moritz points out that recent research indicates that early schooling with developmentally appropriate programs is vital not only to individual development in each child, but also key in fueling our national economy. “Children who attended an early childhood program are more likely to go to college, maximizing their earning potential,” she says.

Tracking Progress

If you’re wondering how your young child is doing, realize that there can be a wide range for what’s considered normal. Tannen says that babies typically start walking around 9-16 months and talking between 1-3 years. “As long as progression can be seen from month to month, a baby will develop at their own pace,” she says.

Taking a proactive approach can be smart, adds Reid. If your pediatrician believes there’s a developmental delay then get an evaluation through Early Intervention, which provides free services in your home if your child qualifies.

And you should always trust your gut. Even if your pediatrician has reassured you otherwise, seek a second opinion from a developmental pediatrician if you’re worried, Tannen says.

Keep In Mind

In between all of the exploring at home, on the streets, and in the classroom, I’m crossing my fingers that my daughter holds onto her natural curiosity and love of learning that so many young children have. To that end, Reid says to praise effort, not just the end result. So instead of saying: “You finished the puzzle! You are so smart,” try: “I noticed that you worked really hard on that puzzle and I am so proud of you that you finished.” I did this the other day and my 2-year-old smiled wide while keeping her eyes and hands on the puzzle.

“The more you can get down on their level, play, laugh, and enjoy one another, the stronger your child’s sense of self and understanding that they are wanted and cared for will be,” Luft says. What better lesson for our children to learn than that?

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“Real Moms, Real Hacks” Offers The Ultimate Parenting Tips

Vanessa Quigley, mother-of-seven (yes, seven!) and seasoned business owner, is giving moms everywhere their own parenting cheat book on everything from cooking and cleaning, to tips for road trips. Quigley and her husband own their company Chatbooks, which makes photo books out of Instagram pictures automatically. She notes Chatbooks is her “ultimate mom hack,” as it allowed her to get her photos to family members without having to do any work. Wanting to do more to help everyday families lives easier, she started up a private Facebook group that offered an open space for moms to ask questions from “What kind of jewelry should I buy,” to “How do I get my baby to sleep through the night?”

After one mom cried out for advice on the Facebook group, writing about how tired and frustrated she was, the rest of the women showed up to help. “We had an incredible response,” Quigley says, “Some of the things I had already discovered in my 20+ years of mothering, some things I’d seen my sisters do, and some totally brand new things I’d never seen before.” She realized a lot of the mothering tips she had were from friends and family. Quigley decided to create her book Real Moms, Real Hacks as a way to compile parenting hacks from a variety of different people to share and make other mom’s lives easier.

“The book is almost entirely collaborative,” Quigley says, “In the book there are 107 tips, maybe a dozen of those are from me, one from each of my sisters and sister-in-laws, and the rest are either from community members and Facebook group members, or from customers.”

There’s no question about her expertise on the matter; not only having a big family now, but growing up in one too. Quigley grew up with 11 brothers and sisters, so she cites her mother as being the inspiration for a lot of her parenting tips. “Our whole house in Florida was tile, and to get it clean my mom would just dump a bucket of hot, soapy water and then give us all rags. We thought it was so much fun to slip and slide around the floor. So she was keeping us busy, but also getting her floors clean,” Quigley writes.  Taking after her mother, she says enlisting kids to help around the house is one of the most important tips in the book.

Real Moms, Real Hacks is pertinent for parents with kids of any age. “I mean there is a section on babies, so if you don’t have a baby that section might not apply. But all the other sections, about keeping organized, helping with healthy habits, traveling with kids of all ages, will,” Quigley says. The biggest book in the section is, of course, kitchen tips. Quigley notes that there was an overwhelming response of cooking advice contributed as so many people have their own advice on the matter. “It’s a job you have to do three times a day or more because if little aren’t in school, they’re home and they want snacks. It’s just a constant thing,” she explains.

The message of her book is to not only give a helping hand to families who may need some quick fixes, but also to encourage parents that they’re doing a good job already. Quigley states: “I hope that by reading this, you know there’s probably one or two of the hacks that you already do so you’re like ‘Man, I’m a pretty good mom, I have some things figured out.’ I think it can just boost our confidence that we already know a lot, and then maybe come away with something that just makes life a little bit easier.”

To learn more about Real Moms, Real Hacks, visit chatbooks.com/realmomsrealhacks!

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Rachel Zoe Is Teaming Up With Quinny & Maxi-Cosi Again

Rachel Zoe Is Teaming Up With Quinny & Maxi-Cosi Again

Back in summer 2016, savvy new and expectant parents lost their minds when fashion maven (and mom-of-two) Rachel Zoe launched an oh-so-chic baby gear collaboration with Quinny and Maxi-Cosi, offering luxe strollers, car seats, and diaper bags as part of the Jet Set Collection. Well, she’s back at it and we are so excited!

Zoe is once again joining forces with baby gear standard-bearers Quinny and Maxi-Cosi to launch a Luxe Sport Collection at Nordstrom in January 2018. The collection, which is defined by a sleek monochrome color palette and sporty netted details and champagne-hued accents, will include a Quinny Zapp Flex Plus stroller, a Quinny Diaper Bag, a Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30 car seat, and a Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Max car seat.

“It has​ been such a fun process to collaborate once again with Quinny and Maxi-Cosi,” Zoe says. “For this collection, I was inspired by the modern woman on the go, who is all about looking effortlessly glamorous in her daily routine yet never sacrificing comfort for style. The mix of classic black and white staples coupled with gorgeous metallic champagne accents creates a polished and refined look, but also provides parents with functional elements like easily washable fabrics.”

Be sure to mark your calendar for early January 2018 and head to Nordstrom to snag your gear picks! To learn more, visit quinny.com!

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The Joys Of Raising Twins

The Joys Of Raising Twins

Natalie Diaz with her twins and husband. Photo by Jane Goodrich Photography

I thought I was never going to be a mother. I had tried and failed for five years. Infertility was something I never thought I would have had to deal with. I can remember playing with Barbies when I was a kid and when my parents bought me her convertible, my first though was: “Where are all the kids going to sit?” Six kids: Four boys, two girls, two golden retrievers, and my hubby and I—that’s who I wanted to fill my minivan.

So when it took us five years to conceive, eventually with the help of IVF, I felt hopeless. Fast forward through one successful round of IVF, delivering my twins at 34 weeks, and a doctor who told me that my uterus had carried its last pregnancy, and I was hopeless once again. No “Partridge Family” singing group for me, instead I’d have twins who I now know are more than enough for this mama.

My twins have given me gifts surpassing what I ever thought was possible in my life. To say I’m lucky that I only have twins seems like an odd mouthful, since many folks fear having twins, but I now realize they were an unexpected gift that created my ideal world. Who knew 4-lb babies could teach you so much?
If you are an expectant parent or a new parent, I’d love to share what my kids taught me, so maybe you can learn from it, too.

My kids taught me what patience is. As a native New Yorker, patience is in short supply in my life. Escalators take too long (I’ll take the stairs), and if there is more than one person on line for coffee, I’ll go to the next cart. But with kids, you need patience. More than you ever thought you could muster. I always joke that my kids weren’t born with any patience which is why they arrived six weeks too early, but as a parent, you need your share of it—and theirs! You need it when you are tired, you need it when you think you can’t change another diaper, you need it when someone says “Are they twins?” for the 30th time that day. I now have more patience then I ever thought was possible. I mean it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still go to the next cart for coffee, but when it comes to my kids, I’d wait there all day if they wanted to, as long as they were beside me.

My kids taught me what real strength is. I’m a big chick. I stand proudly at 5’10” and can easily carry 15 bags from Whole Foods up three flights of stairs without stopping. But my twins taught me how strong I truly am. After their delivery I suffered postpartum depression, and I didn’t think I could go on. Literally. I thought that I should run away and let my husband and sister raise them. I didn’t have the emotional strength to deal with premature infants, let alone two of them. After being carefully led by my NICU nurse and her staff, I learned that weakness wasn’t an option. These tiny babies needed their mama and it was time to step up to the plate, and I did just that. I still, even 12 years later, look back on that moment and realize how strong I was. It’s never lost on me. I sometimes think: “I don’t know how I did it,” but you know what, who cares how—I just know I did. Having twins is the extreme sport of parenting, and I won the gold. Not because I was a prefect parent, but because my kids and myself are smiling and my family is happy and healthy and for that, I already have my gold medal—them.

My twins also taught me how to let it go. Yes, in that Elsa and Anna sort of way. I’m what some people call a control freak. Before kids I liked things one way, and if I didn’t have it that way, my inner Hulk arrived and started smashing things. The arrival of my twins has taught me that pretty much nothing will go my way and if it does, I’m a lucky duck. The twins have allowed me to have a new perspective on what is important and that not everything can be controlled. I think about all the time I wasted on worrying if the house was clean or if I remembered to send out a birthday card to my college friend, and I didn’t spend enough time taking pictures of infant toes or snuggling tiny twins on some days. I learned fast what my priorities really were and I let the rest go.

My gift to you is advice that I wish I was smart enough to take when it was given to me. Enjoy every single second of what is before you. Life turns into one of those movies where you see the clock hands going faster and faster, so don’t let it pass you by. Take time each and every single day for yourself, your partner, and your kids. Don’t take anything for granted and make sure that you are present. Don’t rush. It’s going to go by fast anyway.

No matter what, be patient, be strong, and let it go!

Natalie Diaz is the founder of Twiniversity—the world’s leading support network for multiple birth families. She offers monthly classes for NYC families as well as a selection of online classes and resources. She is also the author of What To Do When You’re Having Two: The Twins Survival Guide from Pregnancy Through the First Year.

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Labor-At-Home Mom: A Certified Doula Shares Her Best Tips For Having A Non-Hospital Birth

For the majority of American women, home birth is not even an idea floating around in their minds. According to an article published in the International Journal of Women’s Health, less than 1.5 percent of women in the United States choose a planned home birth. This is a great difference from other countries such as the Netherlands where 20 percent of births are experienced at home. Why might women in the US be a bit hesitant to choose a home birth? Partly because there is not a lot of exposure and explanation of how home births work. Let’s break down the pros and cons so that there is a clear, informed understanding of why this may be a viable option for some.

Home births are intended for low risk women. Here is a list of some reasons that would prevent someone from having a planned home birth:

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Insulin dependent diabetes
  • Multiple babies
  • High blood pressure
  • Seizure disorder
  • Premature labor (before 37 weeks) or extreme postdate (after 42 weeks)
  • Placenta previa or marginal previa
  • Breech or transverse baby
  • History of postpartum psychosis
  • Current alcohol or drug abuse problem

While some women may choose an unassisted home birth, the majority of planned home births are attended by trained midwives. In New York and several other states, only Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM) are allowed to practice midwifery by law. This credential requires the midwife be trained and licensed in nursing and midwifery with the minimum of at least a bachelor’s degree. There are other levels of midwifery, like Certified Midwife (CM), Certified Professional Midwife (CPM), Direct Entry Midwife (DEM), and Lay Midwife. For those choosing a midwife, it is important to consider your comfort level with the type of midwife you prefer.

Next, consider where you feel the safest and most secure. Having attended over 100 hospital births by the time I was pregnant with my first child, I had a very strong opinion of what I wanted for my birth and where I would feel the safest. Much to the dismay of my family, I felt the most secure at home. I did not want to be in the position of having to advocate for my rights to have routine interventions or face common place time restrictions on labor and birth. It was important to me to have my care be more personalize and not “routine.” These are some points I would put in the pros category. At home, under the watchful eye of my CNM, I was able to labor with intermittent monitoring, which is a practice that is supported by the World Health Organization and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologist as the safest manner for women without complications or other interventions. When at home, a women is also not restricted from food intake, limited movement, or receiving an IV and continuous fluids. She is also in her own space with her familiar and supportive people, which can affect the parasympathetic nervous system and make labor more functional.

Home birth midwives come very prepared for issues that may require immediate attention as well as the possibility of needing to transfer a woman in labor. I was surprised to learn the extent of the equipment midwives arrive with at a birth. For example, they bring an oxygen tank, different oxygen masks for mom and baby, ambu-bag for giving positive pressure ventilation, IV equipment and fluids, a doppler and gel, a blood pressure cuff and many, many other tools. If the midwife sees arising complications—blood pressure increase, worrisome fetal tones, or as my midwife called it, “cases where baby won’t come out,” the mother will need to transfer. Also, before labor even starts, it is vital to have a backup plan in place for transferring to a medical facility. The need to transfer would be in the cons category. While emergent and necessary, it can be a big disturbance and highly emotional for the mother to have to transfer to a hospital.

One last idea to chew on is that the personalized care provided by a midwife is often dramatically different than that of a traditional hospital-based obstetrician. Most home birth midwives come to your home for all or part of the prenatal exams. The appointments also are more thorough in terms of addressing not just the physical wellness of the mother and baby, but also the emotional state of the mother. My midwife told me she used to schedule each person for an hour long appointment.

How one chooses to birth is a very personal choice, but one that should be made with great consciousness. Where and with whom you give birth will greatly impact the experience and the outcome.

Debra Flashenberg is a certified labor support doula, Lamaze Childbirth Educator, mother-of-two, and the studio owner and director of the Prenatal Yoga Center. For more information, visit prenatalyogacenter.com!

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Molly Sims Talks Family, Entertaining & The Art Of Decluttering

Photo by Gia Canali

It can seem like it takes a lot of effort to turn a house into a home, especially in NYC, where apartments can be the size of a suburban closet and juggling everyone’s busy schedule can send you across all five boroughs. Who has time for cozy living room furniture, Pinterest-worthy refrigerator organization, or hosting a dinner party when there is so much to keep track of every day?

According to Molly Sims, you do!

Known for her career as a model and actress, Sims has spent her entire life juggling responsibilities between work, home, and family, but still manages to make her house a happy place for her husband, her three kids, and herself by “keeping sh*t real”—aka not striving for perfection, but being honest with herself and “embracing happy mess.”

We caught up with Sims to learn more about her new book and to learn some of her refreshingly honest entertaining, organizing, and decorating tips that can make creating a humble abode easy and, most importantly, fun!

What inspired you to write your new book, Everyday Chic: My Secrets for Entertaining, Organizing, and Decorating at Home?

My biggest inspiration for Everyday Chic was to show that it’s not about having a perfect life. This book is about embracing the imperfect happy mess and adding in those chic little touches whenever you can. It’s as easy as ordering takeout and serving it on your best dishes or serving sparkling water in a wine glass. I’m lucky enough to be able to know and work with incredibly talented designers, nutritionists, party planners, and homemakers who teach me as I go. So I really wanted to take the style and grace that I learned from these people and share them with all of you.

The book covers a variety of topics and tips that parents can infuse into their everyday lives, from home décor and organization to cooking and entertaining. Why do you think that these four core topics are so important?

The four core topics addressed in Everyday Chic are what the everyday supermodels or supermommas deal with on a daily basis. If we’re not cooking, we’re entertaining. If we’re not entertaining, we’re organizing a room and then trying to figure out what piece would look good in the empty corner. It all comes full circle. It’s so important to showcase these topics because it’s never going to be perfect. Us mommas are always doing something so these four chapters in my book highlight the tips that have really helped me.

In your book you outline an accessory rule for home décor that you love—remove one piece. Can you explain a little bit more about what this means?

There’s a fine line between chic and overdone. I always like to add one statement piece in a room because it can truly elevate the ambiance. You want the room to be livable and not overwhelming. By removing one piece, you can really elevate the room.

Molly Sims’ new book, “Everyday Chic,” is on sale today! Photo by Gia Canali

What other advice do you have for busy parents regarding decluttering, especially for parents living with young kids?

I’m the type of person where if my space is cluttered then my mind is cluttered. I try to keep an environment that’s as peaceful as possible. But at the end of the day, kids will make messes and it’s all about embracing that happy mess. In Everyday Chic, I talk about all of the unnecessary items that we accumulate over time, and that only grows once you have kids. The things that I keep in my home are what I value the most—the things that truly bring joy to my family and the necessities. If you keep clutter in the home, the chances are that your kids will too. I like to get my kids involved. Every once and awhile we go through their old books and toys that they don’t use anymore and donate them to a local charity.

One of the perks of having a decluttered home is that your focus can shift from organization to design. What are some of your best tips for families looking to make their house look luxe on a budget, and what is your favorite room in the house to decorate?

I completely agree! Something that I’ve learned over the years is that quality décor and design do not have to break the bank. Good design can be found everywhere from exclusive showrooms to flea markets! I truly believe that you need to invest the majority of your budget in instillations like cabinets, counter tops, and flooring. Save your money on trendy pieces or items that you’ll change out easily. As for my favorite room to decorate, it would have to say the kitchen. When we built this house we made our kitchen an open concept since it is the heart of the house. I’m able to talk to [my husband] Scott while he’s watching TV across the way in the living room while still keeping an eye on the kids—who are always roaming around.

Getting dinner on the table and organizing daily meals for a household can be stressful for busy parents, especially when health is a top priority. How does you book help parents tackle this concern?

Oh trust me, I know. It’s so easy to hit the drive thru on your way home but I picked up on this 2/2/2 + 1 strategy. This allows me to cook all my dishes for the week ahead of time and store all of my food in glass containers. This strategy includes cooking two protein dishes, two salads, two veggie or grain sides and one “top it off” dish which is a casserole, stew, or simple dish. I go into further detail on how I prep and cook these dishes every week in Everyday Chic.

As someone who is pretty familiar with and gets a lot of enjoyment out of planning parties and events, what advice do you have for parents who tend to get overwhelmed organizing holiday and birthday events?

Scott always says that good food, good people, good drinks, and good music are they key ingredients to making a great party. I also believe that the devil is in the details. As much as I love the basics, I truly appreciate stylish flatware and a printed menu. I always start my party planning with a theme; if I don’t begin to plan an event by setting a theme, I go down the Pinterest rabbit hole and we all know that’s a scary place to be.

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Out of all of the dinner parties, birthday parties, and holiday events, what is your favorite that you have ever thrown?

As you know, I go ALL OUT for my kid’s birthday parties. Momma loves a theme. This past year, we threw Scarlett a unicorn-themed birthday party and my husband literally almost killed me. I actually got a unicorn for this party and I gotta say, it was definitely a hit.

A theme throughout your book is the idea that staying positive is more effective than achieving perfection and the importance of “keeping sh*t real,” and you tackle perfectionism in motherhood, body image, and work. How has your outlook on perfection changed since becoming a mother, and what do you do to stay positive when you are facing challenges in life?

We are living in the pressure cooker of perceived perfection. It’s a tough place to be but in all honesty, no one is perfect, even though Instagram or television makes it seem that way. Whenever there’s chaos, and believe me there’s a lot of it, I take a deep breath and embrace the happy mess.

For more information on where you can get your own copy of Everyday Chic, as well as more tips and tricks from Molly Sims, visit MollySims.com.

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“This Is Life With Lisa Ling” Is Back For An Illuminating Fourth Season

“This Is Life With Lisa Ling” Is Back For An Illuminating Fourth Season

Lisa Ling. Photo by Jeremy Freeman

Lisa Ling is a mother-of-two, an award-winning journalist, and an acclaimed author (she co-authored the book Mother, Daughter, Sister, Bride: Rituals of Womanhood and Somewhere Inside: One Sister’s Captivity in North Korea and the Other’s Fight to Bring Her Home, which she penned with her sister, Laura). With her background as a field correspondent for “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” co-host of “The View,” and contributor to ABC News’ “Nightline” and National Geographic’s “Explorer,” coupled with her current role as the host of CNN’s Gracie Award-winning series “This is Life with Lisa Ling” and digital series “This is Sex,” she has cultivated a reputation as a deeply compassionate, curious, and scrupulous journalist who dares to tackle topics that could be deemed taboo (season four of “This is Life” promises to touch on sexual intimacy, the Chinese immigrant community in America, polyamorous relationships, the world of trans beauty pageants, and more).

Presently, with “This is Life” poised to premier its fourth season on CNN on Sunday, October 1, she’s also juggling her role as a working mother with a hectic schedule, as well as caring for her elderly father. She–like many parents–is also processing our political climate and how raise kids within it. The themes in season four of “This is Life” speak to these issues on many levels.

“While some of our episodes may not be advisable for kids to watch, every single episode [has topics] that parents could and should talk about with their kids. I’m proud of that, as a mother,” she says. “For me, right now, we are living in a climate of fear and anger and animosity and vitriol, and what I love about our show is that we give people a chance to get to know people whose lives may be different than theirs, and we have conversations with people and allow people to think a little bit differently. I think that’s something that’s really important to be doing right now. We need to be having that face-to-face dialogue. I would say to parents: “If you watch any of our episodes, you will get a lot of fuel for conversation with you kids.”

We caught up with Ling–who resides in LA with her daughters, her husband, and her father–at the CNN offices in Manhattan (all while she was in the midst of promoting season four of “This is Life” and producing the show’s fifth season) about what the show means to her as a mother and female journalist, why it’s essential viewing for our fractured country right now, and why it’s so important to have a healthy dialogue with our children about sex and sexual health.

For anyone who’s not familiar with “This is Life with Lisa Ling,” how would you describe the show?

I would describe it as an exploration into American sub-cultures and issues. What we try to do is take groups that you probably have an opinion about—that you might have even judged—and give you an opportunity to get to know them in a different way, with the hope that you may be propelled to think differently about them.

As the show’s going into its fourth season on CNN, are there any issues that come up in the new season that are especially close to your heart?

All of them are! This season, there are really quite a number of them that are close to my heart. Our first episode on “Sexual Healing” is one that I think everyone will relate to. Even though it’s about sex, it’s not a salacious experience. We explore these blockages in people’s sexual energy and how it effects the rest of their life. I think that anyone who’s not having sex with their spouse, or who has body image issues or may have experienced sexual abuse somehow will relate to this.

I think that, for almost all adults, it’s a topic that has crossed their mind.

When you think about it, sex is something that, in this country, is promoted everywhere, but when it comes to actually being open and communicative about it, there’s so much stigma around it—which is why we spend $16 billion to treat STDs in this country, which is crazy and astounding. I hope that doing episodes like this, and the web series I do called “This is Sex,” will open up a dialogue and normalize the conversation about sex more.

You also have a digital series on CNN.com called “This is Sex with Lisa Ling.” What’s at the essence of that project?

The reason I wanted to do “This is Sex” is because I grew up completely sheltered when it came to sex. It was something that I was ashamed of, it was something I could never talk about, my father was the only parent who wouldn’t sign the parental consent form for the sex-ed class in fifth grade. It was conveyed to me that it was something that I was just never to do. So that left me open to any number of things, and ultimately led to some risky behavior. Right now, this country—again, we spend $16 billion treating STDs and have the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the developing world—there’s a missing piece, and this is that we’re not talking to our kids about sex. As a parent, even though my eldest is only 4, I am ready to have those conversations and I look forward to having those conversations, because now, with social media, kids are exposed to things faster than they ever have been in history. I want to be preemptive about that. I want my daughter to not only hear about sex from me, I want her feel comfortable talking to me about it.

What is the process like for selecting topics for your show?

My team and I read everything that we can, we’re constantly scouring media sources—and a lot of the stories that we get, come from everyday people who just may write in or corner us and say “I have a great story idea” and then after further exploration, we realize there’s something there. We’ve been doing this show now [for a while]; we’re starting production on our fifth season and I did a show on OWN for five seasons that had some similar tenets. It always surprises me that we’re able to find so many topics every season, but we’ve never run out of topics.

These are obviously challenging times that we’re living in. What’s your perspective right now as a female journalist and working mother? How does it feel to be doing work with topics that can be seen as controversial?

I really think there is benefit in watching our show because we really do allow people to tell their stories. I know that by having the experiences that I have, I’ve become a smarter person and a better person. My hope is that when people watch these shows, that they’ll come to us with an open mind and allow themselves to possibly think differently. I just think that, right now, people are so dug into their political trenches, and unwilling to hear each other out. I think that shows like ours are important to help people see the other side.

Would you say it’s about human stories with people instead of politics?

Yes! Because in our media and in our politics, there’s so much name-calling and so much vitriol and anger, and I think it’s all becoming a major detriment to our society and culture. It’s having a really negative impact and that’s not the kind of behavior that I want my kids to model. I think it’s so important to have dialogue and we’re not doing that—we’re talking at each other and not to each other.

I know you travel a lot for work. With two young children, how do you find the balance of doing the work that’s important to you but still finding family time?

Balance is not a word that is really in my vocabulary. I think that the notion of balance is impossible to achieve. I think that for any working mom, you have to make sacrifices and there’s always guilt attached to it. I’m really lucky because I have so much family support—my mother and my mother-in-law are at my house every single day. My husband travels a lot too, so we try not to travel at the same time, but it takes a lot of work and it requires a whole village in my case. I just try to do the best I can and be communicative with my kids. I tell my eldest—she’s only 4, but I tell her—why I’m doing what I’m doing. I try to tell her about the things that I’m working on and I want her to be aware that “mommy works and mommy’s work is important to her and mommy wants you to feel proud of that work as well.”

What do you hope your kids take away from the example you set as a working mother?

I’ve always—even before I had kids—wanted to do work that I’m proud of, that doesn’t hurt people, that doesn’t undermine people, that doesn’t objectify people. And now with kids, I feel that way even more than ever. I hope that my kids will understand the sacrifices that I’ve made and be proud of the work that I do.

What are your kids like right now? What do you like to do together?

I have two girls and my 4-year-old is about the girliest girl I’ve ever met. As someone who grew up somewhat of a tomboy and did not own a shred of pink in my home—you literally would not be able to find anything pink or sparkly in my house—my daughter is the antithesis of that. She has to have some kind of pink on her person at all times and the sparklier the better—and I kind of deserve that for trying to pigeonhole her in the other direction. She is all about the stuffed animals and the girl stuff and she has crushes on boys. She adheres to the stereotype of girl. My little one is only 1 but she’s very different. She could care less about stuffed animals, she’s definitely more daring and aggressive. And I really hope she likes pink, because at this point, everything that will be handed down to her will be pink and I don’t want to have to buy her a whole new wardrobe! But already, even at 1, her personality is really, really different from her sister.

Do they play well together?

They do play together. And my eldest really loves the baby until the baby gets too much attention. But for the most part, I’m really lucky that my eldest really genuinely loves her.

You’re shooting for your next season of “This is Life”—are there any other projects you’re working on, or are you just deep into season five?

We’re really deep into production. It’s hard right now because I’m not only taking care of my own kids but I’m accountable for my dad who’s in a senior facility. He’s doing well now but he had a lot of health problems this past year. So I’m definitely juggling a lot of balls, but I’m lucky to have the family support that I do. As hard as everything is with me, I just think about all those working moms out there who are struggling to make ends meet and support their families. I just take my hat off to them. At the end of the day, as hard as it is for me, it’s so much harder for so many women.

That’s so true—everyone is fighting their own battle.

Don’t you feel that everyone’s so overwhelmed right now? I think it’s because women are more than half of the workforce now, and even though they’re working, they still feel obligated to deal with all the family stuff. Like, I’m the one who’s scheduling the doctor’s appointments, and doing the school tours, and all the school-related stuff, and scheduling the play-dates. I probably don’t have to do that, because if I told my husband to do it, he’d do it, but as a woman you just feel like this is what I have to do! I just feel like we’ve all been taking on so much. I was saying the other day: “When people call us ‘Superwomen’ we take that as a compliment…but we shouldn’t have to be Superwomen!” We’re just human beings.

Season four of “This is Life” airs on Sunday, October 1 on CNN at 10pm. To learn more about “This is Life” and “This is Sex,” visit cnn.com!

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