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Tag Archives: maternity leave

  • Friendly Tips for your Pregnancy Journey

    Melissa Rycroft PregnancyIf it’s your first time to be pregnant, you may feel surprised by the enormous change and rate of change that your body, mind and hormones are going through. Maybe you have been trying to get pregnant for years of maybe it happened by surprise or all of a sudden. Either way, it’s an enormous change to life as you have known it, even though it may be thrilling and exciting at the same time. Fortunately we have a good eight months (from the time we find out) to get used to the idea that we are adding a member to our household and to do all we can to make the necessary practical and emotional preparations to add a baby to the family.

    As a mom of three children in the maternity clothes business, I have talked to hundreds of moms over the years. There were a number of things that I wish someone told me when I was pregnant (each time!). Here are my learnings that are not meant to be judgmental or preachy, because you get enough of that when you are pregnant and as a mom, but just meant to help you along your path and to put in your back pocket for when you need the encouragement:

    First, don’t worry about everything being perfect. It’s admirable to strive high and create the perfect nursery and have your complete six months of clothing and gear ready to go for your child before it’s born. But apart from the bare necessities of a safe sleep area, diapers, blankets, sleepers and some onesies, you are going to be just fine. Remember there is online shopping when you do need that new nursing bra because the ones you bought during pregnancy don’t fit and you are too tired to leave the house. There is also diaper services if you opt for cloth diapers but don’t want to deal with cleaning them.  Fortunately for these hectic times in life we do live in a day and age when answers can be at our fingertips. However, don’t forget to let real live people help you too. Call on your neighbors, friends and any nearby family if you need them. Now is the time to cash in on any goodwill that people are willing to offer you, you do need it and deserve any help you can get and most people are happy to help out.

    Do make sure you do have a childcare arrangement in place before you hit the nine month mark. Fill out all the necessary paperwork for FMLA/maternity leave and inform managers and coworkers of your leave. Have a plan in place at work to cover for your absence and let people know your timeframe for leave, even if it is subject to change.  Whether it be an extended maternity leave or grandparents pitching in when you return to work, it does give you some peace of mind to have at least have a plan in place for the first few months for your baby’s care. It’s also stress relieving for yourself and those around you to have a clearly communicated leave plan so you don’t leave tasks hanging or yourself and others panicking the minute. This brings me to my next point and one that many women struggle with:

    There is no right or wrong answer to what you decide on with the BIG decisions of returning to work or staying at home with your child fulltime. It is a difficult decision and if you are not sure, then maybe opt for something in between – look to have a longer maternity leave if you can negotiate that or return part-time or set up a work at home arrangement or flexible work hours. Even with large corporations it often boils down to what you can work out with your manager and generally if you can bring it up a number of months in advance you will get a more favorable response than to spring it on them a few weeks before your maternity leave. Choosing a longer leave or a more flexible hour work week is often a good stepping stone before making a more definite fulltime work or fulltime stay at home decision. You may find something in between that is just perfect for you for a period of time. Although many people will have a lot of ideas on this subject, and it may be helpful to hear their ideas and personal experiences, it is ultimately your choice to make in harmony with your partner and your financial goals. Many fathers also take FMLA and extended leave for their newborns. Some Dads decide to stay at home or work out a more flexible work schedule. Explore your options fully and just go with the best decision for you and your family (and don’t worry about making the perfect decision). Do not let anyone guilt you about your decision to stay home or not stay home. They are both equally valid choices.

    There are many solutions to caring for your newborn from a fulltime nanny, daycare, grandparents pitching in or some combination of everything. If you are looking at caregivers it is a good idea to start interviewing in advance of your due date. If you are looking at daycare arrangement then embark on your tours of these facilities well in advance and go with your gut if you are not comfortable with a particular place or caregiver. Many daycare businesses have a waiting list, so it may be a good idea to get on the waiting list early, even if you find a better plan later an and drop off the list.  Remember you are allowed to change course at any time. No one is holding you to your decision and if they are, then they should not be as this decision is yours and your partner’s alone. You can be a good mother and work at the office, you can be a good mother and work at home, and you can be a good mother and stay at home with your child. There are good nannies and not so good nannies and some grandparents are excellent fulltime caretakers for their grandchildren while some do not have the energy, abilities or desire to take on this more involved role. You can navigate these steps and arrive at the best solution. Life is not perfect and it's not supposed to be - how boring would that be?!! We all do our best and our best is typically more than enough for the health and wellbeing of our baby, selves and family, even if it is not perfectly perfect. Children have turned out well with all varieties of paths for early caregiving.

    The next point of advice is the one that is often most ignored by both new and experienced moms. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. This advice extends to pregnancy. Now is a time when your body is under tremendous change. Every day you will probably notice something different about some part of your anatomy whether it be a tighter bra, a bigger belly, snugger shoes or a new food aversion or craving. The body you used to know so well is evolving into something totally alien that you are trying to understand anew each day, let alone dress! It’s difficult to even know what to eat! You may find your energy is a bit lower but then you may also find you have bursts of energy in your second trimester. Get used to tuning into your body and listening to what it tells you. What used to be normal is no longer normal when you are pregnant and that’s ok. Be kind to yourself and cut yourself a little slack. Go ahead and get that pregnancy massage and let your partner rub your feet at the end of the day. Buy some maternity clothes that are comfortable and make you feel pretty. Try to find time to take small naps when you are tired, even if it’s just on the weekend if you work. Do something nice for yourself each day, even if it’s something small.

    Although it is important to get your rest and scale back on activities when you feel tired, it is also helpful to take some form of physical exercise, even if it’s just walking around the block. It’s necessary to keep up your strength up during pregnancy and to maintain your health, blood sugar and to help with delivery (unless you are on bed rest of course).  Maintaining fitness will also help you bounce back that much easier after pregnancy and give you the energy to care for your baby (which can be a bit of marathon in the early weeks particularly if you are nursing around the clock).  In addition to the added benefit of helping you look good, exercise will help balance your serotonin levels and allow you to achieve a more positive mental outlook so that you feel happier, more joyful and peaceful as well as sleep better at night. Do be careful not to engage in any risky physical activities (remember your balance and stamina are not the same) and listen to your body at all times when you exercise so that you don’t overextend yourself or get dehydrated. Remember you are pregnant, so don’t try to break any records running marathons or playing tennis tournaments!

    Finally try and take some time out and smell the roses. This is a special time in life that you will always remember. Get some pretty photographs done while you enjoy your shape (sometimes we are so enormous in the last few months of pregnancy that we don’t want a camera anywhere around us!) Spend some time to bond with your partner and indulge in some date nights or a Babymoon if you can find the time, even if it’s something special nearby. You will always remember this special time together before you had your baby and the memories you created.

  • My Life as a New Mom - Part 1

    Pregnancy and motherhood is a sacred time in our lives as women. The miracle of growing a human life inside of us is awesome. When I look at my kids and think that they somehow arrived here through my body and have now matured into the full personality individuals they are at 6, 10 and 12 year olds, it is more than I can wrap my head around.

    Pregnancy and motherhood is a journey and a process. You become a mother once you are pregnant, even before your baby formally arrives. Already you are thinking for two, eating for two, even dressing for two in your maternity clothes. You start planning nurseries and logistics around working or staying at home with your baby. If you plan to return to work you begin the process of looking into daycare or nannies or even reducing your hours or maybe working a more flexible schedule.

    I remember going through this whole process as a first time expecting mom more than twelve years ago before my son was born. We explored all options for our son’s care before and after he arrived but finally decided on a nanny once my maternity leave ran out. It was a challenging process of commuting to work, pumping milk while away from my baby and returning home again to care for my child. I missed my baby while at work but also enjoyed returning to my identity as a working person. I appreciated my job more and liked having adult conversations with coworkers and making decisions that did not involve nap schedules or baby feedings. But none the less it was challenging leaving my baby and pumping milk when I would rather be nursing my baby in person.

    When I had my daughter two years later I was able to mostly work from home while my nanny cared for both of my children. I was very structured about separating work from mothering and would literally close the office door to shut out any noise and to physically compartmentalize my professional world during working hours. The only thing that crossed the line was pumping milk, which usually occurred while on mute during a conference call. None the less, I kept my “double life” pretty quiet although I was open with my manager about my arrangement. Sometimes I was able to nurse my baby during part of a lunch break - which literally became my baby’s lunch hour with the rate that my methodical daughter nursed. But, it was a welcome break and a special time of bonding that I felt lucky to have while working.

    When my daughter was approaching two, I quit my corporate job to stay at home with my kids and focus my attention on my new online business. Although it first felt like a vacation to stay at home with my two young children and not have an outside work commitment, I soon found that life as a work at home mom without a clear work schedule, or a schedule that my two under 5 children were willing to go along with, was more challenging than I first thought.

    Joining the ranks of the Stay at Home Moms was not an easy process. Although most were friendly and welcoming at preschool pickups and drops offs, I often felt like a foreigner who was not savvy on the many activities, mommy and me programs, playdate calendars and volunteering that these women could rattle off in detail as part of their daily lives. I observed how they communicated at a faster quicker beat (often frequently pausing midsentence to respond to a toddler’s questions or address a baby’s needs) than work colleagues’ deliberate measured tones and corporate lingo.

    I marveled at how these women could pull off so much while pushing baby strollers, dealing with toddler demands and hefting babies in and out of car seats without missing a beat in conversation or their daily itinerary of playdates, errands, meal planning and even social outings. Often toddlers would troll behind them like ducklings with sippy cups or snack baggies in hand as these fit mamas, often sporting stylish gym clothes in what appeared to be perpetual workout mode, pranced a few feet ahead, always in motion and cheerfully conversing with those in their path. Somehow they were able to seamlessly integrate their kid’s schedules and naptimes into their daily life on the go. Often naptimes were incorporated into errand running while kids were strapped into their car seats or strollers or taken to the park on a "Mom" playdate with another friend with young kids. Meals and snacks were often packed ahead so there was no need to return home, ever.

    By the time I felt I was getting the hang of it to legitimately fake being part of this league of moms was about the time I learned I was expecting my 3rd baby. That's when I found out I was out of my league.

  • SAHM Chronicles - What it's REALLY like

    In Annabel Monahgan hilarious article, “An open letter to my husband, don’t ask me what I’m up to today” she highlights how staying at home isn’t all “naps and brunches.”

    Whether you are a professional mom on maternity leave or a seasoned Stay at Home parent of multiples, you quickly find out that staying at home with your child is often not as glamorous or as easy as it sounds. Also, the better the parent you try to be, the more work it is (and the less you productive you actually feel)!

    Staying at home with your child can be the best job in the world; you get to spend more time with your baby or older kids, no business trips or early morning conference calls to deal with, you can wear anything you want, right? But sometimes it can be the most frustrating and undervalued in terms of feelings of accomplishment and value with no regular office hours and no paycheck to take home. Kids can be more unruly than coworkers and there is nowhere to hide and no one else to blame when things get rough or go wrong. You assume as a woman that mothering and homemaking come naturally so there’s no major learning needed; women have been doing this job for years so how hard can it really be? It’s not like you can get fired, right? But that whole assumption is a myth at best, you may not get fired but your family can give you a lot of grief if things start going haywire so that you wished you could get fired. Staying at home is a job and it is truly a labor of love that often goes unnoticed and underappreciated for all the work it is, mostly by the person doing the work herself.

    After reading the satirical article by Annabel Monahgan where she details a few typical days of herself as a SAHM, I could not stop laughing at how closely it resembled many of my days at as a stay at home parent and probably the life of most of the SAHMs I knew. I promptly mass mailed it to everyone I knew who was a fulltime at home parent. Soon afterwards my inbox was flooded with exclamation points in vigorous agreement on the validity of this author’s humorous rant.

    My husband did not think Annabel’s article was the least bit funny, and he seemed a bit insulted that I thought it was, that I maybe felt underappreciated in my job as a SAHM as he never minimalized my role (nor did he ask me to be a SAHM, I decided that one myself and spent a good couple of months convincing him and everyone else, namely myself, that it was a good idea).

    I told my husband that the point of the article was not about blaming the husband for assuming he is quietly judging the SAHM wife for being unproductive or useless, the husband was in fact the “straight man”, even the “good guy” in this story and never showed any hint of disappointment in his wife’s chosen role, it was about the SAHM wife herself trying to justify her existence and sense of accomplishment in her daily life as it appeared she was doing absolutely nothing (as she was still in her pjs with dirty dishes and needy children at the end of the day when her husband returned home as she was at the start of the day when he left). She had in fact done plenty -racing around kids in and out of school to doctor’s offices, making meal, running necessary errands, doing the dishes, just nothing that seemed very important at the time. Everything she did and needed to do fell below the radar of even mentioning to her husband over coffee on most days of the week unless it was attending a School Board Room Meeting, where she would proudly enunciate Ex-ec-u-tive as part of her title in her appointed position as a school parent on the Board. However, the majority of her mundane and seemingly silly repetitive or stress inducing tasks were highly necessary in order to raise healthy, productive, nourished kids and to keep the house and everyone’s lives running smoothly. This in itself is a daily miraculous feat for any of us although it’s easy to not see or appreciate the effort that goes into this arduous task until you personally experience it first hand, everyday.

    What really struck a chord with me (and other SAHM who responded to this article) was the lack of visibility of accomplishments in the mom-job. This is actually true for both working and stay and home moms. The difference is that the fulltime SAHM, unless they are highly secure evolved individuals, not in need of positive reinforce or monetary reward and who truly understand the meaning of life and their important place in the world, have very little tangible and visible day to day proof of their hard work.

    For example, unless your house has gone from very messy to clean over the course of the day (which begs the question as to why you allowed it to get messy in the first place or why you haven’t better trained your children put away their clothes and clean up their toys), you generally don’t have a lot of “proof” of your accomplishments from that day, and you certainly don’t have a paycheck to show for it (although you might feel the need to justify the kid’s new spring wardrobe or even worse, new additions to your own wardrobe).

    It seems the bar is always being raised for moms, not only are we expected to take care of the kids and their meals as a woman might have over 50 years ago who stayed home with her kids, we are also supposed to prepare meals that are properly balanced in the ever changing food group ideal and prepared according to the current guidelines of what is considered “safe” and “healthy” for your family to consume without some fatal allergic or carcinogenic ingredient. Even if ,say, you cooked a new dish for dinner that was properly organic , glutton free and vegan with the right balance of carbohydrates and protein according the food pyramid du jour, you have not really nailed it completely as a model SAHM. To be truly accomplished in this endeavor you must encourage your kids and husband to sit down at the table together politely and with good table manners (that in itself a monumental task), have everyone enjoy and eat all of the said meal while remarking nicely over its flavor and finish said meal on time before carting the kids off to their next activity or helping finish a homework assignment and or get kids showered and changed into pajamas AND get all of those dishes and counter tops cleaned up before bedtime before it could really be said to be a job well done with today’s high standards and expectations for parents, particularly moms. But you ask yourself as devil’s advocate, isn’t feeding your kids and family a nutritious meal on time just part of the job description of SAHM, not something you should get kudos for – just feeding the family dinner right? It’s not like you got a raise, promotion or invented a patent…

    Of course the professional parent has the same dilemma for mealtime, but I know when I was professional parent I cut myself a lot more slack and leaned on my husband a lot more for meal preparation. It really boils down to self-assessment and expectations, which can feel insurmountable if we believe the myths of our culture.

    So the measure of success is difficult for a SAHM and since no one is really interested in measuring it besides you, it usually boils down to you yourself being your own boss and oftentimes a pretty tough one when it comes to self-reviews of job performance. It’s a very ambiguous area, although it is clear when you are truly slacking and have missed the mark in certain areas…Like when the school calls to tell you that Johnny has been waiting at the school office to be picked up for the past 45 minutes and you forgot it was Tuesday when he doesn’t take the bus home. Now not only is Johnny late for soccer practice he is pretty grumpy at being forgotten and abandoned at school when you yourself told him you would arrive early to get him first thing in school carpool pickup lane that day. Instead he had to sit glumly as the minutes ticked away on the big school office clock as an unclaimed child next to the humorless office clerk who was not too thrilled with his humorless company either.

    Or, you know you missed the mark when you get a stack of library notices in your kids’ take home folder that indicate that every one of your children have overdue books from the beginning of the school year that are not to be found in your house ANYWHERE at all. None of them. Also you owe the library double the costs of each one of these books although they would really prefer that you find and return the actual books themselves. But they are NOWHERE. You have checked in your kids’ backpack and all over your house, every room, drawer, under the kids’ beds, bookshelves, laundry bins, trash cans, outside in the backyard sandbox, nowhere. How big of a personal check do you need to write the library and how big of an apology do you need to give to the homeroom teacher and librarian to cover this mess of incompetence? Should you buy all the books on Amazon with overnight shipping to quickly assuage this debt to the struggling school library and your struggling ego as a responsible parent? Heck, this sin cancels out your week of volunteering at the School Book Fare last month!

    Or how about the day when you forget to pack your child’s snack AND lunch which you only happen to find out about en route to dance class when your daughter casually mentions to you that she has not eaten ALL DAY as she did not have a lunch or snack at school (or think to buy one on credit or have the school call you) and is REALLY hungry! When you return home later you discover the untouched lunch box and pristine brown snack bag sitting innocently on the kitchen counter where it was neatly packed that morning and where it was unclaimed by your child and never placed in their backpack as they were running late to the bus that morning. It was also never noticed by you in the midst of your whirlwind morning routine. How did this slip through the cracks?

    Or worse, your kid comes home sunburned from school and you later read the teacher email sent out to all the class parents cautioning that the kids should be sure to wear sunscreen to school along with their long distance running shoes with the current surprise heat wave that’s going on and with outdoor PE at noon as they are still running laps on the black asphalt on Wednesdays despite the warmer weather. You KNOW the email is targeted to you alone and that every parent on the mailing list who picked up their child at school that day MUST know it too as they have also seen your red-faced blond headed child sitting on the curb at the afternoon carpool pickup. Yes it’s easy to get a little paranoid or self critical. These are the days that you feel you have truly “failed” on the job and there are no two ways about it, because on these days even the President knows you do not deserve your title as “Mom” and the school principal himself must be calling Child Protective Services at this moment. But somehow the sun goes up the next day and you have a blank slate to start the day with and a chance to raise the bar and tally up some “Good Mommy Points", although only you are really keeping score, right?

    So it goes in the life of the Stay at Home Mom. But again, this is often a self-chosen profession, so no pity parties here and most of us are grateful for the privilege, although we do have our days in our pjs doing dishes at night when we wonder, what did we accomplish today? Just remind yourself, plenty.

  • Maternity Leave Policy Around The World -- US Is Not The Best.

    Have you ever wondered what the maternity or parental leave policies are in the rest of the world? If you are in the United States, then there is a 95% chance that it is better than what you are currently getting.

    In fact, about 2/3rds of the countries in the world pay out 100% of your salary for a given period of time. May of these countries have the government picking up the bill, according to the International Labour Organization

    Most countries allow for paid leave for 12 to 16 weeks. Australia allows for up to 1 year but it comes at the price of not being paid. The US hits the norm at 12 weeks but that too is without any guaranteed pay.

    Studies have shown that there are benefits to keeping new parents happy by retaining them through leave. It often costs as much as 50 to 200% of an employees salary to replace them. Google extended their leave policy from 3 months to 5 and the new mother fallout rate dropped by half.

    While it may seem counter-intuitive to pay for a new parent's time off to spend with their child, it does end up making good economic sense for the employer with the added benefit of having a happier family.

    Country Length of Leave % of Wages
    Afghanistan 90 days 100
    Algeria 14 weeks 100
    Angola 90 days 100
    Antigua/Barbuda 13 weeks 60
    Argentina 90 days 100
    Australia 1 year 0
    Austria 16 weeks 100
    Bahamas 8 weeks 100
    Bahrain 45 days 100
    Bangladesh 12 weeks 100
    Barbados 12 weeks 100
    Belarus 126 days 100
    Belgium 15 weeks 82
    Belize 12 weeks 80
    Benin 14 weeks 100
    Bolivia 60 days 100
    Botswana 12 weeks 25
    Brazil 120 days 100
    Bulgaria 120-180 days 100
    Burkina Faso 14 weeks 100
    Burundi 12 weeks 50
    Cambodia 90 days 50
    Cameroon 14 weeks 100
    Canada 1 year 60
    Central African Rep. 14 weeks 50
    Chad 14 weeks 50
    Chile 18 weeks 100
    China 90 days 100
    Colombia 12 weeks 100
    Comoros 14 weeks 100
    Congo 15 weeks 100
    Costa Rica 4 months 100
    Côte d'Ivoire 14 weeks 100
    Cuba 18 weeks 100
    Cyprus 16 weeks 75
    Dem. Rep. of the Congo 14 weeks 67
    Denmark 18 weeks 100
    Dominica 12 weeks 60
    Dominican Republic 12 weeks 100
    Ecuador 12 weeks 100
    Egypt 50 days 100
    El Salvador 12 weeks 75
    Equatorial Guinea 12 weeks 75
    Ethiopia 90 days 100
    Finland 105 days 80
    France 16-26 weeks 100
    Gabon 14 weeks 100
    Germany 14 weeks 100
    Ghana 12 weeks 50
    Greece 16 weeks 75
    Grenada 3 months 100
    Guatemala 12 weeks 100
    Guinea 14 weeks 100
    Guinea-Bissau 60 days 100
    Guyana 13 weeks 70
    Haiti 12 weeks 100
    Honduras 10 weeks 100
    Hungary 24 weeks 100
    India 12 weeks 100
    Indonesia 3 months 100
    Iran 90 days 66.7
    Iraq 62 days 100
    Ireland 14 weeks 70
    Israel 12 weeks 75
    Italy 5 months 80
    Jamaica 12 weeks 100
    Japan 14 weeks 60
    Jordan 10 weeks 100
    Kenya 2 months 100
    Korea, Republic of 60 days 100
    Kuwait 70 days 100
    Laos 90 days 100
    Lebanon 40 days 100
    Lesotho 12 weeks 0
    Libyan Arab Jamahiriya 50 days 50
    Liechtenstein 8 weeks 80
    Luxembourg 16 weeks 100
    Madagascar 14 weeks 100
    Malaysia 60 days 100
    Mali 14 weeks 100
    Malta 13 weeks 100
    Mauritania 14 weeks 100
    Mauritius 12 weeks 100
    Mexico 12 weeks 100
    Morocco 12 weeks 100
    Mozambique 60 days 100
    Myanmar 12 weeks 66.7
    Nepal 52 days 100
    Netherlands 16 weeks 100
    New Zealand 14 weeks 0
    Nicaragua 12 weeks 60
    Niger 14 weeks 50
    Nigeria 12 weeks 50
    Norway 18 weeks 100
    Pakistan 12 weeks 100
    Panama 14 weeks 100
    Papua New Guinea 6 weeks 0
    Paraguay 12 weeks 50
    Peru 90 days 100
    Philippines 60 days 100
    Poland 16-18 weeks 100
    Portugal 98 days 100
    Qatar 40-60 days 100
    Romania 112 days 50
    Russia 140 days 100
    Rwanda 12 weeks 67
    Saint Lucia 13 weeks 65
    Sao Tome/Principe 70 days 100
    Saudi Arabia 10 weeks 50 or 100
    Senegal 14 weeks 100
    Singapore 8 weeks 100
    Solomon Islands 12 weeks 25
    Somalia 14 weeks 50
    South Africa 12 weeks 45
    Spain 16 weeks 100
    Sri Lanka 12 weeks 100
    Sudan 8 weeks 100
    Swaziland 12 weeks 0
    Sweden 14 weeks 75%
    Switzerland 8 weeks 100
    Syria 75 days 100
    Tanzania 12 weeks 100
    Thailand 90 days 100
    The Gambia 12 weeks 100
    Togo 14 weeks 100
    Trinidad/Tobago 13 weeks 100
    Tunisia 30 days 67
    Turkey 12 weeks 66.7
    Uganda 8 weeks 100
    Ukraine 126 days 100
    United Arab Emirates 45 days 100
    United Kingdom 14-18 weeks 90
    United States 12 weeks 0
    Uruguay 12 weeks 100
    Venezuela 18 weeks 100
    Viet Nam 4-6 months 100
    Yemen 60 days 100
    Zambia 12 weeks 100
    Zimbabwe 90 days 60
  • Lawyer On Maternity Leave Told To Show Up In Court

    Amber Vazquez Bode, a lawyer in Travis County Texas, was on maternity leave recovering from a C-section when she was called into court to by Justice of the Peace Glenn Bass. Bode had faxed in a continuance to delay the trial but it was denied.

    She brought her baby with her who apparently was crying the whole time as would be expected of a new born in such a situation. The judge felt that Bode's attitude was in contempt of court given her upset demeanor.

    What would you do? If you were nursing a baby and were forced to go somewhere due to your job would you bring the baby or leave him with friends.

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