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  • Questions to Ask HR About Maternity Leave

    Thanks to our friend Allyson Downey for sharing this piece with Nine Naturals! Allyson is the founder of weeSpring and the author of the book Here's the Plan, the pregnancy and parenting guide to professional life. 

    Treat your initial meeting with Human Resources with them as a fact-finding mission. Take notes throughout the conversation, and send an email afterward confirming your understanding of the policy. This is especially important since few companies have a comprehensive policy in writing. (Scroll down for a printable list!)

    How You Get Paid During Maternity Leave

    • What is the maximum amount of time away, including extended unpaid time, that the company allows? Do I have flexibility in how I use that time? (Can I use some toward working part-time weeks when you return?) Can I reserve some of my leave for later?
    • How much of my salary will I receive while I am out on leave?
    • Does my equity continue to vest while I’m on parental leave? (This is especially important if your equity represents a large portion of your compensation.)
    • If you are in a state that affords parental leave: Does that leave occur concurrently with any employer-sponsored leave, or is it sequential?
    • If you have incentive-based compensation, how does that work? Am I still eligible for my full bonus, or is it a pro-rata share? How will commissions be paid out while I am on leave?

    How Benefits Are Handled While on Maternity Leave

    • How is my health insurance paid for while I’m on leave? (If your leave is unpaid, you may have to mail in a check for your portion of your health insurance.) What about contributions to flexible spending accounts?
    • If you have life insurance or disability insurance through your company: How is my life insurance paid?
    • Do I accrue benefits while out on leave? (Ask about retirement fund contributions, vacation days or sick days, time toward a sabbatical, and any other benefits your employer may offer.)
    • What are the terms of my short-term disability coverage? What happens if I have medical complications and need to leave early? How much of my salary will I receive? Will this count as part of my maternity leave?
    The Nitty Gritty Logistics of Maternity Leave
    • What forms do I need to complete, and when? When is the FMLA form due? Is there a form for Short-Term Disability?
    • When do I need to finalize my departure and return to work dates? 
    • How do I add my child to my health insurance and make other open enrollment changes (like flexible spending account elections)? What is the deadline for doing this?
    • Do you offer a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account? How does that work?
    • How do I add my child as a beneficiary on my retirement account and employer-provided life insurance?
    Your Return to Work After Maternity Leave
    • Does the company allow teleworking or flex-time?
    • Are there mother’s rooms or other facilities for pumping moms? (Ask to see it; you can find a checklist of things to look for in the appendix.)
    • Are there any other benefits for new parents that I should be aware of?

    DOWNLOAD A PRINTABLE LIST

    Allyson Downey is an entrepreneur, writer, MBA, and parent who has built a career on the power of trusted advice. In 2013, she launched weeSpring, a Techstars-backed startup that helps new and expecting parents collect advice from their friends about what they need for their baby.  She is also the author of the book Here's the Plan, the pregnancy and parenting guide to your professional life. 

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  • Need to Know: heymama

    The ladies behind heymama give us 6 reasons to shop “mom-owned” businesses while pregnant.

    Article & Photos courtesy of Well Rounded NY

    We are truly amazed by how many moms and moms-to-be we meet that are simultaneously bringing up baby AND a small business (or sometimes, a big business). As entrepreneurial moms ourselves, there is nothing more motivating and inspiring than seeing other entrepreneurial moms that are hustling…and kicking ass. And now that heymama is here we know where to find them. The site’s become a regular read, and we’re slightly addicted to Hey Mama’s Instagram feed, with its heartfelt stories of enterprising moms around the world.

    We recently caught up with heymama founders Katya Libin (mom to Liliana, 4) and Amri Kibbler (mom to Mari, 4, and another little girl on the way!) and found out what inspires them, how they unwind, and what

    6 “mom-owned” businesses every pregnant gal should know about right now.

    Why do you think it’s so important to build your mom community as a new mom?
    Amri: It can be really scary and lonely to become a mom, there are so many things that you need answers to, things that only another mom can help you through. Just feeling like you’re not alone can make all the difference.

    Who’s a hey mama?
    Amri: Our members are entrepreneurs, businesswomen, stylists, content creators, bloggers, editors, writers and all kinds of creative women. When it comes to their style of parenting, it really runs the gamut: we have moms who are into attachment parenting, babywearing, home-schooling, breastfeeding, public schools, those that have nannies or rely on stay-at-home dads and more. We support anything that feels right to you has a mother. We are non-judgmental parents, and really want to create a support system for women that want to explore their passions and dreams outside of motherhood while being parents.

    How do you divide and conquer on the day to day?
    Amri: We both weigh in on pretty much everything. Katya takes the lead on the agency portion of heymama and I handle more of the editorial front.

     

    How does being moms influence your daily work?
    Amri: From a logistic perspective… it takes a lot of organizing. When you’re a mom, you have to look ahead and plan everything out. Once you get the hang of that, it’s much easier to fit everything in. From a creative perspective, my daughter inspires me all the time. I love doing crafts and cooking and have so much fun sharing these activities with Mari. Cooking is such a great way to teach skills like math as well as practice working together. They open up your creativity in away you many have forgotten. You can be silly and really explore your artistic side.

    When the workday’s over and the kids are finally asleep, how do you spend your “me” time?
    Amri: Uh, ok you got me! At the moment I really haven’t been making much “me time”! When Mari is asleep, it’s back to emails. I do try to squeeze in frequent manicures and some early morning Pilates once a week. That’s what happens when you start a business, get pregnant, and move all around the same time. Totally guilty, but I’m going to do some meditation tonight before bed now that you called me out. Katya has some really great positive affirmations she listens to!
    Katya: I love to go to the gym after a long day–it helps me destress and gives me “me time.” When not at the gym, NYC has no shortage of incredible restaurants to catch up with old friends. I’m also obsessed with Glam & Go, a membership service for blow outs.

     

    Give us 6 mom-owned businesses that every pregnant gal needs to know about.
    1. Tubby Todd. Their products are not only all-natural, but smell delicious. I bought them for Mari but have been using them myself while pregnant. The lotion is moisturizing and not sticky. The package in super cute and my daughter loves it.

    2. HATCH Collection. The best fashion-forward pieces for everyday! I’ve been living in the jumpsuits, dresses and sweaters. The pieces feel both like versatile basic but also unique, and transition from maternity to the rest of your busy life with baby.

    3. Mitera Collection. This collection of chic modern dresses each contains invisible zippers that make breast-feeding a snap. It’s really hard to find office, meeting, and event appropriate breastfeeding friendly outfits. These are so beautiful you’ll wear them way past the time you and your babe have finished breastfeeding.

    4. Natti Natti. The collection is designed by an artistic husband and wife duo that owned and operated an art gallery for five years in Chelsea. The modern yet whimsical Brooklyn meets Sweden line of organic baby blankets, pillows, and toddler bedding are made in small batches, are super soft, and very special.

    5. Kid and Coe. This site is a must for all families who love to travel! You can rent gorgeous family centric homes all around the globe. They come stocked with essentials like high chairs, cribs, and toys. It’s so much more comfortable to have a kitchen prep meals for little ones and a separate bedroom so you can get some rest.

    6. DockATot. is a multi-functional lounging, playing, resting, snuggling station for your baby. It’s a comfortable and safe place to set your new baby while you take care of mama and perfect if you practice co-sleeping.

    This article is by Jessica Pallay, courtesy of Well Rounded NY.  Conceived with love by former magazine editors Jessica Pallay and Kaity Velez, Well Rounded NY aims to be the singular pregnancy resource for city-savvy moms-to-be. Through reviews, profiles, expert Q&As, local guides and more, Well Rounded curates the New York City pregnancy and helps its readers come to terms – and term! – with pregnancy in the city.

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    • Leaving Maternity Leave

      Jump back into the working world with a little help from Baby Caravan.

      Article & Photo courtesy of Well Rounded NY

      The business of making a baby is about nothing if not preparedness. A birth plan? I’d made one. A hospital bag? Mine was packed a good month in advance of my due date. When my husband and I returned home with our two-day-old daughter, our apartment was filled with all manner of bottle systems and stroller contraptions and handkerchief-sized items of girlie clothing.

      For a while there, everything was more or less under control: the baby was still alive. Her older brother had given up his campaign to rename her “City Bus” and was all about the hugs and kisses. Just as my maternity leave was nearing its end, though, I had a new army of scenarios to fret about.

      Which is why I summoned Emily Crocker and Jennifer Mayer, two of Brooklyn’s finest doulas, to my doorstep some three months after the birth of my daughter. They’d come over to walk me through the rather fraught business of jumping back into the working world.

      Emily and Jen, along with doula London King, are co-founders of Baby Caravan, a band of six baby workers that focus on birth and postpartum doula’ing. To round out the continuum, the company has just launched its back-to-work program, which entails a mix of private sessions and group classes aimed at providing support for mothers returning to the grind. Clients typically receive one private session, a follow-up written plan, and phone, text and email support after they report to the office.

      “Women make up more than 50% of the workforce and are responsible for 100% of the baby making in this world, and yet we have no support when we go back to work. It’s utterly astounding,” says Emily, a postpartum doula and mother of two. “We have worked with and spoken to women in all types of fields including OB/GYNs, heads of PR of large advertising firms and small business owners—and they are all extremely anxious about leaving their babies at home.”

      Jen has been a birth doula for a decade, is a certified holistic health coach and is expecting her first baby this winter. “This program was inspired after I followed up with my clients a year or more after their births,” she says. “Many had amazing maternity leaves and really enjoyed that time with their little ones. Then they went back to work, and the rug was pulled out from beneath them. It’s something people don’t talk about—you’re supposed to ‘just pump and get on with it.’ But it’s a big deal. And it’s okay to feel ambivalent.”

      A few days before our visit, Emily and Jen emailed me an intake form with some lay-of-the-land questions. I was asked to share my childcare plans, the names of my family members and where I stood on the issues of exercise and take-out’s role at the family dinner table. I was also asked to rank in order of concern six aspects of returning to work, including sleep, my pumping plans and sharing duties with my husband.

      Once we were seated in my living room, Emily and Jen used my answers as jumping off points for what would become one of the fastest two and a half hour conversations in history. We talked about why I love my job, and why it’s important to me that my kids see their mother thriving out of the house. Then we moved on to the logistics and unpacked each aspect of my return to work, discussing my plans and nifty little ways to tweak them.

      “There’s no one size fits all answer, we can help moms make their decisions about pumping strategies or getting dinner on the table every night,” says Emily.

      I wasn’t too concerned about pumping, but preserving family dinner was preying on my mind. “It would be easy if I could just make pasta every night and never have to think about it,” I said. Emily and Jen actually thought that was a brilliant idea, and soon we were in agreement that I should put aside any Ottolenghi-esque ambitions and my household would eat the same quartet of super-easy meals Monday through Thursday. “We did that when I was a kid,” Emily said. “Taco Tuesday was everybody’s favorite.”

      Another thing I’d been worrying about—handling all the family-related emails that I can never seem to stay on top of —didn’t faze Emily and Jen. “That’s an important part of parenting,” said Jen. “I call it ‘kinkeeping.’ Women tend to do the bulk of it. If you’re the main kinkeeper, it’s important to remember all the work your partner does that makes your life easier.” Telling them about all the things my kids’ father takes care of made me feel grateful, and less overwhelmed. Emily had a practical suggestion. “Why don’t you allow yourself to forget about these things except when you’re pumping? That can be your time to deal with any kinkeeping.” This seemed eminently doable.

      When I voiced what might be my biggest concern—that I will sorely miss my children—Emily had these words: “You’ll see them for dinner, and that’s the sweetest part of the day. There’s so much less aggravation than when you’re on your own with the kids in the middle of the day.” My mind flashed to a particularly messy scene from the previous afternoon, and I smiled.

      A few days after our meeting, Jen and Emily emailed me my plan. It ticked off the things that I seem to have in good order, and offered a few suggestions for ways to make the trickier parts of my transition easier. They urged me to call another new mom at my office to chat about the mothers’ rooms before my first day back, and to set aside a couple nights a month for post-work drinks or a yoga class. They even gave me homework, asking me to come up with a list of dinner “musts” (e.g. Must get vegetables on the table more nights than not) and “must nots” (e.g. Must not serve bagels for dinner… twice in a row), aimed at helping me establish a low bar for what counts as success.

      Of course, there are limits to what Emily and Jen can do. Were they able to assure me that I’ll never get an emergency call informing me that my toddler had locked himself in the bathroom? Could they guarantee that every morning I’d wake up fresh-faced and my work dresses would emerge from the closet unrumpled? If only. But it felt bizarrely comforting to give voice to the stress that had been building up within, and remember why I’m so excited to top up my Metrocard.

      Baby Caravan’s back-to-work program costs $300 and includes the one 2 hour private session, a follow-up written plan, and phone, text and email support after a mom reports to the office. Additional hours are available.

      This article is by Laura Mechling, courtesy of Well Rounded NY.  Conceived with love by former magazine editors Jessica Pallay and Kaity Velez, Well Rounded NY aims to be the singular pregnancy resource for city-savvy moms-to-be. Through reviews, profiles, expert Q&As, local guides and more, Well Rounded curates the New York City pregnancy and helps its readers come to terms – and term! – with pregnancy in the city.

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    • How To Organize Your Life Before Baby

      A new baby marks big changes to the family and household. As all new parents can attest to, the bundle of joy will take up the majority of your time and energy. Sure, preparing your environment prior to your baby’s arrival sounds great but trying to get organized can be more than a little overwhelming. Enter Amelia Meena, a professional lifestyle organizer and owner of New York based lifestyle organization company Appleshine. Amelia has put her spatial-design and time management skills to good use and put together a list of nine tips to help you get organized before your baby arrives.

      HOME

      Newborns live a simple life: sleep, eat, poop & repeat. So focus on organizing the Bedroom, Kitchen and Living room.

      1) Kitchen: Clear out the servingware, large dishes and other items that are infrequently used. Designate the most accessible spaces (lower drawers, cabinets above the sink and counter space) for storing, cleaning + drying the baby bottles and food containers.

      2) Bedroom: Though a baby’s life is simple, they’ll still make no less than 4 outfits changes a day. Their small clothes will get jumbled in a large drawer. Make them easy to find by using cubbies, bins or divided shelves. Labeling the sections will help others know where to put things away or find them in a pinch.

      3) Living Room: Keep a large bin or basket beside the couch for all your nursing needs. Store the Boppy, blankets, wipes and Sophie the Giraffe at arm’s length from your favorite resting spot. And pick a sophisticated style that blends with the space- let the kids’ stuff stay in the kids’ room.

      HEALTH

      You’ll do everything right for your new baby but what about yourself? Don’t forget to take care of you, too.

      4) ‘Me-Time’: Whether it’s running, yoga, meditation or a walk in the park, your body needs (and deserves!) some ‘me-time’. Plan ahead by checking the gym’s daycare center, enlisting the services of a nanny or good friend, or signing onto your favorite YouTube workout channel during naptime. Inquire before you leave for the hospital, as it’ll be easy to let it slide once you come back and feel a bit overwhelmed.

      5) Food: Most new Moms don’t have time to sit down for a full meal. Plan ahead by buying lots of easy-to-grab snacks like nuts, fruit, tuna fish, yogurt, string cheese and the like. Make a list of items that you (or a helpful friend or partner) can pick up from the grocery and nibble on all week.

      6) Outings: The simplest task will become mission impossible with a new baby. Streamline outings by keeping all your go-to items in an obvious spot, close to the front door. Plan ahead of time by creating a nook for the stroller, diaper bag, a bin of last minute items and, most importantly, a designated spot for your keys.

      HELP

      It takes a village…so starting building one now. Have a rolodex of friends and family to lean on.

      7) Workplace: Arrange your maternity leave and be clear on what timeframe and expectations that entails. Ask your co-workers if they’d be willing to help in anyway and know whom you can go to during your time away from the office.

      8) Childcare: Decide what type of childcare you’ll want and when you’ll want it. A baby nurse, a nanny, your mother or in-laws- whoever it will be, be clear about your needs, compensation and timing.

      9) Partner & Close Friends: It may be your spouse, partner, best friend or family member that’ll be your support in this exciting new step. Let them be there for you. You don’t have to do this alone. In the end, trust your heart and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

      Amelia Meena is owner of the NYC-based company Appleshine, Lifestyle Organization. As a professional organizer for a range of clients including Fortune 500 managers, lawyers, investment bankers, artists and stay at home moms, she helps people clear clutter and establish efficiency and order in their homes and their lives. Check out Appleshine for more organization tips, videos and even some ideas on how to responsible reuse or recycle your unwanted items.

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

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    • Planning for the Unexpected: All You Need To Know About Organizing Important Documents

      Article is courtesy of Everplans.com

      If there is one thing that almost all parents and parents-to-be have in common is that they are always planning and preparing for the next step –  but what happens when the unexpected happens?  That is why Nine Naturals is excited to partner with Everplans in the Planning For The Unexpected Series to help bring you helpful tips and information for everything from financial and medical planning to spiritual and grief counseling.

      Have you ever watched a show about hoarders? Even though the gross stuff is the most compelling, hoarding doesn’t only apply to furniture, expired food and doll collections. It’s also about paperwork. The stuff you throw in drawers and boxes in case you need it. The stuff you never really get around to sorting because you’ve got more pressing things going on in your life.

      If you’re not especially excited about tackling those boxes imagine someone else having to do it for you? Someone who doesn’t understand what’s important and what needs to be shredded or recycled?

      We all save lots of paper and digital files because it’s better to have something than to need it. You never know when you might require that gas station receipt or old pay stub or quarterly investment report. But imagine the stress your kid, spouse or best friend would feel while digging through boxes or filing cabinets to understand and settle all your financial issues?

      Our endgame is simple: Make all the paperwork in your life manageable so you don’t overwhelm the people you leave behind. When it comes time to settle your estate, pay required taxes, and quickly and easily receive benefits they’ll be able to do it all without wanting to resurrect your corpse with the sole purpose of murdering you.

      Places You Should Start

      Types of paperwork you should gather and put in an easy-to-find folder:

      • Estate Planning: Will, trusts, power of attorney, etc…
      • Medical: advance directive, living will, DNR, DNH,
      • Financial and Legal Accounts: insurance policies, bank accounts, credit cards, tax returns, mortgage info, deeds
      • Personal Information: birth certificate, Social Security card, marriage license, divorce decree
      • Professional Contacts: lawyer, accountant, insurance agent, etc..
      • Utilities and Services: Power company, phone/internet/TV provider, cleaning services, electrician, plumber, etc…

      Let’s Get Digital: Organizing Passwords

      Gather password information for all of your online accounts–email, online banking and finance, social media–as well as for physical items–banking PIN number, computer, cell phone, safe deposit boxes, and combinations to locks or safes.

      We understand this is incredibly sensitive information so store these items somewhere safe, and tell someone you trust of the location. This includes family or an attorney, who can securely store these items for you.

      Don’t store these items in a safe deposit box, as the bank may require a court order to allow your family to open the box, which will often take more time that you’d like.

      You can also securely store your important information, documents, and account info online, with services such as Personal.com.

      Why This Is Important

      After a death, your family has to deal with lots of financial and administrative tasks that can quickly become overwhelming. They can spend months digging through drawers and file cabinets and waiting for new statements and bills to arrive just so they can figure out what’s going on. Even then, they might not uncover everything.

      With some planning and organization you can relieve a big chunk of that burden by helping your family easily settle your estate, pay required taxes, and quickly receive the benefits they need.

      The low-down on all the stuff your family needs to do:

      • Apply for and claim benefits
      • Get through the probate process
      • Close bank accounts
      • Pay any final estate or income taxes
      • For a full run-down of everything so you don’t leave anything out, use our resource [Checklist: Documents to Organize and Share] or jump right into your Everplan where you can actually get it done right now.

      Need More Reasons? Here You Go!

      • Avoid unnecessary charges from ongoing subscriptions
      • Protection from identity theft or fraud
      • Distribute, sell, or donate any personal items that weren’t included in the Will
      • This is also beneficial while you’re alive too. It can help you budget more effectively and get a complete, real-time financial sense of where you are.

      Hope we gave you enough reasons. If you have any more, or have specific experiences with how organized paperwork helped you through a tough situation, please share them with us. Our goal is to do everything possible to make this easier so you can get on with enjoying life.

      Everplans  is a leading online resource dedicated to empowering people to plan for and deal with  life planning, end-of-life planning and dealing with a death. The website offers step-by-step processes to help people understand the totality of the decisions they need to make and get things done. The mission of the company is to make life planning, end-of-life planning, dealing with a death, and supporting someone through their loss less confusing, more manageable, and easier to work through. Everplans was founded in 2011 by Adam Seifer and Abby Schneiderman, entrepreneurs with a passion for helping people and a proven track record of creating successful online communities.

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    • Work From Home Parenting Tips

      Article courtesy of Well Rounded NY

      6 of our favorite enterprising mamas give us their sage advice on working from home. Working from home when baby arrives may sound like the dream (and it may be), but between feedings, diaper changes, figuring out nap schedules and just straight-up parenting, it takes time to ease into a steady balance of working and mom’ing.

      Check out these insider secrets from 6 of our favorite work-from-home mamas:

      Nicole Gonzalez (founder of Lillies & Leon): Working from home is no easy task. It’s so easy to get distracted with life. Babies, dishes, lunch time… while I can’t say I have found the perfect balance (it’s a myth people! 😉 I have found that setting aside specific time frames as well as having a “workspace” helps. We live in a small NYC apartment so creating an office is not an option. When the weather is nice I pop Lucas in his stroller and by the time we get to Starbucks (the extra two block walk to the one with outdoor seating is totally worth it!) he’s snoozing. I can get about 2 solid hours of work done and drink a latte in peace. When the weather isn’t great or it’s just one of those days where getting out of the house isn’t an option, I always try to set my laptop up at the dining room table or our small parsons desk – basically anywhere but the couch. I find it makes a huge difference in how productive I am during those short bursts of work time.

      Jahje Ives (founder of Baby Jives): You have to decide what you are willing to give up both in your business and your personal life in order to achieve balance. Right now while my kids are young I am not willing to give up more than a few hours during the day with them because I started my business so I could stay home with them and experience this part of their life. So I have help a few hours a day when I can work without the distraction of kids and then I switch back into mom until I can work again after they go to sleep. It’s not an ideal schedule but it’s the one I choose right now and I know it won’t last forever.

      Fleur Louise (co-founder of The Artful Bachelorette): I’m a Mama to two boys: Clark 2.5 years and August 6 months. I run The Artful Bachelorette from my ‘home office’ AKA: bed, bath and kitchen. I try and get all of my urgent work done between 7am-2pm while my eldest is at daycare. Trying to be organized and getting shit done while you have help is key. In the morning I usually do some cooking, cleaning, breast feeding with my little one, emailing, calls and most enjoyably eating, mostly all at once. It is all about multitasking.

      Lindsay Meyer-Harley (founder of Darling Clementine): It’s not easy, but can be done. You’ve gotta be willing to work in short spurts, 10 minutes here, an hour there. You’ve got to get in the mentality of having a lot of projects open at once, that you work on here and there as you are able to, otherwise you’re in for a stressful day.

      Raluca State (founder of Raluca State PR and What Would Gwyneth Do): Don’t try to multitask the personal and the professional. When it’s time to work, make sure your kids are out of the house or have childcare that can keep them occupied. When it’s time to mom, shut down the computer and close the office door (try your best to get an office door, if you can). Both areas will suffer if you’re trying to juggle them all at once. Don’t work in pajamas. You will be far more productive if you treat

      Junia Montano (content manager & submissions editor at 100 Layer Cake): When I returned from maternity leave, I eased my way back into full time work, from my home office. The first couple of months were actually doable, because your baby sleeps for huge chunks at a time. Sadly, that fooled me into thinking that I had this all under control and could keep working full time from home indefinitely. After about 3 months, nap time became more of a game to see when she’d actually take them.

      This article is by Kaity Velez courtesy of Well Rounded NY.  Conceived with love by former magazine editors Jessica Pallay and Kaity Velez, Well Rounded NY aims to be the singular pregnancy resource for city-savvy moms-to-be. Through reviews, profiles, expert Q&As, local guides and more, Well Rounded curates the New York City pregnancy and helps its readers come to terms – and term! – with pregnancy in the city.

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