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A letter to my only child on her first birthday

You are all my firsts. And you may also be all my lasts. Whether Daddy and I can give you a little brother or sister is unknown to us. Giving you a sibling would be one of the greatest gifts, but nobody knows if we will be able to have more children.

A letter to my only child on her first birthday

My dearest Bee,

Here we are, it's your birthday. You're a year old today! Happy birthday, my beautiful little girl.

Two years ago, if someone had told me that I'd be celebrating my first child's first birthday today, I would have laughed. Me? Having a child? It's not that I didn't want to be a mom, or that I didn't want you, it's that I didn't think I could have you.

During the eight years leading up to your birth, I had five miscarriages. I went to multiple doctors and nobody could tell me what was wrong. After months of tests and all the money we spent, we had no answers. The doctors could only tell us to keep trying, and hope for the best.

But it's hard to hope for the best after so many years and so many lost babies. Your daddy and I had resigned ourselves to believing that we would never meet you. That we would never be blessed with your presence in our lives. You were all we ever wanted, and we thought we wouldn't get to have you.

I remember the day I realized I was pregnant with you. After five previous pregnancies, I could just tell. It was right before Thanksgiving weekend, and your aunt and uncle were coming to visit us.

I was terrified to take a test. I knew that if I took a pregnancy test and it came back positive, I'd lose you. Just like I lost your five older siblings. So, I didn't test for a while. I quit drinking alcohol. I quit drinking caffeine. I quit my addiction to Mountain Dew. I lost 10 pounds those first few weeks.

I wasn't sick, I just had a change in taste. I started eating less of the fatty, unhealthy foods I normally ate, and started eating fruits, salads, and whole grains! I waited until eight weeks before taking the pregnancy test that would confirm what I had already knew.

Reaching the beginning of my second trimester was easily one of the happiest days of my life. During prior pregnancies, I'd never made it through the first trimester. At 13 weeks, an ultrasound told us you were healthy, and growing normally.

My pregnancy was relatively uneventful up until the last couple days. I had a mild case of gestational diabetes which was extremely easy to manage as long as I didn't drink soda and I avoided fast food.

The Wednesday before you were born, I went in to see my doctor and my blood pressure was sky-high. I was immediately sent to the hospital for a non-stress test. You were fine, my blood pressure decreased, and I was sent home on bed rest pending the results of a urinalysis that would tell us whether or not I had pre-eclampsia.

Thursday evening we learned I did have a mild case of pre-eclampsia. My doctor sent me in for another non-stress test on Friday morning. My blood pressure was high with no sign of it coming down again. Between the pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, my doctor and I decided the best option was to induce me that day, one week before your due date.

I spent the first 12 hours laboring slowly and uneventfully. It wasn't until about 1 AM Saturday morning—after 14 hours of labor—that the pain became too intense. I received an epidural a half hour later (and just about fell in love with the anesthesiologist that administered it).

After 30 hours of labor I was only 6cm dilated, with a full fever, and it was recommended I have a C-section.

You were born at 4:38 PM that Saturday. And you were smallest, prettiest little baby I'd ever seen, weighing in at just 5 pounds, 15 ounces.

The day you were born was, and will always be, without question, the happiest day of my life. It was a day I didn't expect I'd ever get to experience. A day I thought was nothing but a pipe dream.

And now here we are, one year later. You are my first child, my first daughter. The first person to poop on me, the first person to projectile vomit all over me. You're the first baby I've nursed, the first baby that's slept on my chest. You're the first person to teach me what unconditional love is, and the first person that I'd die for, no questions asked.

Little Bee, you are all my firsts. And you may also be all my lasts. Whether Daddy and I can give you a little brother or sister is unknown to us. Giving you a sibling would be one of the greatest gifts, but nobody knows if we will be able to have more children.

I'm completely happy with the thought of only having you. You're the child I thought I'd never have, you are my world, my everything. Life without you seems unfathomable now, when just a couple years ago life with you seemed impossible.

You turning a year old is bittersweet. That sleepy little infant I had is long gone, replaced by the cutest, funniest little girl I know. I miss the infant you once were, but I adore the wonderful little girl you are becoming. You are the child I've always wanted, and I'm so thankful that I have you.

So happy birthday, Bee. You're the greatest thing that has ever happened to us. I hope you know how wanted, and how loved, you really, truly are.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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