Let's face it, 2021 wasn't any easier than 2020 for many of us. Before we head into the new year, it's important to remember that this past year wasn't all bad. In fact, there were many inspirational and uplifting moments that not only made headlines but made us all gooey inside, too. This is why we've compiled the best of these moments into one big list—so you can scroll through and smile as we close out the year.

  1. World's most premature baby survives and thrives

After being born 132 days premature, Curtis Means remained on a ventilator for three months and continued receiving round-the-clock care and therapy for 275 days in the hospital. Curtis was discharged in April 2021.

“Being able to finally take Curtis home and surprise my older children with their younger brother is a moment I will always remember,” his mother said.

2. 6-year-old honors Black women during Women’s History Month

Avery Jade Robinson, a 6-year-old from Raleigh, North Carolina, spent the month of March paying tribute to Black women throughout history on her Instagram account . Trailblazing Women's History Month honorees have included former First Lady Michelle Obama, Coretta Scott King, Meghan Markle, Amanda Gorman and Dr. Mae Jemison among many others. 

3. Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman wrote a children's book

After wowing the entire country during President Biden's inauguration, Gorman got a deal to write a children's book.  Change Sings: A Children's Anthem features illustrations from Loren Long, who also provided the illustrations for President Obama's Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters The lyrical picture book follows a young girl who leads a cast of characters on a musical journey, learning along the way that together, they have the power to make meaningful change.

4. Empty-nest couple adopts 7 foster siblings

After raising five children together, Pam and Gary Willis decided to forgo the whole "empty nest" thing by becoming foster parents. Then, during the pandemic, the Willis family learned of seven orphaned siblings who were placed in foster care and needed a home.

5. The COVID-19 vaccine FDA approval for kids

This was the year for many kids to get their COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer received FDA approval for kids ages 12-17 to get the vaccine earlier this year, and kids ages 5-11 weren't too far behind.

Though children under 5 still have to wait until 2022, this was a huge step in the right direction toward eradicating the pandemic—and provided a much-needed sigh of relief for parents everywhere. If ever there was cause for celebration during these past two years, this is it.

6. Mom has first baby at 50 after trying for over a decade

After trying to conceive for over a decade, the happy couple welcomed their first child, a daughter, in September. Susie and Tony Troxler became first-time parents at the ages of 50 and 61, respectively.

“I am 50. I was born in 1971 and I have no shame in that whatsoever,” Susie said.

7. Ashley Graham reveals she's expecting twins

In a heartfelt and hilarious Instagram video, the model and mom to Isaac, 2, shared that baby number two was actually babieS number two and three!

"Are you serious? We're gonna have three boys?" she says as her surprised husband shouts: "You are kidding me!" Then they both marvel and where the two penises may or may not be located on the ultrasound. Now Graham is due any day, and we can't wait to watch her kick butt as a mama of three!

8. New Zealand politician rides bicycle to hospital—while in LABOR

A mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do, and sometimes that means hopping on your bicycle to ride yourself to the hospital. While you're in active labor. Just ask New Zealand politician Julie Ann Genter!

"Big news! At 3.04am this morning we welcomed the newest member of our family," Genter wrote on her official MP Facebook page. "I genuinely wasn’t planning to cycle in labour, but it did end up happening."

9. Paid leave is—almost—a reality for U.S. mothers and families

In November, the House passed President Biden's Build Back Better bill after deliberating for weeks. The bill includes a wide range of spending aimed at social safety net packages, including paid family leave, free universal preschool, and more affordable childcare and healthcare.

The $2 trillion legislation package was approved on a 220-213 vote. The bill will also focus on many significant climate change initiatives, capping drug costs, boosting Pell grants for college tuition, and helping Americans recover from the pandemic. Now it's up to the Senate to make this bill a reality.

10. The best birth photos of 2021 global contest

The contest, which is open to birth photographers globally, was initially founded by award-winning birth photographer Lacey Baratt as a way to legitimize the art of birth photography.

“Despite birth photographers worldwide losing a majority of their work and income in 2020 due to the globalpandemic, I am thrilled to be able to feature the talent of our members in our annual image competition,” said Liz Cook, director of the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers.

The images themselves deserve a gander—they're breathtaking.

Anne Lucy Silva Barbosa

11. The internet's favorite Thanksgiving "strangers" celebrate 6th holiday together

The story of Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench is as synonymous with Thanksgiving as turkey and pumpkin pie at this point. Almost six years after an accidental text brought these two strangers together for the holiday (and the entire internet), it's safe to say they're strangers no more.

These two are so beloved, Netflix is making a movie about their friendship!

12. Viral Instagram photos show what friendship after miscarriage looks like

When Ashlee Gadd experienced a miscarriage, a good friend of hers showed up for her in a simple yet beautiful way. In a now-viral Instagram post, Gadd shared what friendship amid a miscarriage looks like—and it's resonating with moms everywhere.

Everyone experiences loss differently, and everyone responds to loss differently. This is a beautiful story about how someone can be supportive during times of sadness.

13. Dad gives moving speech about his trans daughter

In a video shared by the American Civil Liberties Union, parent Brandon Boulware urges his local lawmakers to reject legislation that would ban trans kids from competing alongside cisgender students in school sports.

Speaking before the Missouri House of Representatives, Boulware introduced himself as a father of four who didn't understand transgender issues—until his daughter began her own journey. The emotional moment went viral, and it's not hard to see why.

14. Mom and gorilla bond over their babies at the zoo

When Kiki the gorilla spotted a new mom and baby visiting her habitat at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, she immediately took a liking to the pair. Emmelina Austin held her five-week-old son Canyon to the glass so Kiki could get a better look.

The adorable moment of connection went wildly viral. In case you missed it, be prepared to be amazed.

15. Strangers are donating breastmilk to baby whose mom died of COVID

Last month, a mom of six children died due to complications from COVID-19. She was nursing her five-month-old baby at the time, right up until the very end. And now her family is hoping to fulfill her wish—feeding him breastmilk until his first birthday.

Strangers have already sent in hundreds of ounces of breastmilk to help.

16. Wayne Brady shares unconventional co-parenting arrangement—and it’s so sweet

In an Instagram video, Wayne Brady shares that has an unconventional co-parenting situation—but it's honestly so heartwarming. Because the more people who are willing to love on a child, the better.

In the video, Brady is holding a baby—but it's not technically his baby. It's a baby boy that his ex-wife Mandie Taketa adopted with her boyfriend Jason Fordham. But it's also still kind of Brady's baby too! He says he's going to be co-parenting the lucky little boy. And as for what the baby will call him, well, it's insanely adorable. He says he'll be the baby's "duncle."

17. Sandra Bullock and Kelly Clarkson can’t keep it together in hilarious viral clip

You know what's inspiring? Two moms having a great time together and laughing uproariously. This was a reent moment, but an instant favorite of 2021 nonetheless.

These two brilliantly talented moms were chatting it up during a segment on The Kelly Clarkson Show this week when the purest and most hilarious talk show moment in history occurred. Even though they don't know each other well in real life, you'd think they were lifelong besties.

18. Ryan Reynolds takes a break from acting to focus on his kids

It's not just moms who should be relied upon to take time away from work to be a parent—dads should too, when their circumstances can allow for it.

“I’m just trying to create a little bit more space for my family and time with them," he said. "You know, you don’t really get that time back. For me, it’s really about getting some quality time with my kids before they’re teenagers who loathe me.”

19. Mom gives birth to healthy 14-pound baby after enduring 19 miscarriages

Meet Finnley Patonai, who was born weighing 14 pounds. Yes, 14 pounds—the size of two newborn babies. (Yes, he was born via C-section. Because YOWZA.)

His parents, Cary and Tim, tell TODAY they were expecting a big baby. But probably not quite that big. After enduring 19 miscarriages, Finnley came to be. He joins big brothers Devlen, 10, and Everett, 2.

20. 9-year-old unlocks phone with dad’s face and saves family from carbon monoxide

After a powerful storm left the Brandao family without power for a few days, the Brandao family used a generator for short periods of time to keep their Brockton, Massachusetts home warm and their food unspoiled. Unfortunately, the generator was emitting carbon monoxide and dangerous levels of the poisonous gas were expelled into their home.

"I heard my dad screaming and saw my mom passed out," nine-year-old Jayline said. Her dad was still conscious, but was completely overcome by the fumes.

Jayline reached for her dad's phone, which was locked. She then held the phone up to her dad's face to unlock it so she could place a call to 911.

21. Spanx CEO shocks employees with $10k gift and the trip of a lifetime

After striking a $1.2 billion deal with a private equity firm, CEO Sara Blakely decided to do good by her employees—like, really good. In a room full of Spanx employees celebrating the big company milestone, she gave a speech that centered around how much she values the people who work for her. She then surprised them with a $10,000 cash gift and first-class plane tickets to anywhere in the world.

The look of shock on her employees' faces is unforgettable for sure. What a note to end the year on!