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Dear kids,

This letter is for the day you spread your wings: whether it's a graduation day or a wedding ceremony, or a new adventure you're about to take. It's for the day you step into the wild blue; it's for the day you begin your own life.

I want you to know whatever you make of this life, I am so so proud of you. There's nothing you could ever do to make my love die down or be snuffed out. No matter what choices you make, I will forever be your greatest fan. I will always be here for every phone call and for every time you need a reminder of who you are.

But I know it's time. I know it's time for you to paint the painting that's inside your heart and I am so excited to watch.

I wrote this letter for the hard days, for the ones where you wonder if you're the only one and if you're all alone. Let me assure you that every mistake you are about to make has been made, and probably most of them by me. Don't judge yourself harshly my love; spread your wings, trust yourself and keep on flying towards the dreams that make your soul come alive.

There will be hard and terrible days, but there will also be wild and wonderful days full of more joy than you ever thought possible.

One of those days for me was the day I had you, my love. There's no greater honor or joy in my life than the one of being your mom.

You will make mistakes: We all do. Chances are you will make lots and lots of them. Sometimes you will fail miserably and terribly and in that moment you will wonder if you failed or if you are a failure.

My dear kids, please remember this: you will fail; you are never a failure.

Money might be tight: You will make it. My bank account has been on empty and I've gotten notifications of overdraft fees. That feeling falls like a rock in the pit of my stomach. It's sickening and scary and feels out of control. I've dug to the very back of the freezer and been grateful to find one lone chicken thigh to serve with rice.

Those days are hard. They're hard and unnerving, but baby you will make it. You will discover that there are more important things than money and you can do hard things. No matter how broke you are you can laugh; you can hold the ones you love tight; and you can strategize and dream… because believe me, it won't always be like this.

Sometimes you will be your worst self: Everyone has days like that. Some days I have been angry. I have yelled when I should have been soft and kind. I've lost my temper and then felt shame cover me like a too-hot and scratchy blanket. I've wanted to hide because I didn't think I'd ever be able to be the woman I'm meant to be. On days like this you will find that humility and an apology go a long way.

The bad days don't define you, and they never will. You will rise from the pit; you will shake off that scratchy blanket; and you will find you are enough. You're enough, not because you're perfect, but because you're enough exactly how you are.

You will be misunderstood: Your heart will heal. I've had days when I thought I was doing the right thing, but the right thing made other people angry and hurt. I still don't know if I made all good calls, I probably didn't, but I was doing my best. Sometimes you'll be accused of things that stab the core of who you are. These times will be so so painful. Ask the people who know you and love you to hold you up during these seasons and to remind you of who you are. You will make it out the other side I promise.

You will doubt yourself: That's normal and it's okay. I have had days when I felt like a little girl playing house. You will have those days too. Courage isn't feeling brave my love, it's feeling fear and putting one step in front of the other anyway.*

You will have days where you fall apart: It won't stay that way. It is okay to fall apart; this isn't your forever. I have drowned in anxiety and your dad has too. Just remember that everything is temporary and the sun will shine again. Reach out even if you feel frozen in whatever it is that you feel. The first step to getting better is speaking out.

I have questioned myself every day of raising you: Every single day. I don't know how much I've gotten wrong and how much I've gotten right. My prayer is that in spite of my mistakes you will know you are loved and you will grow strong into who you are. If there's ever a day when you realize that a thing I did or said wounded you, please tell me so I can make it right.

I love you with my whole heart and I'm cheering for you every step of the way.

Love,

Mama

Originally posted on WonderOak.

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When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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My husband and I always talked about starting a family a few years after we were married so we could truly enjoy the “newlywed” phase. But that was over before it started. I was pregnant on our wedding day. Surprise!

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