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Before I became pregnant, I heard so many horror stories about pregnancy that I mentally braced myself for what I thought would be the most miserable nine months of my life. I quickly realized that the well-intentioned mamas who tried to prepare me weren't exaggerating about the physical and mental challenges of this extraordinary journey. (But, I’ve realized, they were leaving out a lot of the fun, surprising-in-a-good-way, amazing parts of pregnancy.)


The challenges are there—believe me. Nausea (and not just in the morning). Extreme fatigue. Body parts that ache 24/7. Food aversions. Labored breathing. Running to the restroom before I leave the house only to realize five minutes into a car ride that, yep, I needed to pee again.

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Unsolicited comments on everything from the appearance of my bump to whether or not my husband and I were "trying" to why we weren't finding out the gender of our unborn child. The roller coaster of emotions—laughing one second then crying the next. A little voice of self-doubt whispering whether I truly have what it takes to be a good mother.

But the most shocking development of all is that I have never felt more empowered, powerful and confident in my own skin. And—dare I say it—I have never felt sexier than I do now at 20 weeks pregnant. ?

My growing bump is a source of pride. My husband makes it a point every single day to crouch down to kiss my belly and to marvel at the life we've created. I feel blessed to be able to bring a child into this world, and all of the other sacrifices pale in comparison.

Tracking my baby's progress each week has given me a newfound appreciation for the strength of the female body—beautiful in all its stages. There is something so liberating about focusing on the incredible feats it can accomplish instead of merely what it looks like on the outside.

It wasn't always this way, though. In the beginning, after confirming the life-changing news, I was euphoric but overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all. The reflection in the mirror felt as uncomfortably foreign and intimate to me as staring into a stranger's eyes.

With how-big-can-they-possibly-get breasts (little did I know...), painful acne, widening hips, and a bloated belly reminiscent of the freshman fifteen (it took a longer time than I imagined to develop that cute bump), I was taken aback by this traumatizing second puberty.

It was a far cry from my bikini-clad figure just a few months prior during our summer vacation in Europe. I was in that awkward in-between stage where old clothes no longer fit yet I was swimming in maternity items.

Two months after finding out I was pregnant, we celebrated my husband's best friend's wedding. I recall contorting and panting to get a floor-length black gown over my newly-earned curves, nervous my body would betray the secret that I held close to my heart.

Rather than playing it safe sitting in the corner, I abandoned all of my insecurities to dance the night away with my oldest and dearest friends, and indulge a little too much in the dessert hour (pregnancy does have its perks!). My happiness must have been palpable because a few people stopped in their tracks to tell me I had never looked better.

It wasn't until I surrendered control, and started owning the miracle within me that my mindset drastically shifted.

We don't lose our beauty overnight when we become mothers. If anything, it magnifies tenfold because of the life we are carrying.

We don't have to choose between being motherly OR sexy, fierce, career-driven, funny—we can still be *all* of those things. ? Even if our entire wardrobe now consists of leggings (FTW!) and underwire bras are a distant memory.

So mamas, the next time you get down on your appearance during pregnancy:

Remember that your body knows exactly what it’s doing to nourish and develop this remarkable little person that you have dreamed about for so long. (Ditch the scale—you don’t need a number to tell you what you’re worth.)

Remember that when your partner tells you that you look beautiful, you should believe them. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people and energy during this time.

Remember that you deserve to splurge on some maternity items that are super comfortable, fit well, and make you feel more like your fabulous self.

Remember that watching our bodies transform is so many things—confusing, awkward, wild, amazing, and empowering. It’s totally okay to loathe the process but love the hard-earned outcome.

Although you might not believe it now, one day you might look down at your tummy and miss those precious kicks and movements. ? It’s going to be over before you know it.

And, mama, mostly what I want you to remember is that motherhood looks amazing on you. ?

It may have been hard to imagine just a few weeks ago, but life with your baby is probably starting to feel like the new normal. From establishing sweet rituals throughout the day to finding ways to carve out that all-important time for yourself, you are really doing great, mama!

Your baby is also getting the hang of life on the outside, too. Especially if you two waged a battle against colic together, this is the point where you are probably claiming victory, which means interactions are getting all that much sweeter. As your baby feels more comfortable with their new world, you will probably notice that some new routines are falling into place, which makes this a good time to reinforce some healthy habits around nap time and bedtime.

With more reliable sleep schedules, you two might also have more energy to take on some stimulating at-home activities. If returning to work is also on the radar, whether in a home office or in a workplace, you might be wondering how you will balance it all. Trust us when we say that you can and will figure it out, just like millions of mamas and babies before you. Thankfully, you can also learn some of the best tips and tricks from them, too.

As you continue to settle into this exciting phase, here are some of our 3-month essentials for you and baby:

To takealong a favorite toy anywhere: Infantino Playtime Pal

Infantino Play Toy

Now that your baby is awake for longer stretches of time, a tactile toy can help keep their focus while you cross tasks off the list around the house.

$14.99

To keep organized: GO by Goldbug stroller organizer

stroller organizer

Why is it that blow-out diapers happen at the worst times?! Keep everything you need organized and within reach with a stroller organizer so you don't spend precious time searching for the wipes.

$16.99

To bottle-feed with ease: Dr. Brown’s bottle set

Dr. Browns

Cleaning bottles can feel like a part-time job, so make it as simple as possible for yourself with a set that is easy to clean. (A bottle-specific brush helps, too!)

$39.99

To offer tummy-friendly formula: Up&Up gentle formula

Babies often arrive in this world with mighty sensitive stomachs. If you are formula or combo-feeding, finding an option you both feel good about can do wonders.

$19.99

To entertain your mini Mozart: Baby Einstein ocean orchestra

baby einstein

Piano lessons might still be years in the future, but it's never too soon to start fostering your baby's music appreciation! By stimulating multiple senses during playtime, research shows babies experience even stronger cognitive benefits.

$19.99

To simplify pumping breaks: Spectra breast pump

breast pump

Whether you are going back to a job outside the home or simply want to help your baby get comfortable with an occasional bottle, breastfeeding mamas are going to want a workhorse pump that makes those pumping sessions as easy as possible.

$200

To keep breakfast simple: KIND breakfast bars

Kind bars

Gone are the days of taking your time to get ready in the morning. Make sure you always have breakfast covered with a supply of nutritious bars you can eat while multitasking.

$2.99

To get past the midday slump: Keurig k-mini single serve

Keurig

Unfortunately, multiple wake-ups during the night doesn't mean you'll get to sleep in longer. If the alarm went off too early, it can help to have a midday coffee break (or two).

$89.99

To protect your lobes from a grabby baby: A New Day stud earrings

New Day earrings

If dangling earrings are suddenly feeling like quite a hazard in the proximity of a handsy baby, swap them out for some stylish new studs. Your ears will thank you!

$7.99

To manage your day: The Time Factory mom life planner

mom life planner

Show mom brain who is boss by keeping all of your tasks and commitments together in one place. Now you'll know exactly what you're supposed to do on any given day.

$8.19

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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