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Motherhood brings out so many fears—but you’re stronger than all of them, mama

It's 4 am, I'm nodding off in the rocking chair as my 1-month-old baby feeds for the fourth time since I initially "went to bed," and fear sets in—morning is almost here again. Another day that's beautiful in its own right yet is packed with the worry that inevitably goes along with owning the privilege and title of "mother."

Before I had kids, I thought I was invincible. I thought I was bold and brash and so, so strong. But fearlessness just a few years ago had a much different face. It was about jumping out of airplanes. Bungee jumping. Traveling solo abroad. Standing up for myself in adverse situations. My personal fears before kids were few and conquering them mattered only to one person—me.

Those things all seem so simple now. Jump out of an airplane? Gladly. Propel my bungeed body off a bridge? In a second. Travel abroad? Yup. Try it with two tiny kids. Stand up for yourself and others? Obviously. Now teach your toddler daughter to do the same.

I now have a different definition of fearlessness. Because motherhood doesn't come with a parachute or a bungee cord. It doesn't come with a map or a guidebook. Today's fears are plentiful yet take on a much different tune.

Maybe you can relate, mama:

Fear that the baby will wake up and I, once again, won't get any sleep

After every late-night and wee-morning-hour feeding, I swaddle my baby boy, hold my breath, and ever-so-delicately place him in his crib. It's as if I'm holding lit sticks of dynamite, praying that they won't explode in my face. Because before kids I relied on a solid nine hours, and now I'm the zombie who feels good about a two-hour stretch.

But despite my exhaustion, I know this time is fleeting. That in a matter of weeks, these bleary-eyed feedings will be a thing of the past. That in a matter of months, these middle-of-the-night snuggles with the world's softest skin will be gone forever. Who needs sleep anyway? As they say: sleep is for the weak.

Fear that my body will never be the same

It's been stretched out, stitched up, scratched raw, and sucked dry. My shoulders hunch to cradle a nursing infant. My stomach's not what it was. And, while temporary, every inch of me seems to be constantly soaked in human milk.

But every imperfection is worth it. And I'm getting stronger every day. From daily trips up and down the stairs while carrying not one but two kids. I'm back in my happy place, on the ski slopes, six weeks postpartum. I make time for weekly yoga classes—they help me walk a little taller and open my heart up again. My body is by no means perfect, but it never was. Never will be. But, I'm up for the challenge.

Fear that the screaming baby will create distance between my partner and myself that we'll never be able to recoup

Screaming kids put no one at ease. Especially when it's in your home. Your safe space. At a time when it's natural to be sleeping. (Or during the day, for that matter.) Screaming is an animalistic sensibility that puts people in survival mode and when you're running on fumes while trying to appease a toddler, it creates a level of stress we didn't know existed.

But take a minute to remove yourself from the situation. Before the babies, it was just you and your love. Your sweetie. Your Valentine. The love of your life who helped create these angels in the first place, and that's still the case. When times get hard, remember to lean in, not out, and know that they need you as much as you need them.

Fear that my first baby will resent me now that I cannot give her the same constant attention

Adding another child to the mix is emotional in many ways, but, for me, I couldn't help but sob whenever someone asked how my daughter was adjusting. For two and a half years, my baby girl was my whole heart. My sweetie pie. It truly didn't seem possible that I could share that same love with another being.

But it is possible, and my daughter seems to be coping just fine. In fact, she's obsessed with her brother. My husband and I joke that our son likes his sister more than any of us. And it's probably true. Sure, it's tough to build Magna-tile towers with my little girl while the baby's attached to my breast—but, I've always been one for multitasking.

Fear that my clients will look elsewhere if I take maternity leave

As a freelance copywriter, my clients are my lifeblood. What if they need me while I'm recovering from having the baby and I can't immediately deliver? Will they see me as weak for making time for myself and my family? Will they think I'm incapable of producing the caliber of work I'm known for because they think that my mind will be preoccupied?

But my clients are more than just faceless payors—many have become my friends. They know me. They respect my work and my work ethic, and they know that having a baby won't make me any less competent. If anything, it will only make me more determined. More dedicated to maintaining our professional relationship. More driven to do great creative work that provides for my family. More passionate about my writing because I have that much more love in my heart.

Fear that my friends without kids will never want to hang out again now that I have a growing family

Social media has a ruthless way of letting you know that your single and kid-less friends went out this weekend—and that you weren't invited. These friends innocently assume that you're content staying in with your kids. And while that may be true sometimes, you automatically assume you're no longer fun or cool. For a moment you believe that you're officially a boring parent and that your social life is over.

But your true friends will always be there, and you know that. You've always known that. But now you find it truer than ever. Having a kid doesn't make you any less cool, if anything, it gives you a force of nature you never knew you had. Along the way, you'll also make new parent friends. Men who can share a sanity-saving beer with your husband after the kids go down, and women who can truly understand your hopes and fears as a mother because they openly share many of the same.

Fearlessness isn't about the complete absence of fear—and neither is motherhood. It's about exercising courage in spite of your fear. It's about mastering your fear. Motherhood isn't for the faint of heart. It's for those who look fear straight in the face and say, yeah, I've got this. And you do. You've 100% got this, mama.

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My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

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

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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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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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