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Motherhood is: Looking at my baby and thinking, 'You're perfect'

Your smile is truly genuine, completely uninhibited by insecurities. It is unmasked by facade, unlike the smiles of grownups. You don't care that you have no teeth, or that your jaw goes crooked when your grin is stretched to the max.

Motherhood is: Looking at my baby and thinking, 'You're perfect'

I stand leaning over the side of your crib, my forearms resting on the hard plastic frame. I've come to know this position well—this slightly bent at the waist, spine curved, head half-down—position. My body readily takes this form throughout the day, nursing you, bathing you, playing with you.

Someday, standing upright will feel natural again. When you've grown so big you no longer require my body as a vessel to feed you, entertain you and move you from one place to the next. When you're so tall that I no longer need to crouch to meet your gaze. When I long for the days you were little.

I just laid you down on your back and watched you stubbornly flip, wriggling into your favorite sleep position. You let out a long, squeaky sigh—the sound I've come to learn is the sign that you're down for the count. Only new parents know this bittersweet feeling of freedom and somberness.

I could finally straighten my back if I wanted. I could go stretch out and relax. Read a chapter of my book. Drink that glass of wine that sounded so good an hour ago when you were screaming in the bathtub and I couldn't figure out why. You're sound asleep now and you don't need me—but I think I need you. I can't pull myself away.

It's a wild feeling, but I miss you already.

Your puffy diapered bottom distends in the air, your knees curl under you, little feet resting one on top of the other, your arms are awkwardly tucked under your belly. I bend down further and listen closely for your soft breath. Are you still breathing? Of course you are—it seems silly to check—but I just need to hear the sound that calms me.

What a perfect, tiny human you are. I've called you this before, but you aren't, really. Perfect and tiny, yes. Human, no. I mean, literally and scientifically you are, I suppose. But I'm not sure I'm ready to label you with all that accompanies that word—not just yet.

There's far too much baggage and negativity and responsibility attached to it. Sure, humans possess many distinctively beautiful qualities. But humans also have flaws. They lie and they hurt, ill-intentioned or not. They have insecurities. Faults. Scars. You have none of these. You are so pure.

You've yet to develop the critical thinking that, when mixed with selfishness, is the perfect recipe for hurting others. You feel no contempt for those that hurt you. Despite your relentless screams and squirms when I try to suck snot out of your nose or wash your face, you still beam with joy when I walk in the room.

You're entirely free from preconceptions and judgement—the kind that will ultimately be imposed on you by those around you, including, unintentionally, by me.

Your smile is truly genuine, completely uninhibited by insecurities. It is unmasked by facade, unlike the smiles of grownups. You don't care that you have no teeth, or that your jaw goes crooked when your grin is stretched to the max. It's nothing but the deepest, most primal emotion of happiness that turns the corners of your mouth upward, making your eyes glitter with wonder, simultaneously lighting up my life.

And then there's your laugh. So free and guttural, bursting up and out of your belly so fiercely it could knock me off my feet.

Babies are often referred to as "angelic," and this makes sense to me now. There's simply a not-of-this-world quality about you. It's somewhat unfortunate that you won't remember yourself this way—unscathed by society and life experiences. It seems almost too coincidental that your first childhood memories will likely coincide with your earliest human-like behaviors.

The ability to manipulate based on fear of consequences. The feeling of disdain for not getting your way. Or even the positive human traits like kindness and empathy. The time will come when you will need to choose which traits you exude, but right now, you don't have to.

When these infant days are behind you, so too will be the flawless innocence that defines them. I can't help but sense a metaphysical disconnect between the being that you are now, and the being that you will become—as if somehow they are two separate individuals with their own souls.

This crib that contains you now, keeping you safe while you sleep, will not do this job forever. You will outgrow your crib, and you will outgrow your ignorance. The world will crush you as often as it inspires you. It will twist you and bend you and shape you and mold you, tearing you down and building you back up again—and you will have to fight to become what you want to be against what it will try to turn you into.

And when you've reached it, well, there's more bending and shaping to come. Because you're never truly done learning and growing—trying to be the best version of you that you can be. And the world will never stop finding ways to teach you.

So I stand here watching you sleep, staring intently—partially wishing I could freeze time—but mostly looking forward to being by your side as all of your transformations unfold, my angel baby.

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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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