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Motherhood is: Managing to keep on going even when it feels like you can't

I still don't feel completely steady on my feet, but I'm on auto-pilot now. I get up. I change him. I feed him. I put him back in bed. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Motherhood is: Managing to keep on going even when it feels like you can't

The last thing I expected to gain from becoming a mother was confidence. Heightened anxiety? Sure. A few extra pounds? Definitely. Confidence? Unlikely.

I remember being in the hospital, a stay that lasted a week, and dreading diaper changes to a level that seemed unjustified. It was a combination of having no idea what I was doing and not knowing what my baby was going to do—which could involve fluids being squirted anywhere from my head to my toes and everywhere in between.

But the diaper changes became quicker. First, they went down from 20 to 15 minutes per change, then 10, and so on. I can now change a diaper in about 30 seconds if I'm in a hurry and the mess is not extraordinary.

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I remember having the nurses in the NICU teach my husband and me how to bathe our new, tiny baby and thinking I could never do it on my own. When we went in for our test run, I made my husband do it. The nurses wandered around while peeking over to make sure we were bathing him correctly, and there was no chance I could handle the pressure of their peering eyes.

Now, I bathe my baby by myself just fine. In fact, I bathe him while playing music and singing to him, trying to convince him that taking a bath is not meant to torture him and that one day he will actually enjoy it. I laugh. I smile. I talk to him. It's just something we do now.

I remember the first time I put my little boy in his newborn car seat. I can try to blame the hormones (they surely played a part), but mostly I think I was unfamiliar with the awkward mush that newborns turn into when they aren't held just right. It was when we were preparing to leave the hospital to take our son home for the first time. We buckled him in, after having watched videos on YouTube teaching us how to properly place our baby in the seat, and I sobbed as I saw his slouchy little body look as uncomfortable as his scream told me he was.

Now, I plop the little guy in there with ease. He still doesn't like it. Who would like to be shoved into one of those things anyway? But I now recognize that comfort isn't the highest priority in a car seat. It's okay if he doesn't love being buckled in because those buckles are what keeps my boy safe. Plus, I also know now that he will be asleep within five minutes on the road, as long as I play him some good music.

I remember waking up for middle of the night feedings and changes, positive that operating on such little sleep meant I was not in any condition to care for someone so small and fragile. Surely, I was hazardous to my baby and would break him if I continued to try to manage these middle of the night rituals with a constant dose of sleep deprivation.

I'm still tired during the night when I wake up to take care of my baby. I still don't feel completely steady on my feet, but I'm on auto-pilot now. I get up. I change him. I feed him. I put him back in bed. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I remember, just the other night, trying to get my baby to sleep. He had given me the cues it was time for bed; rubbing his glazed over eyes while yawning profusely. I took him up to bed, wrapped him snuggly in his swaddle and began our bedtime routine.

I walked with him while bouncing him in my arms. Forty-five minutes in, I was sure my arm was going to give out and my baby was going to end up on the floor. One hour in and that same arm was still bouncing away.

My arm didn't give out. My baby didn't end up on the floor. His eyes eventually became heavy, and he was drowsy enough to put down and fall asleep. We made it through; my arm intact and him peacefully asleep.

Each step of the way, I have doubted myself.

Becoming a new mother is incredibly overwhelming, from exactly how you are supposed to do things, to when they are supposed to happen. There are pieces to the puzzle that are new and unfamiliar and seemed to me to be completely out of reach.

While I'm still a new mom and will be able to claim that title for a while, I've persevered through every turn. Whenever I thought I couldn't go on any longer, I went on. Whenever I thought that I wasn't capable of something, I did it anyway. Whenever my baby has needed me, I've been there for him.

These little worries and doubts along the way have turned into accomplishments. There has never been a time in my life when I was forced to try even when I was convinced I couldn't until I became a mother.

There isn't an opt-out option in motherhood. I don't get to decide that something is too hard or that my body isn't capable. The only option is to do it anyway, despite the self-doubt; and in turn, for me, has come self-confidence. What a beautiful, and unexpected gift, that my son doesn't even know he has given me. I hope one day I can gift him some confidence of his own.

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My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

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