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I am a mama, hear me roar. I think I am invincible. I think I can do it all. I think I can be everything to everyone. I think I can be in 10 places at once. I think I can do everything with one hand.

Basically, I think I can do...

All. The. Things.

That is until my second son was born via emergency C-section. (Which was a humbling experience, to say the least.) I could barely care for myself, let alone my newborn and toddler.

Before our second son's arrival, I was extra mindful to include my older son in our baby prep to ensure he did not feel like he was being left out, or brushed aside, or worst of all, replaced. I wanted him to feel as loved and cared for as he typically did.

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I wanted to carve out special "Mommy and Me" time. I wanted to be cautious of the language I used, never saying things like "I can't do ____ because of the baby." This was me trying to do all the things. I felt it was attainable. And it all seemed great in theory, but then my C-section threw me for a loop.

I underestimated it all. The surgery, the recovery, the limitations.

It pained me every time I said, "Be gentle with Mommy because my belly is tender." Or "I'm sorry Mommy can't do that." In the beginning, I didn't realize how many requests I would have to give that response to. Or how many questions I'd receive from my inquisitive toddler about it all like, "How did my brother get here?" I didn't want to scare him. Or scar him, too, for that matter. Because I was the one who wore the scar, not him.

I wanted him to know that Mommy was okay. Mommy could be all the things, to all the people. Mommy had not changed.

(But in reality, Mommy had changed.)

I found myself feeling helpless, hopeless, and worst of all, like a terrible mother.

Both boys needed me. They needed their mama. So I soldiered on, like every mother does. I would grin and bear those tackle hugs from my toddler. I would pick up the baby and wince in pain, but only in private.

I would take deep cleansing breaths before bending down to get my older son dressed as if that would really help. I would get on the floor to play board games, as slowly as a human could possibly move. I would attempt to keep life as "normal" as possible for everyone around me.

I would hide the pain behind a smile. A smile I hoped only I would notice how fake it was. Hoping it was not as transparent to the outside world.

Everyone in my life was so eager to help, that wasn't an issue whatsoever. It was about me, and my boys. I felt the grace period of being understanding and patient lasted only a small time—a week felt like months to my older son.

He wanted his mama to be back to normal. He wanted me to run and jump and play, like I always did. But the truth was, it took me a long time to get back there. I had to be kind to myself. I had to remind myself—I just brought a baby into this world. Via a major surgery.

The muscles that were used to birth my baby are used for everything. Everything. I am not expected to bounce back. I had to put less pressure on myself. As long as that first week felt to my toddler, it would really just be a blip on his radar in the coming months—it would not be something he would remember forever.

Motherhood has taught me so many lessons, too many to count, really. But I think this, this experience, was the most eye-opening of them all. It taught me about self-care and showing myself grace. And, probably the hardest lesson to learn—the fact that I cannot do it all. And maybe most importantly—that no one expects me to.

A friend of mine always says that the mother is the trunk of the tree, and her partner, children, friends, are the branches. If the trunk of the tree is not healthy, the branches cannot flourish. THIS is motherhood, I have learned.

You can't help others, until you help yourself. So, mama, be kind to yourself—be gentle, be compassionate You deserve it.

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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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