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My daughter Wren stomps to the car, angry tears falling from her cheeks. Her 9-year-old rage is barely contained, and I offer her the passenger's seat as her siblings file into their car seats and boosters.

What follows as we sit in the parking lot of the pediatrician's office is a near physical assault on the dashboard, guttural cries escaping her lips every few seconds.

"It's not fair!" she wails, finally letting the grief wipe away some of the fury.

"Nope, it's really not," I answer, having already decided that I won't brightside us through this process.

Though a gluten-free diet offers remission from most of the symptoms of the Celiac disease she's dealt with for seven years, her body is still offering side effects and problems seemingly just for sport. We now began an uncomfortable process to sort through them.

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"I follow the rules. I don't eat what other kids do. I take all the vitamins," she whimpers, her face in her hands and her siblings watching silently.

She inherited her belief that good behavior should produce discernable results from me, though it's a pattern most of us fall into regularly. Follow the rules, collect the prize. Avoid the threat, experience no harm. It feels like common sense, the expectation of a linear process that can be charted, a line drawn on a graph pointing up.

When Wren landed in the ER two years ago for the same issues, there were procedures, observation, outlines, recommendations, and (what I thought was) a clear path moving forward. We emerged victorious on the other side. I did an internal fist pump and marked this problem solved.

That's why when I see Wren ready to explode from the injustice, I get it. Only, I'm just now learning that we spend life in what looks more like a roundabout than on a straight road moving us to our desired destinations.

***

Recent conversations with my friends included the following pronouncements:

"I was off sugar until I was on it again."

"My kid was potty trained and now pees wherever he stands like it never happened."

"I was really doing okay two weeks ago, but something invisible happened and now I'm not."

I felt this when, after six months of relatively stable mental health, I fell into bed fully dressed one night and wept for hours before falling into a near catatonic sleep. The sun coming through the windows the next morning did nothing to alleviate my mood, a mood darkened by the question, Why is this happening again? I thought I was past this.

I wonder if we are ever truly past anything or if we're simply making slow progress that sometimes looks like circling back around to chronic issues for occasional visits.

These visits are never welcome, and they are what make regression in any childhood behavior near unbearable. We covered this ground, you mastered this skill, onward!

In adult lives, it's the same feeling we develop when dealing with career setbacks, flashbacks of trauma, or any sort of loss of endurance or dulling of a skill. Going backward in any way feels like defeat, and it doesn't mesh with the narrative we're sold that says real progress is steady and sure.

Practicing mindfulness helps me respond better to the now, whatever it is, but it also makes me aware of how often I spend life expecting to fully defeat or overcome every vice or obstacle in my path. All evidence points to my life working more like a never-ending game of Whack-A-Mole. Problem solved? Nope. Problem reemerging.

I'm not sure linear exists, and I know I'm not alone. A recent text from a friend put into words what I have been struggling to accept for the last couple of years.

"…the older I get the more I learn that nothing is really linear for me. Grief, growth, spirituality…I just keep hoping it all sort of assimilates toward an upward trajectory…"

This seems to align with the idea that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had about the very long arc of the universe bending towards justice, but it's not hard to see how that trajectory is not a straight, upward moving line. Neither is parenting.

We hope at the end that we have healthy, well-adjusted kids who are secure and ready to lend their gifts to the world, but this beautiful journey is full of setbacks, regressions, and frustrating stalls along the way.

My friend added that it's scary to live through the dips, the low points, and that's true in the bigger story of our world and within the personal stories of our lives. What happens when we don't see that progress, that permanent, positive change?

Put simply, life.

**

Wren improved steadily over a matter of two weeks, but by week three, things took a turn. Her digestive issues returned, not full-force but in a way that changed the direction we were going from forward to somewhere between stalled and backward.

"But it was getting better," she said, shock written across her face.

"And it will again," I told her because I truly believe that statement. I gently added that it will also sometimes get worse, and explained that life is a seesaw. There are days when we're on top, and days when we're way down at the bottom—with most of our earthly existence found somewhere in the unsteady balance of the middle.

We can still live, taking in the now and hope that it adds up to progress and growth in the future. The setbacks certainly don't steal the beauty. They just force us to search harder to find it.

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Back when my husband and I were creating our wedding registry, it was a fun, low-pressure opportunity to select some new dishes and linens. After all, I knew a thing or two about stocking my home and making the "wrong decision" with thread count was the only thing that posed any risk to my sleep at night.

Fast-forward a few years to when I created a baby registry before the birth of my first child—and I found the experience to have a much steeper learning curve. Unlike those sheets, it felt like a bad swaddle or bassinet selection would be catastrophic. Unsure of what to expect from motherhood or my baby, I leaned heavily on advice from friends who already ventured into parenthood. (Starting with their reminders to take deep breaths!)

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Now a mom of three little ones under the age of four, I'm happy to be in a position to pass along some baby registry wisdom.

Go shopping with a veteran parent

As first-time parents, my husband and I barely knew the difference between a bouncer and a swing, let alone what specific features we would want. So when a mom friend recommended we head to Walmart to build my registry together—because she found them to carry the trendy brands she loved AND make registering a breeze during her pregnancy—I leapt at the chance.

By walking through the aisles together and actually getting to see the products, I was much more confident in my registry selections. Thanks to that quick, in-store tutorial from my friend, I understood exactly how to match a perfect infant car seat with an extra base and stroller—which is something I would have been clueless about on my own.

Include items at a variety of price points

When it comes down to it, a registry is really a wish list. So, while I had a personal budget for a stroller if it had to come out of my own pocket, this was an opportunity for me to ask for the stroller of my dreams. And, wouldn't you know it? A few family members went in on it together, which made a bigger price tag much more manageable.

At the same time, it's nice to include some of the smaller ticket items that are absolutely essential. I can't even begin to tell you how grateful I was to skip buying my own diapers for those first few weeks. (With super cute patterns, these are also surprisingly fun to give, too!)

Think about the gifts you would like to give

The first time I bought a mom-to-be a gift after my own child was born, I knew immediately what to look for on her registry: a diaper bag backpack, which I had come to have very strong opinions about after battling falling straps with my first diaper bag. This allowed me to feel like I had a personal touch in my gift, even if I brought one pre-selected by her.

I also appreciate it when my friends clearly incorporate their style into their registry choices, like with adorable baby outfits or nursery decor—and there's no sweeter "thank you" than a picture from a friend showing your gift in use.

Ask for things to grow with your child

Even though it's called a baby registry, there's no need to limit yourself to gifts to use before their first birthday. (To this day, I still have people who attended my baby shower to thank for the convertible bed that my oldest child sleeps in!) Knowing that, I would have included more options with long lifespans into my registry—namely, a baby carrier that can be used during the newborn months, baby months and well into the toddler years. A well-designed baby carrier would have saved my back from serious pain because it would have allowed me to comfortably and ergonomically carry my toddler as she made her way into the 25lb+ club. One brand that's designed to grow with your baby and accommodates 7-45 pounds (up to about four years old) and offers both inward and forward-facing positions is Ergobaby. With several different design and style options, you can easily find one that caters to your parenting needs. From an all-in-one carrier, like the Omni 360, that grows with baby from the newborn stages into the toddler years or a newborn-specific carrier, like the Embrace (and don't worry you can later upgrade to a carrier for an older baby, I recommend the 360 Carrier). The best part? All ergonomic designs are supportive and comfortable for both baby and parent, offering extra lumbar support with breathable, lightweight mesh styles. Everyone (even grandparents!) can get a kick out of babywearing, which is a nice and welcomed break for parents. Having one of these on my registry would have certainly made those first few years so much easier.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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


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Whether I live next to you or across the country, social media makes it easy for us to stay updated on each other's lives and that's a wonderful thing. I love seeing pictures of your kids and I think it's great that you choose to share videos of your child singing, giggling and taking his or her first steps.

I simply choose not to share pregnant pictures, or even a family photo from the hospital once our daughter arrived because my pregnancy, birth and growing family are parts of my life I wanted to protect from the outside world.

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