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I spotted a friend recently at the grocery store, and as we tried to quickly update each other on our summer, we ended up commiserating on motherhood and its challenges. And then, she said it: "I don't know how I could do this without wine, I tell you."

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, her eyes widened and she started to apologize. I laughed. I simply answered, "I don't know how I would do it WITH wine! So, we're even!"

I am a sober mom. Initially, I thought there were only a few of us—like we're an endangered species only talked about in recovery circles. The wine culture that social media often promotes might seem to contradict this, but more and more moms are choosing not to drink.

When my children were very little, I leaned heavily on that five o'clock cocktail. I can remember many afternoons when I would be sitting, either miserably hungover or miserably waiting until I could crack open a bottle, watching my boys play with their Thomas the Train set. Envious, I would watch their orchestrations of the train tracks; their glee at a drawbridge, their immediate pleasure in an afternoon of Thomas and graham crackers, with mom nearby.

A 2-year-old is the poster child for living in the moment. I wanted that ability to be in my own skin, feeling no lack or despair or gloom. Instead, I was slowly disappearing. My children would play, toddle over to me to hand me a train or to pat my knee, and I would nod and smile, absently.

One afternoon Henry had a difficult time going down for his much-needed afternoon nap, and I found myself increasingly agitated by his cries. I caught a glimpse of my reflection, bobbing with him in my arms, my face etched with annoyance. And then something inside me shifted and said, "Wake up. He needs you. And you need you, too."

I finally gathered the courage to try sobriety. And, it was not easy.

I was not blessed with an immediately zen-like confirmation of peaceful living in the now. In fact, for weeks, my world was fraught with re-wiring some strung-out behaviors. But eventually, as my days of sobriety started to add up, a happy unfolding in my soul occurred.

When I gave up drinking, I didn't have a plan. I didn't read a lot of books or start a journal, or research "how to not drink when your kids are driving you nuts" on the internet. I just started to listen to what I call my small "inside voice," that had been trying to have a conversation with me for years but had been drowned out by wine.

My inside voice had been quietly uttering things like this:

"You have the strength to do this."

"You deserve to do this."

"Deal with your life, Dana. Put down the glass, and let's do this."

I think we all have such a voice. It's the one that wakes us at four in the morning with a fabulous idea about a new online business, or storyline, or how we should stop coloring our hair and embrace the grey. The voice is soft and is used to being ignored. We moms often end up silencing it because we are exhausted and are surrounded by tiny humans that are dominating our time and brain cells.

But, if we are able and willing, the voice has some really cool stuff to say. And finally, I listened.

Now, my life that had once been hobbled by nightly drinking and morning tiredness has clarity and purpose. I wake up early, headache free, and make breakfast for my boys. As my children inevitably start to bicker over who has more raisins, I eye them quietly over the rim of my coffee mug.

Sober parenting doesn't earn me any medals or drama-free days. There are still tantrums and lack of sleep and endless cycles of colds being passed around. It is far from perfect, but sobriety helped me to stop being so reactionary. I don't feel like I'm always catching up with chaos. Instead, I deal with life on life's terms.

And the benefits keep unfolding. I sleep better. I took up running again, not to combat the bloat of the alcohol, but because I love the vibrancy it adds to my mornings. I eat better, usually, but I also love a great slice of cheesecake. I am selective about life now; not just scrolling through or mindlessly scarfing down. I understand fulfillment. It doesn't have to be metered out in a glass, but in daily experiences with others.

It's not always easy, but it is better. And for me, it was the obvious choice.

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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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