As I lay in bed, dozing in and out of sleep, a gentle nudge startled me.

“Mommy, it’s time to wake up,” my daughter whispered in my ear. I glanced at the clock, letting out an audible sigh as I told my daughter it was far too early to be awake. Irritated, I told her to crawl into bed and I turned on the television in hopes of getting a few more minutes of sleep.

Despite a king size bed, my petite child crawled her way to my side, her arm draped over my body as she quietly said, “I need a hug.” Another grumble left my mouth as I slowly fell into a light sleep to sounds of my daughter reciting the theme song to Paw Patrol.


For so many years, I longed for the moments of hugs and unconditional love—just not before the crack of dawn.

I grew up in a tight knit family, with a mother who is now more of a best friend to me, and I hoped that someday I would be blessed with a daughter to share a similar bond with.

Our road to parenthood didn’t come easily for my husband and me. After years of infertility and the loss of two children, our surviving triplet was finally overcoming her medically fragile start to become a healthy little girl. For the first two years of her life, I fretted over her premature stature and wondered if she would ever catch up to children her own age. Time was moving at a snail’s pace and I couldn’t wait for the day when she might be considered “healthy” and “normal.”

If only I could go back in time and embrace those slow days.

By the time she turned 3 years old, doctors cheered as they told us our child was officially caught up. The days of praying for time to speed up gave way to me searching for the pause button in life. My daughter became more independent and curious of the world around her. The days of grabbing my hand for help were few and far between.

Instead, I found myself on the sideline of my daughter’s childhood, a bittersweet feeling as I watched her figure out how to do many simple tasks on her own.

She no longer needed help to reach the bathroom sink. She didn’t want me put on her shoes, she could do it all by herself. Even getting in and out of the car was no longer a challenge; there was no need for a gentle boost to get into the tall SUV.

While my daughter became rapidly independent, something changed when she turned 4 last month. In recent weeks, she has suddenly become clingy—wanting and needing mom and dad at a moment’s notice. At first, the cries for hugs and kisses were endearing, making my heart swell with pride. My daughter needed me, and her little gestures offered a sweet reminder.

But lately, in the hustle and bustle of life, I found myself pulling back. After 10 repetitive hugs, I needed to get to work. After her offers of kisses on my cheeks, hands, even feet, I needed to get dinner made.

It’s hard to admit, but the clinginess was starting to smother me.

As the sounds of early morning cartoons danced through my dreams, that little nudge arrived once again. “Mommy, the show is over,” my daughter said. I opened my eyes in my foggy state and was brought back to reality.

My little girl was laying next to me, her arm draped over me, her face only an inch from mine. As I looked at her beautiful eyes staring deep into mine, the creases of my mouth crept up into a smile. She matched my smile with one of her own, as she whispered the words, “I love you, Mommy.”

Yes, my daughter needs me, sometimes a little too much. But, that’s OK. All it took was an early morning wake-up call to realize that it’s time to cherish those moments.

The days of her needing me won’t last forever. So I’ll take every kiss and hug I can get, even if it’s 50 hugs in a row.

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.


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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As mamas we want our babies to be safe, and that's what makes what happened to Glee actress Naya Rivera and her 4-year-old son Josey so heartbreaking.

On July 13, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department announced the 33-year-old mother's body was found at Lake Piru, five days after her son was found floating alone on a rented boat. According to Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub, Rivera's last action was to save her son.

"We know from speaking with her son that he and Naya swam in the lake together at some point in her journey. It was at that time that her son described being helped into the boat by Naya, who boosted him onto the deck from behind. He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water," Ayub explained, adding that Rivera's son was wearing his life vest, but the adult life vest was left on the unanchored boat.


Ayub says exactly what caused the drowning is still speculation but investigators believe the boat started drifting and that Rivera "mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat but not enough to save herself."

Our hearts are breaking for Josey and his dad right now. So much is unknown about what happened on Lake Piru but one thing is crystal clear: Naya Rivera has always loved her son with all her heart.

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