60+ mamas tell us the *one* thing they wish they had known about newborns

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We have nine months to prepare as we watch our belly grow and feel kicks and movements. But somehow, when babies arrive, we can feel totally clueless (at least the first time around) about the little things newborns do. Maybe you've been around enough babies to know what is coming, or maybe you are changing a diaper for the first time in your life and have no idea where the velcro straps go. We've been there.

We asked #TeamMotherly to share what were the things they didn't know about newborns they wished someone had told them, and we received more than 2,000 responses. Here are some of them:

1. "How your birth plan and postpartum might not be the Disney Fairytale that society makes it out to be, and that it's okay to have all the emotions. There will be people who make you feel bad if you express anything other than 100% happiness." β€”Lindy A.

2. "That the work is endless, and that sometimes it might take a while for your partner to 'get it' and share the load almost equally, but it'll be amazing when she or he does, and it'll be amazing to see them be as close to the baby as you are." β€” Michali K.

3. "They gag on mucus right after birth and they pause in between breaths, both of which are terrifying. 😩" β€”Christen A.

4. "The first night home is the worst." β€”Kentuckysunshine

5. "Take lots and lots of pictures of yourself with the baby! You'll have 100 photos of baby and dad but not with yourself!!" - Kiran Z.

6. "That it is okay to bottle feed. My oldest was intolerant and had to be switched from breastfeeding to expensive formula at 5 weeks old. I felt like somehow I failed even though he cried hours less and finally gained weight."β€”FredaMae C.

7. "Anxiety! They said to look out for depression but anxiety was never discussed. I was blindsided."β€”Ann Ross E.

8. "You will think your newborn is adorable and only gets cuter... But when you look back on those candid newborn photos you will see what everyone else saw, a wrinkly pink alien baby πŸ˜‚" β€”Farren R.

9. "That it's okay to have an 'easy' baby! Not every baby is super fussy and a bad sleeper! My son was practically sleeping through the night at 3 weeks old and I was freaking out thinking something is wrong because everyone told me to expect sleepless nights, lots of tears and trouble with breastfeeding but that isn't the case for everyone." β€”Lexi P.

10. "The importance of skin to skin and the golden hour for those lucky enough to keep their babies with them after they're born ❀️" β€”Laura T.

11. "So so so much laundry! You'll be amazed at how many loads of tiny tiny clothes, blankets, burp cloths, etc you'll wash!"β€”Valerie C.

12. "I'm telling you, you can't 'spoil' a baby with cuddles. No matter how many people tell you that you will. Cuddle them, they're only small for a short time ❀️❀️" β€”Zoe L.

13. "That it is okay to restrict the amount of visitors at the hospital and the first few weeks at home. It's okay to be selfish and want that time to spend as a new family and bonding and getting used to the new baby! My husband and I were so overwhelmed with visitors. I was learning to breastfeed, had just been cut open and had a new baby! Those first few days as so special for the new parents!" β€”Heather S.

14. "That clipping their tiny nails would be a traumatic event."β€” Shannon A.

15. "All. The. Poop. Like up the back, out the sides, all over the sheets, in the hair kind of poop and how many onesies would be ruined." β€”Renee N.

16. "Until you get adjusted to your new life, you will probably cry just as much as they do." β€”Sarah S.

17. "That you're going to look/feel like a zombie the first 12 weeks until you get used to it. 😬" β€”Elyse C.

18. "They go through so many changes and will likely have a peak fussiness period around 5-7 weeks but just keep going it get better at 8 weeks. ❀️" β€”Jera L.

19. "'Success' must be redefined to be realistic. Everyday ask yourself two questions: Is the baby alive and well? Are you alive and well? If you can answer yes to both of those questions... BOOM, SUPER SUCCESSFUL PARENTING STREAK ACTIVATED! The dishes in the sink, laundry in the dryer, and general mess will always be there. Stop letting tasks determine your worth, ladies! Crushing it no matter what the backseat of your car looks like or if you've got some pile of wrinkly sheets on a couch somewhere!" β€”Melissa S.

20. "A lot, but the weird noises they make, and the quivering, the weird skin rashes like cradle cap or baby acne... I spent the first 6 weeks thinking my child was seizing and developing diseases all to find it's all normal newborn stuff." β€”Autumn G.

21. "Getting to shower IS your 'break'. The sleep while the baby sleep advice is silly, how feeling out of control emotionally is normal. I could go on and on." β€”Robin L.

22. "I wish someone taught me how to be assertive towards people who criticized me in that first year; I wish someone had told me how to believe in myself and trust my heart and guts as a new mom. I wish someone had told me that I was courageous strong and that no matter what unfolded to always remember that I am good and will always be good enough for her." β€”Chele Y.

23. "How afraid you are of holding or even touching your tiny human! I would just stare at my son and think what am I supposed to do with this fragile little creature like why was I allowed to take him home from the hospital?" β€”Sarah P.

24. "How easily and quickly postpartum depression can sneak up on you with your firstborn. I was able to recognize the signs the second time around and my heart is with every Momma that has ever had to go through it .πŸ’œ" β€”Lekeitha W.

25. "It's okay to not feel this unconditional love the first time you see them. It takes time for some people. (But it does eventually happen!) I felt very ashamed of these feelings until I started talking to other moms about it." β€”Daylen H.

26. "It's okay to ask for help! It's normal to be stressed out. And it's not always possible to 'sleep when the baby sleeps.'" β€”Britanii H.

27. "How truly gassy they are. My little one would wake up crying in pain due to gas troubles. I felt sooo bad for him!" β€”Ashlee S.

28. "How lonely it can feel staying home with a tiny baby. Friends and family seem to disappear once you are home from the hospital." β€”Catrina B.

29. "It's normal for their soft spot to pulse." β€”Shea H.

30. "Just go topless with lots of nipple cream, get your water and Gatorade, some good shows, and be prepared to sit on a comfy chair all day and night!! Once I knew this was normal, life was so much easier than 'waiting' to get up every five minutes." β€”Lauren F.

31. "The fourth trimester, how much this little person needs all your time, witching hour." β€”Janice B.

32. "Wearing them is sanity-saving, and they love it (usually)." β€”Bridget N.

33. "They don't need A LOT OF STUFF! Most of it is waste of money and just a hype." β€”Caren A.

34. "That your friends and family will express so much excitement before baby but offer no real help after baby arrives. I didn't fully prepare to do it alone, but that's the way it turned out to be. I wish I'd hired a doula for birth and postpartum." β€”Dusty S.

35. "The people that bring you food and meals and stay for 20 minutes so you can have a decent shower are the best people ever!" β€”Georgia E.

36. "That the first week is the hardest! Breastfeeding is hard!" β€”LaTrease N.

37. "That the whole 'newborns nurse eight times a day, every 3 hours' doesn't apply to all newborns, and that you'll have to schedule your life around feedings for a long while." β€”Michali K.

38. "How much they want to nurse especially when they are building your supply. So many hours. Nipples were so raw. Also how THIRSTY I'd be and unmotivated to cook." β€”Rachel K.

39. "I didn't know how hard breastfeeding would be, physically and mentally. Those first 6 weeks it's a full-time job if your baby nurses often and it's really draining. Once you're past that hard stage though it's the best thing ever and so worth it." β€”Shanielea M.

40. "That they lose that 'newborn' look in just a few weeks. If i have another, I'll say no to the constant visitors and really take those first few weeks in because it was over too fast!" β€”Megan H.

41. "Forget the normal baby shower gifts someone else will cover that. Get the new mom MAID SERVICE, help her prepare crockpot meals, or even stop by and help do laundry. The daily chores is what I struggled with most in those early months." β€”Lauren C.

42. "You don't have to enjoy every moment. It's hard!" β€”Emily G.

43. "How to change your newborn son without getting peed on. After a few weeks in a friend was over and she showed me. I was so thankful!!" β€”Natalie W.

44. "How helpful the swaddle is! Once we used it correctly sleeping happened way more often." β€”Rebecca C.

45. "Not necessarily about newborns, but how totally amazing your mommy instinct is once it kicks in. Cant explain it but you'll feel it in your gut when something is wrong and sometimes it will help guide the tough parenting choices. Trust it!" β€”Jessica H.

46. "They grow up so quickly, and you'll miss the newborn phase. They did tell me, I didn't listen!" β€”Sarah L.

47."How much of your day is taken up by winding the baby! Used to take so long to get a burp!"β€” Indy C.

48. "They're a lot easier than toddlers." β€”Rachel H.

49. "I wish I knew more about safety measure for newborns. I found today that I used to do a few things in a wrong manner. Some mistakes could have been deadly. Thank God my kids are safe and healthy πŸ™πŸΌπŸ™πŸΌπŸ™πŸΌ" β€”Majida A.

50. "How much of your time is consumed by one little person." β€”Tosha G.

51. "The witching hour! That period of a few hours every night when they'll most likely want to nurse/eat all the time and just generally be inconsolable. We didn't learn about that until a few weeks into parenthood. πŸ˜…" β€”Tara Q.

52. "That literally everybody around you, from your family and friends, is giving you non requested advices on how to breastfeed, what you should be eating, how to hold or not hold the baby and how to make him sleep. But that at the end of the day the baby is yours and you know him better than anybody else, so just do as you feel like!" β€” Elisa B.

53. "It's pretty hard to break them! I was so nervous with our baby when she was first born, but they aren't as fragile as they seem and there was no reason to be SO paranoid!" β€”Dominique M.

54. "Babies can get acid reflux, making sleep very difficult and almost non-existent for baby and parents!" β€”Alyssa G.

55. "Don't [be mad at] your partner for not doing it your way (albeit the correct, highly-researched way 🀣) by kid #3 you won't care that they mismatched the outfits or gave your kid mashed peas for three meals in a row." β€” Alexis M.

56. "Yes, they sleep a lot, but it's not always at night. And for some babies, it's never, ever, ever anywhere but someone's arms. I never realized how much time I would spend just holding a sleeping baby and sitting." β€”Jillian E.

57. "That newborns and babies cry and scream for no apparent reason and it will feel like someone is flushing your intestines out and cutting your heart up with a scalpel and everyone just gives you 'that's The way the cookie crumbles with a baby', but no one tells you how much it hurts your new mothers heart... πŸ˜“" β€”Anita H.

58. "Take turns with your SO (if available/an option) at night so you can get rest. Even if you breastfeed, have your SO burp, change the diaper, and put baby back to bed so you can get more rest." β€”Jenna S.

59. "You'll be SO tired and yet your heart will be so so full." β€”Jenna S.

60. "How loud they are when they sleep!" β€”Mallory D.

61. "They normally don't want to sleep in a bassinet or crib! They want to be snuggled πŸ’œ" β€”Olive M.

62. "That it's okay if you don't bond with your baby immediately. It doesn't mean you are a terrible mother or that you don't love your baby. Some things take time. We had a traumatic delivery and it took me a couple of hours to really fall in love and I know friends where it's taken much longer but it wasn't for want of trying. We now all love our babies fiercely but it took time for some of us. ❀️" β€”Marissa J.

63. "How noisy they are! The grunting, snuffling, heavy breathing, crying and how their breathing is not regular just to scare the heck out of you at 2am when they decide to hold their breath. 😳" β€”Vicky B.

64. "The growth spurts, sleep regressions... currently six weeks and she didn't sleep at all last night! And how much coffee I would drink in a day." β€”Angela H.

65. "They are very in tune with your lifestyle even starting in the womb!" β€”Niccole A.

66. "That everything is always an experiment! I can't tell you how many things I ordered at 3am to try them out to see what worked best for our baby. Also, that you will need Amazon Prime because you're not leaving the house as quickly as you used to before." β€”Emily P.

67. "Never understood 'I love you so much it hurts' until I had my babies. It's a love that can't be explained but with that love is a worry I will never worry for anything or anyone the way i worry about my kids. You hear people say all this but you have to have kids to truly feel it." β€”Amanda M.

68. "Just that it's over way too quickly, so cherish every moment even the stressful ones because they will soon be in school before you know it and then that's it, it's gone... my baby is now an adult and I would love to be able to do it all again." β€”Ceriann F.

69. "That the newborn phase goes way too fast. πŸ₯°" β€”Rachel

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to washβ€”and dry!β€”your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devicesβ€”thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$99.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of colorβ€”well, colorsβ€”to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

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

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As life begins to speed up this holiday season, it's important to unwind from the hustle and bustle with a celebration with friends and family. A good drink can add a festive touch while warming you up and refreshing your palate. Whether you're a bartender in the making or a novice, we've got you covered.

If you're a mixologist, dive in and enjoy crafting these tasty cocktails. Feel free to get fancy and add your own twist to the recipes. If you're a newbie, know that you don't have to be a bartender to whip up tasty drinks this year. Follow each recipe step by step and spend more time enjoying the holiday. Cheers!

Here are nine easy to make cocktails to enjoy (and impress your guests) this holiday season:

Zesty diplo cider

Zesty diplo cider

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Diplomatico Mantuano Rum
  • ΒΎ cups water
  • lemon spice tea bag
  • 1 oz apple cider
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • cinnamon stick
  • lemon slice
  1. Bring water to boil in saucepan; toss in lemon spice tea bag and steep for 5 minutes.
  2. Remove bag and stir in sugar, apple cider, Diplomatico Mantuano Rum and cinnamon stick.
  3. Heat just to steaming.
  4. Garnish with cinnamon stick and lemon slice. Optional: add Β½ tsp of butter to mug.

Apple cinnamon daiquiri

Apple cinnamon daiquiri

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Diplomatico Planas Rum
  • Β½ oz Apple Schnapps
  • ΒΌ oz Cinnamon Schnapps
  • Β½ oz Freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ΒΎ oz Pressed apple juice
  1. Shake all ingredients with ice and fine strain into a chilled glass.
  2. Garnish with a cinnamon stick or apple wedge.

Prepare to be empressed

Prepare to be empressed

Ingredients:

  • 1.5oz Empress 1908
  • .25oz Italicu
  • .5oz lime Juice
  • .5oz rosemary-infused simple syrup
  1. Shake ingredients on ice, strain into a chilled coupe.
  2. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

Spiced old fashioned

Spiced old fashioned

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Partida AΓ±ejo
  • 2 Bar spoons of Maple syrup
  • 2 Slices of Fresno Chili's Dash Angostura Bitters
  • Orange Peel
  1. In an old-fashioned glass muddle the fresno chili slices, bitters and maple syrup.
  2. Add ice and Partida Añejo.
  3. Stir to mix all ingredients.
  4. Garnish with an orange twist.

Americano cocktail

Americano cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 1 Β½ oz Boissiere Sweet Vermouth
  • 1 Β½ oz Campari
  • Soda
  1. Build directly in a highball glass on the rocks.
  2. Top with soda.
  3. Garnish with an orange slice.

Pumpkin pie martini

Pumpkin pie martini

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Jaisalmer Indian Gin
  • 1 oz Dos Maderas Rum
  • Β½ oz Half and Half
  • 2 Tbsp Pumpkin Puree (canned or homemade)
  • 1 oz Maple Syrup
  • ΒΌ tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 3 Ice Cubes
  • Maple Syrup
  • 1 Graham Cracker
  • Β½ tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp Granulated Sugar

For the Rim:

  1. Crush graham cracker in a Ziploc bag or food processor until it resembles sand.
  2. Stir in the cinnamon and sugar. Line the rim of a martini glass with maple syrup.
  3. Dip/roll in the cracker mix. Set aside.

For the Martini:

  1. In a cocktail shaker, combine the ice and remaining cocktail ingredients.
  2. Shake vigorously until shaker chilled to the touch.
  3. Strain and pour cocktail into the prepared martini glass.
  4. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and nutmeg.

Peach tree old fashioned

Peach tree old fashioned

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Peerless Rye
  • 1 tsp. Barrel-Aged Maple Syrup
  • 4 Large Peach Slices
  • 2 Dashes Black Walnut Bitters
  • Orchid for Garnish
  1. Muddle two peach slices in a mixing glass, add all other ingredients and stir with ice for about 15 seconds.
  2. Double fine strain into a rocks glass full of crushed ice and garnish with remaining peach slices and orchid.

East Indian gimlet

East Indian gimlet

Ingredients:

  • 1.5oz Jaisalmer Gin
  • 1.5oz lime juice
  • .75oz Ginger Simple Syrup
  • ΒΎ cup sugar
  • ΒΌ cup chopped peeled ginger
  • .25oz St. Germain
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, for garnish

For the Ginger Simple Syrup:

  1. Bring sugar, ginger, and ΒΎ cup water to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar.
  2. Remove from heat and let sit 20 minutes.
  3. Strain into a jar, cover and chill.

For the cocktail:

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Pour in the gin, lime juice and ginger syrup.
  3. Shake until well chilled. Strain into cocktail glass.
  4. Garnish with fresh rosemary.
Life

Congrats, you're expecting! You're excited about the tiny bundle of joy growing in your womb, and you're reading through the Google search results to prepare for this new adventure. You planned out the music to play when laboring (Enya is relaxing). You have your stretchy pants picked out for post-labor comfort, and are plotting out which brand of lavender aromatherapy you'll use to ease your labor pains. You may also be planning to breastfeed.

This is where I burst your bubble. The number one rule of parenthood that you will soon learn is that you can't plan for everything, and, most of the time, you can't really plan for much of anything.

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No matter how many adorable, organic cotton onesies you order from that boutique you fell in love with on that trip to Laos, your baby will spit up on all of them and you will end up buying cheap onesies in bulk. You may end up taking all the medicine you said you'd never take during labor or welcome baby into the world via a C-section.

And your plans might go out the window when you're faced with real-time decisions that you didn't think to Google. Breastfeeding is one of those things that might not always go as planned.

And yet, as with many of the surprises parenthood brings, I'm here to tell you it will be okay.

Many expecting moms want to breastfeedΒ­. After all, society says breast is best, but few people tell you just how hard it can be. And no one stops to think that using hyperboles like "liquid gold" to describe breast milk is a huge disservice to the many who end up not being able to or who really don't want to breastfeed.

You might have a nurse in the hospital who puts baby on your nipple and tries to teach them how to latch. But when it's 2 a.m. and your 1-day-old baby is screaming with hunger and you're not producing enough milk to satisfy them (and baby is not remembering the lesson from the nurse earlier in the day), the whole breastfeeding thing can feel less like the euphoric bonding experience you preemptively imagined and more like a gut-wrenching impossibility that makes you want to rip all of your hair out of your head.

But you refrain from ripping all of your hair out of your head. Mostly because too many other parts of your body already hurt. And that would require more energy than you have.

You might take all the herbs and pay all the certified lactations consultants and attend all the La Leche meetings, and yet, it's still not happening. Maybe baby isn't latching. Maybe it simply doesn't feel good. Maybe your breast milk doesn't agree with baby. Maybe you bought all the pumping accoutrement and try all of the elimination diet suggestions until you're practically eating just lettuce and iced water exclusively, but baby is still gassy and fussy and sick. Maybe you just don't want to breastfeed. It's your body, after all. They're your precious breasts.

You have a right to do what you want with them and you shouldn't feel pressure to use them to nourish the next generation if that makes you feel uncomfortable. Or if you have to return to work sooner than Mother Nature intended and you don't want to risk leaking during important meetings, or stopping to pump every three hours. All of these things happened to me, and they happen to a lot of us. And it's not the end of the world.

So I'm here to tell you it's okay if breastfeeding doesn't work out.

I know you may feel shame or a sense of failure. You may fear that your baby will get more ear infections, or be overweight, or that you won't bond as strongly, or they'll miss out on all of the other benefits of breastfeeding.

I experienced all of the feelings of guilt and remorse when breastfeeding didn't work out for me and my little one. I felt like I did something wrong and was failing my child. But the truth is whether you breastfeed or formula feed, it's unlikely to have a discernible effect on your child's long-term health or wellbeing. In fact, studies indicate breastfed babies do not have a cognitive advantage over other children.

Worrying about the fact that you're a failed breastfeeder could, though, have a negative impact on your own mental health. One study found that women who planned to breastfeed but were not able to were twice as likely to suffer from postpartum depression as women who were able to feed their babies as planned.

So how do you deal with these feelings? Perspective helps. There are generations of human beings, namely the majority of those born in the decades of the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, and even '90s, who were exclusive formula babies. Our moms didn't breastfeed because they were taught formula was the preferred, "healthier" alternative, and it didn't require tiny humans hanging off their bodies all day, which must have been a revelation at the time.

Social pressure to breastfeed places undue pressure on new moms to produce or fail your baby. It comes from online forums and social media groups, and even from doctors and other professionals. I have seen new moms going to great lengths to avoid supplementing with formula, out of the misguided belief that it's somehow wrong or because they'd been made to feel that doing so would mean "throwing in the towel."

All that matters is that baby gets fed. It doesn't matter how that happens. Whether you feed your baby breast milk or formula, the only thing that's important is that baby is getting the nourishment they need.

When I finally gave up trying to feed my baby my milk, I ended up donating nearly 1,000 ounces of pumped milk to a mom who wasn't able to produce her own milk and had a sick, underweight baby who could only tolerate breast milk.

In the end, I was able to feed my healthy baby with formula that suited him best, and I helped someone else's baby thrive. When I was finally able to get over my guilt and disappointment in not being able to breastfeed, I realized that some might not call that a failure at all; in fact, some might see it as twice as successful.

This story originally appeared on Apparently.

Life

After months of morning sickness, swollen feet, and midnight chocolate cravings, I finally met my little guy. Yes, he looks so much like his dad, but his dinosaur screams when he is hungry are definitely my contribution to the gene pool. I couldn't help but feel proud.

But those feelings were quickly replaced by fear.

I lost my mom almost seven years ago. I was barely 21 and not yet out of college. My life was never the same. My mom was everything a mother is supposed to be. She was loving, kind and a pillar of strength. She was all those things and more; I had to learn to live without her.

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Over the course of the last few years, there have been tears, there has been pain and important life events have been missed. In each instance, I have found a way to be strong. To tell myself that she would be proud of the woman I have grown into.

But this time it's different. I am a mom now. I have a better understanding of her as a woman and mother. There so many questions I would love to ask her but can't. Was she this scared too? Was she constantly checking to see if I was breathing? Did the sleep deprivation give her terrible baby brain? (I legit go to the fridge 60 times a day).

I will never know.

So, I decided to approach this new chapter in my life the same way I have approached other life events without my mother; embracing the love and care of other women in my life. I decided not to dwell on what could have been but dwell on what is there.

In my eighth month of pregnancy, my younger sister stayed with us for six weeks. She proved to be a gem. She cooked all the food I love and made sure I went for work with a lovely packed lunch every day. My baby and I loved it! (I could tell because of all the jumps in my tummy)

In my ninth month of pregnancy, I asked my grandmother and mother-in-law to stay with us until my delivery. We spent our days discussing womanhood and how things have changed for women in the last few decades. Our talks were empowering, honest and even funny. They helped prepare my mind for labor and they even offered to labor on my behalf (I wish they could've)

The day I went into labor, two aunts were with me at the hospital. One held my hand until I didn't want to be touched anymore. The other gave me a hot bath upon delivery. They offered to stay with me for the night so that my husband could catch his much-needed rest.

The women in my life did their best to ensure I was mothered and I am so grateful.

Every day I live my life with the bits of wisdom my mother left me. I still miss her terribly, but I don't feel alone. I have wonderful women in my life who remind me every day that I'm not.

Life

Almost all parents agree that reading is one of the most important skills to encourage in young children, but did you know that reading to your child can directly impact their brain development? Reading to your children is one of the most important things you can do, but there are also many other quite simple literacy activities that not only help kids learn to read, but show them that it's fun and encourage a lifelong reading habit.

Winter is the perfect time to get cozy and spend some extra time reading. Try one of these literacy activities next time you're in need of some indoor fun this winter.

1. Create a listening station

In Montessori classrooms for young children, the classroom environment is considered critical to learning. Part of a successful classroom environment that meets preschool-aged children's needs is including cozy spaces.

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Especially in a group setting, but even at home, children need quiet little nooks where they can escape and feel safe and enclosed. A listening station makes for a perfect quiet space.

Provide a selection of a few different audio books for your child to choose from. If you don't have any at home, public libraries often offer many great choices. If you feel like splurging, there are other child-specific listening devices perfect for a listening station as well. The Chameleon Reader takes this a step further and lets you turn any book your child loves into an audio book. This offers such a great alternative to screen time, especially during tricky times like long days of airplane or car travel.

2. Make a story bag

A story bag has a collection of small objects with which a child can recreate a story. You can make or buy story bags for any book your child enjoys.

Choose a book they are familiar with and love. Show them the story bag and model how to recreate the story with the objects. Then let them take the lead. Don't worry about it if they get creative with the plot, that's all part of the learning!

3. Introduce sequence cards

Similarly, try providing your child with a series of images from a beloved book and inviting them to put them in order. It's fine if they use the book to help them, it's not a test!

This is super easy to do yourself. You can just take photos of the illustrations with your phone and print them, or order the photos from a site like Shutterfly if you don't have a printer. Laminating will of course make them last longer.

4. Act it out

Many children learn best when they are moving and physically engaged, so try putting your child's favorite story into action, pretending alongside your child as you move through the plot.

Stories with lots of action, such as We're Going on a Bear Hunt or Where the Wild Things Are, are a good place to start, but you can really act out almost any children's book with your child.

5. Do an author study

Next time you read a book your child really likes, ask if they'd like to hear about the person who wrote it. Read them the little author's bio at the end of the book and say something like, "Hmm, I wonder if they've written anything else we might like."

Go to the library and search together for more books by the author you've chosen. If it's a less well known author, you may want to reserve some books from the library ahead of time as well.

6. Use a story-telling inspiration basket

This is super simple and easily tailored to whatever your particular child is interested in. Choose a small box or basket and fill it with a few little items to inspire a story. For example, for winter, you may include a toy snowman, scarf, sled and cookie. Show your child you can use these objects to make up your own story.

When you model the activity, you can write down the story you create, but if your child just wants to tell you the story, that's great too. Write it down for them and invite them to illustrate it if they're interested.

7. Share oral stories

Oral storytelling is becoming a bit of a lost art, but it plays a valuable role in helping young children develop rich vocabulary and a true love for storytelling and reading.

Try doing this as an after dinner activity, turning off all of the lights and lighting a candle to make it special. Don't worry if you don't consider yourself creative, children are sucked in by oral storytelling even if you tell them the simplest story about your day.

In time, you can invite them to join in on the storytelling fun as well.

8. Write the words for their pictures.

Long before children learn to write, they tell stories through their artwork. Invite your child to tell you the story behind a picture they've made and write it down for them.

Not only does this make your child feel super special and valued, it helps them make the connection between written words and stories, which is a key literacy skill.

9. Play reading games

There are so many easy reading games you can play with young children. One of my favorites which we use a lot in Montessori is "I Spy". I love this game because it can be done anywhere, and because children love it!

This is a great one to play if you're stuck waiting at the doctor's office or stuck in traffic. Simply say, "I spy something that starts with 'c'" using the phonetic letter sound. Take turns finding things around you that start with that sounds. For older children, you can play "I Spy" with rhymes instead, saying "I spy something that rhymes with bat".

To play at home, you can also use a basket of objects starting with various sounds.

10. Letter boxes

This is directly based on one of the key Montessori language materials.

In the classroom, children use "sandpaper letters," which are exactly what they sound like, letters made of sandpaper so that the child can really feel the shape of the letter as they trace it. A child is given a box of 3-5 letters which they have been practicing and a box of small objects. The child matches the object to its beginning sound. So if there is a little cat, the child will place it by "c".

In Montessori, children learn the phonetic sounds of the alphabet, rather than the letter names, so this comes fairly naturally. There is no need to buy sandpaper letters for your home, but if you have been working on the phonetic letter sounds with your child, it can be fun to play a similar matching game with objects. You can simply write the letters on card stock and find little objects around your house, or in the dollhouse section of a craft store. Young children love tiny objects and are often very drawn to this work.

Nothing will ever replace reading aloud to your child, but these literacy activities can be really fun ways to incorporate additional language practice into your home and to encourage a true love of reading.

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