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To the family whose child has cancer, you are the bravest people I know

I want you to know that I see you. All of you.

To the family whose child has cancer, you are the bravest people I know

To the family who's just received a childhood cancer diagnosis,

I want you to know that I see you. All of you.

I am the nurse who admitted your child to the oncology unit to rule out "something serious."

You watched me draw your child's blood, and help them change into their first of so many hospital gowns, and lift them onto the stretcher so they could get their CAT scan.

You probably don't know that I had to steel myself in the bathroom for a minute before I could walk into your room to be with you as the doctor told you that it was, in fact, something serious.

You probably didn't know I was even there. How would you? Time warped, your vision tunneled, your breath left your body, and finding a way to inhale it back in was close to impossible.

You probably didn't see me. But I saw you.

You watched as I hung the first bag of chemotherapy, and I gave your child medicine for the pain—and the nausea, and the itching, and the heartburn. You worried about side effects. You asked 100 questions but couldn't hear the answers. You stared at that bag of chemo, simultaneously hating it and willing it to work.

We stood together in the bathroom. Your child between us, all three of us looking into the mirror as together we shaved your child's head so that the hair loss wouldn't feel so dramatic.

I want you to know that while you were watching your child in that mirror, I was watching you.

I watched you choke back tears, and smile bravely at your baby, and tell them how cool they looked with a shaved head. And when your child went back to bed, and you scooped the trimmings into your hands and wept over them, I watched you then, too.

The truth is that I watch you a lot.

Because while of course, it is my job is to take care of your child, it is also my job to take care of all of you. Because the reality is that childhood cancer is a family diagnosis. The child is going through something really difficult. It's okay to acknowledge that you are too.

The parents. You want to absorb every part of this diagnosis so it becomes yours, and not your child's. You would give anything to take the pain away from them. Please hear me: You already hold mountains worth of angst, worry, pain. You make your child's burden lighter every day. I promise you this.

You reflect on how two weeks ago, you had the annoying disagreement with a co-worker that made you upset all day—and that you would do almost anything to have that be the worst part of your day again.

You watch people walking on the streets outside the hospital, and you wonder how they can just go on with their lives while this is happening. You look at the sun and wonder how it has the audacity to shine.

You worry about the bills. You worry about your job. You worry about your other children, your sanity, your partner.

Your child carries this illness, but you carry the world.

The siblings. Who are scared and confused. Who knows that something is wrong, even though we try to shelter you as much as possible. You're too smart for that, I know. You understand more than we share, and I see you.

You want your brother or sister to be better because you love them, and because this is really hard for you. You're just a kid, too, after all. It stinks that you had to drop out of basketball because no one could take you to practice this season. It is not fun to spend your afternoons in the hospital, and weekends with a babysitter. Everyone around you is kind of on edge, and it doesn't feel fair right now. You know what? You're right. It's not fair, and it's okay to be mad.

I want you to know that it's also okay to be happy. If you go to school and forget about what's going on for a while, or if you find yourself laughing a deep kid belly-laugh, it's okay. It's great, actually.

The grandparents. Who hurt for multiple generations—for the child who has been diagnosed, and for that child's parent who is reeling, who will always be your baby.

The village. Who wants desperately to help and has no idea how. Who goes to bed at night and stares at the ceiling, unable to shake the onslaught of emotions. Who feels guilty and blessed and terrified as they look at their own healthy child, and murmur the words, "what if?"

To all of you. Your child is my inspiration, and you are my heroes. Your child's journey is made infinitely better by your presence in it.

Bravery is not the absence of fear and strength is not the absence of struggle. You are scared and struggling, and you are the bravest and strongest people I know.

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My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

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

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