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“Who do you love most?" My siblings and I must have asked our mom this question a thousand times throughout the years.


She never answered, though. Not once did our mother slip up and let a single tell-tale syllable roll off of her tongue, disbursing into a million tiny pieces that couldn't be unheard. Never once did her eyes dart to one of us instinctually, giving her away.

Each time we asked, she maintained the same poker face; the same knowing twinkle in her eyes as she assured us that she loved us all equally.

Unsatisfied, we never stopped asking; yet time and time again, her response was always the same.

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This memory crept to the surface of my mind almost two years ago as I faced the transition from being a mother of one, to becoming a mother of two.

The thought came to me in an instant.

It presented itself in the middle of the night, as I stood at the doorway to my son's room staring in awe at the subtle rise and fall of his tiny chest; listening to his breaths that seemed to simultaneously give me life of my own.

It found me during the moments spent watching my toddler run through the sprinkler with total abandon, while a new set of joyful flutters filled my belly from within.

It occurred in the exact second when I looked down to see two pink lines materializing on that cheap plastic stick.

Each time it entered my mind, the fear consumed me: “What if I don't love my kids the same?" This ever-nagging question rang in my ears throughout my entire second pregnancy.

It was this worry that stole my peace night after night, as I lay in bed wondering how I could make enough room in my already bursting heart for another.

It was this unsettled feeling that I cried over on the way to the hospital after dropping our oldest boy off. The next time we saw him he would be a big brother, and I wondered how I could ever match the same overwhelming love I felt for him.

As with so many other things—if only I had known then what I know now, I wouldn't have wasted all of that worry.

When our second child was born, my heart grew exponentially in an instant, surpassing anything I ever could have imagined. I loved this new baby with my whole heart. And his big brother? I somehow loved him even more than I had before.

The truth is, I don't love my kids the same at all, but I realize now that that was never the goal. My love for my them is as unique as they are from one another.

I love my oldest as the perfect replica of the best guy I know; his Daddy.

I love my youngest in the way that his smile reflects my own, right down to his full lips and the gap between his two front teeth.

I love my big as my sidekick; always up for exploration and adventure.

I love my little for his closeness; for the way that he nestles into my neck and lays the whole weight of his body against me, sinking into my own.

I love the ornery gleam in my oldest's eyes, and the way that his wit is far beyond his two years.

I love my little one for the way that his blue eyes shine with delight as he takes in the big wide world around him.

I love my big for his spunk, and I love my little for his sweet.

“Who do you love most?" It's the same unanswered question from all of those years ago, except that now I'm the one with the knowing smile and the twinkle in my eye.

For so very long, I thought my mom was pulling one over on the three of us kids. It wasn't until I became a mother myself that I finally recognized the sincerity behind her very diplomatic answer.

I get it now, though. Truly.

These babies of mine?

I love them in the way that I love both sunshine and moonlight; not one more than the other. Each one just as much, but never the same.

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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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