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Dear Brand New Mama,

Tonight is a special night. It's the very first night of your baby's life. Yesterday, they weren't here, and today they are. You've known they were there coming for a long time, and, for months and months you've tried your best to imagine what they'll look like and who they'll be.

Now you know.

The moments before they came were hard, harder than you ever imagined they could be, but, with that first cry, you became their mother and them your child. It was seamless really; they slipped into your heart like they'd been there all along.

If they grew inside, you felt your baby's kicks and wiggles and hiccups, you sang to them and read to them, you loved them already but, also, you wondered. And if you adopted them, you wondered, too. You wondered about motherhood and love and what their voice would sound like.

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Today, when your eyes found theirs, you were shocked to realize how simply “them" they were. The moments were probably loud and happy—there were pictures and calls and tears of joy. Right now, though, in the darkness and the quiet of their very first night, take the time to look them up and down, to examine every perfect wrinkle and to kiss every crease.

As you examine them, mama, know that you have a big job ahead.

First you see those little eyes, opening and closing drowsily, dreaming already.

Those eyes will see, first, blurrily, your face. And then they'll see lights and colors and then, soon, the whole world. There will be sunsets that splash the sky in pinks and yellows and trains that move faster than they thought was possible.

They'll see your smile on their first birthday and watch you clap your hands with glee as they take their first steps.

They'll see the tears you cry as you walk them into their first classroom and the worry that creases your brow when their fever spikes.

Those tiny, beautiful, blinking eyes—the ones that will see the beauty of the world anew—they'll also, surely, see pain and sorrow and hate. They'll see their first dog buried, and their first crush turn away and the letter saying they didn't get in. They'll see people hurt others without reason and watch violence haunt our world.

Those eyes, those beautiful eyes, will turn to you mama, every time they see something new, to ask for help understanding. It will be your job to help them see that for every terrible thing that happens, there are a hundred wonderful things that follow.

It will be your job to teach them to see the good in the world and each person that they meet.

You must teach them mama, to use those eyes to look for ways they can help make the world a better place.

Right on the sides of that tiny little head, you see those ears—so small and round and soft.

Those ears will hear every word you that say. They'll hear you tell them how much you love them and how proud you are of the person they're becoming.

They'll hear you tell their teacher that they're trying and tell their dad you can't believe how fast they're growing up. They'll hear birdsong and thunderstorms and crashing waves.

They'll hear laughter and song and the secrets of friends but, along with the beauty, they'll probably also hear things they wished they didn't.

They'll hear small people with big microphones telling the world to hate and bullies, both small and grown, calling names.

They'll hear the cries of a friend less fortunate and the sadness that the evening news brings home. Even when you think, or hope, that they're not paying attention, those little ears will hear it all.

Your job mama is to teach that baby how to listen. To listen to what matters to other people and to what makes them happy and what makes them sad. To listen and then to respond. To comfort and to carry and to help.

Below those little ears and right above their rounded chin is their beautiful mouth.

Oh mama, do you see that mouth? All bowed lips and rooting, rooting, rooting. That mouth will one day be the vessel that carries your child's words out into the world. At first, they'll use that mouth to suckle, to eat and to grow.

They'll use it to cry when their belly is empty and to coo when it's full. That mouth will give first, slobbery, kisses and will utter first words with pride. It will sing and shout and yawn and laugh.

You'll come to know the voice that leaves that mouth better than your own and to be comforted by the simple sound of their “hello."

Sometimes, though, that mouth might be used to spit words with hate instead of love or with anger instead of peace. When a friend betrays them or a teacher grades them poorly, they might use it spread rumors or insults. When they've done something they're not proud of that mouth may twist into a lie and say things they wish they could take back.

Your job, mama, is to help your child learn to use that mouth for good, to spread joy and happiness and truth, to express sadness and pain, to tell someone that they love them. You must teach them how words can hurt or help or heal, and that when their angry or sad or confused, their voice will be their most valuable tool.

You must, mama, teach your little one that their mouth should be used to speak up not only for themselves but also for those who have no voice.

Below their chin and their chest, right at ends of those rounded arms and rolling wrists are the hands you've waited your whole life to hold.

Look at the beauty of those hands, the creases as they flex, the tiny fingernails, the softness of their palms.

Impossibly small, those hands squeezed your finger today, and your heart, already swollen, threatened to beat right out of your chest. Those tiny hands, flexing and pawing, will be the hands through which your child explores the world.

They'll tangle in your hair as they nurse or cuddle and be used to bring toys to mouth over and over and over again. Those hands will scribble with crayons and will pat the dog. They'll write out letters and then words and then sentences. They'll catch and throw and whittle and work.

Those hands will fold a first shirt and cook a first meal; they'll cup a lightning bug and hug a friend, they'll brush the knee of their first date and retreat, quickly, as their own heart begins to pound. Those hands will grow and harden but, whenever you take them in yours, you'll be reminded that they were once this small.

Those hands, as tiny and perfect as they are now, might also someday hit. They might push or slam doors or snatch a coveted toy from a friend. Those hands might copy answers from another child's test or slap the books from the arms of a classmate.

It'll be your job, mama, to help your child learn to use their hands with grace. You must teach them to be gentle and kind, to reach downward to help others up when they fall and to carry the load when others are weak.

It'll be your job to help them find meaningful, purposeful work to do with those hands, work that makes a difference and that leaves them happy and fulfilled.

Oh, the feet! Down their trunk and below their thighs and knees and ankles are their beautiful feet.

By now, they've been graced with a thousand kisses. Eventually, those feet will be the way your child makes their way around the world. Kept warm in booties and socks, they'll kick with glee before they're used for walking.

The first, shaky, steps will turn quickly into the walk and then the run of a toddler and then a child. Those feet will take your little one around your house and your neighborhood and your city. They'll chase and kick and dance. They'll feel the sand between their toes and grass tickling their arches.

Those feet, so tiny now, will take your child to their first day of work and down the aisle and to faraway places you've never been.

Sometimes, though, those little feet might go astray; they may lead your child places they don't want to go or to places they shouldn't be.

Your job, mama, will be to teach that baby to use their feet wisely. You must teach them to run as fast as they can and to rest as long as they need. You must teach them that their feet should carry them to new and interesting places and that, when they get there, those feet should guide them towards people who will be kind to them.

You must teach your child to let their feet carry them to places of beauty and places of need and, with enough steps, help them realize they're often one and the same.

Oh, mama, tonight is a very special night.

Tonight is the very first night of your baby's life. As you hold them tonight and thank the grace and glory and magic that brought them to you, look deeply into their eyes and show them how happy you are that they're here.

As your eyes fill with tears, both of joy and of amazement, lean into their ear and whisper how much you love them. As you sing their first lullaby, trace their lips with your finger and listen for their coo's and sighs.

As you count their fingers and their toes, over and over again, rub their hands and feet and promise them that you be there, always, to guide them.

You've got a big job ahead—a job that's both harder and more wonderful than any other.

Your baby is here now mama. And tonight, this very night, is the night their life begins.

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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 wash—and dry!—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 devices—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.

$79.95

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 color—well, colors—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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This week marked World Kindness Day, but in Pittsburgh, PA the hometown of the late Mr. Rogers, it was also Cardigan Day—a chance to celebrate an icon of kindness and his iconic knitwear.

That's what staff at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital were doing when they dressed all the babies like Mr. Rogers in hand-crocheted cardigans and sneaker-style booties made by nurse Caitlin Pechin.

Pechin says crocheting is something she does for fun and while making all the little outfits took several hours, she "really enjoy[s] making things for all the babies because they look so cute in them."

They absolutely do!

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The sweetest little neighbors

The babies looked so cozy and cute and they even got a visit from the woman who was closest to Mr. Rogers, his widow, Joanne Rogers. "She was so sweet and so sincere and just wished us the best of luck as new parents," Kristen Lewandowski, whose first child, Mary Rose, was among the cardigan-wearing newborns, told Good Morning America.

"She told us to support one another and we thought that was great advice," Lewandowski explained.

Mr. Rogers died in 2003 but his legacy lives on

The new movie about Mr. Rogers—A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks—hits theaters on November 22. Mr. Rogers has been gone for 16 years, but the new film and the way we talk about kindness today proves that his legacy lives on in 2019.

"When I was little, I watched Mister Rogers' Neighborhood with my grandmother, my grandma Mary, who we named our [daughter] Mary after," Lewandowski's partner, Michael, explains.

Mrs. Rogers reportedly loved getting to meet little Mary Rose and the other babies and told their parents she was sure her husband would have loved to meet them, too.

A Mr. Rogers sweater for Mrs. Rogers

The babies weren't the only ones donning cardigans at the event. Mrs. Rogers wore a cardigan that belonged to Mr. Rogers, and the nursing staff wore t-shirts designed to mimic the tie-and-cardigan look Mr. Rogers was known for.

The whole event was absolutely adorable and has us thinking a lot about the lessons Mr. Rogers taught us (and looking forward to seeing another beloved icon, Tom Hanks, play him.)

The movie hits theaters this Thanksgiving 

The reason why people are dressing babies up as Mr. Rogers 16 years after his passing is the same reason why Tom Hanks wanted to play him: He was the personification of kindness in a world that needs more of it. He brought love and empathy to a medium that is usually used to sell breakfast cereals and plastic toys. But Mr. Rogers wasn't pushing artificial ingredients and consumerism: He just wanted us kids to love each other and ourselves.

"I think that, when Fred Rogers first saw children's programming, he saw something that was cynical," Hanks said at the Toronto Film Festival, explaining why he wanted to take on this role.

"And why in the world would you put a pipeline of cynicism into the minds of a 2 or 3-year-old-kid? That you are not cool because you don't have this toy, that it's funny to see somebody being bopped on the head, that hey, kids be the first in line in order to get blah, blah, blah. That's a cynical treatment of an audience, and we have become so inured to that that when we are met with as simple a message as hey, you know what, it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, [it's a reminder] that we are allowed...to start off feeling good," Hanks shared.

Mr. Rogers was a pioneer in using screen time to raise empathetic and kind kids and he made an impact on a generation.

Let's all take a look at these little neighbors and feel good today

There is something so pure about Mrs. Rogers visiting these babies, who are dressed like her husband because of the kindness of a maternity ward nurse. In a world where there is so much bad, let's look at all this good—and all these adorable babies who could become the next icon of kindness.

News

Going through infertility let me know that there are some things in life that I just can't control. For someone who already has a hard time relinquishing control in life (call me a bit of a control nut!), entering the world of IVF was not only hard physically and mentally, but it also was incredibly difficult because it showed me things about myself that were at odds with this journey.

I realized how much I had needed to be in control of my life, how much I took for granted that my life path most often "always worked out" the way I imagined it would and I also realized how impatient I was.

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IVF treatment strips away a lot of yourself. You are forced to give up control and forced to wait….a lot. In our case, both my husband and I had potential issues and the two of us pulled away from the rest of our friends whose sperm romantically found their partner's ripe egg and impregnated them the old fashioned way.

While we were undergoing a lot of things physically and emotionally in a dark, isolating world of blood labs, doctor's offices and at many times, what seemed like barbaric tests. Something made me very "hush-hush" about it and I'm usually a wide-open book about everything. I guess you could say I was ashamed, I felt like it was a weakness or a flaw.

I only opened up about our struggle with fertility when I, finally, had a successful pregnancy and realized that once you go into the world of IVF there's no turning back. I was now an "IVF person." I became really passionate about the world of infertility especially once I started talking to others who went through it. This was one of the things that I felt now defined me, I had an "infertility journey," I was a #ttcsister, and because of IVF, I became a mom.

I embraced it and became proud of it. I launched my business by sharing my infertility story and it was so much a part of who I was. It motivated me to start to form an in-person community of women, pregnant, trying to conceive, or already moms based on my struggles with motherhood... before they even started! All while pregnant and then giving birth to my daughter.

Then a year and a half later I accidentally got pregnant.

The truth is, I never went back on birth control after having our baby because I didn't want to go through getting off of it again. Some people might not be able to relate to thinking you can't get pregnant on your own. They can't imagine the idea that you and your husband's test results indicate that the likelihood of pregnancy without IVF is basically zero.

But somehow, one of my husband's sperm in the millions of sperms that were morphologically corrupt found its way to my egg at the perfect time. The interesting part is that one of the most prominent thoughts I had when this happened was that I now felt like an imposter. How could I just get knocked up?!

I was helping and advocating for infertility and it was actually approaching National Infertility Awareness Week. I spent several weeks hiding just like I did during my last pregnancy.

Then, one day at work, I felt so sick from morning sickness and I couldn't tell anyone why. I went into the bathroom and just cried. Not just because of how debilitating the sickness was, but because of how alone I felt. Here I was trying to bring moms together yet I was isolating myself.

I was experiencing every IVF veteran's dream and I wasn't happy. I was feeling badly, torn, upset and just irrationally guilty and I needed support. I picked myself up, walked out of that bathroom and told every one of my colleagues at work "I'm pregnant, by mistake, and I need help."

The truth is, I've realized that just because I dodged IVF and some of those hardships this time around and truly feel like I was given the biggest stroke of luck, it doesn't change what I went through to get my first daughter. It also doesn't change my passion for advocacy in infertility and fighting with all my might for motherhood.

Life

Can you believe it's already time to start decorating for the holidays? And this year, Target is making it easier than ever to create inviting holiday spaces that are still neat, organized and clutter-free. Whether your style is whimsical, traditional or rustic, there are plenty of neutral creams, frosty whites and touches of evergreen that will take you through the holidays and well into the new year with style.

This holiday also marks the 3-year anniversary of the launch of Joanna Gaines' Hearth & Hand with Magnolia line. The collection features nearly 300 new pieces from gifting and décor to entertaining. Oh, and this season they have faux Christmas trees!

Ready to create your own modern winter wonderland at home? Grab our favorite minimalist piece:

Joy wire Christmas wreath

Joy wire Christmas wreath

The word "Joy" isn't a holiday classic for nothing—it's sure to bring lots of smiles and laughs to any home. And when it's atop the garland in this festive wreath, it's an instant pick-me-up. Plus, for an extra twist: This comes pre-strung with white LED bulbs for a little light to brighten dark spaces.

$45

Mini cable-knit stocking

Mini cable-knit stocking

This stocking brings simplistic holiday cheer to just about any living space. This mini size is perfect for little ones or if you just want stockings that don't take up too much space.

$4

Faux white pine garland

Faux white pine garland

Bring the outdoors indoors with a garland that can be framed around your door. Or add holiday spirit to your table runner with a garland centerpiece. We love how realistic this one looks for such an affordable price.

$24.99

Whitewash advent calendar

Whitewash advent calendar

Let's be honest, advent calendars are nice, but some have gone a bit overboard in how complicated they are. But not this one. The cutout shape of a tree features rows of numbers, while a roaming wreath moves the countdown along. Simple, yet chic.

$20

Round tree skirt

Round tree skirt

No tree is complete without a beautiful tree skirt. This striped one is a must-have for a farmhouse-inspired atmosphere. Even better if you want a splash of rustic charm that matches your other holiday décor.

$39.99

Mini marquee star wall sign

Mini marquee star wall sign

Brighten up your living room with this attention-grabbing statement piece. Hang the star sign on your entryway wall to help welcome guests, or place it on your mantel, shelf or end table alongside other accents to add touches of holiday cheer in a minimalist way.

$8

Ceramic house decorative figurine

Ceramic house decorative figurine

This tiny house with windows, door and a chimney lends realistic, whimsical appeal, but the solid ceramic design allows it to be used from season to season. Place a small light inside to light up your mantle when standard candles won't suffice.

$8

Wood garland

Wood garland

Sometimes less is more! Upgrade your staircase or tree with this simplistic wooded garland. Pair with fresh cedar and grapevine twigs to create a striking focal point on your home.

$12.99

Joy wall decor

Joy wall decor

Create holiday cheer in a small way by adding holiday wall art that sparks a bit of joy.

For a refined look, the decor offers a hardwood frame and the sawtooth back allows for easy display on tiny spaces that need a touch of holiday spirit.

$9.99

Stocking holder

Stocking holder

Minimalists will rejoice for this multi-tasking stocking holder—acting as both festive signage and a holder for multiple stockings. It's simple, charming and will look great on your mantle for years to come.

$29.99
Holiday Shopping Guides

Madison Vining, mama of six, recently posted an honest message that went viral on Instagram. In it she described how we can't really have the full picture of someone's life just by what they post on social media. It's little fragments of their life, which probably leave out the really good moments when people decide to put the phone down to be present, and also the really bad moments they don't want documented.

The post, which has almost 12,000 likes and hundreds of comments, received a lot of praise from other parents thanking her for hitting the nail on the head.

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The post reads:

"Instagram stories. Let's talk.

If someone uses the maximum amount of stories allowed in a day (all the teeny tiny dots) guess what? All together, it totals less than an hour of their 24-hour day. Does that surprise you? It's true. It's a peek of 1/24th of their day. Furthermore, it's probably the calmest parts. After all, when was the last time you got into a fight with your husband and thought "Hang on, let me insta-story this!" or had your hands full of screaming babies and thought "Hang on... let me try and hold a phone, too!"

I really want to challenge you.

Before you look at her life and become jealous: you likely did not see her raise her voice as she struggled through schoolwork with her kids, or her picking up trash after the dog ripped it up and dragged it all over the driveway, or her doctor give her a terrifying diagnosis, or her son's preschool teacher call and say he's been a problem... Again. Or her crying because she hates her body and hasn't felt like herself in so long. Or her going to bed each day feeling guilty and like she didn't do enough for everyone. Or her husband being out of work. Or her dad who walked out on her as a kid and it still hurts. Or her burning dinner and yelling a swear word in front of her kids.

Yeah, you don't see all the bad.

But you know what? Before you look at her life and become critical, know that you didn't see her singing worship music and taking extra time as she changed her baby's diaper. You didn't see her driving all the way to recycle center when the trash would have been easier. You didn't see her close her laptop, close her eyes, and stop to pray for someone she doesn't know. You didn't see her tell her daughter, "Just keep killing them with kindness, baby" as she sobbed in her arms about a bully. You didn't see her give up "me time" to prioritize date night with her husband. You didn't see her take her oldest to lunch. You didn't see her anonymous donation.

You don't see a lot of the beautiful things that happen in her life and in her heart, because they're sacred and the first thought that pops into her mind isn't, "I should grab my phone right now."

You don't see it all. Be kind to one another."

Thank you for saying what many think, mama.

Life
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