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How I’m learning to mother—without my mom

You are always with me. In those times when I lose my cool under frustration, like yesterday when Everett was whining and simultaneously the dog threw up all over the carpet, I can feel you witnessing it all. I can feel you helping me, calming me or laughing at the chaos and confusion you used to know so well

How I’m learning to mother—without my mom

To my mother,

There are days when I feel like I'm a supermom and capable of running a household and raising children—that I can do it all, even without your help. There are times I deny eight years have passed since I've seen your beautiful face, and your absence just feels normal in the day to day routines.

There are moments when I look at my 6-month-old son while snuggling him close, our faces nuzzled, all wrapped up in that smell of his and I think of you. I think about the love between a mother and her child, understanding how incredibly strong the bond is and how you could never truly leave me. In those moments I know that maternal love cannot be broken—not through time, or death or distance or energy.

But there are also days and moments where all I feel is grief. And I miss you constantly, an ache I can feel down into my bones. All I want to do is scream at you for leaving this world at 39-years-old—so healthy, then not, then gone. And leaving Dad and us four kids to figure it out without you, the glue that held our entire family unit together.

When I gave birth to my son, I not only became a mother, but a mother without a mother.

And mothering without you means a lot of things:

It means I don't have your extra help or advice or that "go to" person for everything baby related. It means I can't ask you questions about what "normally" happens in a marriage when a newborn arrives, or how I should "normally" feel postpartum.

It means I can't call to say how my son's pediatrician appointment went, when in reality, you're the only one who would really care. I can't casually ask you to watch him while I run to Target or escape to a yoga class. I can't have a conversation with you about how long I should wait before having more children.

And when I'm dumbfounded with the happiness my child brings me, I cannot tell you how amazing it feels.

Mothering without you also means that my son will never know you. It means my husband will never one day look at me and say, "Wow, you acted just like your mom when you did that." Or my future kids won't ever have you for a Nana. It means I only got 17 years to witness how you mother, and that was not enough.

But mothering without you has taught me that I am never alone.

You are always with me. In those times when I lose my cool under frustration, like yesterday when Everett was whining and simultaneously the dog threw up all over the carpet, I can feel you witnessing it all. I can feel you helping me, calming me or laughing at the chaos and confusion you used to know so well.

Mothering without you has taught me how strong I can be and what I alone can persevere through.

That I can rely on myself for more than I ever thought possible. Knowing that I faced both your diagnosis and death and am now a mother "on my own," well, that just makes me feel like I am capable of anything, especially raising children. It makes me fearless.

Not having you has made me into the mother I am today and for that, I am thankful. My job is to carry you onward and through my mothering journey, and I am trying.

Love always,

Your daughter



10 must-have registry items that will change your life, mama

The baby gear heavy hitters that should be top of your list

Calling all mamas-to-be! It's a fundamental truth of (impending) motherhood that your prepping-for-baby To Do list can feel a mile long, but really the best way to feel organized is to sort out the most important item at the top of your list: your registry. Sure the items you choose to include will end up running the gamut from nice-to-haves to absolutely essential game-changers, but mamas in the know quickly learn one thing: Not all baby gear is created equal.

So while you can and should pepper your registry with adorable inclusions that aren't necessarily can't-live-withouts (go ahead, add 'em!), you should make sure you're ticking the boxes on those pieces of baby gear that can be absolute life savers once you're in full-blown mama mode. From car seats to bouncers and playmats, your play and travel gear will be some of the most obvious important items on your list, but so can unexpected things, like a super comfy baby carrier and a snooze-inducing white noise machine. So to help you sort through the must-have options, we turned to the holy grail of motherhood that is buybuy BABY and handpicked 10 of the very best essential pieces that will change your life, we promise.

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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