Oh, Valentine’s Day. Before kids, it’s a romantic holiday that pretty much guarantees a date night out and some sexy time going down.

After kids, well, let’s just say it’s a different story. . .

Before kids: Ohh, I hope he gets me flowers! ?
After kids: Ohh, I hope he takes the trash out!

Before kids: What sexy underwear should I wear?
After kids: “Take your brother’s underwear off your head!”

Before kids: Romantic restaurant time!
After kids: Heart-shaped pancake time!

Before kids: THIS is the perfect Valentine’s Day card.
After kids: Those are the most beautiful scribbles I’ve ever seen.

Before kids: Let me light some candles. . .?
After kids: Candles are a fire hazard and you may not have them until you are approximately 30-years-old. Do not look at candles. Do not talk about candles. Do not even think about candles.


Before kids: John Legend gets me in the mood.
After kids: Raffi makes me feel insane.

Before kids: Secretly, I just hope for chocolates. ?

Before kids: Why don’t we book a romantic vacation somewhere?
After kids: Should we book a trip to Disney? Again?

Before kids: Maybe we’ll shower together. . .
After kids: When’s the last time I showered?

Before kids: "I wonder if he'll surprise me with a night out on the town?
After kids: "I wonder if we'll stay up for an episode of The Crown tonight?"

Before kids: Let’s grab a drink at our favorite bar.
After kids: WINE ME ON THE COUCH. ?

Before kids: I’d love it if we stayed up late talking and snuggling.
After kids: I’d love it if we went to sleep at 8 pm.

Before kids: Sexy. Time.
After kids: “Mommy, what are you and daddy doing?”

Before kids: I love our life.
After kids: I’ve never loved our life more. ❤️

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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.


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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