Courtesy of Carter's

6 Small But Encouraging Moments I Experienced As A New Mom

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There's a saying that goes, "Enjoy the little things in life, because one day you'll look back and realize they were the big things." I always appreciated this expression, but never fully related to its sentiment — until I became a new mom.

Growing up, I'd seen the way my own mother fussed over milestones like the first day of school, dance recitals, proms, and graduations, so before I had my own kids, I imagined these monumental moments to be the "little big" ones — the ones that stick with you and remind you of why you became a parent in the first place. It wasn't until I had my first son that I recognized those myriad instances in between milestones that mean just as much — like when I was a kid and would ask my mom to sing to me at night, or when my brother would sit with me on the school bus, no matter how uncool, because I was scared to sit alone. At the time, that just felt like kids being kids, but now with my own children, I see more clearly than ever that these sweet little moments are the ones that keep us motivated as parents.

No matter how exhausted, uncertain, or overwhelmed you are at any given moment, these moments tiptoe back into your mind and remind you, "Hang in there, Mom, you're doing all right." If I were to list all my favorites small-but-big memories, you'd be finding yourself knee-deep in my (non-existent) memoir right about now. But in partnership with Carter's, I do want to share just a few of the small but encouraging parenting moments that play on repeat for me, as crystal clear as when they first happened.

1When My Newborn Curled His Fist Around My Finger

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This is the first moment when I felt like I understood why parents absolutely love being parents. I remember what my son was wearing (a blue and white striped Carter's pajama set from my baby shower), and exactly how he smelled (like baby shampoo and sunshine). He was just drifting off to sleep when I ran my finger across his cheek, and he grabbed hold of it — along with my entire heart, for that matter. It was a tiny gesture, but to me, it was the first moment he recognized me as his mom, which made me feel connected, confident, and so, so grateful to be his.

2Seeing My Son Bonding With His Dad

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Many new moms have spent months upon months with their baby literally attached to them — but for dads, that isn't the case. I remember being pregnant and hoping my husband would bond with our baby-to-be, but at the same time feeling unsure about how and when it would happen.

Sure enough, after giving birth to my son, I'd fallen asleep in the hospital room, then woke up a short time later and saw our new little boy sleeping soundly on his father's chest. My husband was staring down at him, and there they were: father and son, resting together like they'd known each other for years.

3When My Toddler Discovered His Adventurous Side

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Like many babies, mine spent months playing happily wherever you put him, so imagine my surprise when one day he crawled straight over to the staircase and tried scaling it at warp speed. I sprung to action, and so did feelings of sheer panic mixed with pride. I was not expecting this so soon — he was barely nine months old! — but it was nothing a thorough round of baby-proofing and some supervised stair-climbing practice couldn't fix. Once all four new baby gates were securely fixed around our home, I marveled in my little boy's sudden independence, feeling both proud of and slightly overwhelmed by his fearlessness.

4Watching My Infant Try Things For The First Time

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My personal favorite new experience to witness my sons go through is introducing them to new flavors, since it can be very entertaining. When our pediatrician gave the green light, I couldn't wait to give my oldest son his first baby-friendly bites of flavorful fresh fruit, and when I did, his dramatics were nothing short of Oscar-worthy. He scrunched up his face so tightly, puckered and smacked his little lips, and screeched in surprise and delight before asking, "More? More?"

His reaction sent both of us into giggle fits, and before you knew it, I bet you could hear our belly laughs a block away. It was fun to see him experience something brand new, and felt rewarding to witness his expressive and adventurous spirit blossoming.

5When He Pretended To Be A Superhero — And The Whole World Played Along

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Honestly, this moment still gets me right in the feels every time I think about it. For his birthday, my son received a collection of capes and masks, and he was immediately obsessed. One shiny cape in particular made him feel powerful and invincible, and I remember marveling at his self-confidence.

In the midst of playing superhero one day, I didn't have the heart to tell him he couldn't wear his cape out on errands, so my superhero son rocked it to the grocery store, the park, and beyond. Imagine his (and my) unadulterated joy when fellow shoppers and park goers started greeting him as an actual superhero, and asking whether he had come to save the day. Although small in the grand scheme, it was definitely a magical moment as mother and son.

6When He Had His First Sleepover Away From Home

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Admittedly, when my son was packing up for his very first overnight, I was caught in a mix of excitement and heartache. Was he ready for a sleepover? Would he need me in the middle of the night? I wanted him to spread his wings, but I knew that he was establishing his own life — complete with a social circle that left less time for dear old mom. Still, the memories he made and the animated way he spoke about reading stories, sharing popcorn, and staying up past bedtime washed any lingering sadness away, and we were both better off for it in the long run.

This post is sponsored by Carter's.