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The Unsolicited Advice That First Time Parents Should Hear

I just had a few moments alone with my 4th baby who just turned 10 months old. We were playing on my bed and as she used the wall to brace herself, she turned around and waved to me.
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I just had a few moments alone with my 4th baby who just turned 10 months old. We were playing on my bed and as she used the wall to brace herself, she turned around and waved to me. A real wave for the first time. She was giggling and beaming as she could tell by my reaction she was doing something that she should be proud of herself for.

My eyes were brimmed with tears. My throat cracked as I was squealing with pure delight, and it still amazed me that as I stared at my 4th child, those firsts still took my breath away.....literally. I scooped her in my arms and kissed her cheeks about 50 times as she laughed before she began pulling away from me so she could stand up to wave at me again.

And then it dawned on me.

As all of her little first moments were flashing before my eyes, I hadn't marked down a single one of them. I hadn't even started a scrapbook yet, for that matter. What the hell kind of mother am I who had let all of these treasured milestones simply pass by without even being documented on a baby's first year calendar or scrapbook?

I still look back and recall late nights of frustration after having my 1st baby (and not due to her), but because I had put so much pressure on myself with all of these things I just needed to do for her. I remember I was documenting the first time she tried a certain taste of food. Her first visit to a park. The first time she fell and got a bruise on her tiny knee. I swear the first time she blinked or lifted her head, it was probably written down somewhere.

Granted, I loved scrapbooking and keeping these special photos and moments for her, but it started to become more of an obligation, a pressure that I put upon myself. By the time I had my 2nd baby, I was struggling to keep up the keepsakes while still keeping my sanity. Then following suit every other year, baby #3 came, and I know I had bought some photo albums but don't believe the majority of them are even out of the packaging yet.

That being said, having our 4th baby in 6 years, to say that things got rather chaotic is a rather large understatement. Not that I love this baby any less than my first, God knows that. And yes, I have certainly captured many photos and videos of not only her, but all of our children together that I will truly treasure forever.

However, some may think I fall into the slacker Mom category as I can't tell you the exact date this baby rolled over. I can't tell you how old she was when she first stood unassisted. I can't remember what month she was at when she first said "Ma Ma" and "Da Da". Alright I'll be honest, right now I'm trying to remember if I showered yesterday or if it was the day before yesterday.

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But I can tell you I was there. Yes, I was there for each milestone of hers, applauding like a wild woman, cheering and carrying on as if she were an Olympian winning a gold medal. I was able to hold and squeeze her and love on her, giving her probably too many kisses (if that's even possible) and whispering over and over again I love you in her ear as my heart was ready to burst with her first time crawling, her first time sitting up, the first time she was able to pick something up with her own tiny, precious fingers.

Yes, if I could turn back time, I would give myself a pat on the back (hell, maybe even a nice shoulder rub) and tell myself to just breathe. Relax. Enjoy the moments. To sleep when I can, which isn't often, but to not run myself into the ground trying to keep up with the status quo of attempting to be Remarkable Mommy.

I would tell myself that all of the photo sessions that went awry, that those are the photos that are ten times better than the "perfect", boring, posed, forced smiling ones. I would whisper gently in my ear that it's good to have a schedule and attempt to be organized but 9 times out of 10, plans will change and to just roll with it when things don't happen that should have and things happen that well...simply shouldn't.

I would not get bent out of shape of someone giving me their unsolicited two cents, smile politely and thank them whether I agreed or not. I would remember that part of taking care of my family is taking care of myself. Instead of always playing the martyr, to let people help me. Take the 30 minute nap when a family member offers to hold the baby. Let your friends make you a dinner. And when your husband tells you to take that run or drive to the mall, alone...well, by God... take it.

I would put my phone and the camera down more and just be in the moment. I would try to enjoy the precious moments versus trying to capture a photo each second of them. I would remind myself that the laundry and dishes and dusting and cleaning will be waiting and piled up no matter how much attention I give them and that work is just well, that...work.

Each baby has been a learning experience. To this day, 4 babies later and 7 ½ years of being a parent under my belt, I still find myself making some of the same mistakes and still struggling to find the balance of it all.

But one thing I do know is all my babies ever want is me. Just me, my attention, my love, and my approval. And that, that I can do.

My children won't have the most organized mementoes of photos and albums and scrapbooks and calendars that have everything orchestrated to a 'T', but they will remember that Mommy was there. That Mommy was there for all their moments, all of their milestones, and that is what mattered most.

To follow Long's advocacy for Paid Parental Leave, you can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

A special thank you to Kim family for the feature of their family photo (1st photo). Also thank you to Reflective Edge Photography for the photo of the States family (2nd photo).