Pretext: I had met Katelyn through Instagram. I had a specific vision in mind utilizing this lace dress and I knew she was the one to ask. Katelyn was fresh off the heels of her entrance into motherhood, having just recently given birth to a baby girl. This was a place I had been only a few short years before her. Our session reminded me of my first days as a new mom to a daughter. I gathered my thoughts of that time and placed them in this open letter.

My love,

Thank you. For all the ways you have changed me for the better. Thank you for being the light that you are. There are so many things I want to tell you and teach you. Things I want to protect you from, guide you in. Some days I need reminding that you are on a path of your own, an entire story forming before my eyes. Here are some things, though, that I do want you to know:

Remind yourself, daily, of who you are. On the days you don't quite know yet: go looking. Check in all the nooks and crannies of the world. Peer high and low in your experiences, good and bad. Find the lines of your story etched in a life of fulfillment and happiness. Discover who you are on your own, never go searching for you worth in someone else.

Remain steadfast, even in a world that may feel like it's designed to defeat you. Ensure that the only face of disappointment you take seriously is the one in the mirror. Work to compete against the person you were yesterday, not the person beside you.

Water your relationships. Nurture them. Take time to show the people around you how much you value them. Not a single price can be put on great friendships. Indulge. In love, in food, in pleasure, in laughter, in travel, in conversations over cheap wine. Or expensive wine. Or no wine at all. The choice is always yours.

Embrace your mistakes, learn from them. They were made to help you grow. Apologize if you hurt others, remain unapologetic when telling others how they hurt you. Form your opinions after careful thought and evaluation. Hold your head high when defending your beliefs and values. Keep your ego in check when they are respectfully challenged.

Remain the fiery, strong-willed girl you are now. Let each grey hair that has grown from my scalp as a result of your determination to individuality not be taken in vain.

Above all else: be you.

You are my greatest adventure and the best version of me.

All my love,

Your mama