Part of motherhood is obsessing over our baby’s milestones. When will they start sleeping longer? Are they growing enough? When will they really start sleeping longer? Is their hand-eye coordination as developed as it should be? Shouldn’t they be crawling by now? Okay, seriously, when will they start sleeping longer?

But what about our milestones as mothers?

It is often said that when a baby is born, a mother is also born. We are thrust into this brand new existence—one that is impossible to fully prepare for. Every day is a new adventure, brimming with unique experiences, learnings, mistakes and victories. And it is time to start celebrating all of them.

Just like with our babies, not all of the motherhood milestones are happy ones. I am sure that if given the choice, most babies would prefer to avoid the agony of teething. But the milestones are all so significant because they shape who we are. Little by little, milestone by milestone, we grow into ourselves.

We become a mama.

Here are seven new mama milestones worth celebrating:

1. The moment you leave the hospital or birth center.

(Or if you had a home birth when your midwife and team leave your home, or if you adopted when you bring baby home.) I remember this moment so clearly with each of my three kids. The papers had all been signed, the instructions had all been given, and the nurse walked and into our room and said, “Okay, you’re all set! You can take your baby home now!”

This feeling of confusion and worry washed over me: “You mean we just… like… take it? To our house? Are you coming with us?”

This is the motherhood leap of faith.

You’ve read the books and gathered the gear, but this is the moment where you leap—without completely believing that the ground will catch you. But that unknown is what makes this the beginning of the bravest adventure you will ever embark on. And that makes you a hero.

2. The first time someone gives you advice— and you ignore it.

There is nothing like new motherhood to make you feel vulnerable. We spend so much time questioning or doubting ourselves, and sometimes it can feel like we turn to others (the internet, family members) to help us figure out every little thing. While there is so much power in the support of a village (or Google), there will come a time when a mother’s own knowing and intuition outpowers everything else.

It might happen a week in or a month in, but at some point, someone gives you a piece of advice that you consider, and then decide to ignore because your gut tells you something else—and you’ve learned to listen to that maternal instinct. You will trust that you know what is best for your baby.

How powerful are you, mama?

3. The first time you take the baby somewhere alone.

Diaper bag packed.
Diaper bag unpacked, contents reassessed.
Diaper bag re-packed, with the addition of more stuff (because “what if they blow through two outfits while we are out? Better pack a third.”)
Baby dressed, baby fed.
Baby poops.
Baby changed.
Re-read instruction manual on infant carrier, get baby in it.
Baby poops.
Baby changed.
Re-located misplaced diaper bag.

And you’re off! It may be a seven-minute walk down the block to get an iced coffee, but goodness does it feel like an accomplishment. (Psst: It is.)

4. The first time you make it through something scary.

Maybe it was that time you and the baby got locked out of your car at the grocery store, and your cell phone was dead. Or maybe your baby had a cough that was so bad you decided to take them to the emergency room at 2 am. Or when you had to grab your baby and run into the basement because there was a tornado warning. Whatever the event, it was pretty awful—and you handled it like a total boss.

Note: Handling it like a boss does not mean that you didn’t freak out or didn’t cry, because those things are totally valid in times of panic. It just means that you got. it. done. And this is the first step in realizing that even though there is no way to prepare for every possibility in motherhood, it is okay to trust that whatever comes up, you’ll be able to handle it.

5. The first time your baby outgrows a piece of clothing.

Those string bean newborn legs begin to plump up and before you know it, you’re packing up the first set of too-small onesies. This one is so bittersweet. On the one hand, it’s your first real clue that “growing up” is going to happen, regardless of how we feel about it (sob). But it’s also a huge victory. It means that the way you are feeding your baby—however you are feeding your baby—is making them bigger and stronger.

6. The first time your baby lights up when they see you.

Your baby has loved you from the moment they met you—they just haven’t known how to show you (aside from lovingly spitting up on your shirt). But the first time that you walk into the room, and they tense their little body and flash you a gummy smile… good gracious. It’s the best.

7. The first time you put yourself first.

Whether it’s making the decision to move the baby into their own room so you can sleep better at night, choosing to spend your free afternoon with a friend instead of your little one, or deciding to not sign up for that music class because your introverted self just doesn’t want to do it, at some point, you will make a decision that benefits you more than the baby.

Or so it would seem. If you can do this without self-judgment, great, but know that for many, these “choosing me” moments can take quite the toll on our mama-guilt ridden hearts.

Oh, but mama. In prioritizing yourself, you have chosen to give your baby the gift of a healthier, happier mother. And, you are laying the foundation that tells your soon-to-be citizen of the world that they are not only allowed but encouraged to stand up for and take care of themselves.

So in all the moments of celebration that come with having a baby, don’t forget to include your milestones too. The journey of becoming mama is one of the most important in the world. Own your journey with pride and awe.

A version of this story was originally published on April 18, 2019. It has been updated.

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