Content warning: Discussion of miscarriage/pregnancy loss/infant loss ahead.

They say that when a child is born, so is a mother. But a mother is made at the very moment a child is thought of. Whether that’s through planning to start a family. Or finding out that you’re pregnant. Whether it’s through talking to adoption agencies or looking into a surrogate. Or when the doctors tell you that they can no longer find a heartbeat and you’ve miscarried for the third time.

A mother is made—no matter the journey that it took to get her there.

Related: Gabrielle Union shares her grief over choosing surrogacy

Whether through joy or sorrow—or a mixture of endless emotions—a mother comes out on the other side. 

All paths to motherhood look different. There is no roadmap or how-to guide that works cohesively for every woman. Each journey is unique, and when we acknowledge this, we acknowledge the truth that there is no one way that a mother is formed. There is no sole process for how a mother takes shape. When the time comes, it happens almost immediately and in that instance, a woman's life is transformed forever. Never to be the same.

In each of us, there was a woman who existed before we became mothers. And some days, we may reflect on that woman. We may reminisce on who she used to be. On how she previously navigated life and what brought her joy and made her warm inside. This is completely expected and normal.

But in the moment that a mother is born, she is made anew. Stripped down. Bare. And then recreated. With lots more love. Lots more passion. And lots more resiliency. Whether through joy or sorrow—or a mixture of endless emotions—a mother comes out on the other side. 

Nothing like the woman who she was before. But that is the beauty of motherhood.

Because motherhood—in all its ways—can be this heavy and delicate thing that is ever-changing and defining you for the rest of your life.

And some women may miss who they used to be. Before those sleepless nights and constant worrying. Before those weeks spent in the NICU. Before years of trying to work through infertility. Before their baby was diagnosed with autism. Before experiencing the loss of an infant. Before moments spent weeping behind their phone screen at yet again another pregnancy announcement, wishing it could be their own.

Related: What to say when your friend has a miscarriage

Because the simple truth that we should all acknowledge is that maybe before motherhood, life felt simpler. Lighter. Easier, even. Because motherhood—in all its ways—can be this heavy and delicate thing that is ever-changing and defining you for the rest of your life. And once it becomes a part of you, it is always there.

It never leaves you. The journey. The tears and the laughter. The way that all the love inside of you expanded. That remains forever. In every mother—regardless of what she classifies as the establishing moment that brought her to motherhood.

We are all mothers. No matter the shape or form. Whether you’re changing diapers in the middle of the night, trying to conceive—yet again, carrying the grief of your stillborn, struggling with infertility or on a different journey... you are a mother. A woman who has been reborn, reawakened and recreated. So much different from the woman you used to be. But so much stronger than before. And much more vulnerable and broken open in a way that you never knew you could be.

Related: To the mama struggling with postpartum

So here is to every mama. The ones holding onto their babies and the ones holding onto hope. The ones loving on their own children and the ones loving on the children around them. The ones carrying and the ones opening up their homes. May you each know the grit and the beauty that you hold, and may it transform you every day.