You tend to get a lot of attention when you’re pregnant. As your belly grows and stretches, you are nearly bombarded by questions and commentary, hands outstretched to meet your protruding belly button, and people asking if they can give you gifts and throw you parties.

It’s almost overwhelming.

And then, your baby is born, and you become the center of attention again. Doctors and midwives, new grandparents and soon-to-be aunties are everywhere—ready to help and hold this miraculous person you are often credited for creating.

But somewhere between birth and my baby’s third month, I realized a strange phenomenon had occurred: I became completely invisible.

I spent most of my day alone with a tiny sort-of-human who never once acknowledged the Herculean effort I had taken on in keeping her alive. Trapped in our shoebox apartment, there was no one else to appreciate that I was managing to feed the baby, wash the dishes, do the laundry, make all of our meals, clean up messes and (somehow!) take regular showers.

It was like these chores were all getting done, and little magic productivity elves were getting all the credit.

It even affected how I saw myself. Where I had once boasted a handful of titles (editor, writer, wife, friend, daughter, etc.), I had suddenly and wholly become one thing and one thing alone: Mother.

I was simply gone. I even vanished from my own Instagram feed, eclipsed by this adorable less-than-eight-pound baby.

It led to a lot of conflicted feelings. I relished this new role that I often felt I had been born to play, but…where had the rest of me gone? I was running myself ragged keeping my family ticking along smoothly, and I barely even noticed because even in my own eyes I ceased to exist.

I had become a ghost in my own house. I didn’t know where I had gone—or who I was anymore. And I didn’t really know what to do about it. Do I do anything? Is this what my life as a mom will always be like?

When you’re a student or an employee, there’s a built-in system of acknowledgment, praise and reward. Your efforts are constantly being quantified and when you work hard, you typically receive praise or payment that makes you feel, if not appreciated, at least noticed.

Motherhood comes with no such built-in system—especially in those first months when you are just so needed and can barely count on a little eye contact to let you know your baby notices you as anything other than a food source.

Even though I knew I was single-handedly responsible for keeping my household together, I felt incredibly small and insignificant.

But then, quite suddenly, one day I realized something else. Maybe I couldn’t see myself the way I had been—the ‘old me’—because that person didn’t exist anymore.

I had evolved. Morphed into some new, stronger creature—a person I was just getting to know. When I stopped needing to be seen for who I had been, I realized I had never disappeared at all.

This new me had the strength to do all the things while also raising an incredible child.

This new me valued a crooked baby smile and a slobbery toddler kiss over any praise or monetary reward my past “jobs” had given me.

This new me saw the strength in asking for help, even though it will probably never come easy to me. When I started to reach out for help when I needed it—by delegating tasks—I realized that help had been waiting in the wings all along.

This new me had a new confidence in the realization that I had been the center of my baby’s universe since the moment she was born.

The thing is, the beginning of motherhood is overwhelming in almost every single way. A lot of the worrying seems inevitable.

But when I stopped worrying so much about how I was seen by others or if I was being noticed by anyone at all— I realized I was the heart of the family keeping us alive. And that was more validating than any compliment, pay raise, bonus or gold star anyone could ever give me.