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When did you first feel like a mother?

I've wondered about this question many times over the last five years. I've asked other women this question, and I've heard a variety of answers.

When did I first feel like a mother?

When I first saw those two pink lines. Those little tiny lines that held huge significance. The ones on the pregnancy test I took in the bathroom of our first apartment together. I know it sounds cliche but I felt so scared and so excited at once. Like I couldn't believe that moment was real but also feeling like I had been waiting for it my whole life. I felt, Yes of course. And, Oh my goodness! Mixed with, WHAT. And a little of, Well what do I do next?

When I felt my first contraction. When I had an unmedicated birth with my firstborn, when I had a really fast unmedicated birth with my middle baby and a truly enjoyable epidural-assisted birth with our latest addition. Each time that I came face-to-face with my children for the first time, holding them in my arms. That's when I felt like someone's mother. Feeling their warm skin on mine. Hearing their small—but mighty—cries. Looking, staring, admiring this body that grew inside mine.

When I first breastfed. When I stumbled and tripped and doubted myself. When I was figuring out how to feed my baby, if I could feed my baby, wondering when one "gets the hang of it" as I heard over and over. Breastfeeding felt so strange at first. I eventually grew to love what nursing has brought to me and my babies, but at first—it felt foreign. It was one of the many things I would have to figure out along the path of motherhood.

When I have felt my heart breaking. In a way, over the course of five years, I think my heart has been broken and put back together, many times, by the same people—my children. My heart has broken from fear and overwhelming love at the same time. What a wild feeling that is. When I've cried myself to sleep some nights or felt like the wind get knocked out of me at times, over worries and fears and feeling scared—scared they'll get hurt, scared that I'm failing, scared that they will go off in the big world one day without me.

When they need me. To brush their hair and tie their shoes and change their diapers. When they need me to lay next to their crib or bring them to the bathroom in the middle of the night. When I'm cleaning vomit off of this or boogers off of that. When I'm serving meals and playing tag and going on adventures. When they look to me to help them figure out how to have fun or figure out what they're going to eat for lunch. And when I can come up with, actually, a pretty good answer.

When I've had to cancel plans. Because someone had a fever. Or when I couldn't do something I wanted to because I was really pregnant. Or when I had to be *that friend* who chimes into the group text, "Ugh, sorry, that date doesn't work for me…. Oh, that one either… Nope, not that one… Maybe [INSERT DATE 5 WEEKS FROM NOW]?" When their schedule came before mine. When their agenda was more important. When I put them before myself.

When I feel their love. When they give me the biggest hugs and the sloppiest kisses. When they want me. When I'm the only one who could heal a boo-boo or calm their cries. When they tell me I'm the best mom, and especially when they sing the song from Sid the Science Kid that goes, "I love my mom, my mom is cool!" (I mean, whoever wrote that song deserves an award, in my opinion. It's my favorite.)

Being a mother has made me, without a doubt, a better version of myself. My children have taught me to love with an open heart and to choose to see the good in people. To be happy (even on the chaotic days… which are… every day). To forgive. To work hard. To show compassion. To nurture. To be kind. To have an open mind. To be humble.

Taking care of people has taught me true selflessness. Creating a family with my husband, and raising these kids together, has shown me the true meaning of love. Love is what matters most.

So when did I first feel like a mother?

Well, there are a lot of small moments intertwined with a ton of big moments, too.

Though, I think I know my top three.

1. When I witnessed the miracle of life.

2. When I heard, "Mama" for the first time.

3. When I have felt the strong, heady concoction of feelings that, I suspect, only motherhood can bring. That combination of exhaustion and energy—from your children. That mixture of frustration and wonder—because of your children. That feeling of complete overwhelm—overwhelmed with fear, overwhelmed with love and overwhelmed with joy—for your children.

This concoction of feelings doesn't happen every day. Some days are more regular than others. But when I have one of these days, I feel all the wow, I am someone's mother feels.

My heart is that of a mother now. The makeup of my heart is like a soldier, always standing at attention, ready to give whatever it needs to give in the moment. Ready to protect, ready to serve, and most of all—always ready to love with absolutely everything bit of myself that I have to offer.

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