My little love. I cannot believe that tomorrow is your birthday. I promise that tomorrow will be all about you—I’ll cover you in kisses when you wake up, let you wear that crazy outfit that you love and make you whatever you want for dinner.

But tonight, on the eve of your birthday, I can’t help but think about me.

You see, before your birthday, I was just me. After your birthday… Well, now I am a mother. Mom. Your mommy. A title that still takes my breath away.

Before your birthday, my schedule revolved around my needs. After your birthday, my days are a whirlwind created by the storm that is you. The storm brings chaos, but it is the most beautiful chaos I have ever had the honor of being swept up in.

Before your birthday, I had a pretty active social life. After your birthday, I sometimes go weeks without talking to a single adult friend. Your chattering is the ever-present theme song to my life—and I hang on every syllable of it.

Before your birthday, I got all the sleep I needed and really couldn’t function well without it. After your birthday, I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep once. And yet I’ve found in myself an energy reserve I never knew was possible, motivated completely by wanting to be there for you, every single time you call. (But for the record, my love, mommy would appreciate a good night’s sleep tonight—just sayin’).

Before your birthday, I tried to read a lot of books about raising a child—I doubted myself and my abilities to take care of you. After your birthday, I still have lots of questions and the occasional doubt, but overwhelmingly I’ve learned to trust my intuition. I am your mother, your expert, your champion.

Before your birthday, I shied away from confrontation. Why start a fight when I could just let it be and walk away? After your birthday, I found my fierce. I still don’t pick fights but, goodness gracious, there is no greater fury than a mama bear protecting her cub.

Before your birthday, I always tried to be rational. My schedule, activities, meals—everything was thought out and practical, and I went to bed feeling accomplished. After your birthday I fly by the seat of my yoga pants. My meal plan quickly devolves into frozen waffles for dinner and my tight schedule gets hijacked by impromtu dance parties and watching ladybugs crawl across the sidewalk.

Now I go to bed having gotten nothing done—but feeling like I accomplished the world.

Before your birthday, I loved. After your birthday, my heart aches under the monumental weight of its love for you. It’s hard to explain it, my dear, but sometimes it’s a love that makes me feel sad—sad because I can’t keep you little and needing me the way you do right now. Sad because one day that adoring gaze you give me will be placed upon someone else’s face. But it is also a love of such enormous bliss + pride + honor and I am grateful every single day that I get to experience it.

So my little love, while tomorrow is your day, please know that tomorrow is also the greatest gift I have ever received.