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Recently, my husband and I were visiting with a few friends who had come to meet our daughter, then 2 months old. After sharing a few requisite stories about getting intimate with our daughter's poop, the conversation inevitably turned to a more sobering discussion on parenthood. One of them half-jokingly referred to having children as giving up.

A thoughtless thing to say in front of new parents? Maybe. But I wasn't offended. I understood exactly how he felt.

For much of my adulthood, fear permeated my thoughts around motherhood. As a self-proclaimed creative, I worried that I wouldn't have achieved everything I had dreamed for myself before becoming a mother. I knew (in my heart, if not my mind) that I wanted children. But this fear surrounding my own freedom overwhelmed me–-and persisted well into my pregnancy.

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After becoming a mother, many of the things I had been told would happen, have, invariably, happened: my life has been turned upside down. I've given up countless personal freedoms. I've lost sleep. I've spent more money on one tiny person than I ever have on myself. I've given up a world in which I am the center. Lazy days don't exist anymore (or at least, not in the way I once knew them). Dropping everything and just going doesn't happen anymore.

And it's true what they say: There is no right time to have a child. Even when it's planned, doubts persist: Do we make enough money? Will I know how to be a mother? Are we ready for this?

Parenthood is not easy. And yes, you give things up you wish you didn't have to. But for me, that was only half the story.

I gave up questioning my value to the world.

This is not to say that I didn't value myself before having my daughter. It's to say I now value myself in a new way—one that is utterly intrinsic. I stopped feeling like I needed to prove something. In an instant, everything I had been striving for was validated.

For my fellow empowered females out there, I hesitate even writing this (let alone, listing it first), for fear that it sounds like I'm suggesting that a woman's only purpose is to have children. No.

Here's my point: I realize now that everything I've been working for in my adult life—independence, freedom, self-sufficiency, self-worth—was a form of preparation. I had been practicing so that I could teach her these same things and could pass on to the next generation this radical idea of the unmitigated power of a woman.

The idea that yes, as a female, my daughter can do whatever she wants and that her value is inherent. And that, as a mother, I will lead by example. My value as a woman has existed since the day I was born, and for the past 32 years, the world has done its best to try to rob me of it. Now, as far as I'm concerned, the world can stop trying, because it doesn't have a chance.

I gave up feeling insecure about my body.

As someone who spent almost 10 years of her life in the throes of a serious eating disorder, this is another one I write with both relief and trepidation. But I remind myself that it's just one way the world has tried to steal my self-worth—along with the billions of other women who are told daily that the path to success and happiness is through a number on the scale or a reflection in a mirror.

So who would have thought that having a child would lead to feeling the strongest, sexiest, most beautiful and most productive that I ever felt in my life? Because I do. I love my fleshy curves. I've earned every one of them. The extra 15 pounds I'm carrying around is a plush layer of confidence. I eat to nourish myself and to produce nourishment for my child. It's a revolutionary feeling—but it shouldn't be. I'm elated that I finally feel pleasure living in my own skin, but I'm sad that it's taken 32 years to feel it.

I gave up drama.

Friends not being able to get their you-know-what together; colleagues bringing me down with bad habits; overly needy clients. The Real Housewives (yeah, I know). Drama, in its many forms, has no place in my life anymore. More important (and enjoyable) things occupy my time these days.

I gave up self-destructive behaviors.

In your 30s, self-preservation becomes paramount. For me, the visible signs of aging began. When I got pregnant, I had to take a deeper look into my habits and ask, "What can I do better?". I was bringing life to the world and I needed to take care of myself, so I could take care of her. It's not to say that things like eating better and exercising got easier—they haven't. And I'm far from perfect. But, what goes into me, goes into her. And that is a very persuasive motivator.

I gave up self-destructive thoughts.

Another work in progress, but like behaviors, the thoughts we have about ourselves do not begin and end with oneself. The thoughts that pass through me, pass through her too—and in some cases, they stick there. I'd like for positive ones to mark their territory in that spongy little brain of hers with the tightest grip they've got.

I gave up urgent for important.

That hundred item to-do list that just had to get done? In the trash. Suddenly, I adopted a slow-living lifestyle. One catering to the natural cycle of things, rather than the rat's nest of 'gotta-dos' in my head.

There's nothing like having an infant that forces you to live moment by moment. Want to know a phenomenal form of meditation? Lie down beside your 5-month-old and just watch her play and coo, happily comforted by your presence and perfectly content in that single moment. Soak it in. Submerge yourself in its purity. For me, the world begins and ends at that moment.

I gave up the need for control.

If there's anything having a baby teaches you, it's that you aren't in control. And for a self-proclaimed control freak, this was actually the break I needed. I've always struggled to delegate. In business and in life, I used to try to do it all myself and the only thing that's ever given me is bitterness and burn out. Becoming a mother has taught me how to ask for help. I can't do it all and, finally, that's okay.

I gave up doing stuff I didn't really want to do in the first place.

Having a baby gives you a great excuse to bow out of things you feel peer pressured into doing. I waffled on this one, in an attempt not to offend anyone in my life, but my friends know I love each of them and support their dreams. That said… if I don't really feel like going to my friend's up-and-coming band's show tonight? No problem. Can't make that destination wedding in Tahiti this month…oops.

The truth is, I do not feel bad about using my child as an excuse to stay home and cuddle with her over going to your poetry reading. To my friends and loved ones: I miss you dearly, and I adore and treasure each of you. But, at least for a while, time with my daughter will take precedence over time with you.

So…what does all of this giving up mean?

It means I've created a lot of space in my life. Enough space for catering to a new little person and for achieving my dreams. Yes, that's right: achieving my dreams.

Since having a child, I have gained focus for the work I truly want and love to do. I don't have time to fuss with the stuff that isn't pushing my ultimate vision forward. That little smile has ignited in me a purpose and drive I never would have experienced had she not existed. I want to be an example to her. I want her to be proud of me and to learn to be proud of herself.

I've gained creative inspiration. I see the world countless new ways every day, right alongside her. I wonder, like a child, with my child.

I've gained a very deep understanding of my own parents' love. I thank them every day for everything they have given me.

I've gained a new appreciation and insight into what my body was made for and is capable of. It's astounding.

I've gained copious amounts of laughter and delight. Try not being excited about every squeal and giggle emanating from a tiny little body. It's intoxicating.

I'm attracted to my husband in ways I never expected. Seeing him cuddle with our daughter is an unbelievable turn on.

I've gained perspective. I have a much greater tolerance for other parents and families. I feel deep empathy for those who want children but can't have them. I've been humbled and grounded by motherhood.

And finally, I've gained an indescribable amount of love. The kind that squeezes your heart until you're breathless. The kind that pushes your stomach into your throat and the kind that lies down dead, just to give someone else a chance to live. And if that kind of love doesn't inspire you to go after what you want in life, I'm not sure what would.

Even if motherhood had meant giving up a dream or two, not doing so would have left me blind to an infinite number of new possibilities. Dreams that never would have had a chance to be realized. The day I became a mother is the day I realized that these dreams of mine–-the ones I was so afraid of giving up (but not really going after like I should have been)–-are now a must, not a maybe. I'm committed to proving to myself and her, that it can be done.

And if I don't succeed? Well, I'm not worried about that–-it takes up too much space in my life. Space I need to conserve for other things.


This article was previously published here.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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My husband and I always talked about starting a family a few years after we were married so we could truly enjoy the “newlywed” phase. But that was over before it started. I was pregnant on our wedding day. Surprise!

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