I recently read an article about womanhood, and the author posed the following question: “How do you build a complete self in a world that wants to see you as merged with or subsumed by other people?"

What a relevant question for right now.

What a relevant question for this very minute.

Before I really get writing, allow me to take inventory of the “self" that I'm working with (Warning: you might get jealous. No, you won't). I have almond butter on the leggings that I've been wearing for the last three days. I peed a little bit when I sneezed a few minutes ago because my pelvic floor is a joke (thank you babies 2 and 3). I have a Batman Band-Aid on my thumb because I chopped my finger instead of the onion when I turned to one of the little voices yelling “mommy!" while I was making dinner last night. Earlier this week, I found myself crying during the NPR Spring pledge drive because… I don't know… This American Life really does mean that much to me, also hormones. I have a big pregnant belly, and I just noticed that there's a coffee stain on my shirt right where my boobs meet said belly. I am super hot today (sarcasm, but also, seriously, very warm).

I didn't study abroad in college. I like to joke that I did the off-campus marriage program, i.e. I got married the summer before my last year of college. Now you know just how long my identity has been “merged with or subsumed by other people." I was that girl. But that's not to say that I don't understand what it means to travel—most of us have had the experience of leaving what we know as home and going to a new place. Whether this experience is long or short, good or bad, it becomes a part of who we are. My experience working in an orphanage in Brazil has shaped who I am and, in fact, shaped the way my husband and I grew our family. That experience is part of the reason why we chose to adopt our first child. I can't extract that experience from my whole person, nor do I want to.

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who is single and doesn't yet have children. She was asking me about my writing, and she said something like “I want to hear about your kids too, but I don't want you to feel like you lost yourself in them. I don't want you to think that I don't remember who you are or who you were." She was very well meaning in this sentiment, and in saying this she was referring to what she thought was my complete self. She wanted me to know that she saw me as a whole person because she knows I do other things outside of raising kids.

This makes sense, and yet, it doesn't because motherhood is like the ultimate abroad trip. We move into a wholly different space, and it changes us; it reshapes every element of our being. I'm different, and dare I say better, because of this whole motherhood thing.

Because of those little people who drive me crazy and cover my legs in mucus and lunch, I'm more than who I used to be. I'm dirty and messy and straight crazy lots of days, but I like this me. I love this me. Those small, wild people are making me and refining me and challenging me and growing me in ways that I never knew I needed to grow. I'm a better writer because of them. I'm a better learner because of them. I'm a better friend because of them (or ultimately I will be). I'm on my way to becoming a better wife. I'm certainly a better cook. I'm less selfish and more loving. I'm growing in patience and kindness and self-control. I may not look that sexy, but trust me, I'm becoming the whole package, and I didn't get this way on my own.

Motherhood has infiltrated every fiber of my being. It's the most all-encompassing experience I've ever had; shouldn't I want to be changed by it? Maybe the world wants to see me as a merged person. I hope it does. I am a merged person, and my union to these people is what makes me whole.

I'm not losing myself in this thing called motherhood; I'm becoming myself, and it is so good.

This story was originally published on Coffee + Crumbs. Check out their book, The Magic of Motherhood, for more heartwarming essays about motherhood, love, and the good kind of heartache.