For many women who have children, there is a defining moment when we became a mom. For some it was when the second line appeared on the test stick and for others it was the first time we held our child. No matter the moment, we noted it and tucked it inside our heart.

The transformation from a woman’s pre-mom life to becoming a mother is an amazing process that’s both confusing and amazing. And no matter how much we read or how many questions we ask, no woman is fully prepared for this change.

Before I was called, “mom,” I had only a vague concept, mostly romanticized, of what it meant to become a mother. So if I could the following are the five things I would tell my pre-mom self.

You will want to have children—at points, desperately: I would tell the sassy, sarcastic seventeen-year-old me to not so flippantly and proudly declare to never want children. I would tell her that time, and love, can transform how she feels. I would tell her that she could change her mind and, that in doing so, she would most regret her words.

Children will change you—in ways you can’t imagine: I would tell the self-involved, twenty-two-year old me that children will change everything. I would also tell her that these changes will be wide-ranging, unbelievable, and—in many ways—wonderful. I would tell her she’ll not always worry about the trivial and hurt over the meaningless because one day her children will teach her what is truly important.

It will be hard (really hard) and it will be wonderful (really wonderful): I would tell the thinking-about-having a baby, twenty-eight year old me that having children will be one of the most difficult things she will do. It will make her worry, cry, and, at times, bring her to her knees. And I would tell her that having children will also make her smile, laugh, and feel more love than she’s ever known.

You can do this and you will want to do this: I would tell the desperately wanting to-have-a-baby, thirty-year old me that she can get pregnant—she will get pregnant. And I’d tell her that she can change a dirty diaper, clean up vomit, wear spit-up, and rock a baby until her arm is numb. I would also tell her that she will want to do all this and more because she will love her children that much.

It will be worth it: I would tell the pregnant, thirty-two year old me that even with the weight gain, swollen feet, stretch marks, sleepless nights, spit-up covered clothes, worry, tears, and the new life completely changed from all that she’s ever known, it will be—without a single doubt, completely, entirely, and forever—worth it.

Sherry Parnell

A full-time writer, personal trainer, and professor, I am the author of Let the Willows Weep and Daughter of the Mountain. An alumnus of Dickinson College and West Chester University, I live with my husband and sons in Glenmoore, Pennsylvania. I am currently working on my third novel entitled The Secrets Mother Told.