When I became a mom, I made myself a promise: I would never lose myself in motherhood.

I never believed I had to give up everything that makes me “me” to be a great mom. Yet, slowly but surely, I’ve lost pieces of myself along the way.

There were pieces of myself and my freedom I expected to lose—long showers, sleeping through the night, and spontaneity, just to name a few. But as I’ve adjusted to my role, I’ve learned it’s easy to become a person I hardly recognized.

From the bags under my eyes, tangled hair, and growing to-do list, I’ve become a much more exhausted, anxious, and scruffier version of myself. I’m impatient at times. I’m frustrated at times. I’m short-tempered at times. I’ve never had so much required or expected of me.

As a mother, I’m constantly fueling the minds, bodies, and spirits of my children. And when you’re constantly fueling others, you sometimes forget to fuel yourself. 

I’ve gone mornings without breakfast and evenings without dinner. I’ve gone nights without sleep and days without sitting. I’ve had food thrown at me and vomit thrown on me. I’ve had my hair pulled and face screamed at. I’ve gone from jeans to pajamas. And the last time I cut my hair was over a year ago.

Have I lost myself? A little. Do I recognize myself? Some days, no.

Motherhood is transformative. It transforms a woman’s mental, physical, and emotional being. It changes a woman. Motherhood takes pieces of you. There are days motherhood will wear you down. But motherhood also provides you with the inspiration to be your best self for your children. And while you’re fueling their little hearts, they’re fueling your wants, desires, and dreams in an incredible way.

When I look in the mirror I see a woman who is tired, who is aged, who is ragged. I also see a woman who is determined, strong, and fierce. I see a woman who may have lost parts of herself in motherhood but who has also found parts of herself along the way.

This woman looking back at me is not a woman I recognize. She is a woman who speaks her voice, stands confident in her body, follows her dreams, and truly values the life she has. She’s a woman who left her career to raise babies, confidently went from a size zero to a size six, and isn’t afraid of exposing her truth. And if it wasn’t for the babies clinging to her lap, she never would have found a reason to value herself, to pursue dreams, or to stay true to her promises. 

So, have I lost myself? A little. Do I recognize myself? Some days, no. Have I become someone I’m proud of? The answer is yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

I’ve never loved deeper, worked harder, or fought stronger for anything in my life. I’ve never had a reason to look deep within me and find who I’m truly supposed to be. While motherhood causes you to lose parts of yourself, it isn’t always bad. It’s hard. It’s different. But not always bad. In some instances it leaves room for learning things about yourself you never knew, and for growing in a way you never dreamed of. So, the next time you’re in a change room cursing your wide hips, or looking in the mirror concealing the bags under your eyes—look within. Look at the traits motherhood has brought to life—and let those shine.