You won't earn your new title overnight, but when you do, you'll know. Watch out for these new-mom milestones—and hold onto your heart strings!
Motherhood Illustration
Credit: Nathalie Dion

When you have a baby, you're a mother of course! But actually feeling like one? That's something you grow into, often without even realizing it. Along the way there are certain moments so achingly sweet, so hilariously surprising, so confidence-stoking that you know you're a bona fide, been-through-the-poop parent. We asked seasoned mamas to tell us when they finally hit that unmistakable milestone.

The first time you ...

Hold your baby

"My son, Noah, was premature, and we could touch him only through an incubator. After nearly two weeks in the NICU, the nurse nonchalantly asked, 'Do you want to hold him?' I was so nervous. But when she handed him to me, there was immediate euphoria—this was my child! I gave him a kiss and, for the first time since he was born, felt like a real mommy."

Sherri Francois

Bedford, New York

The first time you ...

Fly Solo

"My mom stayed a week after my daughter was born. It was wonderful to have someone so knowledgeable teach me everything and to have help around the house. But I was also psyched to bond with the baby once my mom left and my husband went back to work. That first week, I didn't change a single diaper or hold my baby much thanks to the two of them fighting over her! Once it was just

my daughter and me, I felt more like a mom and less like a milk cow."

Tegan Drapehs

Newport, North Carolina

The first time you ...

Are coated in bodily fluid

"I was showing my husband how to change a diaper, and we were having a lovely family moment. But as soon as I took the diaper off, my son squirted all three of us with poop. Dad was so sick, he had to run out of the room!"

Vanessa Coppes

Marlboro, New Jersey

The first time you ...

Know exactly what to do

"My son was a week old, and we were nursing in the middle of the night. My milk had let down strongly. One minute I heard him sucking and the next complete silence. Instantly I knew he was choking. At first I panicked, then my instincts kicked in. I turned him over in my lap and patted him between the shoulders, just as the hospital had suggested, and he started breathing again. I felt such relief! I've never questioned myself since."

Kelsey White

Salinas, California

The first time you ...

Leave him for a few hours

"My son, Micah, was about 6 weeks old when my husband and I went out for dinner and a movie. I cried on the way to the theater, and all I did was talk about our son before, during, and after the meal. It was pitiful...purely pitiful!"

Crystal Jones

Gulfport, Mississippi

The first time you ...

Breastfeed in public

"I always planned to be one of those moms who simply took out my breast, latched my child, and looked straight into the eyes of everyone who was staring. I'd be saying: 'Yes, this is my breast. I created this human being, and now I'm nourishing him.' But after I had my son, I realized I didn't need to prove anything. Being a parent isn't about that. It's about loving, caring for, and raising your child as best you can. So in public, I covered up. And instead of staring into strangers' eyes, I looked into my son's. Those moments were the best."

Brittany Young

Sacramento, California

The first time you ...

Go back to work

"It took 20 minutes, 200 kisses, and a major pep talk from my husband just to get out the door. I turned up the radio on the drive to work and promised to treat myself at lunch if I made it all the way through the morning without crying. Miraculously, I did."

Kelly Louis

Jacksonville, Florida

The first time you ...

Get a kiss

"Avalon put her hands on my face and looked at me with dreamy eyes. She leaned forward, mouth open, seemingly ready to kiss me. Instead she reached behind my head, pulled my hair, and slobbered all over my cheek!"

Sabrina Lanier

Dagsboro, Delaware

The first time you ...

Travel together

"I took my son, Alex, on a five-hour drive to Cape Cod when he was 3 months old. I was so desperate for a change of scenery that I didn't think about how awful it would be to travel with a colicky infant who hated being confined to a car seat or stroller. We had to pull into truck stops constantly so I could nurse him or change his diaper or calm him down. I swore I would never road-trip with him again!"

Alonna Travin

Chappaqua, New York

The first time you ...

Hear a belly laugh

"When my son was about 4 1/2 months old, my husband was pretending to 'eat' the baby's rolls, particularly around his underarms, when it happened. It wasn't just a short giggle, but a prolonged laugh that let us know whatever we were doing was working. My heart melted."

Toral Patel

Verona, New Jersey

The first time you ...

Have to leave a restaurant before the food arrives

"When my eldest son was about 9 months old, I took him to lunch with my newly pregnant friend at a posh café. He'd been acting up, but I chalked it up to teething. I was feeding him jarred peas and rice when the entire contents of his stomach erupted Exorcist-style across the restaurant. My friend turned ghostly pale. We threw some cash on the table and hightailed it home!"

Eileen Wolter

Summit, New Jersey

The first time you ...

Think, Yeah, I can definitely do this again!

"My son, Oliver, had just celebrated his second birthday and was in that totally cute stage when they're moving around and talking and no longer so completely dependent on Mom. By then I had forgotten about the sleepless nights and my baby weight had finally disappeared. All I could think about was the sweet smile on my little boy and how I couldn't wait to have another!"

Dori Rhoades

Los Angeles

Originally published in American Baby magazine in May 2014.

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American Baby