Being a mom is hard. It just is. But there are different ways that it's hard — all related to the ages & stages of your kids. Some of us have multiple babies and toddlers all at the same time. Some of us have one baby. Some are so overloaded with children it's unfathomable to know what THAT is. It's hard enough with one child, or four, but upwards of 10? Come on. One person by herself can do the work of five people if she has to. And she has to.

BABY ONE

You're on your first. It doesn't matter if you're 17, 23, 30 or 40, it's hard. Your life is no longer your own. You have gone from being incredibly self-centered to incredibly blown away by how selfish you've been up to this point. You have epiphany moments of "if I'd only known!" And you are fast in the think of it, expected to have all the answers. Diapers, poops, rice cereal, bottles, schedules, sleep time, car seats, strollers, pack 'n plays, bouncers, pacifiers, changing tables, ointments, snot bulbs, umbilical cords, cotton tips, nail clippers, cradle cap ... the list is endless. How hot is the bath water? How warm is the milk? What's the temperature like outside? What's the temperature like inside? Where are we going? Will my stroller fit? On the plane? In my lap? Which carrier? What pediatrician? Where did this fever come from? What vaccine? What reaction? Endless, suffocatingly endless. Baby One is the push-up-your-sleeves experience of a lifetime. You look at your partner and you judge while telling yourself not to. Your weary body begs for rest, your mind screams for relief. That's just a nutshell of Baby One.

BABY TWO

More of the same except double the pains. The only reprieve is you've done this before. Only no two babies are different. You sleuth it out all over again. At this stage you are looking at your partner. If he's not helping enough you are eyeing him suspiciously. Thank God for another set of capable hands.  Thank God when the dishes get done without asking. Thank God for eager, thoughtful partners who don't need to be asked and who jump right in. Meanwhile, you KNOW you do more. Probably more than anyone else at any point of time in human history.  Secretly you like that you're the one who knows BEST. And it's hard to remember to encourage your partner because very rarely is anyone encouraging YOU.

BABY THREE

Divide and conquer. Baby One is 4 now and starting soccer. You all trot out to the field on Saturday morning after breakfast and potty and clothes and packing and trying to smile and act cool and relaxed because, hey, you got this and you're good at it and it's NOT a drag. It's a joy! That's right, it's a joy except for when you see younger, single and childless gorgeous younger women slinking about. You secretly despise them because THEY think they're busy. With what?! In fact, when your younger sister calls and blathers on about how BUSY she is though she has no children (!!) you want to rattle her cage, but you don't. You have learned to smile like the Mona Lisa. Knowing. Knowing and watching and beginning to cultivate your mother wisdom based on how much YOU know and how little your younger sister knows. How little those single, cool and gorgeous motherless girls know.

BABY FOUR

Really? You just HAD to have another baby, right? Now you rarely get to go place as a family because your husband has Baby One and Two — a little less maintenance for him, you think, your eyes thin slits. YOU have Baby Three who's now a toddler and Baby Four in your Moby wrap. Trot, trot along. Don't look too serious. Forget that the laundry is piling up, socks are everywhere, the playroom's a wreck, you haven't been to the grocery store, lunch is around the bend and then dinner and oh, yeah, you haven't spoken to your mom in weeks. Cuz she tells you what you need to do. Every time you talk to her it's advice, advice, advice. You just want to end the call. And every other well-meaning older woman you come into contact with smiles at you and says, "Time of your life!" or, "It goes so fast!" or, "Enjoy!" And you know they're right but you're saying "Shut up!" inside. Because you know. You know this is great, trudge trudge.

WARP SPEED

There's a time warp in life, y'all. You have one, two or more little kids and in the thick of it all it will never ends.  And then it does. They are suddenly one by one driving. They are needing you less and doing things with others or on their own. Your husband has a pooch belly. You've got lines around your mouth. This makes you out of sort, this high and dry period. You kinda sorta want it back ... because it WAS the time of your life. It was not a race to get to the finish line — the entire experience was the ride and there is NO finish line. You try to stay in touch with your kids. On Snapchat. On Twitter. Through texting. They don't always reply. They do if they need cash. So you learn to do things differently. Not be as available. Play a bit of hard to get. So they'll come looking for you.

THE TRUTH

Love is pain, agony, dirty, guilty, serious, wretched, exhausting. Love is amazing, forever, all-encompassing, understanding, compassionate, invigorating. You would not take a moment back. You don't yearn for those hard years, but you miss them. You WILL miss them. It's just that love has this uncanny ability to change form. Love is the base of all that you do with your children. It's the base of all those whacked-out emotions you feel over the years. All that you do when they are little, all that you do when they are big. Complaining is part of the journey. So is apology. But from small bodies to large, your children are your heart and soul. Baby One, Two, Three, Four or more. It's tough and it's not. And you are all in, no matter what.