We’ve all heard the saying that something can be “greater than the sum of its parts.” This phenomenon is most certainly illustrated by motherhood joyful, scary, silly, stressful, heart-enlarging motherhood. While it’s generally true that one plus one equals two, when one is a mother, and one is her child, the result is something more like infinity. Your child becomes the air you breathe and the reason you take every breath.

I had heard like every parent-to-be does, that having a baby changes everything. Rationally, I accepted that notion without question. Actually, I remember thinking it was rather absurd that people felt the need to tell me this. It seemed so obvious.

When my daughter was born, I realized that I was genuinely shocked by what everyone had been talking about. I could never have imagined that “everything” would include everything literally. It was as if I had taken a zealous hop through a looking glass, and the entire world was different on the other side. It felt like my DNA had been transformed. Such drastic changes all at once had me feeling overwhelmed.

I am so grateful I had and still have amazing peoples in my life who I could reach out to when I was feeling crazed, inept, sick, or otherwise in need of advice. I have friends; also new moms, to share in the craziness and sympathize with our new-dad husbands seeming like knuckleheads sometimes. I have our nanny who is an endless fountain of knowledge, patience, and understanding on top of giving great hugs. I have an amazing mother-in-law who has never once challenged any of my mothering choices and would be here in a second if we needed her.

And then there is my mom, a woman I generally consider a superhero. I still haven’t found adequate words to describe how much she means to me. Though I may not have the words, I now have the insight. One of the most significant parts of everything changing is that you finally understand the way your own mom loves you. And that is a kind of understanding that is much greater than the sum of its parts.