The tricky thing about motherhood, and life in general, is that, given enough time, it all starts to blur together. No matter what you say, everything can be both completely true and entirely false depending on the day, or even the moment.

Motherhood is simultaneously awesome and awful. There are joys like I’ve never experienced. Watching the corners of my daughter’s mouth turn up in those soul-filling first smiles. Listening to her making up her own sweet songs around the campfire. Busting a gut with my husband over the words that would spring from her uninhibited psyche and out through her lips. Motherhood is a wonderful part of life.

But not always.

With motherhood also comes an intense capacity for for sadness. I remember feeling my first introductions into the sorrow of motherhood as I tried to prepare myself for life after birth, my wee babe growing safe and warm in my womb. I carried on, weeping at commercials and crying over sunsets, thinking it would all pass after pregnancy. Life would go back to normal, and I would again be able to watch the news, listen to music, or simply take a walk in nature without becoming a ball of mushy, snotty, tears.

I feel so silly now. How could I have thought that life would ever be “normal” again? Having a baby isn’t some sort of box to tick off on your to-do list. It’s a process of perpetual adjustments. A commitment to riding the swells and cradles in the tumultuous sea of change.

This new found ability to be the vessel for such intense emotion didn’t subside after our baby was born. Instead, it was magnified. The joy overflowed like never before, and the sorrow, well, it carved itself a hole in my chest. It’s not always with me, but when it’s here, there’s no avoiding it. Every so often it opens up and there it is, suddenly, like an unexpected visitor that forgot to call. I feel it physically. It pulls down on the inside of my chest like a vacuum. It irritates my insides and pushes at my throat and eyes, seeking a way to release the deep, deep sadness. Those days, and sometimes even weeks when it’s with me, it’s all I can do to keep from getting sucked into that vacuum. I fight the tears over and over, the lump sitting in my throat, swelling more each time I swallow it back.

It’s hard to be so changed. I wasn’t this way before. My whole identity is shaken from the constant beam of light that I used to be, the way I used to know myself. I don’t understand exactly what it is that’s caused this change, but I have some ideas.

Maybe it’s the stress that comes from being responsible for another being’s life and livelihood 24/7. I thought I knew what that meant – it seems pretty clear, doesn’t it? – but I didn’t fully understand until I was living it. I doubt that anyone really can.

Maybe it’s the hormones and biological changes that happen with pregnancy, childbirth, and adjusting to motherhood. And maybe it won’t be here forever. I’m hoping.

Maybe it’s the changes to my relationships, the losses and complications caused by bringing another human into the mix.

Maybe it’s about balance. Maybe – with all of the intensity of love, joy, and wonder we come to know as parents – mother nature knows we need some extra yin to our yang.

Whatever it is, I’ll get through it. The struggles are worth all the smiles, and I am strong. I’m a mom. I’ll make mistakes, but I’ll also make a wonderful mess of memories. I’ll laugh, I’ll cry, I’ll pulse with emotions that prove my humanity. I’ll let myself feel each feeling as they come, knowing they are valid, and also that they are fleeting.

I’ll learn to embrace the fact that my heart and my soul are capable of holding such raw and deep emotions. I’ll let them guide me to where I should be, to know what is important, and what holds me back.

I can do this, and so can you. We can learn to ride the waves.