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10 Defining moments of motherhood

Julie Ryan Evans is an editor and writer who has covered everything from Capitol Hill to the politics of preschool. A mother of two, a runner of races, and a gourmet chef wannabe, she currently lives outside of Orlando, Florida.

Milestones that make mothers' hearts soar and break into a million pieces

Motherhood — oh what a ride it is. With its ups and downs, bumps and turns, it's a journey we can never map out or know just where it will lead us. Still, no matter how different the parenting route we end up following, there are some experiences along the way that most every mother experiences.

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Some of them are joyous, while others cut us to the soul, but they all are parts of this crazy club called motherhood. Here are 10 of the big ones:

1. The first time you hold your baby

There is nothing like it. Nothing.

Milestones that make mothers' hearts soar and break into a million pieces

Image credit: Getty Images/Royalty Free/Ariel Skelley

2. The moment you realize how hard this parenting gig really is

Whether it's struggles with breastfeeding, extreme sleep deprivation or the inability to get your baby (or yourself) to stop crying, there's a point when you realize that no matter how much you planned and prepared, you really had no idea what you were in for.

Milestones that make mothers' hearts soar and break into a million pieces

Image credit: Getty Images/Royalty Free/Ian Hooton

3. Their first smile

You've spent weeks thinking maybe it was a smile, only to find out it's gas. When the real first smile comes, though, you know, and it's amazing.

Milestones that make mothers' hearts soar and break into a million pieces

Image credit: Getty Images/Royalty Free/indeed

4. The first time they get sick

It can be terrifying, and you aren't sure you can handle seeing them like this. But you do.

Milestones that make mothers' hearts soar and break into a million pieces

Image credit: Getty Images/Royalty Free/Lisa Wikstrand

5. The first time you leave them

Whether it's in day care when you return to work, with a babysitter for a date night or just with Dad while you go to the store, there comes a time when you will get in the car and pull out of the driveway without them. It's both liberating and the hardest thing you feel like you've ever done.

Milestones that make mothers' hearts soar and break into a million pieces

Image credit: Getty Images/JGI/Jamie Grill

6. The first time they leave you… and don't care

They used to cling to your leg and cry, and now they run off with their friends without a glance back. You're happy to see them growing up, but… sniff... they're growing up.

Milestones that make mothers' hearts soar and break into a million pieces

Image credit: Getty Images/Royalty Free/Rebecca Nelson

7. When their heart gets broken

Whether it's the loss of a loved one, a friend who crushed them or a romantic rebuff, the first time they are truly heartbroken, your heart feels like it's going to explode. You never knew you could ache this much for another human being.

Milestones that make mothers' hearts soar and break into a million pieces

Image credit: Getty Images/Royalty Free/Susan K

8. Their first date

They will eventually find someone who they love in a way that's totally different from the way they love you. Your mind will spin at warp speed toward sex, a wedding and babies.

Milestones that make mothers' hearts soar and break into a million pieces

Image credit: Getty Images/Royalty Free/Tetra Images

9. When they leave home

Whether to college or to their first apartment, this is more than sleepaway camp. They're heading out your door to begin their new life — a life without you — and even if they come back for holidays for a while, your house will never be the same.

Milestones that make mothers' hearts soar and break into a million pieces

Image credit: Getty Images/Royalty Free/Biend Images - Terry Vine Brand X Pictures

10. When you realize your job is done

Just kidding. This will never happen. As much as we love, teach and try to prepare our children, we'll always worry, always want to teach them more, no matter how old we are. Just ask your mother.

Milestones that make mothers' hearts soar and break into a million pieces

Image credit: Getty Images/Royalty Free/Hero Images

What are moments that have most defined motherhood for you?

Milestones that make mothers' hearts soar and break into a million pieces

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