05/07/2015 02:30 pm ET Updated May 07, 2016

My First Mother's Day

Stacy Pelander

I had a baby 17 years ago, but I'll be celebrating my very first Mother's Day on Sunday.

I remember the first (and only) Mother's Day gift I ever received. It was from my daughter's adoptive mother, and it was a lovely poem that she'd written for me. She included some pictures of the gorgeous girl I'd given birth to five months earlier. I cried for three days. Don't get me wrong; it was a beautiful thought, and it made me love her even more than I did before I gave her my baby. It confirmed that I should have no regrets because I'd given my child to be raised by someone so considerate. It just made me sad.

Now I have a baby of my own.

I am exhausted. I'm fat and my skin looks weird. My hair is always pulled back in a ponytail because the baby has recently learned to pull it. My back is killing me, and I have trouble trying to keep the house clean.

I'm regularly discussing and debating with my husband about how to get her to sleep, how to best play with her, what kind of school she should go to when she's older, whether to introduce her to foreign language and when...

I'm making friends with other new mothers. We're comparing parenting methods and discussing what works for us, arranging play dates, bonding over our trials and errors...

I'm reading everything I can get my hands on about parenting, milestones, what I can expect every week and what to be concerned about. A day doesn't go by that I'm not Googling something she's done, some face she's made or some random question I have about her development.

I worry when she makes a noise I'm unfamiliar with. I watch her while she sleeps just to make sure that she's still breathing. I wonder all the time if I'm doing the right thing, or if I'm giving her material to take to her therapist later in life. One of my nightmares is that she grows up to hate me.

I observe with unbridled joy every discovery she makes, from realizing she has hands that do things, to the little bears that float above her head on her swing's mobile. I make faces with her, giggle with her and babble with her. I sing to her and dance with her in my arms. I struggle to put together playlists that are appropriate but that won't drive me insane to hear over and over. I read to her. I stay up at night with her when she can't (or won't) sleep.

I have discovered that I will fight to the death to protect her. There is no baby cuter, sweeter or more brilliant than mine. There is nothing I wouldn't do for her, and the first thing I think about with every decision I make is what's best for her. I gaze at her little face and I wonder what amazing thing she'll do with her life, and realize at the same time that it doesn't matter what she does -- I love her unconditionally and always will.

I finally get a Mother's Day, but I'm not a mother. I'm a mom.