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Mom Milestones

As a first-time mom, I dutifully  -- my husband might say "obsessively"  -- wrote down my son's every new experience and accomplishment.

Henry's first bath: 6 days old.

First smile: 6 1/2 weeks old.

First mimicked sounds: 6 months old.

Taken together, these events paint a portrait of a baby's progress. But a new mom undergoes just as many miraculous changes as her baby does. So where's my list of memorable moments?

Although these eight milestones don't appear in any fill-in-the-blank baby book, and their timing varies from mom to mom, each is a true turning point:

Admitting you can't do it alone

It's one thing to read in pregnancy guides that you should enlist help with the baby. It's another to follow that advice. Most new moms are good at accepting the random casserole but not so good at asking friends and family to babysit or run errands. Needing a hand isn't a sign of weakness; it's a normal by-product of early motherhood's demands.

It took Tonya Hawkins of Dunmor, Kentucky, four months after her daughter Caidence's birth to ask for help. With her husband at work, mother five hours away, and mother-in-law grieving over her best friend's death, Hawkins didn't want to inconvenience anyone. "I was doing everything myself, so I felt I should be able to keep it up," she says.

But one day, when dirty dishes filled the sink, laundry piled to the ceiling, and she hadn't managed a home-cooked meal in days, Hawkins knew she needed to stop trying to do it all. "Only after I'd completely exhausted myself did I realize 'Hey, I need help!'" she says. The people in her life  -- who assumed she was managing fine, since she insisted she was  -- were happy to pitch in. Now, for instance, her mother-in-law watches Caidence once a week and helps Hawkins clean. "It's really boosted my spirits and energy," she says.

Contributing editor Paula Spencer is the author of Momfidence! An Oreo Never Killed Anybody and Other Secrets of Happier Parenting.