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Jillian Michaels on Becoming a Mom

Courtesy of Jillian Michaels

After 27 grueling hours of labor (poor Heidi), our son, Phoenix, was born. Seventy-two hours later, I'm on a plane to Port-au-Prince to scoop up our daughter, Lukensia, and make our family complete.

Heading to the airport, I felt anxious and overwhelmed. I hadn't eaten for days. During Heidi's three days of labor and recovery, I was simultaneously dotting i's and crossing t's for our daughter's visa into the U.S. and wrapping up the final stages of her adoption process. I held it together until I walked through those orphanage doors. Our little girl saw me and climbed into my arms—she knew it was finally time to go home. I fell to my knees and wept. Sounds like a movie, right? Except this really happened!

In 2010 my partner, Heidi, and I started trying to adopt, a process that became more discouraging and heartbreaking by the day. As a result, we decided to get pregnant. Of course, the day we found out we were having a baby, we learned that we'd been matched with a child from Haiti. I brought Lu home four days after our son was born.

This movie sounds like a drama, but it ended up a comedy. You know, the one where the parents are exhausted, at each other's throats, and covered in poop, pee, and spit-up 24/7. We were two utterly unprepared parents caring for a newborn and an adopted toddler who didn't speak English.

Let's not sugarcoat this: It was really, really hard. Shortly after Lu got home, she had to have 20 vials of blood drawn. I was instructed to physically restrain her while they repeatedly jabbed needles in her tiny arms for a two-hour stretch. She looked into my eyes and cried over and over, “Help, Mama, help.” Then Phoenix got croup. Heidi and I took turns melting in our steam-filled bathroom just so he could breathe long enough to take his bottle.

My life had become so centered around the kids that I felt like a part of me had died. I'm not woman enough for this, I thought. I'd imagined that I'd be so drunk with love that everything else would fall by the wayside, but that wasn't the case. It left me feeling guilty, scared, and confused.

I didn't know it then, but I was learning that parenthood is the great equalizer. Everyone starts as a beginner and improves with time (even life coaches!). I have accepted that a part of me had died, but another part of me was being born. My kids are remaking me into a stronger, more selfless woman—a woman I can be proud of.

I may not be the best mom in the world, but today everyone in our house is smiling more than we're crying. For some, that's just good enough. To me, it's a huge success.