I put on my third shirt today to discover that it too had a crusty sample of yesterday's lunch prominently displayed on the chest. When did I have a banana?

That's when I made an even more disturbing discovery — I didn't care.

I made a cursory scratch at the crusty spot, shrugged and started my day.

As a mother of a 1-year-old daughter, Ellie, it's a rare day that I'm not coated in something. Sometimes it's dried baby food or milk stains. Other times it's spit-up streaks or spots of crunchy who-knows-what that defies classification.

It's not just the clothes; my hair often has oatmeal chunks in it, and it's a banner day when I don't stumble upon some sticky substance coating my neck. And there I am just walking around in public, touting this collateral breakfast damage like so many battle wounds.

But as I looked at my stained shirt, I wondered if maybe I've been going about this all wrong. Maybe these aren't battle wounds, but war medals — badges of honor and accomplishment.

Haven't I earned the right to flaunt these signs of a good — albeit exhausted — mother? Sure, I could wash the oatmeal birthmark off my neck and force my feet into a pair of stilettos that have made excellent bookends over the past year, but why? Don't I deserve to take a little more pride in these badges rather than trying to hide them? Although this may be a moot point for my post-nursing breasts, which are acting independently to hide themselves in my pants' front pockets.

But why spend hours in pursuit of the perfect push-up bra that will put my anatomy an inch closer to where it started? Hey, these are working breasts; I earned these drooping ladies.

Why hide the dark circles under my eyes under layers of concealer? These rings tell of sleepless nights holding a finger under my daughter's nose to make sure she was still breathing.

So, let's celebrate these badges of motherhood together. It's about time we let go of the Super Woman mentality and talk honestly about the shortcomings and wild rides on this steep learning curve of motherhood.

I'm not saying it's going to be pretty. In fact, most of the telltale signs of a new mom are downright hideous. But I'm claiming my mommy badges, stretch marks and all. I'm putting them all out here for you to read about, along with all my blunders, embarrassing new mom moments and transcendent moments of clarity.

And just maybe we can laugh together and learn to love our badges a little more.

Well, all except those mashed bananas on my collar. That's just gross.

Erin Stewart also writes a blog, Just4Moms, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Join the conversation at deseretnews.com

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