When I was single and living in Brooklyn, N.Y., I spent one Purim bringing hamantaschen and holiday cheer to elderly Russian Jews in an old apartment building off of Ocean Parkway. Armed with a list of Jewish names and apartment numbers, my friend and I nervously approached the first door. After a few unanswered knocks, we were feeling despondent and unsure of ourselves. Our inhibitions melted away Finally, an older man answered, and through the language barrier and age gap, we still managed to bring a smile to his face with some cookies and our silly costumes. As the day went on, and more and more doors opened to us, our inhibitions and nerves melted away. We were on a spiritual high—our hearts full of love for our fellow Jews, who greeted us like family and welcomed us into their homes.

The final name on our list brought us to a door at the end of a hallway. We knocked and waited with the same breathlessness that every new door brought. I noticed the shadow of a mezuzah on the door post, a small tilted rectangle left unpainted. Finally, a woman answered, and we gave her and her small, white-haired mother some hamantaschen. As we began to say good-bye, my eyes caught sight of a small picture of the Rebbe framed above the kitchen door. I took the image of his smiling face with me as we finally left the apartment building. I walked down the stairs buoyed up by great joy. The Rebbe’s smile confirmed what I had felt that day—that I was fully present in the Rebbe’s mission of bringing holiday spirit to those who may not have otherwise experienced it.

Before I got married and had a baby, I would look to that moment as the fullest embodiment of bittul in my life. Bittul, often translated as “self-nullification,” refers to transcending one’s own ego to channel a greater reality or mission. And in that moment on Purim, I had forgotten about myself and my anxieties in order to empower another person to connect to his or her Jewish soul. I thought it couldn’t get more powerful than that.

During pregnancy, this concept of bittul—surpassing my own comfort and concerns for another person—became much more immediate, physical and inescapable. Whether I was putting in the effort or not, I was completely given over to this new life growing inside of me. It is almost too lofty to comprehend what was happening, that I was bringing a new person into the world.

Once my son was born, bittul took on a whole new dimension. In my mind’s eye, the Rebbe was still there smiling at me, and encouraging me to overcome my limitations and create the space to let another person thrive; however, this time, I wasn’t filled with happiness and clarity. This bittul meant sleepless nights, attending to a crying baby as my breakfast got cold, missing out on community events and hanging out with friends when my son needed me. This bittul was really hard work! I was both miserable and elated by my new service of G‑d. This was unlike anything I had experienced before.

I grew up in a home with one sibling, and I was always stubborn and independent. Like many girls my age, I grew up with the idea that my gender had no bearing on my life choices. Once I became religious, I began to learn that I actually gain so much by recognizing and celebrating the fact that I am a woman.

However, it wasn’t until I had a child that I realized the full meaning of my particular G‑dly mission as a woman. This is not to say that women without children do not have their unique Divine missions. Before and after giving birth, I’ve explored the various ways G‑d wants me to fulfill my mission in this world. Through it all, I’ve continued my education and am currently pursuing my Ph.D. in religious studies. But the uniquely feminine experience of giving birth, nursing and raising a child opened up new avenues in my G‑dly service.

Motherhood isMotherhood is intense. It’s continuous. intense. It’s continuous. It evolves and adapts and changes all the time. G‑d gave women a beautiful opportunity to develop ourselves into more patient, giving, selfless, intuitive people by having the challenges involved in birthing and raising babies. Of course, men also grow through raising children. But the months of pregnancy—and those early days when all babies want is to snuggle and be held by their mommy—are a singular gift to women to dig deep and find that part of themselves that is G‑dly. Only by tapping into that place can we transcend our personal needs and desires in order to care for another person who is utterly and completely dependent upon us.

Although I had the opportunity to transcend my comfort zone as a single woman, I will always recall those early days with my baby as a time of learning about a greater level of bittul—a bittul that demanded everything from me and gave me everything in return.