Before I was a mother, I would joke around with my baby-loving friends: “I love kids, but I don’t really like babies. When the time comes, you take care of my babies until they’re toddlers and then I’ll take them back.” But I didn’t know.
I didn’t know I would fall in love at first sight when each of my own three children were born. I didn’t know the overwhelming love I would feel when my sons were placed on my chest or the instant protectiveness I would feel when my daughter was whisked away to the NICU before I got a chance to hold her.
I didn’t know the pure bliss that is holding a baby as they drift off to sleep, knowing they are safe and loved in the comfort of their mother’s arms. I didn’t know I would be content to rock them for hours in the nursery, inhaling the scent of freshly washed baby hair, and staring out the window while imagining our lives together. I didn’t know how gratifying it would be to provide them simple, basic necessities — food, a warm bath, clean jammies, and a quiet, dark room to sleep in. I didn’t know they would transform our house into a home.
I didn’t know how much I’d miss them when I returned to work after maternity leave. And that I would quickly decide to turn away all visitors during the workweek because our time together was so precious and limited that I didn’t want to share it with anyone else. I didn’t know that the highlight of my workdays would be racing home just to make them smile at me.
I didn’t know that their babbling would be music to my ears or that their little giggles would become my favorite sound. I didn’t know how amazing it would be to bear witness to their pride and excitement each time they learned something new. I didn’t know how early their little personalities would begin to emerge, or that such young people could have such big opinions, or that all of these things would be an endless source of entertainment.
I didn’t know that I (never really a morning person) would begin to love mornings, waking up to the sweet sound of baby chatter on the monitor, and being greeted with a big smile and chubby little arms reaching out from the crib to hug me. I didn’t know that sometimes after a long, hard day, I would dare to tiptoe into the nursery after they’d been fast asleep for hours, just to steal an extra snuggle.
I didn’t know their existence would transform me, beginning a never-ending quest to better myself in order to be the role model they deserve.
I didn’t know how fast it would go. I didn’t know I’d cry bittersweet tears with my son’s teacher on his last day in the baby room, with the realization that somehow my baby had already become a toddler. I didn’t know I’d look back on those baby years and miss them. And that if given the chance now, I’d gladly turn back time and relive those years, knowing now that the sleepless nights, long days, and exhaustion all pale in comparison to the cuddles and the giggles, the wonder and the innocence, the simplicity and the joy.
Now I know.