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All the Things I Never Knew Before You

Photograph by Twenty20

I sit rocking you, trying desperately to get this nursing thing down. My bones are tired, and I realize how much harder this is than I thought it would be. But I don't care. Before you, I thought I knew what it was like to be tired, to be drained, but I had no idea.

You finally fall asleep and I am free to do the same, but I am lying awake. I can see you, hear your breathing. Before you, I thought I knew what it was like to worry, but I have never experienced this feeling. You are safe, you are close, but I can not let myself go, and I lie awake.

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You are four days old, we are visiting a friend, she is holding you and I just can't relax. Before you, I thought I knew what it felt like to protect someone, but I want you back, I want to smell you, you are too far. I need you in my arms.

I am holding you, reading you your favorite book. You are so in the moment. You want nothing more than to sit with me, have me hold you close and repeat the same words over and over. Before you, I thought I knew what it was to be content, to feel settled, to be with someone and feel like we were the only two people in the world, but I didn't. You have the capability to turn off all the noise in my head.

Before you, I never knew how fast my heart could pound, how much it could hurt, how helpless I could feel while watching you do exactly what you were supposed to be doing.

You are tantruming—yelling and crying—and I am at my wits end. I am trying to hold it together, but I have no idea how to make this stop. Before you, I had no idea guilt could feel this heavy. I didn't know the feeling of regret could cut this deep on the nights I lie awake and long to have a do-over because I didn't bring my best. You have only been in bed for two hours but I miss you. I creep in and kiss you, and promise us both I will do better tomorrow.

You are starting your first day of school. You are scared and nervous but you walk inside anyway. Before you, I had no idea what mixed emotions really were—that I would want you to thrive, go out into the world and grow into a brave human being, while at the same time, wanting to keep you in a safe bubble. It is so hard to let go of you, but I have to, a little at a time.

You are at your ball game waiting in line to hit the ball. Another boy on the team is giving you a hard time and you handle it on your own. You look my way, proud, and it is all I can do to not go over and hug you. Before you, I never knew how fast my heart could pound, how much it could hurt, how helpless I could feel while watching you do exactly what you were supposed to be doing.

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You are growing so fast. You pull away when I try to hold your hand or kiss you before I have to say goodbye. I drop you off at school, and I sit and wait in the car and watch you. You don't know I am here. I see you in your element on the playground with your friends. Before you, I didn't know how much I could care about another person's happiness. Now I know, and it is all-encompassing.

You are upstairs with your friend, listening to music, laughing. You just finished a whole pizza and half gallon of chocolate milk. I am in a daze, listening to every sound, smiling to myself. I am lost in your voice, and suddenly you are a newborn, you are a toddler, you are starting school, you are playing sports, you are growing fast, you are pulling away, and I am still here, all in.

Because before you, I had no idea how fast the time actually does go. I was always looking for the next big event in my life, wanting the next chapter, and then you were here with your curious eyes and an open heart, and since then, all I have wanted to do is slow down time.

Before you, I didn't know how to love like this.

Thank you for showing me.

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