By the time I was 28, I was the mother of four kids who were 6 and under. To some, that might sound crazy. To others, that's nothing and I should have 10 before I'm allowed to talk. We're all different, right?
Having four kids in a six-year time span meant that for a long time, I was running on autopilot. I didn't really have a lot of time for introspection. I had to keep paddling or drown under a wave of diapers and tantrums and teething. But now, with my oldest about to turn 10 and my youngest about to turn 4 (how??), I feel like I finally have time to take a breath.
I've taken that opportunity to think over that time in my life and it's made me realize something rather shocking to admit: I had absolutely no clue what I was doing.
The truth is, back then, when I first became a mom as a 21-year-old pregnant college student, my biggest worries were making it through the semester without puking in every garbage can on campus and finding a wedding dress that could accommodate my bump. Fast-forward to three years later, and as a mom of two at 24, I was only worried about making it through my next night shift.
I didn't worry about miscarrying or SIDS or what could happen if we caught the flu. I didn't stay up just to watch my babies breathing because I was too exhausted myself. I didn't wonder if I should have another baby because the next thing you knew, the third and fourth babies were here and I was just trying to keep up.
All in all, I had babies before I knew enough to realize how lucky I really was. It took the experience of losing both my fifth and my sixth pregnancies before I truly took a good, hard look at the kids I can hold in my arms and really understood what a miracle it is that we are able to get to have these people in our lives. I mean, really: When you think of everything that had to happen and go right in order for just one human being to be on this earth, it's amazing that any of us are here at all.
There are benefits and drawbacks to having kids young, I know that—but now that I'm an older mother, I can see that there was a blissful ignorance I had back then that was a gift.
These days, I feel nothing but gratitude when I look at my children and I'm in awe that we've made it this far. In some ways, I wish I could go back and appreciate it more. But in other ways—can I admit something else to you?
I am so, so glad I had kids before I knew any better.
There are benefits and drawbacks to having kids young, I know that—but now that I'm an older mother, I can see that there was a blissful ignorance I had back then that was a gift. I didn't know enough to worry myself to death. I didn't know about all the things that could go wrong. I didn't know that I should worry about every little possible thing, from grapes and school shootings to window blind cords. I didn't know that a pregnancy might end in anything but a squealing, pink newborn.
I didn't know, so I didn't worry.
Now, I'm pretty sure I'm making up for all those years of skating by on survival mode, not even stopping to consider all of the horrible things that could go wrong, because I'm definitely as anxious as they come. I worry far more than I did during those six years of having my kids. I guess you could say that, in a way, being more aware of the hard things in life can help us appreciate all of the good that much more.
Maybe that's very true, but at the same time, I'm just going to sit back and thank my lucky stars that I had my kids before I knew better—and brace myself for the future, because my eyes have definitely and officially been opened. Look out, kids, mama is cutting your grapes until you're 21, so get ready.