Before she was born, I worried. Oh, how I worried. I worried about the birth. I worried about the baby's health. I worried I might never have a daughter. I worried that even if I did have a daughter I wouldn't be able to love her the way I love my sons. I worried and I worried and I worried some more.
And then she was born. And everything just fell into place.
The birth was all I could have hoped for. She was healthy. I had a daughter (I had a daughter, I had a daughter. I still can't quite believe it). The love I have for her is so profound, so big and magnificent that it sometimes feels like too much, maybe. I know this love. This scary, heavy, almost crippling love that leaves you changed forever. Which is to say I love her just as much as her brothers. Which is to say there is no going back. She is a part of me that can never be undone.
When you have your first it rocks you to the core. The changes to your life are so drastic and so immediate that I imagine it's a bit like being thrown into battle - a new soldier in a foreign land. It's a bit like just trying to survive. As Elizabeth said of her first born, "we bonded, but we bonded like war buddies". Every small victory is hard won. Everyday that you look around and everyone is still alive and accounted for seems like a small miracle. You spend his babyhood just trying to get through it.
When you have your second, it's more like riding a bike. Things are not as scary this time, and you relish in the comparative ease of it all. The adjustment is merely a blip on the screen and life simply goes on. Until one day your baby is a toddler and you realize you did not spend nearly enough time soaking up his babyhood. You breezed right through it and now it's gone and you can never get it back.
And so, when you have your third you come to this season of motherhood a little wiser and maybe a little more thankful for this one last chance to start anew. Things are harder, undoubtedly. You are still just one person with two tired hands and three little people who all need you just as much as they ever did. But when the baby is crying and dinner needs made and homework needs checked, you just look down at the perfect creature in your arms and laugh. Because you appreciate this time, even the hard parts, so much more than you ever could have before. Because you know that one day you will miss this. You know how time has a way of just slipping by. And so you smile at the crying baby and hold her a little closer. You try to imprint each fleeting moment into your memory. You don't bother worrying over fussy nights or lost sleep anymore, you just soak it all in. You relish in the diaper changing and cluster feedings and baskets of tiny laundry that need washing. You are tired, but you are happy and so very grateful to be here.