taking the time to marvel.

When my first baby was born, I did what most first time parents do: I marveled.

I marveled at the newness of him, at his tiny fingers and toes, the way the top of his head smelled. I basked in the glory of my new mom identity, of belonging to a tribe that I had coveted since I was a little girl carefully wrapping baby dolls in blankets.

I was protective of my firstborn, a classic momma bear, and didn’t like anyone holding him for too long. I needed him in my arms—attached to me, wrapped around me, strapped to me like a baby kangaroo. I stared at him all day long in slow motion, watching him breathe, watching him sleep. He was the most beautiful and magical creature I had ever laid eyes on.

We got in a groove quickly, my firstborn and I. We went to baby yoga and playgroup and for walks around the neighborhood. I took obnoxious amounts of photos of him every chance I got. We were better together, him and I.

As days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and those months turned into years, my baby did what all babies do—he started to grow up. And it was okay that he was growing up because in the back of my head I knew I was probably going to have more babies. I knew there would probably be more newborn sighs and more kitchen sink baths; more chances to soak it up and more opportunities to marvel.

I gave birth to my second baby four weeks ago. He arrived a whole month early and to say I was unprepared would be an understatement. Everything shifted and it shifted quickly. It now takes us two hours to leave the house, and that's on a good day. When my toddler is napping, my newborn is crying, and nothing is getting done. I forgot what it’s like to be sleep deprived and I forgot how much laundry a newborn creates.

But despite the chaos and the sleep deprivation and the burp cloths covered in spit-up (so! much! spit-up!), make no mistake—I am still marveling.

The marveling is just different now.

With the first baby, I marveled because it was the beginning of a great love, a love I had never known before. With the second baby, I’m marveling from a place of perspective, a place of knowing how quickly time passes, of knowing how—in the blink of an eye—this sweet six-pound baby that practically fits in one hand will be a thirty pound toddler jumping off the couch.

How did we even get here?

I look at my toddler, my first blue-eyed boy, and he is suddenly a giant. Bigger than a giant. And he’s only in the 50th percentile for height and weight. It makes no sense. Just yesterday I was taking him to baby yoga, and today he straight up asked for a Jamba Juice. Not a smoothie. A Jamba Juice.

It’s almost as if I had no concept of time prior to having children. I’ve spent my whole life waiting for the next stage, the next season that was surely going to be better than the present. The grass was always greener on the other sidein the future. I spent all of high school dreaming of college and all of college dreaming of my career. I spent all of my years dating dreaming of marriage and all of my marriage dreaming of babies. Dreaming, always dreaming, of what’s next and what’s to come.

And now, for the first time in my whole life, I’m not dreaming of what’s next. Because I know the season on the horizon; I know what’s next. And what’s next is me not having babies anymore. It’s a body that is done being pregnant, done birthing babies, finished breastfeeding forever. That thought haunts me in a hundred different ways.

Because as exhausted as I am today, right now this minute, pouring every ounce of myself into this newborn and toddler, wiping spit-up off my shirt and emptying that stupid dishwasher for the eighth time this week, I cannot even begin to imagine a life without babies.

I cannot even begin to imagine a life without breastfeeding and babywearing and feeling tiny kicks in my belly. I cannot even begin to imagine a life without a newborn curled up on my chest, sighing and smiling in his sleep. What would that life even look like? What will my life look like when I wake up and my children can dress themselves and feed themselves and roll their eyes at me? What will my life look like when I am not needed every second of every day?

I know there are wonderful adventures awaiting us, and a whole different set of challenges ahead, but I have never been more aware of just how extraordinary this time is—frozen right here, in the present, with this newborn and this toddler and the days that feel so very long but also so very magical. And therein lies the trap of motherhood: the irony of counting down the minutes till bedtime and writing these very words once my children are asleep. 

Everyone keeps asking me how life is different with two kids. My default answer is that it now takes me two hours to leave the house.

But the truth is: my life is different with two kids because for the first time as a mother, I feel the finality of it. I feel my time running out, my own self getting older, my own babies getting bigger, the sand running out of the hourglass timer sitting on the board game.

I can’t stop it. This is life.

One day I am going to wake up and my children will be grown and the warmth of a baby curled up in my arms will be nothing more than a memory. 

And the only way I know how to cope is to continue to marvel.

Marveling is difficult with two kids because you can't just sit on your couch for six weeks watching your baby sleep. There's a toddler to entertain, snacks to prepare, parks to visit, playgroups to attend, things to do to keep your sanity. If I am learning one lesson right now, it’s that you have to be more intentional when it comes to your second baby. You have to make the time to notice him, to focus on him, to sit silently in awe of the wonder of him. 

So with this second child, with this precious six-pound baby of mine, I have made a promise to myself to take one moment, every single day, to intentionally marvel.

I am stealing just one moment a day to stare at his nose, to count his fingers, to smell his head, to watch him sleep. I am carving out one moment a day to ignore the crumbs on the floor, to hold him a little bit longer and kiss his cheeks a dozen times. 

These are the days, you know?

If I live to be 80 years old someday, God willing, I know I will never forget what it feels like to have a baby sleeping on my chest. I will never forget what it feels like to breastfeed, his tiny body pressed up against mine underneath the duvet cover while the sun comes up. I will never forget what it feels like to hold a newborn baby in my arms, thanking God in the quiet of the day for trusting me with such a beloved gift and immense responsibility.

And at the end of my life, I will never, ever, regret taking the time to marvel.

Written by Ashlee Gadd.