No one told me when I was counting down the days until my first baby was born, that I would be praying for those same dates to arrive slowly in the years to come.

No one told me that the anniversary of when I first held him in my arms, is also a reminder that the days of my arms being around him and always having him with me, are numbered.

That he won’t always be only mine.

No one told me that the hardest part of motherhood is not the late nights, tantrums, messes, disciplining, or decision making.

The hardest part is how the time moves. It is living with the knowledge that after all of the sticky counters are finally clean, the toys are boxed up, the fingerprints are wiped off the windows, and the clothes have stopped being outgrown, our kids will leave.

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You think it will happen slowly, the way time changes things, but it doesn’t. Their chubby fingers slim out and stop grabbing for yours. They stop asking you to tuck them in at night or read them a story, they no longer fit in your lap. You never even see it coming, you never know when it is the last time. They stop running to you when you walk in the door, they stop leaving wet, sticky kisses on your cheek or pile on you in the morning.

The word “Mom” stops echoing off your walls.

I’m not sure why we do this to ourselves—why we choose to have our hearts broken voluntarily, but without the births of our children, our hearts would never know what it’s like to be completely whole in the first place.

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No one told me I would dread that fateful day each year AND simultaneously feel immensely grateful for it. No one told me I would cry in my room on his birthday before heading out for presents and cake, then grin from ear to ear because I’m so happy for him and so thankful for another year.

Maybe someone did tell me, but I simply didn’t understand. Maybe it’s one of those things you have to experience on your own to really grasp it.

I never knew how much I could love someone until I saw his face. I never truly felt my heart wrench until I became his mom. So really, how could I have known before then?

I couldn’t have known.

I know now.

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The love that shatters me is the same love that wouldn’t change a thing because even though I long for all of this to last forever, I want what is best for him more.

Because our babies growing up and building their own life . . . that’s kind of the whole point, isn’t it?

This post originally appeared on Stay Home Mama

Brook Hall

Brook is an author, wife, and homeschooling mom of two boys who are only 372 days apart. As a PNW girl, her favorite kind of day is one spent cozied up by her faux fireplace with an iced coffee, and listening to the rain. Most importantly, she is a follower of Jesus and hopes to honor Him in everything she does.