If I heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times, when folks find out your are pregnant they love to share this line, "I didn't know what love was until I had a child".
I know this is one of many attempts at trying to share how incredible the experience of parenthood is. However, putting this journey into words simply seems impossible to me. Attempts at describing it still feel hollow in comparison to what is happening in my life due to the extraordinary opportunity of raising my daughter. There are a million ways I could attempt to describe this feeling of wholeness, attachment, love and purpose. It is carnal, it is innate, it comes not just from a desire in my heart and mind, but from every cell in my being. It's an ancient, biological, intended experience for the species of humanity. It feels amazing, and rightly so.
However, I have known love before this.
I think we pin the word "love" on the experience of parenthood because it can umbrella a lot of things that are going on here. And there is something just as profound as love happening when you become a parent. If I could rephrase this line it might go like this-
I didn't know what being present was until I had a child.
I spent years practicing being present to the moment. I have taught it, encouraged it, set it as a very high standard for myself and others in this almost exclusively, unpresent world. I can say now that all of those attempts seem like baby food in comparison to the filet mignon I am masticating today.
Having Noelle has brought me into the present moment like nothing before. It isn't just being physically present to the moment or spiritually present to the moment. It is being mentally present to the moment. This last piece is where I have failed for years. I just could not turn off my brain and it's future thinking obsession.
Having this child in my life has brought about a new way of being. Surveying a room, I see possibilities for how I will spend my time, then suddenly, in crawls Noelle. Everything must stop for a feeding, a changing, a bright smile that I can't stand to miss. Every single moment of her day is a discovery. Everything is new, she is literally growing and transforming right before my eyes. Looking away, diverting my attention to anything else, truly is a choice that results in missing something developmentally consequential. This has been one of the most precious, overwhelming, wonder-filled experiences of my life.
What makes this all so thrilling for me is the moment at hand. Noelle lives in the present moment. For her, that is all there is. No baggage, no fears. She is alert, curious, always investigating her world right now. Everything has a taste, a texture, a smell. Everything inspires awe, tears, smiles and deep breaths. Her frustrations, her laughter, her dreams, are all right here, right now. They are fleeting emotions and sensory explorations that lead to the next great adventure of discovering all that the present moment holds for her.
I feel so much love with Noelle because love is only available in the present moment. Yes, I love her with all I am and I suspect she loves me, but it is being fully immersed in this moment that is allowing me to be engulfed by this oh-so-transformational experience of love. Maybe this is why parents feel like they have never truly loved until now.
Perhaps we have never truly been present to another person in the now.
One of the astonishing gifts of parenthood is giving yourself permission to live in the moment with your child. Our children call us to the moment, the moment we often miss because we regularly choose the distractions of our obligatory adultness. Taking the time to join our little ones in the only time we actually have is the greatest gift I can think of. They are actually teaching us to be fully present in all of our relationships with human beings. And in learning to be fully present we learn to live the way we were designed to live- in love.