So, I may have a problem. I think it’s a good one though. I’m a parent.

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Even years after it stops being an issue, I still find myself going into the boys’ room and listen to them breathe. Sometimes I’ll even go as far as gently placing my hand on their chest just so it can be pushed up and down by their breathing. When you first have a baby, there are so many rules that a new parent is supposed to learn in what feels like a heartbeat. Then in an instant they aren’t babies anymore, but our minds don’t want to give up believing they are. We still want to see them as those innocent, completely helpless humans who are utterly dependent on us to feed them, clothe them, clean them, bathe them and, ultimately, love them unconditionally.

Before the boys, I was a pretty deep sleeper. But once there was a baby in our room, every move, every cough, every sniffle, even a sigh, it would cause me to wake up. And then I became a restless sleeper. Then I had to get used to being comfortable with knowing that Sweet Pea and then later Pooh Bear would be okay and that I had to just try to sleep through the night on my own when they were finally doing it on their own too.

All the horror stories played in my head back then of the stories of babies dying of SIDs and the parents having no control over it at all. So after just losing Timothy, this scared me beyond belief because I did not, could not lose, my one-month-old Sweet Pea too. Then we went through all the problems with his milk allergy and he got so pale and thin right after the funeral and all of our thoughts instantly turned into nightmares. But the doctor rushed us to Cardinal Glennon and they once again worked their magic. And five days later, our little man came out with color in his face and weight on his bones.

Being-a-Perfect-ParentMy point is being a parent never really gets easier and perhaps much of that is self-inflicted because our children become our highest priority the instant they are born. Earlier this summer when Pooh Bear was lying on the stretcher at Cardinal Glennon after busting his lip open, crying, reaching for me, my heart was in the bottom of my stomach because I felt helpless and at the mercy of those with more knowledge of how to fix my child. Tears feeling like they were permanently staining my cheeks because I just wanted to hold him close, but then I just need to let go for a little while and let someone else take care of my child.

My babies, no matter how old, will forever be my babies. And I will continue to tiptoe into their rooms at night to listen to them breathe as they sleep and dream of faraway places and mystical lands because it brings me a kind of peace that I can never really explain. At the end of an extremely stressful or busy day, my kids can always center me and direct me back to what truly matters — my family.

Life before babies… Sometimes it’s hard to remember. Bars, drinking way too much, actually hanging out with friends without babies, hangovers that didn’t last three to five days, sleeping in meant sleeping later than 8 a.m. and going out on a regular basis without needing to find a babysitter.

Life after babies… Is what I look forward to when I open my eyes most mornings. Wet kisses. Little arms wrapped around my neck. Hearing “I love you, Mommy, to the sun and back!” all the time. Excitement in their eyes after you’ve been at work all day. Cuddled up in bed, watching a movie. A lazy Saturday curled up on the couch, watching cartoons. Reading books together. Singing their favorite songs. Hearing them tell me about the newest things they learned at school.

It’s not a glamorous life, and in fact, sometimes it’s a little rough around the edges. But to the tell you the truth I wouldn’t trade it for all the riches in the world. Having kids is not easy by any means. It’s often icky, sticky, gooey and gross, but it’s worth every second. Do I miss the bar life? Not really. Do I miss having a life sometimes? Sure. But would go back to it in exchange for my kids? Never.

So to all those parents who still tiptoe into their children’s rooms when they are sleeping to listen to them breathe, even though they are well past the age to still have to worry, we all may have the same problem to admit to proudly — we’re parents for life.

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