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To the stranger who told me 'it goes by so fast,' I hear what you're really saying

First of all, you're right. It really does go so fast. Minutes after listening to your child recount his day at school, Facebook blasts you with a memory from the newborn days, sending you down the where-did-my-baby-go rabbit hole. And for a moment (or an hour), you are soaked in the nostalgia of the early days.

Not necessarily the newborn days but simply, the days before today. The days when something—newborn snuggles, diapers, light-up sneakers, a beloved lovey—was every day, and then, without warning, was never again.

So when you see me on bended knee negotiating with my toddler with a baby strapped to my chest, or pushing a rickety shopping cart while frantically doling out snacks, your voice says, "It goes so fast" my heart hears, "I have been there, it was hard… I miss it."

I am like the Facebook memory tugging your heart back to the days before today. The faces of my children may not perfectly resemble yours but their innocence, tears and giggles do.

When you say, "Blink and you will miss it. My daughter is graduating from college this week, you should savor these moments," what I hear is, "These days don't last, I wish I could go back if only for a moment."

I hear this because while you see yourself in me, I already see myself in you. My oldest child is only 3 years old, but I find myself wanting to blurt these words to other mothers every day. You are seeing me in the same rearview mirror I sometimes look through. Even with so much still ahead of me, I get caught looking backward.

I overhear a hopeful mother in the coffee shop. And I remember the journey, the needles, the prayers for a positive pregnancy test, the absolute beginning. Every first kick and smile just waiting to be discovered. And without speaking, I think, I have been there. It was hard. And even, tucked in a tiny corner of my heart, I miss it.

I hear a newborn crying in a store. A cry so distinct, it is likely the mother is not fully healed from delivery, yet she just had to get out of the house. I see her shushing her newborn while fumbling with a nursing cover. I remember the days when this brand new life required every last drop of you, a reality that offers both joy and hardship. And while I can relate to the overwhelm that threatens to suffocate her, I want to whisper, "I have been there. It was hard…I miss it."

I see a mama resting one hand on a burgeoning belly while juggling a toddler, sippy cup and dinosaur with the other. And I remember the days of holding one sweet boy in my arms and the other in my belly. Somehow dedicating my outer body to one child and my inner to his brother. And when I see her, I can't help but think, I have been there, it was hard…I miss it.

So when you tell me "it goes so fast," I hear what you are really saying. Because while my today is your yesterday, I already see it as another mother's tomorrow.

I know that your lenses are not colored by roses, but by motherhood. And while you do remember the challenges, the joys are more vibrant, the wonder of those moments more clear, and you are trying to help me capture it. Because just like those newborn snuggles, once they are gone, they don't come back.

As the saying goes, babies don't keep. We can't freeze time, we can't turn back the clock. So when you see me in your old shoes, you say what you can. The four words that you desperately hope will convey that these days—that feel like years—will slip right through my fingers.

But, don't worry. Whether I'm belly laughing with my boys or breaking a sweat managing a parking lot tantrum, I know that these moments are magic in its purest form. And I, too, know that I will wake up tomorrow missing today.

Because it really does go so fast.

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