I was born three times, and I only realized it today. I remember the dates clearly: October 9, 2007. May 22, 2009. June 23, 2011.
I’m currently 34 years old.
My birth certificate, the one with the Florida state seal pressed into its lower right-hand corner, states that I was born on December 14, 1982, but now I know differently. I might have breathed my first on that day, but my heart didn’t start beating until 5:32pm on October 9, 2007.
That’s the day my daughter, my first child, was born.
She came out pretty and pink and not making a sound. She was so quiet all I could ask the doctor was, “Is she breathing? Tell me she’s breathing!”
She was breathing.
They placed her in my arms and she stared up at me with those dark, wide eyes and my heart started beating. She squinted and peered around, as if to take in this strange new world, and only then did my eyes truly see. It’s as though I stepped from a world of black and white into technicolor, and, just like that, my entire life turned upside down in the hardest and best way.
The same thing happened in 2009, and again in 2011.
I thought I’d known love until I held her. Love was reborn.
I thought I’d felt fear until I brought him home for the first time. That was pure terror.
I thought I’d needed God before, and then I had children. There’s nothing like knowing you’re responsible for another human life to help you understand how little you’re capable of on your own.
There was a season when they were young, needy, when I spent my days banging my head against the wall. I had been born and I didn’t want to live. The love was overshadowed by exhaustion and all the touching and the crying and the loneliness that is motherhood. I was sure they’d never age, even by a day, because time was stuck in cement.
And now, just like that and in the blink of an eye, their childhood is disappearing like sand through my fingers. My oldest is halfway to freedom, and the others aren’t far behind. It’s gut-wrenching.
I celebrate my birthday three times each year, and I hug my favorite gifts each and every day. And I’m alive.
This article originally appeared at Feel Free to Laugh.