It’s been five years now.

Five years of rocking and diaper changing and kissing boo-boos and wiping tears and correcting behavior and snuggling and reading books and cleaning up all. the. things.

Five years of milestone-recording and picture-taking and preschool-researching and playdate-arranging.

Five years of feeling my heart walk around outside my chest.

Five years of desperately longing for bedtime, only to spend my evenings looking at cute pictures of my kids.

Five years of wondering if they got there safely.

Five years of not being able to leave my house whenever I want, or sleep in whenever I want, or buy anything I want.

Five years of the purest love I’ve ever known.

And after five years of motherhood to my 5, 3 and 1-year-old children, I’m a totally different person. But the biggest shock isn’t that I’ve been transformed by motherhood.

It’s that I truly cannot remember what it was like to not be a mom.

Of course I remember some things—where I lived, what I did most days, what I hoped for in motherhood. But I cannot remember what it FEELS like to be me-before-kids.

It’s almost as if a form of motherhood-induced amnesia has struck: As much as I’d like to go back in time for a bit, I cannot inhabit the mind of me before kids.

What did I used to worry about? Why did I think I was SO busy? (Ha, just you wait, lady.) What did I think motherhood would be like? And why did I not take more pictures of my pre-baby stomach?!

When you’re expecting your first child, people will tell you, “You cannot understand until you have a child.”

You nod and smile—desperate to understand—but unsure of exactly what that means. You are sure your life will change, but you have no clue exactly how.

And now, of course, now I get it.

It’s as if I’ve been transported to a foreign land and can never return to my past.

And yet, sometimes I wish I could go back and tell the “old me” so many things.

I wish I could have forced “old me” to get up early and get stuff done before work—but I only found the strength to do that when I was up against childcare deadlines.

I wish I could teach“old me” how to really focus at work—a skill I only learned after kids came along and it became absolutely necessary.

I wish I could give “old me” body confidence—but it was pregnancy and becoming a mother that allowed me to see my body through the eyes of love and admiration.

I wish “old me” could have understood just HOW MUCH LEISURE TIME SHE ACTUALLY HAD—but it took motherhood to see that free time as precious.

I wish “old me” could have enjoyed more date nights and getaways—but it was having kids that forced me to prioritize R+R more than ever.

I wish I could have shown “old me” just how good she had it—but also let her know that the best part of life was yet to come.

I’ll never know “old me” again. I’ll never have totally free weekends, mornings sleeping in, endless “fun” money to spend and only myself to worry about.

And for that, I am so very grateful.