When my son was first born and I was in a haze of fatigue and postpartum anxiety (the noxious cocktail of hormones surging through my body turning me into a person I didn’t recognize), the one thing I kept thinking was: How are there so many children in the world? Why do SO many people do this to themselves?

It sounds terrible, but I was truly mystified.

It was SO hard. Harder than anything I’d ever done. And even though people told me I would not be sleeping, and people said that my life would be completely different, I just naively thought it would be hard but not THAT hard.

Like all-nighters for finals hard. Or important, huge project with looming deadline hard. That it would be like anything that had been hard in my life so far: challenging, but not impossible.

But it wasn’t like those things.

It was you’re a mother now hard (something impossible to explain until you join the club) and I found myself feeling…regret.

I kept thinking back to my life just a week prior. Sure, I was massively pregnant, but I was getting a solid 9-10 hours of sleep a night. The only person I had to worry about other than myself was my husband, and he did not need me to wake up every two hours to feed him from my body (no pressure), or rock him to sleep at night (and if he did—we’d have other issues).

I was not feeling like an alien in my own body.

I was not crying for 20 out of the 24 hours of my day.

I was not living in this eerie cycle where day and night blended together into three hour chunks of sleeping, eating, burping and diaper changes on repeat forever and ever and ever.

I was not feeling massively alone and unprepared and questioning every single move I was making.

I was not having panic attacks in the middle of the day and sometimes at night, wracked with anxiety about doing it “wrong” and failing at what everyone else said should be “natural” or “instinctual.”

I felt like I was drowning, and the anchor came in the form of one adorable newborn weighing just a little over 8lbs.

I just kept thinking that I had made a huge mistake. That even though I had wanted to be a mother so badly, I didn’t really think it through. I didn’t know what being a mom really meant and I stupidly signed up for a job I was wholly unqualified for.

Parallel to all this, I felt this other thing too, though.

This ferocity of emotion that overwhelmed the anxiety and regret and heartache. It surprised me with its immensity and ubiquity.

It’s what fed my broken body and tired mind, and propelled me through each tearful moment, each question I didn’t have the answer to.

I love this human with every fiber of my being.

It was the one thing I knew to be right in a phase when I truly felt like I knew nothing.

It was something solid I could hold onto, persistent in its reassurance and cocky in its ability to manifest its energy.

Honestly, it’s what kept me going (cue all the cliche pop songs about the ‘power of love’) .

Every time the feeling of I can’t do this anymore bubbled up, the love fought it down.

Every time the sleep-deprivation kicked in, the love was my coffee (and coffee was my coffee, too).

Every time the judgement and worry and shame tried to come visit, love slammed the door in its face.

And every day, the love just kept getting stronger and stronger—strengthening me along with it, putting me back together.

It hasn’t stopped being hard. The challenges didn’t disappear, nor did the feelings of anxiety or worry. But the regret did melt away.

Because it was replaced with a crooked newborn smile. It was replaced with tiny giggles from ticklish feet. It was replaced with the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard: my baby calling me “Mama.”

And now I truly understand why there are so many children in the world.

It’s because of the love. The all encompassing, never-ending, life-saving love.