I have loved a lot in my life.
My mom, who was the first soul I knew, became the most inspiring person in my world and the person I still tell (almost) everything. She gave me life and taught me how grow into that life.
Then there were the pig-tailed, pajama clad friends who I made pinky promises to atop my blue flowered comforter as a young girl, before lying awake all night chatting in itchy-soft nightgowns. I loved those first friends with the giggling innocence of childhood and the expectation that life would always be that yummy.
Then there were the silly boys who came and went during my teen years, whose freckled faces I loved so much I thought I would die. And I swear I did ... a couple of times. And that goes for my twenties, too -- when I loved and lost -- beyond my comprehension -- and then tried to love again.
Then there are the friends I have loved even more as age has deepened my soul's affection for unbreakable female bonds. Many of them have become like family and stood in the gap that others have left behind.
And then came my husband, who finally showed me that faithfulness and commitment were not only possibilities in a relationship, but solid expectations. I found out that love could have solid roots and uproarious laughter at the same time.
But one day I learned a new kind of love.
Something incredible happened on my 38th birthday. My heart became unwrapped in a way that released emotions I was not aware were waiting inside of me. I gave birth for the first time, after years of heart break and disappointment, and I finally felt the love of my life: Motherhood.
I gave birth to twins.
One perfect boy and one gorgeous girl, and I felt my heart's door suddenly fly open to the maternal place of living... that wonderful, embracing swirl of life-giving love. In those surreal, life-bearing moments, all of my body was flooded -- gushing and pulsing with the most brilliant, endless love that could not have been explained to me in the decades before I entered this space.
I heard both of my babies' pink-faced, vulnerable cries scattering about the cold and beeping room, filling the space with new springs of energy, joy and the most beautiful hope of what was possible.
The doctor had to deliver them by C-section out of my gorgeously gigantic belly... one by one ... gently but swiftly. My son came out quite easily (first to the party), but my daughter was not quite so smooth (such a predictor), as she tucked herself up under the right side of my ribcage and insisted that a male nurse be called in to crack my ribs to get her exquisite little head released. And so she was... and so they were.
And in one minute, we became three independent bodies, deeply breathing in the life-filled air of the delivery room. With tears streaming down my face, after they cut the cords, I let them go from the nourishing space inside of me to the liberating world outside of me -- the most bittersweet moment of our birth day. I realized how much I loved having them safe inside of me, and how vulnerable I felt putting them out into the air. But it was time.
Yes, I knew they were coming. Two of them. I had heard that becoming a mother would be unlike anything before. I had read all of the books. But I admit... I was not prepared for the vibrant roots of affection that would immediately burrow into my being, tunneling into spaces into my soul that opened up widely for them, as if they had been waiting to be filled my entire life.
As those two exquisite bundles of life emerged from my body, I could feel energy being born from their dueling cries as they bounced off the metal and machines huddled around me. I watched the nurturing care of the nurses passing their wiggling, slippery bodies around, cleaning, wiping, measuring, reassuring. I could feel the life-blood of them coming into being as my own heart beat boldly against my chest, trying to keep up with the avalanche of joy, fear and astonishment coursing down my body.
"Oh my God, it's happening," I thought, smiling weakly from the medicine's effects on my body. I remember strongly calling on God in that moment, silently, as I was unable to move or scoop them in my arms like my soul was aching to do.
"Oh my God. Oh God, thank you! I am a mother. My babies are here. I am finally a mother! A mother of a gorgeous, tiny, dark-haired baby girl and precious, fuzzy-headed baby boy. We get to name them, care for them and watch their personalities unfold. I cannot believe they are finally here. Thank you God, thank you for answering all of the years of prayers."
As tears ran trails into my ears beneath the pale blue surgical cap, my husband held them, one by one, up close to my face, showing me the fullness of their beauty, letting me take in the miracle of their lives. They were real.
Lying still, trying to smile and wanting to say so much more, I inhaled as deeply as I could, breathing in the air that was now filled with the exhalations of my babies.
The squealing, breathing, living, perfect exhalations of my babies.
And through my tears, I breathed them in and out, as purposely as I could. And I knew ...
This was THAT kind of love.