Guest Blog By Erika Thomas

For as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to be a mother. I loved children and always enjoyed babysitting and working in my church’s nursery. But as a teenager, I thought I wouldn’t even get married until I was in my thirties and then start thinking about kids after launching my career. But when I turned 30 in January, I spent some time reflecting on my life so far and realized… how quickly things change.

I graduated from college at 21 with summa cum laude honors and dual degrees. As many journalists do, I moved to a small Midwest town I’d never heard of to start my first full-time job in television news as an anchor and reporter. When I met my husband a month after my 23rd birthday, he had never seen me on TV (thankfully!) I was 26 when we got married on a beach in Mexico surrounded by a small group of family and friends.

Exactly four weeks after my 28th birthday, I gave birth to our first child – a son named Axl. His arrival was a bit traumatic, but I finally had what I had always wanted – a baby! We were instantly responsible for this tiny human’s every need. And I joined the ranks of some incredible women before me in the amazing journey of motherhood. Little did I know, I was clueless to what it would truly involve.

The first fears started in utero. My doctor induced me at 38.5 weeks because he was worried the baby wasn’t growing. We didn’t even know if we were having a boy or a girl until our OB/GYN pulled a new life from my exposed abdomen in the middle of a sterile operating room. My husband looked over the curtain that shielded us from the reality of a C-section to see our son for the first time. He exclaimed, “It’s a BOY!” This is not how I had envisioned giving birth but it’s our story.

Our lives have been flipped upside down in the last two years. I remember telling my husband during our first days at home, how much I loved having a newborn, despite all the sleepless nights and challenges. Thankfully, he has a daughter from his first marriage who’s now 19. So he promised me, having a baby is fun but it gets even better as they grow up. And he’s right.

My pint-sized infant whose cries I learned to decipher as being hungry or tired or wet has turned into a little boy who can use his words to tell me those same things. His personality blossoms every day. He has his daddy’s laid back and easy going demeanor, which I’m grateful for because I can be high strung and anxious. He’s so smart and sweet and kind, says please and thank you, and loves giving hugs and kisses. It brings tears to my eyes when he sits on my lap, cups my face with his small hands, looks up at me and says, unsolicited, “I lub uuu, Mama Ray!” He recently learned his middle name is Ray, just like his dad and grandpa. So now everything has Ray after it.

When I look at my 26-pound two-year-old, I know my baby is gone. He’s growing every day, learning new things and becoming his own person, full of spunk and independence. And he’ll never remember how he’s changed us in so many ways at such a young age. It hasn’t been easy but I know the foundation we’re building now will shape his life. And I hope one day, as he rocks his own baby to sleep, he’ll look down and realize how happy he’s made us, from the first time we laid eyes on him.

As I dream about this next decade and chapter in my life, I know today will never be the same as yesterday and tomorrow will always bring something new. I know things will be different, so I cherish each moment as it happens and try to capture it in my mind. I don’t want to ever forget his little laugh or his hugs around my knees or his need for me to wipe his “crying” nose. I’m so thankful to have met the love of my life and built our family, much earlier than anticipated. And now I’m looking forward to what comes next… even if my baby is gone.