I didn't know what it would feel like to be so exhausted. I didn't know how long those night-time hours would feel when my baby wouldn't stop crying. I didn't know that it was possible to function on so little (broken) sleep.
I never imagined what it felt like to run on empty for days on end. I never knew my mouth would become full of ulcers because my body hadn't felt proper rest in weeks. I never knew the fatigue I'd feel as a breastfeeding, working mother of two under two.
I didn't know the sheer frustration I would feel when my toddler tested my limits. I never imagined how lonely I would feel on the long days when I had no-one to talk to but a colicky three-month-old. I had no idea that the repetitiveness of cleaning up clothes and furniture soiled by a baby with reflux would make me feel so fed up. I had no concept of the finely-balanced juggling act I would need to perfect to be a working mum.
I never knew I'd feel such primal fear when I thought my baby was sick. I never imagined I would feel almost suffocated by the responsibility of caring for a baby, my baby. I never expected to feel such intense pain when my child was hurt.
But so what if I had known these things? What if, before I became a parent, I'd known what it was to feel the total exhaustion of a new mother? What if, before my children were born, I'd known what it was to spend hours and days and weeks and months in a fog of loneliness and shock and confusion?
I couldn't have known.
I couldn't have known the way the world would shift, ever so slightly, when my child was born. I couldn't have felt the tiredness or known the monotony that would come in those early months. I couldn't have predicted the crushing disappointment of realising I had shouted at my toddler, or snapped at him, when in fact he needed to be held.
I couldn't have known.
Yet just as these parts of life crept up around me and took over from the days before my children, other things also changed.
Some things are almost imperceptibly different now, while other bits of this life are clearly, obviously, so altered from anything they once were.
I didn't know that although the exhaustion would seem crippling, it would somehow always be possible to keep going. I didn't know that although the days could feel long and the same, they would also be punctuated with the most beautiful moments I'd known. I didn't know that the first smile would make everything stop still for a second. I didn't know that realising my baby was looking at me would make me the happiest person in the world.
I couldn't have imagined that the long night-time feeds would be ever-so-sweet because my child was in my arms. I couldn't have known how it would feel to be awake with my baby while the rest of the world slept. I couldn't have believed how everything else around us would fade into grey while my baby finally dozed in my arms, or told me he loved me, or put his arms around my neck and hugged me in the way that belongs to a child who needs his mother.
On this journey, everything has changed. I've come to know a love that is all-encompassing. I don't fear the days ahead, but I wonder what I will learn next. There will be challenges, heartache, and beautiful moments I will wish I could hold onto forever. There will be my children and this crazy difficult wonderful life that is more than I could ever have known.
Kiran Chug blogs at Mummy Says.