I cannot tell you how excited I am this day is finally here! This journey as The Bachelorette was not an easy one. It was filled with twists and turns. But given the opportunity, I wouldn't change a thing. Every choice I made lead me right where I wanted and needed to be, with the man of my dreams. Now hold on, I am not saying I didn't make mistakes. We have talked about that. But every decision I made lead me to the arms of the most supportive, loving and beautiful soul, my fiancé! (I'm still getting used to the sound of that.) And for that, I am forever grateful for this experience.
If there is one thing you should know about me, I am a family person. The very idea of family is something I hold so close to my heart. So as you can imagine, bringing my family out to meet the two men that I could potentially spend my life with was an important moment. This was the first opportunity I had to see or speak to my family since this journey had begun, so I was over the moon to see them. I missed them all more than you could ever imagine. I have an amazing family dynamic. I have two great examples of a father. My dad is honestly my hero and sets the bar high for how a man should treat a woman. My stepmother is a caring, genuine and supportive woman. My mom is a spunky strong woman with a HUGE heart. And my sister is just a pure angel. There is A LOT of love in my family.
Introducing Shawn and Nick to them was an intense moment. I was surprised at how forward my mom was with her questions for Nick. But I appreciated that she was willing to keep an open mind. And once Shawn met my family, I realized it was exactly what I needed. I think when they met Nick, they could tell I was holding back and something was missing. With Shawn I was myself, with Shawn I AM myself. They could see the difference between love and lust. And my family's insight was exactly what I needed going into my final dates.
Now I could walk you through everything with those final dates with both Nick and Shawn, but I'm not sure it would offer much more insight. I had a difficult decision ahead of me and my focus was all in on each of these men. As I went into our respective dates, I knew exactly what I needed to hear from each of them. And that was a reassurance that only they could provide to me in that moment. I needed to hear their heart's truth. These were our final moments and anything left to be put on the table needed to be shared. Those moments with both Shawn and Nick were private and we shared things with one another that I believe should stay private. But those conversations provided me with some much needed perspective and I am forever grateful for the honesty and vulnerability.
Waking up the next day, I was overcome with emotions. I went back and forth on what the right decision was for ME. How I wanted MY journey here to come to an end. Was it alone? Was it with one of these men? I thought back to the first night, unsure if I would even have the opportunity to be The Bachelorette. I thought about my family and their words after meeting Shawn and Nick. But above it all, I remembered why I came here in the first place. To find my forever, to find a love story so great, it could only be written in fairytales. And in my heart I knew, I had found that.
Now, saying goodbye to Nick was difficult. And as I said on After the Final Rose, when was the right time to say goodbye? Would the timing of our goodbye allow it to hurt any less for him? I knew Nick deserved the opportunity to speak his heart, and that was my intention in letting him come to the mansion that night. There was no right way to let him go, and I also had to think of what I needed. What I will close that chapter with is this: I am grateful that Nick came on this journey with me. I am thankful that he was open, honest and vulnerable. And I hope that Nick too finds the one that completes his heart, and I wish nothing but the best for him.
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This brings us to the moment a lifetime in the making. A moment that has me emotional even as I write this. Knowing Shawn was only moments away from arriving was a feeling I cannot put into words. My heart felt like it was going to explode. I was nervous, excited and anxious all in one. And above all else, truly, madly, can't live with out you, in love with Shawn. Watching him walk up to me that night, I never felt so in love with him. And when he held my hands I felt that same spark I felt when he stepped out of the limo on that first night and held my hands. These were the hands that would protect me and nurture me the rest of my life. I was never so sure than in that moment I wanted Shawn to be my husband.
When he got down on one knee … I can't put it into words. I just can't. It was something I had been waiting to hear for so long, I couldn't believe it was happening! This was a moment I had dreamed of for us. He had stood by me through so much, and I knew I was looking into the eyes of my forever. I cannot wait for us to start our lives together. To shout to the world, I am engaged and Shawn Booth is my fiancé!!
To you, Bachelor Nation, to the loyal and supportive fans, thank you. Thank you for sticking along with me on this journey. For remaining patient while I followed my heart, even if sometimes it took me down a path unpaved. Thank you for believing in our love story and cheering us on. To our family and friends who have been nothing but supportive and loving, thank you.
And to Shawn, thank you for believing in me, for supporting me through this. For never giving up on me. I am so excited to begin our forever.
Until next time!
The Future Mrs. Booth
For much more from Kaitlyn and Shawn, including exclusive photos, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday