It’s 10:43am on the 18th of September and you are being born. Dark hair is covering your head and clay-coloured vernix is coating your body. You’re screaming. You’re being warmed and weighed. I’m apprehending your pain. I am unsure when I get to hold you; asking the nurses if I should take my shirt off.
You’re climbing on your mother’s chest, skin to skin. You’re opening your eyes. You’re latching. You’re feeding. Only minutes old, how do you know? I am huddling over your mother’s head from behind, with one hand around her shoulder and one hand on your head. We are both looking down at you. Our daughter. I am sobbing.
People are visiting. They’re approaching you with reverence and are gushing when I ask if they’d like to hold you. I am humming with joy seeing you with them. They are crying. They are placing their hands on our shoulders, thanking God for you; blessing us. We are crying.
I am carrying an assortment of bags to our vehicle. People have given us cards, flowers, gifts, and they are somehow all dangling around my arms. I am sweating. I’m breathing fresh air and fall colours for the first time since your birth. I am daydreaming about bringing you outside.
I am turning the key and opening the door. We are walking through our clean, tidied, vacummed apartment. It’s afternoon and everything is brightening with sunshine. We are showing you our bed and our living room windows; welcoming you home.
People are visiting. They are giving us soup and bread and board-books. We are chatting and I am changing your diaper on the couch; trying to look like a capable, pro dad. You are peeing on the change mat and it’s floating upwards – like a rising tide – toward your ears. I am sweating.
It’s early morning and dark, blue sky is crawling through the crevices of our bedroom blinds. I am changing your diaper and apparently you think it’s playtime. I am timing sticking your diaper tabs onto the front with your vigourous, cycling legs. I’m whispering your name and saying “Hello, my little love.” You’re looking at me, smiling.
I’m walking towards our apartment door after work. I am entering – all is quiet and no one is home. You and your mother are enjoying a playdate. My feet are wandering into the living room; my heart is emptying. Tears are sliding down my cheeks.
You’re babbling on the change mat and I’m sure you’re saying “Hi” after I say “Hi.” I am calling your mother to come and see. You’re making sounds like a tiger cub and a squeaky wheel.
Not having learned my lesson, I am changing your diaper on the couch again. I am kneeling in front of you and raising your legs to wipe you clean. You are pooing in my face and in my eyes; defying the laws of gravity.
It’s evening and we are listening to a record together. I’m waltzing you back and forth to the beat, singing in your ear. We’re imbibing the music. I’m holding your hand, imagining what your wedding day will be like.
You’re meeting my parents for the first time. It’s the morning of your dedication at church and they are getting into the car. You’re waiting in your car seat. Now we’re standing on stage and you’re looking alert. I am plucking words out of swaths of emotion to state your name, its meaning, and our hopes for you. Now people are gathering around us and placing their hands on our shoulders in prayer. A photograph later shows us all closing our eyes. Except for you – you are staring at everyone.
You are sleeping on my chest, with your coin-sized palms against me and your legs draped on my lap. You’re moving with my breathing and your eyelids are pressed tight. I am discovering our favourite position. I am experiencing the presence of God. I am pouring out thanks and praying for you with everything within me.
We are in the bathtub. Your hair is spreading like ink in the warm water and you are smiling at me. You’re floating in my hands. I am washing your hair, face, and body with a square cloth. I am loving every drop of you.