Ten years and ten days after I first met my husband, I delivered our baby girl on a wintry day in January. She emerged from the womb healthy, fair, and curly-haired. Like a blurry slideshow, the images of her at birth whiz past in my mind’s eye. The doctor dangling her from the feet, her full-throated cry which pleased the staff all around, her umbilical cord which was still tethered. The sight of it shocked me at the time – I had no idea it was so coarse, metal grey and strong.
A common friend introduced me to her father in our first year of college. I had almost enrolled elsewhere but Providence had thrown us together in the same corner of the universe.
My husband had always been good with children, needing no impetus to sit down to a game of cards with my seven-year-old niece or cuddle a toddler we met in the train on our many journeys home from college.
When my daughter Hiya was born, his emotions overcame him. He wept tears of joy. I placed my hand on his, unable to gauge the depth of his feelings. My reaction stemmed more from relief at having heaved out a seven-pound baby without an epidural or any surgical intervention. He, on the other hand, had the luxury of reveling in the moment when the baby, cleaned up and presented to him, gazed up into his eyes, her own light-gray eyes blinking.
The evening after we brought Hiya home from the hospital, we tucked her in after her night feed and seized the chance to grab a nap. Less than an hour later, I jerked awake. The soft white light, which we’d installed shortly before her arrival, lit up the scene. In the middle of the bed, my husband sat with his legs crossed, cooing at my baby girl comfortably snuggled on his lap. She was watching him with round, wondrous eyes, her little hands stretching out to touch his face.
What happened, I asked.
He said, “She’s not sleeping! I woke up and saw she was looking around, so I thought I would play with her until then.”
We swaddled her, held her close and rocked her to sleep once more. She slept peacefully after that, but the picture of my husband holding her still remains in my head. A small part of me believes he must’ve been thrilled to find her awake and ready to play.
Hiya was born with light eyes, just like both her grandfathers. But as the years rolled past, her looks changed. The light-grey eyes gave way to deep brown ones, her features sharpened and she has grown to resemble me more than ever.
But that doesn’t stop her from dialing her father’s cell phone two or three times a day, just to relay simple messages like she’d eaten her lunch down to the last bite, or that she wanted him to buy her the latest toy she’d seen on her kids’ channel.
Once, my husband called her in the middle of the afternoon. He’d heard from her grandmother that she was refusing to sleep.
He asked her, “What are you doing?”
With all the sprightliness of a three-year-old, she answered, “I am talking on the phone to someone who’s asking me what I’m doing.”
A few years ago Father’s day coincided with my birthday. We celebrated at a wonderful restaurant that was celebrating the occasion. At the entrance, a photographer was commissioned to take photographs of father-daughter duos as they entered. My husband and daughter posed for the camera, and the dazzling picture that resulted was framed and currently rests on our mantelpiece.
My birthday was swept aside with little regret – in any case, who indulged in such revelries once they’d turned thirty?
Before my daughter came along, I was the most important woman in my husband’s life. Now, I’m in second place, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Photo Credit: Getty Images