When my husband and I arrived to the hospital on this day four years ago, a midwife gave us advice when she sent us back home, the baby not yet ready. She encouraged us to savor the last bits of time alone, just us, explaining how much further in the future it would be before we experienced that again.
So, we went home. We–Ben, Howard (our dog), my big belly, and me–went on four walks that day mostly to encourage labor (being three days past my due date), but also to do just what that midwife encouraged: Savor.
I still show my daughter the stairs I walked up and down, and at one point ran, much to Ben’s chagrin. The stairs are on a college campus in the neighborhood we once lived in and loved. We tell her about the neighbors we ran into that day–many in mid contraction, the day of many walks. I remember our dog’s constant silly grin, the wobbling, the steady hand of my husband’s on my lower back as he guided me down the streets we knew by heart.
About 24 hours after our last walk, we held our baby with chubby cheeks and pouty lips close to our chests. And when he got into my hospital bed that night to lie next to me and our new little girl, I could think of no better definition of happiness. We were sifting the waters of sleep deprivation and parental worry for the first time, yet it didn’t feel so scary because we were diving in together.
Naturally, as I watched my almost-four-year-old celebrate her soon-to-be birthday today (her actual birthday is Oct. 12), I thought a lot about her through the years, but I also thought a lot about my husband, about us, about our marriage.
Four-fifths of our marriage has been wrapped up in the loving care of this co-created human being, who talks with a bit of a sass and says ‘what’ with a sharp t. Her age reflects most of our marriage, but not all of it. That first year, we traveled, but also just enjoyed the comfort of being at home together. I remember feeling grounded in a way I had never experienced, and I still will myself to not take that for granted.
I like to think our marriage started much sooner than June 8, 2010, edging itself into our lives just as dusk eventually turns into night. Eight years of dating can fool you into thinking there can be no more surprises. Yet, in now five years of marriage, I did not expect many things: that he would be so handy on our home, so loud in his snoring, and so adoring in his love for our daughter.
Tonight, we lie on the bottom bunk of an almost-four-year-old’s bed. Ben, closest to the wall, Linnea’s right in the middle, and me, next to the railing, peering through the darkness to the closed eyelids, thinking once again, this might be my closest definition of happiness.