My 11-month-old daughter was swinging in the plastic blue swing on our patio, smiling at the sky and thrilled by the world. It’s the same swing that our two other children have loved and outgrown and it will only be a matter of years before the swing is retired for good, leaving behind two worn out eye hooks as a reminder of their youth. Parents of grown children will tell you that “it goes by fast” and to “enjoy it while you can”, but the problem is that sometimes you can’t enjoy it enough. Sometimes you just want to live in a moment forever. As I pushed her in her swing, she talked to me in nonsense while the other two kids hung on me like monkeys. I was late for work and once again I lamented the fact that living in moments for longer than they last is impossible.
She was unexpected. Upon discovering that she was pregnant with a third child, my wife called me in tears, mourning plans shattered by the prospect of another baby. It seems selfish to mourn a new life but for a brief time, we did. It meant returning to the starting line after a seven year marathon of raising two kids. Zach, the younger of the two, was almost out of diapers as we faced the new reality of a million more diapers in our immediate future. We lay in our bed that first night after three pregnancy tests triply confirmed it, reeling from the gut punch that our bad planning had delivered us. We struggled with the guilt of our real emotions, which contradicted the people we believed ourselves to be.
She wakes up smiling. In fact, she spends most of her day smiling and laughing and endlessly happy. It’s a trait she most certainly inherited from my wife and like my wife, she only gets upset when she’s hungry or tired. Even then, the smallest attempt at making her laugh can draw a smile out of her right in the middle of a cry. She’s a feisty little baby, too. Always on the move, this third one, crawling and squealing and laughing like a maniac on the loose. With a wild, unmanageable cowlick of hair on the top of her head, she always looks like she just came out of the wind. It’s becoming clear to us that her personality is equally untamed. She is fearless. She has a perpetual glint in her eyes.
We wondered if we were people who could reconcile the termination of life out of convenience. Neither of us are very religious and dogma never entered our decision to have this child. Ultimately, there was never an option for us other than welcoming this unexpected person into the world. We tried on the notion of the alternative, but it simply didn’t fit us. As we considered the implications of a new baby and fretted about the logistic changes ahead, my wife’s OB summed it up in words that closed the discussion: “You know,” she told her, “Some people believe that babies have their own luck.” Just like that, we welcomed our fate.
“When she’s graduating from high school, we’ll be angry at ourselves for even entertaining the idea of not having her,” I told my wife as we both lay in bed the night we found out. “I know,” she answered in the darkness, “In my heart I know that.” After a moment, she added, “I just thought I was done.”
They are bonded like allies, my wife and 11-month-old Emmy. After two kids and a battle-tested calmness from seven years of parenting experience, it’s clear that my wife has become a pro at being an amazing mother. It’s hard for us now to remember even considering a life without this little girl. As our oldest daughter approaches eight (on her way to being a teenager and driving our cars and going to college) and the 3-year-old boy sneaks up on four, the moments with each of them that I have not figured out how to live within keep happening around me. Moments give way to moments, which eclipse older moments as they age. Now, we get to relive the infant/toddler moments all over again. The baby we never dreamed of has filled our lives in so many ways we never dreamed of. I used to fear I might run out of the capacity to love, as if there could be a limit to the amount of love I could physically expend. I needn’t have worried. Love is limitless.
The moment she was born, we understood. She found her way to us. I get choked up if I imagine a father/daughter dance at her wedding or an acceptance letter to some college or meeting her first boyfriend or watching her first step. I may not be able to freeze time and live within each perfect moment with my kids, but the three of them will fill my memories with the happy moments of several lifetimes. With Emmy, I will always savor each moment in a slightly different way: desperately thankful for what I never even knew I needed.