Some people say that the day their child is born is the happiest day of their life. For me, I can honestly say that isn’t the case. The day Alex was born was the day that I found out just how little control I had over the life and death of my wife and the baby she was carrying. The day Alex was born—actually, days because it took 35 freaking hours—I stood helplessly watching the person I loved most, the person I’d chosen to hang my future on, labor to bring into the world a tiny person who seemed intent on not leaving her body. I could only stand there and try to help in my very limited way, such as holding her hand through the worst of the contractions, pushing her hair back from her face, telling her when it was absolutely time to give in and get the effing epidural god damn it, and offering weak sounds of reassurance as she looked up at me with absolute terror when the baby stayed stuck and the contractions slowed and began to come farther apart. There was literally nothing I could do but wait and hope—which, to be honest, are two things I’m not particularly accomplished at.
The second time around, with the twins, Kris’s labor was shorter and the epidural came just in time apparently, but the experience was almost as dizzying for me, the non-pregnant spouse. Kris had a late-term complication that could actually kill the babies if we didn’t induce early, so that was a tad stressful. Add to that the dream I’d had six weeks earlier that one of the babies came out not breathing, plus my flashbacks to the trauma of Alex’s birth, and my nerves were pretty much shot even before labor began. Kris pushed Ellie out easily in only a few minutes, but Sydney was a different matter. When she finally emerged pale and limp and not breathing, I was certain my nightmare was coming true. She recovered quickly and we were told there should be no lasting effects, but, yeah, definitely not the happiest day ever.
People also say that their wedding day is the happiest day of their life. While this one I can get behind a little more, a wedding is still an event with an alarming ability to spin out of control. What if your partner gets cold feet and doesn’t show up (which happens in more movies and TV shows than anyone about to get married really needs to think about)? What if a family member gets drunk and makes a scene? In my case, I was too nervous beforehand for it to qualify as the happiest day, although it was definitely the happiest event of my life: all those people coming to Western Mass to celebrate us, to toast to our love and what we hoped would be a lasting commitment. And the dancing—you haven’t lived until you’ve seen your drunk college friends scream in unison with your new wife’s equally drunk cousins, “Oh Mickey you’re so fine you’re so fine you blow my mind yeah Mickey!”
Honestly, though, in my less than humble opinion, the best day of someone’s life most likely sneaks up on them, and maybe they realize it at the time and maybe they don’t. To my mind, the happiest day story goes something like this:
One Sunday morning five years after your first child is born, you wake up at a not ungodly hour to a perfectly quiet house and the faint sound of birds beginning their morning songs. You try to go back to sleep, but soon you give up and reach for the book on the bedside table. With light filtering through the narrow spaces in the blinds, you remember why reading is one of your very favorite things as you sink into the life of the book.
Eventually, though, as the sunlight intensifies and the birds begin to sing louder and the neighborhood starts to wake up, you’re brought back to your own existence by soft footsteps and a small face smiling at you over the edge of the bed.
“Can I come up?” the little person asks.
“Of course,” you say, smiling back.
You pat the space next to you and watch as the munchkin crawls up and snuggles under the covers, her tiny body warm against your side. Then, if you’re lucky, another small face appears, and then another. Soon you are sandwiched by small people and, if you’re especially lucky, a happy dog that lays at your feet, tail thumping lazily against the comforter on the bed that you and your wife picked out shortly after you got married. You chose a king because of your mutual dream of one day spending lazy Sunday mornings reading in bed and snuggling with your children and dogs.
And you realize that this. This right here. In this moment, you are so happy that your heart grows at least two sizes and tears prick your eyes and you hug your kids closer, kissing the tops of their tiny heads while they giggle up at you, so accustomed to your sappiness that it doesn’t faze them in the least. (It’s possible they even enjoy it.)
And because you are happy and because you know you are just so, so lucky to have even a single moment like this one, you gaze across the multiple tiny heads crowding your bed and look into the sleepy eyes of the woman you once watched in terror, afraid that your entire existence was about to come crashing down and that there was absolutely nothing you could do about any of it. But it didn’t. Instead, this woman you have known for decades and loved for so many years pushed through the pain and the fear and the anxiety to give you not just one beautiful, perfect child but three.
And you smile because you know that this is the happiest day of your life. You smile because if you’re lucky, there will be more mornings like this and your heart will just keep growing. You smile because you know that you are truly, especially lucky.