Toronto
3 min

Life on the outside

Don’t I know you from somewhere? We met a month ago — Women’s College Hospital, Mar 25, 11:13pm. You were emerging from the womb and I was smiling the whole time, remember?

What a trip this has been, little one, from the first time I saw your heartbeat fluttering onscreen, barely the size of a Tic Tac, to now.

When I finally laid eyes on you you felt like an old friend. I’ve been watching you move for months, learning to recognize your tiny cheerleading routines and frequent hiccups. We’ve been a family of three forever it seems, you’ve just been away, like on vacation, waiting for us to build your new home.

My philosophy the whole time we were trying to conceive was just that — you were hanging out somewhere in the universe, watching us try, waiting for the moment that was perfect for you to join the two of us in this life.

We thought we’d lost you last summer when Andrea passed what ended up being a small piece of your nine-month apartment rental. It is something I do and don’t want to forget. I do because it was one of the saddest possibilities I have ever confronted. I don’t because it forces me to remember that you are here on your terms (or the terms of the universe) not on ours. You are on loan to us for the time between where you were and where you’re going and, as a grateful witness to your present, I have no control over how long you’ll stay.

I cried when we found out your mum was pregnant, cried a dozen times out of sheer emotion before you were born, but I did not cry at all at your birth. It was the first time in my life that I have been too overwhelmed, too insanely happy to cry.

Your head came out the colour of a blueberry with umbilical chord wrapped twice around your neck. Clamped and cut in seconds you were out completely, this squirmy little body, and you were crying but I couldn’t do it. Truthfully I could not stop smiling. So far you only smile in your sleep and I am waiting for the day when you direct that holy grail of early years parenting at me.

You mum and I were treated well if like a bit of a novelty while you were growing by family and friends, coworkers and healthcare providers. At the very end of our care one of our midwives told us we were actually her very first same-sex couple. I was grateful that this wasn’t obvious the whole time, grateful too for her sleeve tattoos in all of your delivery pictures. We received good, gentle and empowering care and would recommend our midwives to anyone.

One night in the first few days you were looking straight into my eyes, so plainly and so intently that for a second I thought you were going to say something. “Hey, how you doin’?” Something like that, in a deep grownup man voice. Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation but I believe you are so wise, so much bigger and more complex than “just a baby.”

I have always wanted to believe in reincarnation but haven’t been able to do better than intellectual belief until now. You are very much an old soul, and more than that I feel like you know me, like you know things about me I hardly know about myself.

I looked in the mirror maybe three times during your entire first month here. My eyebrows are all grown out, my hair is too long, my legs need shaving. How did you know exactly what I needed? I am just a smell to you, a voice, maybe a shape but you don’t care what my hair looks like, how many zits I have, what I am wearing. Thank you for being the first person in my life who not only does not care what I look like but for whom my appearance does not even register as anything other than its own plain fact. I look like your “Juju” — exactly right, not a thing out of place. You have no idea — or maybe you do — how much I needed that.

Andrea was shocked you were a girl. I was shocked that I felt a wave of relief in learning your sex at birth after all my assertions that it made no difference.

In retrospect what I felt was the relief of knowing that your sex is something familiar to me. I am eager to share my own experience of sex and gender with you, giving you room to create what being a girl means to you and all of us orbiting around you.

“See you on the outside,” I kept saying while you were still curled up, ankles crossed inside your mummy (we were watching a lot of Prison Break on DVD while you were growing).

Welcome to the outside little one. We hope it will give you lots to smile about.

PS. It’s true — babies’ heads smell amazing.