Just before Jocelyn was born I bought a baby book—a hardbound book adorned with zoo animals on the front and pre-decorated pages that would allow me to insert pictures or precious mementos. I think it’s gathering dust somewhere on one of our many bookshelves. Pressed for time between swollen breasts, cleaning bottles, and a lack of suitable naps, I began scribbling small notes around the house or on the computer about various milestones: rolling over, sitting up, throwing up, and standing up.
When Aja was born we were unprepared, and the thought of buying a baby book didn’t even cross my mind. The hospital suggested using the website CaringBridge to update friends and family. I noted her weight, when she was taken off the respirator, the first time I was able to hold her and breastfeed her. She came home and I started scribbling small notes about various milestones: turning her head to the left, opening her clenched hands, and rolling over. That is, until I found a better way of doing things.
There’s no designated space in a baby book to write about the days that being a mother make me want to rip my hair out and run out of the house screaming for more wine. There’s no space to write about the great days, where I can sit and watch my girls play and bicker and laugh and scream at one another. There’s no space to talk about the hours spent combing out Jocelyn’s curly hair so that I can braid it, or the physical therapy appointments designed to help motivate Aja to roll, to sit, and to stand.
There have been surprising moments with each of our girls. I have watched them both grow from two small beings that think every black man is their father into girls that are absolutely bonded to their daddy. They each share my stubborn gene, but it manifests itself in different ways. Jocelyn doesn’t listen, and Aja refuses to let anything stand in her way once she sets her mind to something (even if it means trying to dive off the couch). They are happy so often that it’s off-putting when they are not—Jocelyn has my cackle, which celebrates everything that is remotely funny; Aja displays her humor in grunts and snorts while bouncing around wildly.
Khary and I will soon celebrate our third wedding anniversary. We never could have imagined the life that we have now. Family came sooner than we had expected. But it’s our family—our loud, screaming, happy, clapping, marching, dancing, singing family.