One night two weeks ago Danith asked if I was happy. We were sitting in a corner of our bedroom, with Nora sleeping in her bassinet several feet away. To keep the room dark for her, as recommended by the articles I had read, we left on only a light from the adjoining bathroom. Through the ease with which Danith had asked me his question, it was undeniable that he was filled with this emotion. I paused, considering how honest I should be with him.
Happiness is when the spirit lifts and the heart beats without fear or worries or yearning. I remember when my heart beat in such a manner. Once was during the summer before I became pregnant with Daffy, when Danith and I were vacationing on an island. A photo of us posing for the camera, with the pink and orange sunset behind us, portrays how innocent and maybe foolish we were. We were nearing 15 years of marriage, but we still felt young and protected from unrelenting pain. Another time was when I was pregnant with Daffy, when Danith asked me to dance with him, and I did, with our daughter snuggled in between us. I remember the maternity white shorts and red top I was wearing, so grateful that my bump was finally large enough for them. It was at about nine o’clock at night, and I was on my way to the almost-completed nursery to read to the growing baby inside me when Danith stopped me at the bedroom door and uncharacteristically asked me to slow dance with him. I gave him my hands, and we swayed to the music that played from his phone. On both occasions, there was no place I would have rather been, nothing I would have rather been doing. Believing that my life couldn’t fare any better, I wished for the moment to never end.
Finally, hesitantly, I answered Danith that I was.
But I still miss Daffy and Kiri, I said.
Of course, he said.
A few minutes later, we moved to our bed, staying above the covers, with Nora lying between us, still asleep. Danith’s legs were stretched out, his feet pointing at the draped windows. Mine pointed in the opposite direction at the door. He and I locked eyes before turning our gaze down at Nora, whose swaddled body I had gingerly lifted out of the bassinet and set on the down comforter. Her arms ran parallel on either side of her pudgy face, a formation I often jokingly called her surrender stance, as in, “I give up. No more crying. You’re right, I want sleep.” I inched my nose closer to her head and breathed her in, and then I planted butterfly kisses on her round, cabbage-like cheeks. Quietly Danith and I ran through the Nora List that we had unintentionally created, and had been repeating almost every night. We remarked on how much she had grown. We were proud of the amount of formula she was taking daily, of the number of diapers she was dirtying. We spoke about her mild and confident temperament, her cool attitude, and her brilliant smile, one we deemed to be more beautiful — with more depth and character — than most other babies’ (we were certain that we weren’t being biased). We were astonished at her level of curiosity already, which was clearly evident at the river earlier that evening, when of her own accord, at just two months old, she leaned forward from her grandmother’s hold to study the waddling ducks around us. Then we giggled at the chunkiness of her arms and legs. After I pointed out that her head was large enough for two babies, I had to order Danith to hush because he had been laughing a bit too loudly.
I always knew that I would never stop missing Daffy and Kiri, but I thought I would miss them less after Nora, I said.
You love them, Danith said.
Yes, I know, but I thought that, with Nora here, I would not miss them as much, you know?
I know, he said.
I set my arm across Nora’s tummy, scooting my body even closer to hers. I made sure not to press my arm down too hard on her abdomen. I do my best to follow safe sleep recommendations, so she has been sleeping separately from us. I crave falling asleep with her in my arms, though, and many times Danith has offered to stay up on watch duty so that my hunger could be fulfilled. I have been imagining Nora’s body folding into mine, of her warm bum being pushed into my stomach and her head being secured under my chin, but I don’t trust Danith not to accidentally fall asleep during such a proposed watch.
This is the best, Danith said under his breath. He was referring to us both lying on our bed watching our baby, her lips pursed and once in a while twitching. I unfolded Nora’s curled fingers and stroked each fragile one, tempted to place them in my mouth. She was just inches away from me, but she was still difficult to believe. I agreed with Danith — sharing that space with him and her was the best. What would I have rather been doing at that moment? Nothing.