When I was growing up, I loved to ask my parents questions about their lives. I was curious about everything: how they’d met. What adventures they’d gone on before we were born. If they knew they’d get married the first time they laid eyes on each other.
Mostly, I was fascinated by their stories. But there was one question I never felt satisfied by: whenever I’d ask my parents what the best day of their lives was, they’d say, “When you and Jenna were born.” Without fail. No matter how many times I asked.
It seemed rote. Like they knew that was what the answer was supposed to be, and so they were filling some societal obligation by saying it. Worse, it was mundane. That was what every parent said when asked.
When asked what their best days had been except for the days Jenna and I were born, they remained stodgily boring: “The day we got married.”
And then, the other day while out at lunch, on a whim Jenna asked me what my best day had been so far. I knew the answer immediately: November 15th, 2018. The day Linden was born.
“What about aside from that?” Jenna pressed.
September 24th, 2016–the day Jordan and I got married. As soon as I answered, it struck me. I’d become just like my parents. For a moment, that bothered me. What did it say about me that the two best days of my life were just societal milestones? Things that you were supposed to check off as you aged in order to fit in with the pack.
Get married, check. Have a baby, check. Watch your life rush by until suddenly you’re 60 and your kids have left the house and you have nothing left to live for, because you never did anything else exciting enough to have it be your best day. Check.
But that’s the thing about joy: it is cultivated in the times of life when humans are able to just be humans. When they don’t have to fight for their lives, or their rights. When they are able to focus on things like love and new babies.
Now, I understand why no other day in my parents’ life could compete with having me and Jenna–even though they both have lived rich, full lives outside of parenting us. It’s because the most ordinary thing–the act that brought every single one of us to this planet–is actually the most miraculous. And not just for the baby, but for the parents too.
When I held Linden in my arms the first time, I felt something far beyond ordinary joy. Far beyond what I ever imagined I could feel.
I felt wildfire joy, ripping through every atom of my body and leaving it marked. As strong as the undertow in the ocean, as ancient as the stars. It was cosmic, primal. It belonged beyond the genre of nonfiction, and entered into fantasy.
Even if I were to fulfill my wildest dreams–say, publishing a novel and seeing it make the New York Times Bestseller list–it wouldn’t compare to the feeling of holding Linden for the first time. Because with a personal accomplishment like that, I’d only have my own joy.
When Linden was born, I felt joy for the both of us–joy that he had been given life. Joy that I got to live it with him.
I’ve done things that would perhaps make a more interesting answer for “best day ever”–the kind of answer I was looking for when I quizzed my parents so many years ago. I’ve swum with sharks and stingrays and giant sea turtles in Australia, ridden horses through the Rockies, basked on the beach in the Caribbean, been to broadway plays in New York City, climbed mountains in Alaska, eaten gelato in Italy and paella in Spain.
But while those are all wonderful, cherished memories, they just don’t hold a candle to the moment they placed that squirmy, bloody baby on my chest. They’re like fireflies compared to the moon in the night sky of my life.
I’m okay with that. Okay with the fact that my greatest accomplishment–the day that defined my life–was so very ordinary. I’m okay with the fact that it was actually all about someone else.
Because, as it turns out, that’s being a parent. And quite honestly, I can’t imagine anything better.
What about you? What was the best day of your life so far? Why?
[Note: Not everyone feels immediate joy when they have a new baby. This post is not to say that you should feel any one way when you have a child–new parents experience a whole range of emotions, all totally normal! Sometimes it takes time to bond. Postpartum depression can also change how you feel post birth; if you’re struggling emotionally, and you think it might go beyond typical postpartum mood swings, get help: 1-800-944-4773]