Does Your Father Have a Starter Child?

Jeanne Sager

father's dayThe first time my husband fell in love with a little girl, she was a year and a half.

I call her our starter child.

She sat on my grandmother's bed, all chubby little legs and bright blue eyes.

She had a magazine open -- upside down -- in her lap, and she was "reading" to Jonathan.

She was -- she is -- my cousin Katherine.

Because of an enormous family and sheer timing, she's my first cousin, but she's several decades my junior. I was there the day my aunt -- who is as much my friend as she is my father's baby sister -- went for her first prenatal appointment.

I was there when my husband, my only-child husband who told me on our first face-to-face meeting that he didn't want kids, changed his mind.

He fell in love not with Katherine exactly -- although by rights, he still adores her -- but with a little girl.

With curls and short little fingers.

With a soapy scent and a love of cuddling.

With a funny little girl reading a magazine upside down.

That was Christmastime 2003.

It would be a late night in January 2004 when he whispered in my ear, "Let's make a baby."

It would take me two more months to go off of birth control, seven more before the two pink lines would show up on a stick. It would be a full year before I lay in a dark room with a technician rubbing goo on my swelling stomach.

"Do you want to know what you're having?" she asked.

He grinned. "Yes."

He didn't have to tell me he wanted a girl, knew we were having a girl. He had faith.

He would have to keep that faith for months -- our little girl crossed her legs in the sonogram and refused to share her secret. We left knowing our baby (Squirmy as we called he/she then) was healthy, but not the gender.

It didn't matter. He knew.

He knew even as we chose a girl name and a boy name. He knew on the day before our little girl was delivered, when her heart rate slipped and they put me through first a non-stress test and then sent us for another sonogram to ensure nothing was wrong, as they discussed inducing labor.

And when our doctor quipped, "Well, that's one less circumcision I have to do" (what can I say, his sense of humor is what made me a loyal patient), he puffed up with pride. 

People ask why we've decided to stick with one child, and it was a decision that took me several years to make.

But my aunt knew when she called me the morning after my nighttime delivery.

"I'm so happy you got your little girl, Honey," she said. "HE got his little girl."

The light of our lives made him a father. But there's a little girl out there who made him become one.

Happy Father's Day!


Image by Jeanne Sager -- Jillian and Katherine

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