A few minutes after you were born, I remember a nurse told me, "You'll be able to see your daughter in the NICU once she's stable." At first, the comment didn't register. Didn't make sense.
"My what?" I thought. "My daughter? But I don't have a daughter, not yet..."
For some reason, some primitive part of my brain wasn't relenting to the idea that I had a daughter, which was peculiar because I had wanted you since I was a child, myself. All my life, I've told people I was going to have a daughter one day, but it was always accompanied by a future tense. So when the nurse referred to my daughter, there was a tickle in my brain. Like the furniture was being rearranged in my head. It felt a lot like that moment when we first learned you were a girl. Suddenly, the idea of YOU in my mind began sprouting all of those adorable, feminine gender pronouns. "Her." "She."
Still, after you were born, I was reluctant to use the term "my daughter." I couldn't understand why, not completely. For awhile, whenever I visited you, I'd tell people, "I'm going to the NICU" instead of "I'm going to the NICU to see my daughter." The way I said it made it sounds as though I were going there to get a sandwich and some fries.
Slowly, I moved toward using the term "baby." "I'm going to see the baby." "I've got a baby in the hospital." It was comfortably ambiguous. Yesterday evening, though, I finally said, "My daughter." I didn't really think about it that hard. I didn't even notice. Later, while I was walking to the hospital, the phrase came back at me and it seemed like such a happy, wonderful phrase. But it also felt like a wound reopening. Like staring into the sun on a beautiful summer day.
"My daughter." Whenever you have a "bad day," I wonder how much longer I will be able to say it.