She looked down at their still-clasped hands as tears streamed down his face. She wasn’t quite sure why she wasn’t crying. After everything they’d been through that day, she should’ve had snot running out of her nose and down her chin. He’d always been the strong one, and maybe that was all changing with the huge life-altering experience they just went through; they were still completely oblivious to what lie ahead of them. Honestly, they’d already been through so much that there were many times she doubted they would make it. They got through their last year of high school, all of the crazy and difficult college years, through the first five years of marriage, and through her entire pregnancy and they were still together and still very much in love. Sometimes she wondered how this wonderful man practically fell into her lap; well, how she fell into his, actually. Ever since he saved her from herself, their love and life had been a non-stop, down-hill snowball, falling faster and growing larger with every rotation. It took her a long time to really fall in love with Damien, but from the moment he told her how great she was and how he’d been waiting for her, she knew they were meant to be in each others’ lives.
He was the perfect man for her. He doted on her in ways she’d never experienced before. He was always protecting her, mostly from herself, but also from people who tried to encroach on what they had. He gave her an unconditional love that took her years to reciprocate to the same degree he expressed. He provided for her in any and every way he knew how. He knew when to give her space and he knew when to push her to open up to him. He was a gentle and enthusiastic lover and she longed for every moment when their bodies made contact, even if in such a simple way as holding hands. Before he came along, she’d never believed in God, but simply by the way he looked at her, he helped instill faith in her, and it was something she’d never realized she was missing until it filled her from head to toe. Her recently-found adoration and love for God had to yet to match what she felt for Damien, but she hoped someday she’d become comfortable with her belief to say that they were equal, however inconceivable it happened to seem to her at this point in her life.
When it was finally time for them to move to the next level, she knew, without any questions that she had been one of the lucky few to find her soul mate. Sure, it sounded corny, but Tiffany knew that he literally made her whole. She said yes to marrying him before he even finished asking, and she’d never seen him smile so much in her life. Things weren’t perfect by any means, they’d definitely hit snags and bumps along the way, but with him in her life, none of it affected her like it would if she had to endure on her own.
“Tiff, sweetie…” Damien said, pulling her out of her memories, “is everything okay?”
She titled her head a little and put a warm and loving smile on her face. She reached up with her free hand and stroked his cheek, wiping away the lingering tear stains, and eventually pulling him towards her. She closed her eyes as he leaned into her, and she inhaled him. Though they’d been in the hospital room for hours, he smelled as he always did, fresh and manly, a deep mixture of herbal and seductive that gave her goose bumps. She waited patiently as his lips found hers and when they finally made contact with one another, her stomach did a little flip; he was still able, after all this time, to give her butterflies. His warm mouth enveloped hers and they melded together, fitting one another perfectly, as they had since the first time he kissed her so many years ago. It wasn’t the same sort of crazed, sexually-driven excitement that had originally coated their touch, but had become familiar and wonderful and tender, something that occurred after years of experiencing that person in so many different ways that it hurt thinking of anything that might make it disappear.
She pulled away from the kiss and looked in his gorgeous blue eyes. “I am fine, darling,” she finally said.
He smiled at her and cradled her cheek in his hands.
“I love you so very much,” he said, a hint of a tremble wavering over his bottom lip. “I hope that everything turns out okay wi–”
“Sshhh,” she said, pulling him into her for a strong and soul-warming embrace, “she will be just fine. There’s no need to worry.”
And she believed that. She’d accepted that things were in God’s hands now, and all she could do was wait and see his plans for their life unfold as need be.
“I know, I know,” he mumbled into her shoulder as he clutched to her with all his strength. It was rare for her to see him so vulnerable, but he’d helped her grow and build her own courage up for so long that she knew exactly what he needed of her right now, and she was more than willing to help him through this.
They suddenly heard the hospital room door creak open, and both their heads shot up, impatiently waiting for who or what came through it. A metal cart with a large plastic container on top was wheeled to the foot of her bed. She could see movement inside the tub and her heart swelled with anticipation. The nurse reached down toward the movement and Damien was instantly hovering, gazing down as the nurse scooped up their newborn baby girl.
She was just as beautiful and breathtaking as her mother was, and it took every ounce of his being not to burst into tears and shouts of joy at the same time. She was wrapped up like a cocoon and all he could see was from her neck up. Immediately, he longed to hold her, touch her, protect her. She had a round little face with chubby cheeks and her eyes were shut, softly slumbering, taking quick breaths in and out. She had little hair on her head, but what was there was dark brown and long. Her skin was a pale peach color and looked softer than anything he’d ever seen. It shone with a newness and innocence that was almost indescribable. Her nose was perfect and her lips pulled up into an involuntary grin. Her bottom lip kept moving in and out in a sucking motion, anticipating her first meal.
“Would you like to hold her?” the nurse asked as she gripped his little girl in her firm arms.
He couldn’t form words, but shook his head yes as he suppressed the tears welling up in his eyes. The moment she was placed in his cradling embrace, he looked up at his wife. The love of his life. His little girl’s mother. She smiled at him and for the first time, he saw soft tears beginning to stream down her face. She was radiant; even hours after going through child birth she could still make him crave every ounce of her. She was the mother of his child and he wanted to run over to her and squeeze every ounce of their combined love and friendship into this new little being. This woman, who he’d experienced so much with, had incubated and brought into this world an amazing tiny version of them. Every time he looked at her in the past he always saw someone he loved and admired with every ounce of his being and he never imagined there being room for anyone or anything else on that same level of emotions. But this child, their little baby girl, from the moment he laid eyes on her, had jumped from a previously unseen kick through his wife’s belly into a viewable, touchable, loveable mini-Tiffany, and immediately was welcomed in their bubble of love, life, joy, excitement, nervousness, and who knew what else was to come.
He’d involuntarily tightened his grip on his daughter and she squirmed in his arms. A little frightened, he let up and looked down at what he’d helped to create. This little nugget, a combination of him and Tiffany, ignited something within him that he couldn’t even put into words. He felt different, not in any particular way he could describe, but it was as if he’d been given a new responsibility without having to be asked or told. It was almost like a birthday; you turn one year older and nothing really changes physically, but mentally you know you’ve moved onto a new stage in life, something you just know and accept without any instructions or discussion.
He slowly walked over to his wife’s bed and she sat up a little straighter, seemingly nervous and a little scared. He knew exactly how she felt, but he also knew that they would get through this together, like they had everything else in their lives.
She gripped his free hand tightly and he leaned down so she could see her daughter’s face for the first time. Her other hand shot to her mouth as she tried to stifle a cry of pure, overwhelming pleasure.
“Oh my goodness, Damien,” she whispered, “look at her. She’s, oh my, she’s perfect.”
“I know Tiff, I was thinking the exact same thing.”
She finally dropped her hand and reached out to her daughter. She softly stroked her cheek and the little being in his arms made a soft coo and nestled deeper into his warmth. He instantly smiled at such an innocent movement and he felt the air around them begin to brighten from anxious and a little tense to eager and ready.
He looked over at Tiffany who was smiling just as brightly as he was and asked, “Are you ready, babe?”
“I think so,” she said softly as she readied her arms to cradle their child.
Once she held their daughter, they stared at her for what seemed like hours. They spoke softly to one another about every viewable surface of her and when they finally built up enough courage between the two of them, they gently unwrapped her to get a good look at the whole package. They carefully examined her, making sure she had a full set of digits and when they found themselves looking down at a now-open eyed little girl, they could no longer suppress the overwhelming and bubbling-over ecstasy she instilled in them.
“You know what this means, right?” his wife softly spoke while gazing down at their still unnamed baby girl.
“No, what?” he asked, curiosity taking over him for a moment.
“You can’t only look out for me anymore.”
He slowly looked over and took in his wife fully. There she sat, holding their child, looking angelic and dazzling, yet he knew deep down she was still the same fragile, damaged soul she’d always been. He knew he’d helped her help herself repair over all these years, but he was sure a part of her worried that he would no longer be her protector or her warrior. But she was wrong. He was made to love, care for, and guard her. He would always be that for her. Now that they had a child, his job was just stretched wide enough to include his new little family, and he accepted that responsibility with open arms.
He grinned at her, and when she returned his affection he knew at that moment that she understood. She was part protector and warrior for their child too. It wasn’t just him, and because of that, because she was longer just a helpless, scared damsel in distress, but instead a mother, a wife, a lover, a friend… they knew they could get through anything that life and God put in their path. They would raise and nurture this baby girl together, as equals.