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I’ll never call giving birth ‘the best thing that ever happened to me’

I don’t believe in “best days.”

People like to point to singular moments in life in which they were singularly happy, and I understand the instinct to wrap up those moments and call them “the best,” but I just can’t. For women, we’re expected to boil the sum of our best experiences into one of two things: our wedding day and the day or days that mark the birth of our child or children. Usually the latter is expected to eclipse and replace the former. For me, it’s neither.

It’s not just because my wedding day came long after the day my daughter was born. It’s not just because I barely remember anything about that day except being a little bummed that they binned the leftover saag paneer we’d had catered. I definitely wish I’d brought Tupperware or something. In fact, here’s a wedding day pro tip: Bring Tupperware.

It’s not just because that day five years earlier — the day my daughter came shouting into the world in a rush of panic and blood — is similarly fuzzed in my memory. It’s mostly snatches — shouting, crying, pooping. Our first mother-daughter activities.

Both days, while a little blurred by adrenaline and tempered by wasted cuisine and a number of painful staples, are still rimmed in giddy euphoria for me. I love those days. I love the pictures and peeking at my wedding dress up in the closet. I love the way my daughter will still sometimes curl up against me in a way that makes my heart do that same skittery-love thing it did when she first curled her fist around my finger.

They are very happy days. But those are not the best days.

I don’t ever want a best day. I want hundreds of them. My wedding was great, but how can I choose between resting my head on my husband’s shoulder for our first dance and betting him a dollar I’d never fall in love with him and then having to pay up a few months later on the beach eight years before that day? Between the way he still grabs me up for a slow dance in the kitchen on a weeknight?

The memory of the moment they put my daughter on my sobbing, sweaty body is certainly one for the books. But do I have to pick that one over the many afternoons that we would twirl around in a moving hug to “Little Red Bird” when she begged for a “please-dance-please”? Or the first time she pursed her lips in screwy concentration to blurt out “Mama”? Or the sound she, as a toddler, would make when I would tickle her tummy at the end of “This Little Piggy”?

How about the time she was wrecked with a weeklong virus as a preschooler, and the days were all terrible, but she would plead with me to make it better, and I actually could? Maybe the day I went to pick her up at the bus stop on the first day of kindergarten and saw a sweet little boy holding her books while she chattered excitedly about Minecraft, not even noticing how red his cheeks were? Do I have to choose it over the feeling of watching her stand up for a little girl who was bullied to tears in second grade, her hands in little fists at her side while she shouted at another girl to “just be decent! Can’t you see she’s hurting?” Must I choose it over the way she looks when she’s stretching her fingers over her guitar strings to form a difficult chord because she said she would and now she must?

Do I have to weigh it against all the best days to come? Every little affection? Every huge triumph? One day she might graduate with a doctorate in doctoring or learn how to weld the ever-loving crap out of the steel for a skyscraper. She could be the world’s best flight attendant or invent something amazing. I never fail to be surprised and awed at her capacity for joy, for kindness, even for her mirror-image anger when she’s passionate enough about something. Will those pale in comparison to the day she was born?

One day she might get married. She might have a child of her own. She might not. She will still be her, and being her parent gets better every single day.

I would imagine that most parents feel this way. We call the day a child is born “the best day” because it’s shorthand for everything that comes after that. It’s an easy way to express what makes us want to be parents in the first place — knowing that the best day never comes. The best day is always just ahead.

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