When I was 39 years old, I got knocked up during a passionate love affair. When the baby daddy made it clear he didn’t want to be involved, I took the leap of faith and decided to be a single mom, despite my hazy future as a writer and filmmaker. Just as troubling: I was still in love with BD (baby daddy), hoping he’d change his mind.
In spite of him, I fantasized my child would have a handsome Spanish manny. She’d get male energy, learn a second language, and I’d get some eye candy. (In short, I wanted Antonio Banderas.) After my daughter Donny was born, what I got instead was a miracle in the form of an ex-flame, who unexpectedly got in touch with me after a bad breakup.
Knowing David had childcare experience, I asked him to come help. The timing was perfect. Donny was six weeks old, and Maya, my roommate and lifeline, was leaving on a two-week gig.
The morning David arrived, he looked like hell. Over tea, we caught up on our failed love lives and argued over who had the worst exes.
“He was an alcoholic who refused to get help,” David said about one of my former flames. “But you tried everything.”
“Your ex was a total bitch,” I replied. “She never appreciated you.”
Donny woke up from her nap. I handed her to David.
While we talked, Dave rubbed Donny’s cheek lightly with his finger.
For that first week, I did night duty with Donny, then at 6 a.m., David came in and took over. I nicknamed him the baby whisperer. He had a magical way with her, a mix of gentleness, confidence and caring. He held her by balancing her on his forearm, her head cradled in his palm. At a crowded Christmas party he extracted her from the arms of a “bat-shit crazy baby snatcher.” (“She’s so adorable! I just want to wrap her in my coat and take her with me!”)
It didn’t take long before my attraction to David ignited. Finally, I got up the courage to hug him goodnight.
“Thank you for this week,” I said.
He answered, “Thank you for saving my life.”
After Maya came back, I told David, “Listen, I don’t want to be your rebound. You still have a lot to sort out.” Still, in just a few days David had shown me my “we”—a family filled with fun, ease and love that didn’t have to be with BD.
For the next few months we dated. Then I got a full time job and needed a manny. David was the perfect candidate.
And so from Monday to Friday, David became Donny’s main caretaker. When I arrived home from work, he already had Donny down, leaving me free to relax. He’d fill me in on their day, sharing videos he shot. When Maya got home, we’d crack some beers, eat, and hang out.
On the weekends, I was happy to be Mommy again, but David remained Donny’s go-to guy. When he wore her in the Bjorn, she seemed to belong there. And on the rare occasions she wailed uncontrollably, David could soothe her with his exclusive massage technique.
Before we blinked, Donny was 1 and a half years old, and I realized she needed more social interaction. It was time for daycare. And I was ready for David and me to lose our employer-employee dynamic so our romantic one could truly take hold.
It did. As fall arrived, Maya moved out and David moved in, becoming the full-time parent. It was wonderful. Then our first crisis happened. Donny started to say “Da-da.”
“No, no. That’s David,” we’d correct her, not ready for the title change. “Dayyy-vid.”
One of my closest friends got mad.
“As far as Donny knows David is her father,” she scolded me. “She knows what she’s doing, so stop interfering with her instincts and back the fuck off.”
I did. And soon I realized that being a father wasn’t about biology, but about loving a child so completely, so selflessly they naturally become your own. David came to realize this, too, and proudly announced, “I’m okay with Donn calling me ‘Daddy.'” We were all finally on the same page.
Back when we first met, David only dated me casually, even though I was head over heels for him. If someone had told me, “Don’t worry. Sixteen years from now, you’re going to have a family together,” I would’ve thought they were nuts. But when I get into bed now, and spoon against David’s smooth skin, I often think about life’s twists and turns. And how little control we have over most of it.
In the dawn of day, it scares the shit out of me. But surrounded by our room’s gentle darkness, I actually feel a sense of hope sometimes … and dare I even say it? Faith. After all, I was led to a place I didn’t even know I wanted. But it means everything to me now.