x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Married Life: The greatest thing we've ever done

Married Life is back, and a couple is now a family of three.

I would say that the birth of a child is pretty high up there on the "most momentous thing to ever happen in a marriage … ever", wouldn't you? It was certainly the case for my husband and me; we've not yet bought a house, car or boat together and never bothered to set up a joint savings account, so the arrival of our Baby A has been cemented as the most significant thing to happen to us in our marriage.

Except Mr T never made it to the birth.

That's right. My worst nightmare came true and I went into labour with my husband halfway across the world from me. Sure, I had my mum (who, I later realised, is the perfect companion for a girl to have in such a situation), but my mum is not the guy who's been whispering to Baby A for nine months, or the guy who attended that prenatal class with me and paid attention when we were taught how to breathe (I was taking a nap with my eyes open), or the guy who was all set to cut the umbilical cord.

Not only did our Baby A decide to make an appearance 10 days early, but she also timed it to coincide with the one day of the week that neither an Emirates or Etihad flight flew from the UAE to Toronto. She came into the world late on a Saturday night, and on Sunday there was no flight for Mr T to hop on. When I realised this, approximately two seconds after my water broke, I was too horrified to utter the wail that had lodged itself in my throat.

Instead, choking on my tears, I assured my mother that I could probably hold on for two more days and my water breaking did not mean I was going into labour, absolutely not, and oh, that searing hot rod of pain that was ripping my back in half and forcing me to my knees? I could totally handle that for another 48 hours until my husband made his way to me!

It was only two hours later that I was demanding an epidural, in a weak wisp of a voice, sure, but quite adamantly nevertheless.

During that labour, I had to concentrate every fibre of my being on what I knew Mr T would be telling me if he was with me: that I can do this. I never believed it, but he did, so I tried to believe it for him. But the truth is, that wasn't the only reason I wanted him there. My mother was there for that - there was no way I was going through this without her and thank God she was there - but when it came to Mr T, I had a niggling fear that he would never be able to truly connect with his daughter, to really fall in love with her, if he wasn't there with me welcoming her into the world.

Which, I can now confidently confess, is the most ridiculous fear in the world. Baby A and Mr T are the best of friends; they really only have eyes for one another, those two. The grin that baby displays when she sets eyes on her daddy is at least twice the size of the grin she gives me. And Mr T? Well, manly Mr T, who never "got" babies, turns to me at least once a day and helplessly exclaims: "I love her so much! She's ours, can you believe she's really ours?"

Hala Khalaf is the deputy editor of Arts&Life