The last week.

This isn’t how I thought it would end.

I didn’t think the end would begin with a deep soreness, tiny stabs of pain, highlighted by stinging tears; the added torture of me trying to hold all this in and stay strong for you, to avoid the chance you’d feel unwhole, to acknowledge your instinctual longing, to turn away in the hope you wouldn’t see me holding back, and cry yourself to sleep.

I just didn’t see it coming, I didn’t know that’s how it would go.

Day by day for this last week, I held back while you went ahead. How each day, you could start a little more fresh, a little more optimistic; how you could then end each day a little more fulfilled, a bit brighter, that much more ready.

Without me.

You were slowly moving on, and I wasn’t seeing it. My time was occupied waiting for us to reunite.

Day by day, you managed; surpassed; moved on.

One week later, you are the happiest I’ve ever seen you.

Running ahead, a vision of fresh opportunity, arms open, drawn to people who are not me, people who have not nourished you with love and comfort for the last year and a half. At the other end of these last few days, you haven’t run to me in desperation, clinging to the crutch I nurtured. Now you see me and smile while you hang back, greet me brightly from a distance. Even Ruth, she said to me today – one week later – “you know, she’s just so happy. I can’t even explain why. She’s just been happy – changed.”

It’s been a week. And I never thought once in this time that this is how it ends. You, reborn. Me, at a loss.

I didn’t want to hurt you, I absorbed all the pain. And I didn’t see it coming.

And here we are. The physical pain has passed – it’s been a whole day without the break in my chest, the throbbing, the feeling of being shattered, burst open, bruised. That’s subsided and now I look up from this dark week and the tears are receding with the tide, the cracks are filled, the sores are healed; but the pain in my heart is encased in a crust that is raw and fresh and choking.

And you – you’re happy. And tonight, I hold you in my arms, your tiny head resting against my shoulder, the slow, mellow motion of your breathing against my upper chest… as I hold you like this, in the dark room, quiet and at peace… as I hold you I know you are happy. And I know I am, somehow, too. And I know this pain is about my loss and my failure to never consider it could end like this, but knowing – somewhere, between the tender bruising that is both reminder and revelation – somewhere, deep inside my chest, right behind my deflated, soft, healing breasts – baby girl, this is for the best.

Zooey update: eighteen months

It may be autumn but your steps are in full bloom. Your toddle is… toddle-y, and exactly as it should be. It’s not that you couldn’t walk or wouldn’t walk, but I think we both know you were going to go with what came easier to you as you cautiously sorted out the whole walking on two legs thing.

Meanwhile, you won’t let yourself be left behind – walking or crawling, toddling or not…

If all of them other kids get to lick the chocolate off the mixing spoon, then goddamit so do you.

I always tell people that what I’ve noticed in sibling pairs is, the friendship starts when the younger sibling is around 18 months. And sure enough, here it is. You’ve paid attention long enough – now you are playing for attention. You’re also fighting back – finally – and to be honest, I agree with you, your older siblings deserve it.

And, there is a smattering of words we hear. No! for starters. No! (that’s mine). No! (I wanted abba, not you). No! (this is my drink, get your own).

 

Zooey update: seventeen months

We’ve been waiting for you to join us, and you’re finally having your Neil Armstrong moment. One small step, Zooey, is another month until you’ll be racing after us?

Hello! Hello? Hello. Waving or saying it or pretending to talk on the phone. Mostly pretending to be talking on the phone. Talking on anything but a phone?

It’s been a pleasure obliging you this past summer, water baby. I don’t think you were ever as filled with glee as you were with a floaty device strapped on to you, bobbing along in the pool.

 

Zooey update: sixteen months

Summer, full-time

This is the first time in eight years we haven’t gone abroad to visit extended family for part of August. I feel a little bad, as you’d get a bunch of spoiling, but we did travel in May, your grandpa has come for a week, and you have been abroad three times in your little life. And what do you know? You’re happy as long as your immediate family is around.

So I brought you to work one day to say hi. There was Bamba there; there were computer cables there; you were happy.

We actually did a lot of exciting things during this time, too.

You got to finger paint.

You ate at restaurants. You started eating properly with spoons. You went swimming over and over (you love the water. Love. Water baby.) You drew on the sidewalk with chalk. You ate chalk. You sat in the waves at the beach, you watched boats at sea.

You took some more steps to keep up with it all.

Sibling love

It comes in all shapes and sizes and levels of torment. I’ve been thinking a lot about sibling love… I guess for years. As long as I’ve had siblings. Zooey, it’s all born out of something good I’m sure. The need for attention, the human requirement to be loved. Whether you get a playful kick or a not-so-playful kick in the face… it’s not you. It’s the struggle to be heard, to know one’s place, in the sibling universe.

Because for every maka there’s a spoonful of precious maadan.

For every too-tough tug, there’s a basket of laughs.

What’s next

You’re getting out there. You have a big year ahead – graduated from the comfort of your sweet loving Moroccan metapelet, you’re going to join a dozen other kids (likely more) in the nursery atmosphere of a maon. It means more language, more interactions, more experiments, more friends. We’re looking forward for you, Zooey.

Zooey update: fifteen months

We can hear you… your language is taking better shape… whether it’s your soft babble or your ‘dis’ or your just-barely ’emma’. We hear you, Zooey. We’re listening.

Or maybe it’s your language in movement… your little sideways waves.

Or maybe it’s your attempt at major movement – trying to walk. Taking steps to taking steps. You are deliberate in starting the next challenge; you do it in your own time.

They’re all steps to getting to the next level – being a part of the bigger gang.

Zoey update: fourteen months

Sisters.

You have a couple.

And one sings you sweet songs and strokes your chubba arms and gives you kisses.

And the other kinda tortures you.

…and then she sings you sweet songs and strokes your chubba arms and gives you kisses.

And while you’re not being entertained by your siblings’ madness, you’re learning to entertain yourself. Singing. Talking. Waving. Clapping. Climbing. Slapping.

P.S. Can you maybe not slap me so hard in bed in the mornings?

Zooey update: thirteen months

Let’s hear it for the world-traveling babies!

The babies who try new things!

The babies who aren’t afraid to fly! (Literally!)

The worldly babies who won’t wait around, will grab your plate, will have what they’re having.

The babies who climb up the stone stairs when you’re not paying attention, when your back is turned and you hear a happy grunting, a pit-pat of palms coming up behind you; you, slowly turning around, quietly inching towards the staircase, like a cartoon cat realizing the mouse is creeping up behind you, but if you startle it, it will tumble back down the stairs. The babies who, once they reach the top, see you, their faces breaking out in an enormous smile of familiarity and appreciation and accomplishment, whether they realize your heart was racing because you weren’t sure until that moment if they’d see you too soon, get cartoonishly excited, and fall backwards.

The babies who will cock their chubba round heads, look you in the eye through their squinty eyes, stare you down for a few slow seconds, and then slowly – but slowly – break into a smile of like, ‘yeah. You’re ok.’

The babies who are curious and maybe kinda skeptical. But take a bite anyway.

Zooey update: twelve months

Don’t we know it, Zooey. It’s not easy snagging attention around here. I guess you have a hometown advantage of being the easiest to carry on my back. Just a bunch of koalas after all.

It’s not hard to believe a year has gone by – it’s been such a packed year, what with me stretching maternity leave with you as long as I could… you got a better deal than your siblings that way, too. I did the best I could and went back to work and now I’m trying to snag what I can get. It goes both ways.

Also – you have a thing for balloons. Can you guess why? Here’s a hint: Boobs.

So yeah, it’s been a wild year. We were attached for a lot of that. Even if the balancing act got so much more challenging with an extra kiddie in the house. It’s like you were in the womb, feeling the stress and thinking – when I get out of here, this won’t end. And you figured it out strategically – no pacifiers. No substitutes. Your refusal to ever take a bottle, sip from any variety of sippie cups, or drink from, you know what, any kind of cup at all – well, yeah. We have been attached for a lot of it.

I guess you’re getting away with a lot more than even Nettles did… younger siblings rights… But a whole bag of Bamba is a new low for me.

You’re taking what you can get. It’s a dog eat dog world, Zooey. Pat on the back for you.