Zuzu is fifteen months old. Her little Converse Allstar tennis shoes (size 3) are lined up on our entry-way cubby, next to David's shoes. It makes me so happy to see them there. I love her little shoes.
When I pick her up at daycare (assuming it's not snack time) she runs to me, and as soon as I pick her up, she turns to look at her teachers, waves her little arm, and says, "Bye-bye!" If I stand there talking for too long, she starts saying, "Bye-bye! Bye-bye!" until I get the hint. It's time to move on!
Tonight she decided the aluminum foil did not belong in its drawer, but instead belonged in the cabinet across the kitchen. She was very businesslike about this relocation, and did lots of chattering and shrieking at the foil as well. David wondered out loud what she was thinking--like what kind of determined little thought process is going through her mind?
I lost track of time when we got home this evening, and Zuzu got frustrated with something and dramatically threw herself down on the floor, fussing. Then I realized we were twenty minutes past her usual dinner time. I asked if she was hungry and she got up and started signing, "More!" which is also her way of saying "Yes!" emphatically. Poor little punkin. Just like her mama, losing her cool when her blood sugar gets too low.
This morning when I went in to get Zuzu out of her crib, she grabbed her little hane and held it up over her face, just like the baby in Where Is Baby's Belly Button? I said, "Where's Zuzu?" and she pulled it down, beaming at me, her little grin peeking out around her pacifier. "THERE SHE IS!" I said, and she laughed at our awesome game.
David was delighted that she started saying "ball" before she said "book" but now she says both, although usually we have to say them first and then repeats them. She's started calling Cooper "Bubba" all on her own, which I think is hilarious since I called my brother Bubby and Bubs (now he's Uncle Bubs). She'll tell us what the chicken says and what the duck says and sometimes what the horse says. She says hi to random people and when we ask if she's ready to go night-night, she'll repeat it, "Night-night!"
I don't put her in jeans very often, but today she wore a little pair of (knit) Levi's with pink stitching and she was so adorable strutting around in them.
In her bath tonight, I sang, "If you're happy and you know it, splash your hands!" just like we did at swimming lessons and she splashed with glee. I sang "If you're happy and you know it, blow some bubbles!" and she still hasn't quite figured out the bubble blowing, but she did bend down and put her mouth in the water.
My mom gave her this "talking picture frame" that has a photo of my parents and Zuzu in it and when you hit the button, it plays a recording of my parents. Zuzu loves to hit the button. She will now point at the picture and whine until I take it off the shelf so she can hear Grammy and Gramps talk to her. She's going to be super excited to see them this weekend and we have lots of fun plans.
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We went to a BBQ at a friend's house over the weekend. There were five couples there. Among the ten of us, there are nine kids.
(And one dead baby.)
Four of these couples (including us) were pregnant in 2010. There was a little girl there who is five months older than Eliza would have been. A little boy who is two months older than Eliza would have been. Another little boy who is one month younger than Eliza would have been.
They are so big, these kids. Big, and gorgeous, and funny, and they say big words and talk in whole sentences and wear big kid shoes and have hair that requires brushing and they ate dinner sitting in little chairs at tiny tables and not wearing bibs.
We had plans to have a Christmas dinner party with this group of friends the week after Eliza died. David and I didn't make that dinner party. Or any parties after that. For a very, very long time. We've gone to dinner with the adults in the group a couple of times in the past year or so, and I meet up with the girls on a pretty regular basis, but this was the first time since Eliza died that we were around everybody with all the kids.
It was fine--I didn't want to have a meltdown or anything. It was nice to see everyone and to see how big the babies are getting--there's also a little boy who's a month older than Zu and a little girl who's a month younger (both have older siblings). Zuzu and Evie even wrestled a bit over the Cozy Coupe. But David and I talked on the way home about how much we miss Eliza when we are with all of these families-of-four.
It just never stops sucking. The "big" little girls are taking dance lessons. My friends are talking potty training and crib-to-bed transitions and where these kids will go to kindergarten. I can listen to these conversations without crying (that's called progress, my friends!). I don't even have to fake interest or pretend to be okay when it feels like my insides are melting. I can really handle it. But there is something totally surreal and breathtaking about watching my best friends live my alternative life--the one I might have had if both my babies had lived instead of just one.
These days, I don't feel bitter or angry or resentful about it. I'm happy for them and I love their kids. I just feel sad for me. I just want it to be me, too, buying leotards and ballet slippers and princess underwear. I just want Eliza in the mix.
It's a million times easier than it was--I mean there was a time when I couldn't be around any kids who were close to Eliza's age and not lose it. But it also struck me what a life sentence it is that we're facing. Their kids will always be doing stuff that Eliza will never do at precisely the time she would have done it. Their lives will always be eighteen months ahead of mine when it comes to raising kids. Their families will always be complete while mine will always have someone missing.
I remember my mom telling me about a classmate of hers who died in grade school, and how every milestone of his classmates--driving, prom, graduation, and then college graduations and weddings and class reunions--was one more thing his mom witnessed as a reminder of all her son had missed out on.
I would have never thought it would hurt the same for a baby who never lived outside my belly. I could have never imagined that my love for her didn't require her to be alive. I would have never understood how much I would mourn both my daughter's life and the life I would have had if she'd lived.
I'm grateful my friendships have survived the wreckage. I think I need to try harder because my instinct for so long was to distance myself from things like family BBQ's and kids birthday parties (we haven't been to a single one besides Zuzu's since Eliza died) and I know we've missed so much.
It's just that we still miss her. So much.