Eight years ago today, Zoe Margaret made her way into the world. It was a quiet appearance, nothing like her sister’s near catastrophic birth not two years earlier. From the start, though, Zoe was deceiving in her demeanor. She was the baby who was happy as she could be until suddenly she wasn’t and then, watch out. The screaming that came out of her was like nothing I’d ever heard. She was the toddler who would slam her head into the floor when she was mad at us. The same child who wanted to snuggle in your lap any chance she got was the same one who wore a luchador mask for most of her second year. I spent my pregnancy with Zoe wondering how in the world I could ever love another child the way I loved her sister. And then she arrived and I’ll be honest, I was so overwhelmed with having two children under the age of two that I didn’t bond with her immediately. I remember clearly sitting and nursing Zoe about 3 weeks into her life. I looked down at her wrinkled little face and my breath was nearly taken away because it was at that very moment that I knew how much I loved her. It’s always been a little like that with Zoe – you never really know until you know. And I learned that I didn’t have to love her like I loved her sister. The two of them were and are so very different, there’s no way I could do that.
When she was about 6 months old, Zoe went on a hunger strike. Refused to eat anything, and when I gave her formula, she began vomiting like she was possessed. We quickly found out that her little body couldn’t digest the proteins in dairy or soy. Back then, there were few alternatives to give her, and we spent so much of her toddler years trying to keep her safe from foods that would make her sick. It honestly made me physically and mentally exhausted beyond my wildest imagination. But Zoe took things in stride. She began at a very young age asking if things had diary in them. When we went out to dinner at different places, we packed her a lunchbox. She was almost 4 years old before she ate anything that I didn’t prepare for her. Stuff hasn’t always been easy for Zoe, but she has always figured things out gracefully and without issue.
Recently, Zoe has been having a lot of anxiety and panic attacks. They’re reminiscent of her sister’s at nearly the same age. I sort of thought we’d only have one child with these issues to worry about, but I was wrong. Life here at home has been a challenge with Zoe to say the least. She doesn’t want to go to school. She doesn’t want to eat. She wakes up at all hours of the night freaking out and refusing to sleep. A parent never, ever wants to see a child sad, but a sad child with worries she can’t explain is another beast entirely. She’s talking to someone, and we will all get through this. Here’s the thing. Tonight I took her to gymnastics class. I watched Zoe through the window and was so impressed at how much confidence she’s gained since she started the class in September. She’s able to tumble, and even able to hoist her little body up onto the balance beam without the help of her teacher. When she fell off the beam, she got right back up. That’s the thing about Zoe – she’ll keep on trying even when it seems like giving up is easier. Sometimes, with all that has been going on, it’s hard for me to see that she still has that in her. I needed to watch her tonight from the sidelines to see that for myself. It was reassuring.
Zoe is so much like her mama, and some days it’s hard to parent someone who is so much like me. She’s a little loud. She says what she thinks without thinking so much about it first. She’s feisty and sassy, but she’s also human and when she falls, she is able to get back up. Unlike her mama, Zoe gets up a lot faster and comes back swinging a lot harder. I hope she keeps that part of her personality as she grows older. More than anything, I hope she always knows how much she is loved. Happy, happy birthday, sweet Zoe.