I’ve often worried over the last year that I will start to forget the memories I have of Zoey. And honestly, there are things that slip. I will of course remember her and the love I have for her, but those small things that made day to day life what it was for us: will I lose that?
I remember seeing that little beauty for the first time. Joe brought her to me and I still can’t believe it—we’d created this tiny human. When I finally got to hold her I think I was still in shock. I’d prepared myself for the worst—but holding her—alive– was better than anything I could have imagined.
When she was hungry, she’d punch her little clenched fist in the air. We called it baby power. When she would look around, she’d scrunch her forehead. And when she looked at Joe, you could just see that she adored her daddy. She would give us “looks” when we tried to feed her—I’ll always marvel at how a little 6 pound baby can express so much without a word. She had a soft little coo and even her cry was cute. I loved how she’d stretch her legs and her bunny feet.
Zoey was not a fan of bath time. She seemed to enjoy the first time we washed her hair in the hospital. And the first time I moved her bathtub to the kitchen sink she enjoyed looking at the lights above the sink, but every other time she was fussy. I loved how her hair was dark and tame until her bath and then it would be fine, light and wild. She looked like a different baby. I remember when she’d open her fist just a little bit and how she couldn’t suck her thumb but could find her index finger and put it in her mouth. If I didn’t feed her quickly enough after she threw her fist in the air, she’d start hitting herself in the cheek.
One day, my mom was holding her and I came across the room to kiss her on the forehead. Apparently I’d managed to build up static electricity so when my lips touched her, I gave her a shock. Her eyes got so big! And of course I was terrified that I’d caused her heart to stop. But she just looked at me and then went back to looking around.
I was always worried that Zoey was bored because we spent so much time in the same room. I thought sure she was tired of looking at the living room ceiling fan so we’d take walks around the house. One night I had her outside to explore the front yard and a mosquito landed on her nose—we came back inside. And then we toured the bathroom, the kitchen and our bedroom.
We only made a few trips away from the house. The first time, we went to a friend’s house and she stopped breathing. I just held her, begging her to come back to me. And she did. I don’t think I put her down the rest of the day.
Once we settled in again after that adventure, we would take short trips to the park. We made it to a few in the area and she got to see geese, ducks and goats. Our biggest fieldtrip was to the baseball game. She was wide awake on the way there—in her car bed and just watching everything. Once we got to the game, her eyes were huge. It was a lot for someone so little to take in! The noise, the colors, the crowd—but she did great. I really wanted her to meet Fredbird, so we waited out a rain delay and tracked him down. As soon as Fredbird saw her, he grabbed her from me and we took tons of pictures. I thought she’d be freaked out by a giant red bird holding her, but it didn’t phase her. In fact, she yawned. After I finally got her back from him, we took her to Build a Bear and we made a stuffed Clydesdale. I kissed a little heart and held it against her before placing it inside.
I have a million memories and could go on, but the most important memories– the ones I never want to lose– are the ones about how she made me feel. How in awe I was to be her mom. The capacity of my heart to love her. I know her life was short, and it hurts tremendously now. But I wouldn’t give her back. I wouldn’t trade those moments. We had 120 days of memories with her. I don’t want to imagine my life without her. Sure, the memories of losing her hurt. I will never forget feeling the last beat of her heart. Handing her over for the last time. But it’s worth it. Every single one of those painful moments is worth it. Because the ones of me just being her mom and watching Joe be her dad and the sparkle in her grandparent’s eyes outweigh the pain. We started making memories with her the moment I knew I was pregnant: telling Joe I was pregnant, feeling her kick the first time, seeing her squirm on the ultrasound. And if that was all I was given, I still would have taken it. Why we were blessed with longer when others are not, I don’t know. Why we only had 120 days, I don’t know. I don’t understand any of that—but I understand love. And I understand that she is my best memory.