About ZenitaZenita comes into my room. It must be three in the morning. I feel awful when I wake up. Still high and my head is hurting because my body hasn't worked through it.
I can't breathe, she says.
I turn the shower on and make her stand in the steam. We give her a suck on B's puffer. It helps a little. I wrap her up and hold her in my arms and soon she is asleep.
It must be an hour I lie there holding her while she sleeps, unable to get back to sleep.
When she was first born, she did not breathe. It's almost as though she was not ready. Mrs Zen always thought Naughtyman was unwilling to be born, because he came out with his fists clenched and his eyes tight closed, but Zenita soon became bouncy and personable, so she didn't worry about her.
But I do.
And did then. She spent her first night on an oximeter in the nursery. I spent an hour sitting watching her, a perfect, beautiful baby. I cannot describe how I felt. Words are nothing, really. They are hollow, signposts to meaning but never quite containing or carrying the meaning we feel within us.
But I loved her. It is as though the love was something that happened to me, rather than something I did, like a tide that I was caught in.
My children are different from each other and different from any other child I've known. They are each a novel better than I could ever hope to write, unravelling before me, revealing themselves as who they are. But of course I do not read them passively.
Not that reading a novel is passive. You have to interact with a novel to make it work. You have to interpret, visualise, help the author create their world. But with a child, you are also, mostly in ways you do not and cannot understand, predict or control, helping to put the words on the page.
I did write long screeds about my kids here, but I've deleted them. I know what they're like. I don't need to tell myself any more about them. They constantly astonish me, not just in themselves, in what they do, what they achieve, what they feel, but by the love they elicit in me. When I was a teen, I thought I could not care for other people because I lacked empathy. Then when I fell in love with women, it felt real, but in time I realised that it happened easily and was hard to calibrate. I mostly loved them for loving me.
I mean, if you asked me why I loved Bella, I'd be lost for any good reason beyond she was nice to talk to and she was into me.
But my kids I feel a love that blows me away, that feels deep and unstructured, ineffable, unstoppable. I feel carried away, infatuated, passionate about them.
It is the single best thing not only that has happened to but ever could happen to me.
The thing about the screeds was just that the contrast is plain. Both Naughtyman and Zenella wear their sensitivity on their sleeves. They are focused on themselves, much like me. But Zenita is outward looking, a people person. She has a lot of pep. You'd insta like her. But none of these things should be taken for granted. She is giving us the lovely little girl she is. Each of my children appeals to me in different ways, and I suppose Zenita's way is that she is so easy to fall in love with.