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Nothing can prepare a person for children. Nothing. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, but ever since the midwife pulled August from me and set him in my arms each day has been a surprise. Every single day for twenty-eight years. He was the hardest, though his brother and sister posed their own challenges... but in some ways he was the most rewarding. I love all of my children dearly, but there can never be anything like your first child. To feel the warmth of his body, his soft inhale and exhale, to feel the surprising strength of his tiny fingers grasping one of yours. There is nothing in the world like it.

The second is easier, and all of the excitement and miracle is still there only you've seen it before. I knew the third would be the last, so there was something tangibly bittersweet. To hold the last of my children in my arms, on the day he was born, knowing there would never be another.

There is nothing that can prepare you for any of it. I did the best I could, and David did the best he could until he didn't.

It always shocked me to see Pyrrha onstage beside Dame Maya. My daughter, my second-born, would be the next Dame of First Landing. It was difficult to imagine, and only in part because I struggled to see Dame Maya giving it up, even in death. Pyrrha would never feel the warmth of her firstborn in her arms, never know the strangeness and the joy of motherhood. I imagine that's part of the trade-off of being Dame - you could never hold your child in your arms, but you would also never face the possibility of losing them. I knew that parenthood wasn't what she wanted, but it was always something I wanted for her, for all of my children.

I'm not you, she used to say, a cutting reminder of all of the ways in which I'd failed her. She'd idolized me once.

Anshor may still have found joys in parenthood, but I saw more of his father in him each day. He may have found joy in parenthood, or he may have found it on the open road, like David did. I think he was the only man left who could break my heart.