It’s hard, getting caught up in the day-to-day.
I look up sometimes to find it’s 9 p.m. and I’ve done nothing but divide mail into piles, clean up dinner dishes and refill bottles for the next day. Spencer and I talk, catching up on this and that, and settle the overnight schedule with our baby boy: Spence takes the first shift, usually around 1 a.m.; I take the second, typically up for the day by 5 a.m.
Oliver is at the center of our world, our adorably plump little counterpart who dictates when we rise and when we rest. I live for the weekends now, when we don’t have to lay out clothes the night before or rush off to day care with the harried commuters. When I can sip my coffee from an actual mug, not down the dregs before I disappear with his heavy car seat in one hand and my half-zipped lunch bag in the other.
Rush, rush, rush. Hurry. These words are woven into the fabric of my mornings — and many of my evenings, too. I’m always fighting the clock. I want to laugh (or cry?) thinking of how “busy” I once thought I was, back when I could read or crochet or watch the news in the quiet with no one to worry about but myself.
At Oliver’s very first pediatrician’s appointment, his doctor — parent to a preemie herself — told us to be gentle on ourselves as we worked tirelessly for a baby who wouldn’t acknowledge our efforts . . . for a while. All newborns are needy, sure, but preemies are a special group. No grins, no giggles, no interaction beyond occasional eye contact for much longer than feels reasonable. Longer than seems normal.
Oliver surprised us by offering his first smile on July 2, much earlier than we’d expected — about two months after we first brought him home. I was singing him one of the ridiculous songs I like to make up, inserting his name into popular lyrics and swaying with him around the living room. That flash of delight split me clean in half.
In the last few weeks, I’ve seen a light bulb flash in my son’s dark eyes: recognition. Appreciation. Enjoyment. At almost 4 months old, Ollie now offers us his gummy grins and seeks our faces in a crowd. He hasn’t shown much interest in toys, but he loves to sit up on the couch “like big people” and clutch my finger while he takes his bottle.
He smiles. He giggles. He knows when we are there. As Ollie gave me a funny side-eye that suddenly broke into a brilliant smile on Sunday, I got teary-eyed (not that, you know, that’s hard these days). “I think we made it,” I said to Spence. “I think we made it through the early part.”
There are days I feel so happy, realizing how big my baby boy has gotten and how he continues to grow. All parents wish for health and strength for their little ones, but preemie parents send up especially ardent prayers. Nothing makes me happier than seeing Ollie tip the scales and grow and change . . . but it makes me sad, too, realizing he will never again be this little. That our newborn is an infant, and he’ll never be a newborn again.
This is the world I have always lived in, one that has come to define me but has no special name: where there is always a bitter to the sweet, and a sweet to the bitter. Like most mothers, I’m sure, I exist in two planes: I want nothing more than for my babe to grow, but cry thinking of how quickly this is all going to pass.
It’s the second one that makes me stop for sunsets. That forces me to remember life is not a blur of to-do lists, Costco runs and hasty dinners. That we don’t exist to simply wash bottles and catch up on “The Bachelor.” That is important — imperative, even — to know that there is more. Soaking up the quieter moments, finding a way to capture something that feels so beautiful and fleeting: that’s life.
And I want to be a woman — a mother, wife, daughter — who doesn’t let life’s uncertainties cloud its brilliant colors.
I will try.