Stopping for the sunsets

Sunset

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.


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17 thoughts on “Stopping for the sunsets

  1. Lovely post, Meg with so many sweet tender moments. You captured something really beautiful here. I was with my family last week, and everyone kept saying to my 10-year-old niece: “What happened? Yesterday I was changing your diapers! Quit growing up!” and I remember thinking that must be a weird and uncomfortable thing for a kid to hear. But it seems that’s the common sentiment among parents, this wish that someone time could be stopped or at least slowed down to relish in those early moments. What a cool thing this blog is becoming; something you’ll be able to read back over when Ollie’s older to read your own thoughts about his early days. Loved this one.

  2. This is all so true! Most of the time, I feel like I’m too busy rushing around and cleaning things (especially bottles) to stop and enjoy it. Everyone keeps telling me to slow down and savor the baby days, and I try my best… but life is just so busy and hectic with a baby. I laugh too when I remember how I thought I was so busy and stressed before the baby days. Not even close!

  3. Beautiful. My Elliott is 12 days old and I’ve found myself getting caught up in the stressors rather than appreciating the joys at times. This mom stuff is so.damn.hard, but your post reminds me how lucky we are. My preeclampsia was not as severe as yours, so we got to wait until 37 weeks. Early, but not preemie. Elliott has been very healthy and growing, but mama’s infertile body doesn’t really produce like a fertile woman’s would. That has broken me a thousand times already, but there are a million more reasons to be grateful. So many reasons to savor each of these hard, HARD early days. Thanks for the reminder. Xo.

  4. Thank you for sharing your innermost thoughts. I think that is so cool how you noticed that difference in your son’s recognition. I didn’t know that of preemies. I was one, a month early and had to be in the incubator for maybe two weeks. I’m part of an online, FB-like community of knitters, crocheters, dyers, & weavers from all over the world call Ravelry. You can join groups and log in your projects, needles, and yarn stash besides sell and buy patterns and the same for yarn. One group I’m part of has a monthly charity drive. Greg of Knitting Daddy organized a drive for preemie hats as his daughter, nicknamed Blueberry, was born 2.5 months premature. He and his wife were comforted with the cute hats she received in the NICU. So he wanted to give back to the organization and hospital. I knitted three hats. Their tiny sizes surprised me as I hadn’t realized how small preemies could be. It was neat to see how my hats were like the sizes of a red delicious apple and an ace of spades.

    • I got teary-eyed immediately thinking of Ollie’s own NICU hat, Kepanie! I can definitely report that NICU parents are immensely comforted by the handmade items we receive for our little ones, particularly the blankets and caps. As Oliver was born in Baltimore, he has an Orioles hat that sits on a shelf in his room. At birth, it was falling off of him . . . and now, at 4 months old, you can’t even get it on his noggin.

      It was so comforting to know that people — even strangers — cared about us while he was in the hospital, and now it’s comforting to use the hat as a barometer to see how far he’s come. The little things make such a difference to NICU parents. Thank you! ❤

  5. You hit the nail on the head, as usual. My “babies” turned 11 and 15 this year. My 15-year-old is going to be a junior in high school. I’ve been thinking a LOT about how to savor these last two years with him at home. Trying to make sure that I am more than just present in his life but a presence – a source of strength when daily stresses grind him down, a source of comfort when life gets too difficult, and a source of love when he doesn’t feel quite ready to leave the nest. It isn’t easy, especially as he is all teen with all of the exasperation and sass that it brings. The funny thing is that as we get closer to that day when he will head off to college, I find myself stopping for the sunset a bit more often. It is the little moments with him and a whole family that are most precious to me, so I need to store those moments up while I can.

  6. You always write so beautifully, Meg! This was very touching! Although I don’t have any kids yet, I can relate to you on some level. I’m sure it’s hard to watch him grow, knowing he’ll never be at that level again. But that is amazing that you are noticing that, and him, continue to grow. Here’s to hoping the rest of the week goes by fast so that you can relax a little more come the weekend!

  7. This is a wonderful sentiment. My husband and I recently moved back home to escape the rush, rush, rush. I haven’t missed a sunset since. Blessings to you and your family.

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