Handing him the spoon

Oliver

We’re inching closer toward sippy cups, not bottles. At meal times (which are now breakfast, lunch, dinner — same as us), Oliver grabs the spoon to “feed” himself. He’s cruising along the furniture, scaling walls and gripping ledges. He said his first word: “baby.” Now he says it all the time.

These developments fill me with joy, of course. We’re making strides! He’s growing up! At 15 months old, Oliver is a toddler. He toddles. His face his slimmed — along with those rubber band wrists. His legs are long and strong. He is tall enough to reach door handles and drawers, to pull down objects I never imagined he could reach. He surprises me daily by what he absorbs and parrots. He misses nothing.

Oliver is growing. And it is wonderful. I just didn’t expect to feel so . . . sad.

There is one blank date left in his “milestones” book — the one I’ve used to mark all his firsts since birth. It’s for first steps. And though I’m happy thinking about slipping on his first pair of shoes, about leading him along sidewalks and down new paths, I also feel intensely nostalgic when I realize the “firsts” are nearly done.

Will I miss the 3 a.m. feedings, the temper tantrums, the many bites of sweet potato that wind up in my lap — not his mouth?

Well . . . no. But yes. But no.

It’s bittersweet. Everything.

Parenthood is a study in opposites. It feels laughable to say I’ll miss washing bottles every night when it’s been the bane of my existence, but here’s the thing: it became our new normal. It’s a ritual, even a soothing one — and the idea of everything changing, as it so often does, fills me with apprehension. I just got used to this.

In some ways, I feel like I’ve only just found my mama footing. This stage is now comfortable, knowable. I don’t have to remind myself I’m a parent anymore — it’s been absorbed into my bones. And with my son now reaching for me, patting my cheek, resting his head on my shoulder — the only shoulder he sometimes wants in the world — well . . . that’s it. That’s it. What could matter more than that?

It isn’t all sunshine, of course. It never is. After a great visit with our family in New York, Oliver came home with a fever that burned him up for five days. The doctors couldn’t figure out why. It would climb to 102, 103, 104 — and just when Spencer and I would start to panic, fumbling for our car keys in the dark, it would break. He would rest. And then it would start up again.

There were many 4 a.m. baths in lukewarm water, frantic phone calls to the after-hours number, lots of pacing as we debated whether to drive to the hospital or urgent care or wait until morning, waiting and waiting and watching his chest rise and fall.

The panicky dread of those moments isn’t unique to us, certainly. No parent wants to see their child sick. But every time Oliver gets ill, I sink back into unpleasant memories of our month in the hospital. Sometimes I have to physically force myself to sit, take deep breaths and remember this time isn’t that time. Our 3-pound baby is now a 27-pound tank. He can handle it. We can handle it.

But that is easier said than done. One of my guilty pleasures is “Little Women: LA,” a reality show chronicling the lives of a group of friends, and several ladies are pregnant this season. Elena is expecting twin boys — and toward the end of her pregnancy, which is being documented now, she develops preeclampsia. Noting that she’s only 34 weeks pregnant, everyone is panicking at the idea of an early delivery — how risky, how dangerous, how life-threatening. “She can’t deliver this early!” they cry.

And I delivered at 32 weeks.

Preeclampsia changed everything. The idea of becoming pregnant again — and possibly not having the same happy ending — is terrifying. Thinking about adding to our family, well . . . I could get preeclampsia again, or I could not. And there is no way to know. There is no way to prevent it, to predict it, to expect it. If anything, I have a higher chance because I’ve had it once. It was severe, and it set in early.

It’s a roll of the dice. And I’ve never been a gambler.

We’ve reached the stage where well-meaning folks ask if we’ll have a second child. I probably get asked this once a week: by friends, acquaintances, readers. To the outside world, the world in which I look like a “normal” woman with a healthy child, I understand the innocence of that question. But there is no easy answer.

“We’ll see,” I say. What else can we do?

Contrary to, well, this entire post, I actually try not to dwell on the past — or the future. We’re usually too tired for that, anyway. Things could have turned out poorly, but they didn’t. I look at my son and feel relief and love and joy.

Oliver has been working with professionals to get “up to speed” with developmental tasks — particularly physical ones, like crawling — for a while. One of his therapists recently pointed out that it was me who was uncomfortable with Oliver feeding himself, projecting my fears of choking and other harm onto his daily habits, well . . . that hit me like a slap.

But she was right. And now I think constantly about how I cannot let my anxiety hold him back. Even when that is hard — or feels impossible. Even when I want to bubblewrap him and never leave our house.

So we try new things at dinner, even when he gags on foods he cannot possibly choke on (pureed green beans, anyone?). Even when I know we’ll spend longer cleaning up the mess than he actually spent eating. I let him grasp the lip of the coffee table, ready to spring into action as he moves along. We stand by as he pushes a toy walker, looking so proud as he plants each foot. He’s always walking toward the door, seeking sunshine. He loves peeking out.

I barely breathe when he falls asleep in my lap — a rarity these days. I’m still even when my arm is asleep. Even when I can’t reach the TV remote. Even when I have to use the restroom, and I’m starving, and I don’t think I brushed my teeth that morning. Even when I need to rest myself.

Savor it, hold on to it: that’s all I can do. Nudge him forward knowing he’ll always have a safe place to land — as long as his father and I can help it, anyway.

We hand him the spoon.


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9 thoughts on “Handing him the spoon

  1. Hang in there, girl. I am at a different point of parenting than you are, but at no stage is it easy. We always look back on the past because it is what we know. Those midnight feedings versus staying up until midnight waiting for them to come home. Those first few steps by himself versus that first drive by himself. The first day of school versus the last day ever. Parenthood is all about learning to put your fears aside and letting go. I’m still learning alongside everyone else.

  2. I enjoyed your post. My wife and I went through 3 miscarriages and then my beautiful perfect daughter came into my life. WE got pregnant again and the baby(Matthew Adam was stillborn) he was 21 weeks old and they let me hold my son, sucking his thumb in the palm of my hand. We stopped after that experience. It was just yesterday that I changed her first diaper. My wife and I committed our lives to my daughter. I became a stay at home dad when my daughter was 4. My wife had a career. She grew up a only child which has its benefits but she also would have liked a brother or sister. I spoiled my daughter rotten and was involved in everything she was involved in at school or other things. My daughter is now a rising Senior at Penn State University(She goes back to school this August) and she is majoring in Nuclear Engineering. THe day she left for college I was heartbroken. But things turned out ok and it became easier every time she visited or I visited her and had to sAY GOODBYE. THey did not warn me that she would grow up oneday and I would become a small part of her life. I guess what I am saying is enjoy all the first and the lasts because their are many. Enjoy your child and your relationship every second. Take lots of pictures and videos. Enjoy being a mom and the center of his existence. Enjoy every second!!!! Because God willing he will grow up fast and before you know it he will be a young man. This is my daughters last summer at home before she graduates in the May of 2017. I do not know where she will work, how far away when she will start. But holding back the last of my tears, I will help her move into her first place by herself as she starts her new life as a young woman. It was just yesterday she was crawling on the floor !!!!!

  3. It’s hard to let go sometimes but, as parents, the ultimate goal is to make them strong and self sufficient, so we have to. I’m so glad you’re smart enough to enjoy your time with your precious Oliver.

  4. Such a lovely post, Meg. You sound like really wonderful parents and from what I’ve seen with my friends with babies, you just have to find the way yourself and trust yourself to know what’s right. You’re doing such a great job!

  5. I love this and can relate so much. Lately, I’ve started missing those first crazy, exhausting days which I NEVER thought I’d miss. Caleb has reached almost all of his firsts too except for independent walking. His PT is working on that now. He cruises along furniture and uses his walker but is still too nervous to let go just yet. It seems like Caleb and Oliver are doing about the same. 🙂

    Oh the famous “when are you having another?” question. I know people mean well but it can definitely be a tough question for some!

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