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.


Advertisements

Oliver at 1

Ollie is 1

My baby, sweet baby — he’s 1!

Last week was Oliver’s first birthday. After speaking with many preemie parents about approaching their child’s unexpected birth date, I worried I’d slip into a funk — remembering my hospitalization, steroid shots, the late-night ambulance ride, the blood pressure cuff that went off day and night . . .

But somehow, it never happened. There was no funk, no sadness. Spencer and I took the day off to celebrate — and we did! Oliver didn’t know it was his birthday, of course, but it wasn’t like we could concentrate at the office. I just wanted us all to be together.

We went for a walk, took photos, exposed Ollie to the magic of blowing bubbles. He laughed with us and grinned and squirmed in our laps, permitting my (many) kisses and trying his first cupcake. My parents and sister came by, too, and we sang “Happy Birthday” with gusto.

On Saturday, we hosted family and friends for a big birthday blowout — and, in a weird way, it was healing for me. Not to harp on an old subject, but I missed my baby shower while I was hospitalized last spring. It might seem silly, given the seriousness of that whole situation, but I was devastated. I still have a hard time thinking about it.

Having loved ones gathered at our house almost one year later to the day, when Ollie has come so far . . . that was therapeutic. And realizing I felt nothing but joy and gratitude on Oliver’s birthday? Well, I feel like I’ve turned a page.

Growing up, my parents would joke that it wasn’t technically “our birthday” until the exact time at which we were born. I came into the world at 10:21 a.m. on a hot July day, so we’d watch the clock until then. If my mom was at work, she’d call at that exact moment to sing “Happy Birthday.”

Ollie was born at 9:57 p.m. — about 14 hours after I was induced on a Sunday. I will always remember the sunrise that morning: the streaks of pink visible from our corner hospital room with the lights of Baltimore beginning to blink off. It was still dark when the kind Midwestern doctor came in to say we couldn’t wait: the baby needed to come that day. And by nightfall, he had.

After Ollie was born and whisked off to the NICU, I told Spencer he could go be with him — my first experience with having my child outside my body. Until that moment, I don’t think I’d processed that my little someone was actually someone: his own someone. We were no longer a unit. I could no longer protect him. And maybe I never had, with a failing body and fearful heart.

Clearly, I still wrestle with Oliver’s early birth. It can be hard for me to talk about preeclampsia. But as time presses on, I dwell less and less on how Oliver arrived and just rejoice in the fact that he did.

He is well. He is happy. He is so very loved.

Though Oliver was asleep by 8 p.m. on his birthday, Spencer and I stayed up to mark the hour. At 9:57 p.m. this April 12, we were sitting quietly with the television down low.

“Well, we did it,” I murmured. “A year.”

We talked of Oliver’s arrival: the “practice push” that needed no practice at all; the soul-shattering pain that melted into instant relief; the doctor who called out, “Happy birthday!” and extended our baby for me to kiss before everything fell quiet, and I was alone.

I thought of the exhausted, overwhelmed, half-broken woman collapsed in a hospital bed after the strangest day of her life. I replayed the moment I saw my son through blurry eyes, frantically asking for my glasses so I could see his face (I didn’t).

That was only the beginning.

A year later, we are tired — and we have been tested. I have laughed and I have cried, felt like I was going crazy and stepped back from the brink. Spencer has been by my side through everything, every good and painful moment: and though there were times we were not our best selves by any stretch, we were still those selves together.

Our sweet boy is upstairs, asleep in the crib where I once slept, and I can’t help but laugh at how unprepared we were.

Unprepared. That word in this context? Well, it’s funny. Because being “unprepared” means you could, in theory, actually have been ready — and that’s just not true.

No one is prepared for parenthood. You cannot be prepared for parenthood. Even if you’ve changed 10,000 diapers, babysat all the neighborhood children, helped raise a niece or nephew, been a teacher or a nanny or just a concerned friend . . . until those little eyes look up at you, a face that leans always toward your own burning sun, needing everything you have to give and much of what you don’t . . .

How can you prepare someone for that?

When I creep into my son’s room and see his little face peeking at me from between the slats of his bed, the way he “growls” and now reaches his arms up for an embrace, when he lowers his head to my shoulder or gently strokes my arm . . . these moments shatter me. In a good way.

Nothing can prepare you for how much you’ll love this little person.

At 1, Oliver is sweet and curious, funny and charming, active and so good-natured. Our boy has never met a stranger, offers smiles easily and misses nothing in his observations. He plays well by himself, but prefers company. He’s patient to a point, but soon wants your full attention. Ollie loves daycare and his first friends there, and we are beyond fortunate to have his wonderful babysitter in our lives.

He lives for “The Muppets,” ABC’s new TV show. No “Muppet” movie or TV show or cartoon will do. Spencer and I have seen every episode dozens of times, even acting out the dialogue and quoting Kermit, Fozzie, Piggy, Pepe, Uncle Deadly, Rizzo and gang to each other out of habit. We live and breathe “The Muppets.” I’ll never look at them the same way again and, forever and ever, they’ll have a special place in my heart.


Ollie and Kermit


Oliver is still toothless (!), but we see the telltale white caps beginning to break through on bottom. We’ve been taking our time with feeding, still offering mostly formula in a bottle, but Ollie has been doing much better with a spoon. To date, the only food he has not liked is birthday cake! He gobbles up vegetables and fruits, and is starting to pick at Puffs and other small snacks. He’s more than content for you to feed him, though, and plays with utensils and sippy cups more than he actually uses them.

Ollie rolls anywhere he wants to go, which is usually to the front of the television cabinet to look at “the baby” in the glass — and loves to kick his legs and smack anything (and everything!) with his purple rattle. He’s doing much better with balance, sits completely independently and is now doing a combination scoot/crawl that gives him some independence. From the moment he’s up until the moment he crashes, he is a study in motion. The boy does not like to sit still for a moment!

Despite my best efforts, Oliver is just now starting to pay attention to books. His interest in them has mainly been to chew on and tear at them. But persistence pays off: I recently looked over to find my son reaching for a touch-and-feel book on his own. He runs his fingers across the “fur” of an animal or “wheels” of a truck, and loves turning pages by himself. The look of concentration on his face when he’s “reading” — bottom lip stuck slightly out; eyebrows furrowed — is priceless.

Ollie strings together sounds easily, but hasn’t seemed to connect them to the world just yet. Everything is “ba ba ba” or “bob,” and he loves to grunt and growl while flapping his arms like an eagle. He screams out of happiness and displeasure, and is easily the loudest person in any room.

When I get close to his face and encourage him with “Mama,” he often smiles coyly and puts a chubby hand on my arm or leg. We try again — “Mama, Mama, Mama”; Ollie giggles and looks away. I can’t help feeling like he knows I want him to say it, to say that “magic word,” and he’s just content to make me wait.

But that’s OK. It will be worth it.

Baby, sweet baby — I’ll always wait for you.


Oliver’s first Easter with easy French toast casserole

Easter was fun.

Really, truly fun.

In sharp contrast to Christmas, when I was stressed and overworked and dead exhausted and so completely overwhelmed I wanted to just get the whole thing over with already (sad, but true), Easter was . . . enjoyable.

It helped that we weren’t all sick. December was nothing but colds, coughs and croup, and it was awful. Now the weather is beautiful, the trees are in bloom, flowers dot lawns and the sun is shining . . . ahhh. I feel better just typing all that!

It was Oliver’s first, given he was born the Sunday after Easter last year. Because he’s four months older than he was at the holidays, he also seemed to better “get it.” He’s much more interactive now, more mobile and vocal. Though the nuances of a religious holiday were certainly lost on him, he looked darn cute in pastels — and even cuter with vibrant eggs. And bunny ears.

Blackmail for when he’s mouthing off at 16, eh?

Easter

Easter eggs

I was my better self on Sunday. The self that is in the moment, happy to be doing whatever she’s doing, wherever she is . . . running around and maybe anxious, but still aware of it all. Because it was Oliver’s last “first” holiday, I wanted to document it — but even more, I wanted to live in it.

This has been, for sure, the longest shortest time.

In two weeks, my baby will turn 1. He’s already practically a toddler, scrambling to keep up with his friends at day care and older cousins, not yet moving but definitely taking everything in. It won’t be long before it “clicks,” and then we’ll have a new problem: a child who runs faster than we do.

In that vein, I’ve given myself permission to . . . well, to let things go. Just a bit. A bit! Because we often welcome friends and family, sometimes without notice, I’ve had to fight down this … this urge to scrub, tidy and organize. To seem like a family with two working parents who still keep a spotless home.

But our home is not spotless. Even during those first few months at home, I felt like I had to keep the house impeccable even with a few scratched-together hours of sleep. It was hard to let go of those old insecurities about others not seeing you “at your best,” but I eventually accepted something had to change. That something was me.

In the last year, I have cried and I have laughed and I have welcomed friends into my living room with matted hair, smudged eyeliner and dirty diapers forgotten on the floor. When we volunteered to host an Easter brunch last Sunday, I had to fight — almost physically — an urge to clean and tidy like no tomorrow, panicking in the hours before my parents, grandparents and aunt arrived because I was worried everything was not . . . up to snuff.

But it was fine. And if it wasn’t, they would never have said anything — and surely cut us some slack. So does it really matter?

We served this French toast casserole on Easter morning, and it’s the epitome of what I love in a recipe these days: delicious, filling and quick. It can — and should! — be partially prepared the night before, meaning your work in the morning is minimal. It involves sprinkling on some brown sugar, popping it in the oven and going on your merry way.

Until you return with a fork.

Which you will do — and very quickly. Its aroma can’t be denied. Plus, the leftovers reheat beautifully for breakfasts later on . . . you know, if you have any left.

After our brunch, we had a really nice afternoon visiting with my grandmother, cousins and family in Virginia — complete with Ollie’s first Easter egg hunt! He was more concerned with beating any surface like a drum than actually seeking eggs, but he did realize they make excellent maracas.

I’ll listen to his beats any day.


French toast casserole 1

Easy Apple French Toast Casserole

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 (8 ounce) loaf of French bread, cut into bite-sized pieces and slightly dried out
2 cups milk
6 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pinch ground cinnamon, or to taste
1 jar (15 ounces) scalloped cinnamon apples
1 tablespoon brown sugar, or more as desired

1. Grease a 9×12-inch baking dish.

2. In a medium saucepan, stir together 1 cup brown sugar and butter together over medium-low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves into butter, about 2-4 minutes. Pour into prepared baking dish and spread 2-inch layer of bread pieces over the top, lightly pressing bread into mixture to soak it up.

3. Beat milk, eggs and vanilla extract together in a bowl. Pour milk mixture over bread into the baking dish, moving bread as needed to make sure all bread absorbs liquid. Spoon scalloped apples over bread, spreading between pieces as desired. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate, 8 hours to overnight.

4. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Remove and discard plastic wrap from dish, then sprinkle with remaining brown sugar over the bread mixture.

5. Bake in the preheated oven until browned and bubbling, about 30 minutes. Serve and enjoy, refrigerating any leftovers to enjoy later!

Recipe slightly adapted from AllRecipes


French toast casserole 2


The sugary smell of springtime

Cherry blossom

Hello. It’s me.

I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet?

Just kidding! But also . . . hi. I really didn’t plan to vanish like that — and though I’m not generally one to blog about blogging, I didn’t want to swoop in here and pretend like it hasn’t been almost a month since you heard from me.

Hi!

So it’s spring now — a glorious, marvelous, fresh-from-the-dryer season with its new buds and warm breezes. My parents and I made a trip into Washington on Saturday to see the cherry blossoms, which were mostly dormant . . . but still beautiful. Mom and I try to get to the Tidal Basin every spring, and that was the only time we could go — so we soldiered through a rainy forecast and enjoyed our walk in the city with my dad — an actual D.C. tour guide — as tour guide.

IMG_5195

Oliver is just three weeks from being an honest-to-goodness 1-year-old. I’m sure I’ll try to pull my thoughts together about that before April 12, but am not sure I’ll be able to! This has been the hardest, craziest, most exciting, most terrifying and truly insane year of my life. When I think back on my entrance into motherhood, I’m filled with head-shaking disbelief at everything we’ve seen and done since last spring.

It wasn’t always snuggles and rainbows — but is it for anyone? More often than not, it was coughing fits and late-night talk-shows over bottles and laundry, omg so much laundry, and about 10,876 viewings of “The Muppets” — the only show that will hold Ollie’s interest for more than 45 seconds.

But, as they say, would I trade any of it?

Well, yes — I’d trade some of it. Absolutely. That week with hand, foot and mouth virus and 1 a.m. ER visits, to start.

But most? The rest? Never.

IMG_5141

We’re excited for Easter and his first birthday party, for longer days and warmer nights and walks around the neighborhood. I still have my “I’m someone’s mother” moments — and still wonder if I’m somehow screwing this all up already. But they’re stretching out longer, pulled like taffy. They don’t plague me like they did.

I’ve been reading in fits and starts, unable to gain traction with any book in particular. I haven’t finished a print/Kindle book in ages, but am loving — LOVING — Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, read by the author on audio. It is funny, uplifting, ripe with girl power . . . and though I didn’t know much about Rhimes beyond an early obsession with “Grey’s Anatomy,” she is quickly becoming a personal heroine.

On the weight loss front, I’ve stalled a bit. After dropping 10 pounds and thinking I was back into the swing of Weight Watchers, I abruptly derailed and went on a cookie binge. (Wish I were kidding.)

It started with the eager smiles of Girl Scouts and their deliciously evil samoas . . . and once I got a taste of that sugar again, I just started feeling tired. Tired of tracking, of worrying, of planning, of obsessing. Tired. I wanted to do what I wanted to do, eat what I wanted to eat.

So I did.

I carried on like that for a week or two — but the impact was obvious. I was back to feeling lethargic, guilty, sluggish. It takes more time to plan and prepare healthy snacks, but it’s worth it. Instead of holding my feet to the fire, however, I’m easing my way back in. Going back to an all-in Weight Watchers mentality wasn’t working for me this go ’round, but I’m taking all my WW-acquired knowledge and making simple changes every day.

I’ll get there. And honestly? After all my body has gone through lately, I just can’t be really tough on her. I give her the benefit of the doubt. Cut her some slack. That doesn’t mean it’s OK to binge-eat Oreos at 10 p.m., but I’m less inclined to sacrifice small pleasures all the time.

The key is, of course, to keep them small. Not, like, half-a-package worth.

But that’s another post.

So! There you have it. I’ve missed y’all and hope my radio silence doesn’t become a regular thing. I’d like to get back into reading and writing and blogging often in the months to come, but my creative energy is dedicated to my full-time writing gig — and speaking of which . . .

My columns are now available through a digital subscription to our newspapers! I haven’t discussed it much here because work/life boundaries and all, but “Right, Meg?” publishes twice a week on life, motherhood, growing up, etc. Kind of like my blog posts — but on steroids. And in AP style.

I’m also writing features for our regional magazine, Chesapeake 360. They’re fun pieces pretty specific to Southern Marylanders, but the stories are free online with profiles on many cool places. This vintage store blew me away.

So if you need me, I’ll be blowing all my cash on a distressed bedroom bench.

I really feel it’s what Chip and Joanna would want.


Like a sack of baby potatoes

Ollie

I never thought parenthood would be so . . . physical.

Back in my pre-baby days, I only ever pictured myself cuddling a newborn. My chief concern revolved around babies’ floppy necks; I mean, aren’t they tiny and breakable? I was only imagining sunny afternoons curled up in our squishy couch or the whish, whish, whish of a rocker. Featherweight and lovely.

Oliver’s small size at birth — 3 pounds, 9 ounces — aligned perfectly with that fantasy. He fit in Spencer’s hand.

And then, quite thankfully, he grew. At almost 9 months old, our preemie now tips the scales at 23 pounds, 2 ounces. He’s wearing 18-month clothes. An adult-sized Santa hat recently fit on his noggin.

This kid is heavy. A warn anyone who swoops in to lift with their legs sort of heavy.

Baby chub aside, parenthood is physical in so many other ways. There are the practical demands of picking up and unloading a stroller, a car seat, the pack-and-play dutifully carted to others’ homes for a visit. If you’re bringing the baby to the car already strapped into said car seat, you’re lugging more than 25 pounds in one (formerly weak) arm.

Plus your purse. And lunch bag. His bottle bag, and maybe a diaper bag. And the Amazon package you have to return, an extra pair of shoes for running errands after work, your recyclable grocery sacks . . .

I’m tired just typing all of that.

Eh, I’m tired all the time.

I make two trips to the car before work every morning. When the temperature dipped below 20 degrees last week (don’t worry — we were back into the 60s yesterday! Yay, weirdo Maryland!), I sprinted out to my car twice to get it warming up with approximately half of my house loaded in my arms.

Then I had to go back for the baby.

When I do manage to keep a grip on Oliver, he’s learned to slap. He loves the sound his palms make when connecting with human skin, so I deal with his swats and hits and slaps — literal slaps — when we’re doing fun things like walking downstairs. Slipping down the steps while holding a baby is a major (and rational, for once!) fear of mine, so it’s natural that Ollie would add another element of danger. Just to keep things interesting.

He’s also a little furnace. The exertion of carrying him combined with his natural warmth makes me feel overheated in the coldest breeze. Even now, in winter, I wear tank tops at home because I am sweating about 90 percent of the time. Holding Ollie is like wrestling an alligator — especially now that he suddenly has his own opinions. And prefers to be free of my tender grasp.

My man wants to run.

He’s not even crawling yet — an elusive milestone that bothered me for a while. Preemie parents know the odd mixture of pride at all your baby has already accomplished interspersed with sadness because he’s not on the “normal” full-term timeline in baby apps and parenting books.

But then I picture the sweet, exhausting day when I’ll have to chase my son and haul his baby butt up and down three sets of stairs.

And the house looked so beautiful when we bought it.

It won’t be long. The baby wheels are churning, churning, and he’s gone from rolling over occasionally to literally leaping from our arms and trying to walk — or, more accurately, jog — around the living room.

He’s going to be a wily one.

Good thing I’ve now got serious muscles.


Rest, rattles and baby babble: Oliver at 5 months old

IMG_4449

Sleeping (mostly?) through the night. Smiling and laughing at all of our ridiculous antics. Growing like a weed, and surpassing medical expectations of where he “should” be — as a preemie — at this point in his journey.

My friends, we’ve reached a golden time. Oliver is 5 months old!

We moved him into his own crib about a month ago, a milestone we did not take lightly. From the time he came home from the hospital, Ollie “slept” (that’s a generous term for the all-night grunting, kicking, squirming and snoring, honestly) in a co-sleeper bassinet next to our bed.

Given his premature arrival and issues with apnea in the NICU (he would forget to breathe, basically, and require stimulation by nursing staff, who monitored his breathing constantly), this arrangement worked well. It was necessary. I was already a nervous wreck; having him in a different room would have been . . . well. Not good.

But by mid-August, just as he passed the four month mark, we started seeing signs that he was ready. Ollie was almost too big for the bassinet, for one; at 17 pounds with long limbs, he was constantly bumping into the sides. This kid loves to stretch, so he was constantly waking himself up. And he just seemed . . . uncomfortable. Fidgety.

We started putting him the “big” crib in his nursery for naps on the weekends, watching to see how he responded and whether that helped with the fussiness. It did. And so, on a random Friday evening, our babe was placed in his very own room for the first time.

His nursery became a haven while he was hospitalized. Because he was two months early and I’d been feeling ill for a while, we’d done nothing before he was born but paint the walls. As we waited for him to come home, we poured our energy into getting this space ready for him. But for the first four months of his life? He was really only in there for diaper changes and occasional reading in the comfy chair in the corner.

It’s a totally different experience, having Ollie in his own room. Spencer and I can actually put him down for the night around 9 p.m. and go to sleep together, as opposed to the weird hybrid evenings we endured for months. (Spence took the “midnight” shift, which would really mean he was up until 2 a.m., and I would take over starting around 3 a.m. each day.)

It hasn’t been perfect. After sleeping for eight- or nine-hour stretches for weeks in his crib, Ollie is back to a nightly feeding around 1:30 a.m. each day. But his dad and I take turns, dutifully rising in the dark to tend to him, and it’s not nearly as soul-crushing as it was back in June.


IMG_4400


We have no teeth yet, but Oliver has started showing signs of teething. A friend with a 4-year-old and a 4-month-old recently told me that her doctor said all mothers of 4-month-olds think their children are teething (and they’re not), but that remains to be seen. We have many telltale signs: excessive drooling; screaming/crying for no apparent reason; biting on absolutely everything, including Mom and Dad’s fingers; inability to be soothed.

But that could be . . . infant stuff? I don’t know. Either way, we’re working through it. It’s not constant, thankfully, so it’s all right.

Oliver has always been a joy, our sweet baby man, but more and more of his personality is starting to come through . . . and I find myself giggling at all the silly stuff he does, especially now that he has taken to holding a conversation with his hand in his mouth.

I joked about that with Spencer, his little baby “language” with fingers stuffed against his gums, and my husband immediately laughed. He knew exactly what I was talking about.

Goy goy goy,” Spence mimicked.

“That’s it!” I shouted, never piecing together that Ollie says exactly that all day long. “Goy goy goy.”


IMG_4442


He hasn’t been weighed since his four month appointment, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say he’s close to 19 or 20 pounds at this point. It definitely feels like it when you’re hauling that kid upstairs! He can still wear 6-9 month clothing, but the stretch of a few of those onesies is being put to the test. Ollie also wears size 3 diapers, and our chunky man is holding his head up very well.

We’ve started thinking about the fall, my favorite time of year, and all the places we want to take Ollie! They’re just for us, I know, as Mr. Man will never remember pumpkin patches or hay rides or corn mazes later on. But I want those photo ops — bright blue sky; smiling and red-cheeked baby — for our memory books. We’re headed to the county fair tomorrow, where I will unabashedly nosh on funnel cake and remind a jealous Oliver that he can try some next year.

I’ve been swept up in so many memories lately. Last September, I was anxiously waiting to take a pregnancy test, wondering and hoping but also fearful and unsure. We couldn’t quite picture our lives as parents, though we were excited to see. To find out.

I rode the Ferris wheel with my sister, looking out at a sea of people while the excited calls of children from the Scrambler carried on the first cool breeze of fall. Spencer and I were just one week away from getting the news that would change our lives forever.

September will hold those memories now, too — a beautiful conglomeration of change, what fall has also symbolized for me. Fresh pencils and homeroom schedules; crisp back-to-school clothes, making new friends. My sister’s wedding on a beautiful day in early fall, and planning for our own November wedding — now almost two years ago.

I’ll also savor those weeks of knowing without quite knowing: the time I had a hunch, a glowing premonition, but had to wait (im)patiently to be sure. And by late September, learning that Baby J — later, sweet baby Oliver — was on his way.

The path has not been easy, and the year that followed the night I clutched a pregnancy test with shaky hands has been as frenetic and stomach-dropping as a carnival ride.

But it’s been thrilling, too. The biggest, craziest thrill of our lives.

So many milestones will be coming for us soon: starting solid foods in October; getting better at rolling over, hopefully, then crawling; starting to “talk” in some fashion, even if it’s just more sophisticated and hilarious Ollie Talk.

We’re so excited.

And hanging on.


Mom-scale victories at 4 months old

Week 16 (2)

In Weight Watchers, we often talk about “non-scale victories.”

NSVs are those little moments which serve to remind you why you’re pushing so hard and making tough choices every day. They’re related to weight loss, of course, but not directly; as you might guess by the name, they’re triumphs apart from any number on the scale.

Fitting back into your favorite pair of jeans, for example. Running your first mile. Making healthy choices at the all-you-can-eat smorgasbord. Buying a smaller size. Foregoing cake for fresh fruit.

NSVs come in all shapes and sizes, and each is deeply personal. Though my weight loss has taken a back seat while I struggle to regain my sanity with a 4-month-old, I’ve been thinking about these little accomplishments . . . and how they relate to motherhood.

Oliver has his first cold, which started with the sniffles last Friday. My husband called me at work, worried about all the congestion, and we contemplated taking him to the doctor immediately . . . because, you know, the window of opportunity was closing. Everyone knows a kid has to get sick at 5 p.m. on a Friday, right? Just before the weekend — when the shuttered doctor’s offices just taunt you.

He didn’t seem too bad, though — and we didn’t want to be alarmists. No fever. No odd behavior. Taking his bottles normally. Laughing and smiling as usual. Just a little stuffy with an occasional cough.

My darling boy bounced back quickly . . . though I still took the afternoon off Monday to cart him to the doctor’s office. He seemed to be recovering well from whatever bug he’d developed, but better safe than sorry. (#firsttimeparents, I know.)

As we debated whether Oliver was truly sick or just “not feeling well,” we checked in with his day care provider for guidelines. That was my first Mom-Scale Victory: proactively making that phone call and planning ahead to Monday morning. Because he has had no fever or vomiting, we were cleared to bring him in. But she thanked me for calling her first — you know, just to double-check. And I felt like a mom-boss.

Having a sick baby has definitely been our first introduction to the Working Parent Juggle. And it’s going to be an interesting one. We have a few things going for us: Spencer and I both work locally, a real rarity in the D.C. area; we have friends and family nearby for back-up; we have an understanding day care provider who wants to work with us and help find solutions.

Still.

Did I want to be home with my sick baby? I did. Especially when I woke up with a sore throat that quickly progressed to my own runny-nose, splitting-head illness that made everything that much more exciting on Monday. I thought getting up with an infant was hard when I was “just” sleep-deprived. Now I’m sleep-deprived, sick as a dog and completely dead on my feet.

But the show must go on.


Week 16 (4)


My mom once told me that some days are just “fighting the war.” She has had a hellish work commute for more than three decades, and she still excelled at raising two daughters with my dad (who worked from home, but also made terrible drives for work).

They say you can only truly appreciate your parents when you become an adult — and a parent yourself. While I’d like to hope I acknowledged their sacrifices before now, can I just say: wow. Yes.

Fighting the war, indeed.

Getting Ollie to his doctor’s appointment on Monday was another Mom-Scale Victory. I’ve never taken him out in public alone, and I had to ready his stroller and get everything hooked in by myself. While I’ve taken him out in his car seat plenty, I have yet to run errands without Spencer. This isn’t intentional; I just haven’t needed to.

But on Monday? It was time. After creating an elaborate plan that included Spence calling the doctor’s office as soon as they opened at 8 a.m. and me consulting my boss for a half-day when I ran in the door, we secured an afternoon sick appointment. I would meet my deadlines by noon and head back to the sitter. I would take Oliver by myself.

I was nervous about it, but I didn’t let myself entertain that anxiety. After getting through his prematurity, his NICU stay, those early and tough weeks at home . . . well, I figure it can’t compare to that insanity. This was just wheeling a sleepy baby up to a third-floor doctor’s office alone, you know?

Preemie parents feel a special rush of pleasure when others can’t single out our little ones as being early. Oliver was born four months ago today weighing 3 pounds, 9 ounces, and at his appointment on Monday? Our chunky man weighed 15 pounds on the dot.

“He’s a 32-weeker?” the doctor crowed, eyebrows shooting up. I quickly guessed that her terminology marked her as a preemie parent, too, and I was right: her own son was born at 33 weeks. “You’re kidding me.”

“I’m not,” I glowed. “He’s a 32-weeker.”

Here’s a Mom-Scale Victory: I didn’t immediately launch into Ollie’s whole story. For months, I took any and every opportunity to talk about our son’s dramatic entrance into the world. “Preeclampsia” was always on my lips, and I found myself wanting to talk about the trauma as a way to . . . relieve it? Comfort myself? Find support?

I don’t know. But as spring gave way to summer and summer heads toward fall, my favorite season, I do find myself healing.

I have set-backs. I have bad days. I still cry. But all in all? I am getting better.

I mean, aside from the cold.

That’s going to linger just to torment me.


Week 16 (6)


At 4 months old (2 months adjusted), Oliver . . .

• Is beginning to grasp and tug on objects, especially his favorite blanket;
• Looks for and recognizes us in a crowd;
• Can hold his head up mostly unassisted;
• No longer despises tummy time;
• Still loves his ceiling fans;
• Smiles frequently and with reckless abandon;
• “Dances” (limbs flailing) to “Everything is Awesome”;
• “Talks” constantly, cooing and oohing while making eye contact. (“I hear you, baby,” I say, and he seems to nod in agreement.)

He is . . . a baby. No longer a newborn, but an infant. A child. One with adorably round cheeks and the cutest little giggle; a baby who loves to grasp our fingers and gleefully watches us move about the room, the center of our little universe.

Though I sometimes feel like a heaping mess of a person – a bedraggled wife; a weary mother — I often remind myself of just how far we’ve come. For two glorious nights in a row before he got sick, Oliver slept for six (!) hours. At night. In a row.

And he seems to know us. Really know us. Not just as the tall people things with the milk, I think (though there’s that, too) — but as Mama and Daddy.

Four months after his birth, my Mom-Scale Victories include never being late to work in the two months I’ve been back at it; finding a way to make the overnight shifts work with Spence; managing to almost finish a book over the course of the last month; and getting more comfortable taking Oliver out with us on day trips. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it — and important. Our duo has had to learn to be a trio, but we’re doing it.

In the month to come, we’ll take baby’s first plane ride and head north to introduce Ollie to his New York family. I’m insanely nervous about the flight, only because I’m worried he’ll have a total meltdown — and I’ve been known to get ugly when people stare at me. Or us. But I guess that just comes with the territory, and I’ll have to learn to ignore it. We are, after all, just doing the best we can.

And my last Mom-Scale Victory for today? I got this post written on four hours of broken sleep with a head so fuzzy and clogged by illness and medication, it’s really a wonder that I’m upright.

Just makin’ it work.