One year with Ollie
My baby, my baby — he’s 1. In some ways, I have felt every second of the 12 months it took to arrive at this sparkly, crazy day. From his early birth to 3 a.m. feedings to surgery and back again, my husband and I feel like we have emerged from a long cycle in the dryer: disoriented, for sure. And clinging to each other.
Other times, of course, I blinked. Blinked and found myself looking not at an infant but a child — a laughing, curious, happy child. Our child. And he is 1.
This year has been challenging. Exhilarating. Difficult. Has it been worth it? Absolutely. But at points, we just put our heads down to get through it. There were nights when, as Oliver cried, I collapsed on the floor next to him. There were moments Spencer and I had to physically hold each other up. I have felt both powerful and powerless — probably in equal measure.
But that’s only part of the story, of course.
A year ago yesterday, I woke up in a Baltimore hospital with intense heartburn — a warning that, as feared, I’d gone into severe preeclampsia. Affecting 5-8 percent of pregnancies, preeclampsia is a life-threatening condition for both mother and child. Oliver was born 16 hours later: 3 pounds, 9 ounces. Eight weeks early.
Seeing him now, it’s hard to imagine how tiny Ollie was. Our Oliver is a bruiser: rock-solid, stocky, cherub-cheeked. If I had known how quickly that whisper-thin child would change, it would have dried my tears much sooner.
At 12 months old, Oliver is funny, silly and easily delighted. He is not stingy or selective with his laughter. He’ll bop along to music and loves to flip upside down, always examining the room from other angles. He radiates joy.
Like many babies, I’m sure, mealtimes are his favorite — and we have yet to find a food Ollie does not like. Though he hasn’t graduated beyond fruits and vegetables just yet, they’re all a hit. At 26 pounds, I guess that’s unsurprising!
My son is curious. He spins wheels, turns pages, flips switches. He doesn’t believe in boring toys and examines objects with absolute concentration . . . until “The Muppets” are on TV.
Muppets are life. Muppets are ever ything. Oliver will be mid-cuddle, mid-play, mid-anything and if he hears Kermit or Miss Piggy? That’s it. He’s gone. Ollie has two modes, we joke: a food zone and his “Muppets” zone. If he’s in one, good luck. Try again later.
We’re still working on movement, but the scooting and rolling are getting him where he wants to go. In recent weeks, Oliver has started bouncing over with arms outstretched and is more and more interested in hugs. Everything and everyone is “bob,” his favorite word, though “da da da” is gaining popularity. And you haven’t lived until a baby shouts “blah blah blah” at you from the seat of a shopping cart. Guess he’s prepping for those teen years already.
Given the speed of the past 12 months, it’s hard to picture how quickly he’ll be 2, or 7, or 16. That thought stops me in my tracks.
I’ve taken pictures of Oliver every two weeks since he came home, trying to capture all the fleeting expressions that make him . . . him. In the beginning, we had to lay him on the ground — and he stayed right where you put him. When we felt secure propping him up for photos, he moved to a rocking chair.
Our photo shoots always involve Spencer standing just outside the frame, making sure Ollie doesn’t flop over. And we’re right there beside him, cameras ready, doing all sorts of embarrassing things to make him smile. (He’s partial to a headbanger-style hair flip.)
I have done this dozens of times: every other Sunday, save a few times we were sick. April 10 was our final “first year” shoot. We set Oliver in the rocker, birthday hat at the ready; he ripped the cap off immediately, trying to chew off its ribbons.
These days, he is movement personified: a whirligig, a tornado. And with a grin, Ollie lunged forward and began rocking. He rocked and rocked himself.
The first-year fog is lifting. In getting this glimpse of independence, I felt both sadness and relief to watch it go.
You see only Oliver in each picture, but we’re there: smiling when he smiles, laughing as he laughs. Waiting with arms outstretched to hold him. Ready to break his fall.
Oliver with his birthday hat and first outfit from the NICU.