One year with Ol­lie

Maryland Independent - - CLASSIFIED - Twit­ter: @right­meg

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.

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