Our ONEder Woman – Happy Birthday, Olivia Grace!

MY BABY IS ONE.

Olivia Grace, The OG, THE ONEder Woman, is officially one year old today.

Granted, she was born two months early, but today’s the day! (If this is news to you, check out Part 1 of Liv’s Birth Story here, Part 2 here (warning: might make you spit your drink…), and my thoughts on 73 days in the NICU here!)

I’m feeling all the feels today – sadness that time goes by so quickly and happiness that she’s here TO celebrate. But in reflecting on her life so far, it’s really just astounding to me.

I so vividly remember the day she was born.

First, with my morning ultrasound.

I wasn’t supposed to be having a baby that day. After the longest 45 minute wait of my life post-ultrasound, I knew something was up – and when the hospitalist came to speak with me instead of the ultrasound tech, I knew something bad was up.

And he said, “You’re much sicker than you feel. If we don’t deliver the baby, you’ll either have a stroke, a seizure, or both.”

I mean, those are fun odds to enter childbirth with amiright? 😉

And I naively answered, “Can we wait until tomorrow?” To which he replied, “No, we’re delivering today.”

When?” I asked.

“…as soon as an operating table opens.

ALRIGHT ALRIGHT ALRIIIIIIIIGHT we gon’ learn today – welcome to parenting via baptism by fire. Meaning, you learn quickly that you are not in control. I was so drugged up after that on Magnesium Sulfate to prevent the seizure, but somehow I still remember things pretty clearly, from shaking uncontrollably on the table as I got anesthesia, to the sound of Liv’s cry as she was brought into the world a measly 3 pounds .1 ounces.

And now?

WHAT A FREAKING FIRECRACKER.

It’s funny – the first thing any nurses or neonatalogists told us from the NICU was that Liv was “a feisty one.” And LET ME TELL YOU, girlfriend is still the feisty one. She knows what she want and goes for it. She has no fear. She is bold and brave, and she has a fighter spirit that is stronger than many adults I’ve met.

She’s like freaking Wonder Woman. Speaking of…

Last weekend, we celebrated her upcoming birthday with a big ONEder Woman-themed fiesta with family + friends. It was the perfect explosion of red, blue, and gold glitter, and it was the best culmination of lovelovelove that everyone has for this little chica.

Here’s her first birthday party in a snapshot…

ONEder Woman 1st Birthdy Party for Olivia Grace - eating smash cake on Coming Up Roses

First birthday party cake and smash cake for Olivia Grace on Coming Up Roses

First birthday party cake and smash cake on Coming Up Roses

ONEder Woman 1st Birthday Party for Olivia Grace - superhero themed party on Coming Up Roses

ONEder Woman 1st Birthdy Party for Olivia Grace - family photo on Coming Up Roses

ONEder Woman First Birthday Party Decorations and Wonder Woman balloons - on Coming Up Roses

ONEder Woman First Birthday Party Decorations and Wonder Woman balloons - on Coming Up Roses

We missed out on being able to do the typical monthly check-in’s with Olivia’s lengthy NICU stay. So instead, I rounded up 12 photos from each month taken on as close to the exact month-iversary as possible, to illustrate Liv’s progress! Starting with her birth/introduction to the NICU, followed by her traumatic NICU transfer at month two, through her NG feeding tube journey, pulling the tube OUT in #7 ;), getting the tube out for good in her first Wonder Woman outfit below, standing, and now as a crazy active chica!

ShopRite Catering - Food from first birthday party on Coming Up Roses

Liv ADORES Katie!

ONEder Woman 1st Birthday Party for Olivia Grace - superhero themed party on Coming Up Roses

Shoutout to Taylor for flying in from St. Louis!

ONEder Woman 1st Birthdy Party for Olivia Grace - eating smash cake on Coming Up Roses

ONEder Woman 1st Birthdy Party for Olivia Grace - eating smash cake on Coming Up Roses

ONEder Woman 1st Birthdy Party for Olivia Grace - family photo on Coming Up Roses

ONEder Woman 1st Birthdy Party for Olivia Grace - eating smash cake on Coming Up Roses

Clearly…girlfriend loveloveLOVED herself some smash cake. ICYMI, I filmed + posted her experience to my Instastories and saved it to my OLIVIA highlight on my profile, so check that out if ya missed out. 😉

Liv also loveloveloves peanut butter and ice cream, yogurt and pizza. She loves dancing in the kitchen with daddy and playing the piano with mommy. She loves making “squishy face!” on command at you, and barking commands at her cribmates (aka, more stuffed animals than any 20-pound creature needs). She loves being spun around and turned upside down and will get into a giggly fit if you tickle her or say the word “crunch” (no clue – ha!). And girlfriend could be surrounded by Fisher Price and V-tech toys that light up and sing, and she’d STILL want a coaster.

It feels odd, now, because it’s like there’s so much to say so it’s hard to know which direction to take this post in particular, it being her big NUMBER ONE post.

But it’s on my heart to share a QUICK note (because I’m sure more on it to come soon…) for anyone who might be going through something that feels really, really freaking hard right now, be that in parenting or trying to BECOME a parent, or really, anything at all.

Anything that feels like a big fat question mark in your life, where you find yourself crying on the bathroom floor and wrestling with God.

That kinda anything.

That was the NICU for us.

It was a big fat question mark with no end in sight, and no answers from even the smartest medical minds in the country.

Of course, our story had a happy ending when we look at it holistically and compare where we were then to where we are now.

But in the moment, we aren’t privy to that kind of perspective.

We don’t get to see the finish line – heck, we don’t even know if there IS a finish line sometimes. We just have to keep going, keep running, until we cross some kinda ribbon.

It’s funny because really, all of LIFE is like that. We don’t get to see it all laid out and see the good at the end – we just see the next step we can take. Only God gets the birdseye view. And our only job is to take the next step in faith, trusting that there is SOME GOOD in the journey. The hard, totally sucky-but-selfish part is that sometimes, the “good” isn’t what we imagined or hoped or wanted it to be. It’s not “good” for US, but rather, good for someone else or some other piece of the puzzle that needed it.

When we were experiencing everything around Olivia’s birth, I knew I had to share it all as transparently + honestly as I could on my social media in case any of YOU would somehow benefit from the story. And then, as hundreds upon hundreds of you were reaching out to me so kindly + sweetly sharing words and prayers for Liv, I had the thought – maybe heaven just needed a few more prayers right about now. People were coming to me left and right saying things like, “Hey, I never really pray, but I’m gonna lift one up for Olivia.”

That alone gave me hope that maybe, in the end, Olivia would be A-OK – and heaven would have a few more prayer warriors in the battle.

And looking back on it all, it’s like that’s kinda sorta exactly what happened.

While it was all happening, I felt like I was in hell-on-earth – I had so much anxiety and depression, including postpartum, and so much frustration and anger and sadness – but I tried to offer my suffering up as a prayer for Olivia to just be OK. And now here we are, one year later – literally right around the time I would’ve been in the hospital room starting an IV drip of Magnesium Sulfate to prevent a seizure before my emergency C-section.

And Olivia Grace is OK.

She’s more than OK – she’s THRIVING.

She’s currently hanging out in her crib, resisting a rest like criminal babies do ;), talking to the new purple hippo that she got for her birthday. She’s wearing her ONEder Woman outfit again, because I’m crazy like that. And later, she’s going to get bundled up to go to the park with me while I try to keep it together so she doesn’t think mama just had a mental break. HA.

I know obviously not all sad stories have happy endings.

It would be naive to say that, and just blatantly wrong. But all sad stories can have some happiness in them somewhere. Just because you’ve been sad for a really long time doesn’t mean you can’t be happy ever again. And it might be a totally different kind of happiness or a different reason for happiness than you originally thought, but you can still find it.

It won’t all go as planned – life never does.

For us, that meant a traumatic premature birth at not even 32 weeks, instead of 34 or 37 like they predicted or 39 like we all hope. It meant a mysterious infection in the NICU to get transferred a month-in, with no explanation or answers, from a hospital 5-minutes away to over an hour. It meant week after week of thinking “this is it,” and it not being it. And even when the NICU was in the rearview mirror, it meant being on a feeding tube for SIX MONTHS instead of the two or so weeks we expected. It meant way too many phone calls and appointments with therapists, the good and the bad, and so much advocating on her behalf to get to the place we’re at now, where Olivia could smash and eat her own birthday cake without people fearing it would end up in her lungs.

Olivia Grace’s story so far was everything BUT  what we had “planned,” but I have no doubt it was part of a bigger story, probably for all of us. At the end of the day, I’ve learned enough times by now that my own plans aren’t nearly as big or bold as plans from above. My two prayers are 1.) the verse on the plaque in my office that was in my hospital room this time last year: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and 2.) Thy will be done.

SO.

To the firecracker OG that made me a Mama:

  • May you always remember that life is sweet, even when it feels sour.
  • May you grow stronger from the tough times without growing bitter.
  • May you love with your whole heart, even when it gets broken.
  • May you always be “the feisty one,” just like the NICU nurses said.
  • May you never forget how special + strong you are.
  • May you walk with Jesus every step of the way.
  • And may you have your cake and eat it, too.

I lovelovelove you, babygirl.

You’ll always be my ONEder Woman.

Happy first birthday, Olivia Grace!

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