Oliver Henry & Eli Harper: The Beginning and The One Year Mark

On May 19th last year, at 30 weeks 5 days, our boys decided they’re sufficiently cooked. I was napping on the couch (mandatory bed rest) and E was at work. I awake with a sudden “oh, sh**” feeling of needing to pee. Except I couldn’t hold it… (and obviously it wasn’t pee). But our couch was newly reupholstered and the rug was new too! Kid you not, that was my first thought. So I waddled, legs clenched to the hardwood floors in the dining room. Second thought: my water might ruin the wood floor. Waddle, waddle to the tile in the kitchen where my third thought is to call my insurance company and double-check that the closest hospital is covered In-Network. Whew, it is. Fourth thought: call E at work.

E: “Hey babe.”

Me: “Hey, are you busy?”

E: “Yeah, kind of, what’s up?”

Me: “I think my water just broke.”

E: “What the FU**! (excuse his French, but there really isn’t a better adjective for that kind of news) Are you kidding me?” (His first thought by the way: ‘It’s rush hour in DC and there’s no way I’m going to get a cab home, so I guess I’ll just jump on the Metro’. What can I say? We’re apparently somewhat logical people under immense, having-babies-now kind of pressure.)

E gets home; I’m lying in bed reading Dr. Seuss to my ginormous belly and I’m now worried, but calm. He, however, has lost all cool on the ride home and is throwing things in a suitcase willy-nilly, asking me at the same time what we need to take. “Well I certainly won’t need that bikini, but it would be useful to have a clean pair of underwear…”

Get to the hospital and I’m immediately admitted, checked and told that they’re going to do everything they can to stop the boys from coming so early (steroid shots and an IV full of magnesium). So, I settle in and E runs home to grab food and pick up my parents from the airport (my mum happened to be picking up my dad from the Dallas airport when E called to tell her my water broke, so they just hopped on a plane to DC instead of going home!). By the time they get back to the hospital, I’ve gone from nervous/calm to contractions and cross-eyed pain.

Turns out Oliver wasn’t going to wait any longer – the doctor found his foot kicking through when he checked me again (Oliver was breech and Eli was transverse; they really weren’t going to make it easy). At roughly 2am I’m wheeled into the operating room, shot full of anesthesia, and strapped down for a C-section. On May 20th at 3:03am, Oliver Henry is born 3lb 9oz and 16in long. At 3:05am, Eli Harper is born 3lb 10oz and 15.5in long.

Since they were so early, each had a team of nurses, and the on-call pediatric doctor for the NICU examined both immediately. E and I could see glimpses of the boys now and then as the teams shuffled around, but the one thing we knew for sure is that they were definitely strong little things. Their first cries, one right after another, were so beautiful and loud it made the surreal day finally seem real.

Both were breathing without the help of forced oxygen after only a couple of hours and though we dealt with a lot of issues: biliruben levels and photo therapy lights, feeding lines, pricks for blood, eye and hearing tests to make sure they weren’t blind or deaf, reflux, iron deficiency, caffeine to keep their hearts on track and a lot of issues pumping on my part, they are stubborn like us and fought to come home from the NICU by the end of their first month (they were discharged 4 days apart).

At home, it was absolute chaos as I learned how to not only care for A baby, but TWO SIMULTANEOUSLY. For months two and three, the boys had apnea monitors attached to them 23 1/2 hours a day to make sure that they didn’t ‘forget’ to breathe or miss a heart beat. The monitors sound out LOUD alarms if it detects a miss, which by the way is both the most annoying (we had alarms go off every couple of hours and ALL turned out false) and best (if any had been real, we would know and could ‘remind’ them to breathe/beat) thing ever. End of their third month, the monitors came off and the boys were cleared of iron and caffeine supplements. I also went back to work and we brought on our amazing nanny, Bea (I think the boys really miss her now that I’m home full-time!).

Since then, our lives have been full of some of the happiest and craziest times I have ever known. I had to feed them in millilitres every 2-3 hours, measure medicine, deal with reflux issues, eczema and possible torticollis, but also got to watch them learn to laugh, babble, crawl, stand, cruise, turn book pages, dance and feed themselves. Now that we’ve made it to a year I feel like it all flew past, but know I felt each day draaaagggg by as the lack of sleep mounted.

Everyone we met with multiples told us that once you hit the one year mark, things get easier (in fact someone in the grocery store the other day congratulated me for surviving the year). Therefore, we felt it necessary to really celebrate their first birthday. You know, kick off year two in style.

I created the invites using two of my favorite photos of the boys as well as three of my current fav fonts.

And I really did whip up ‘staches and bow ties as the invite suggests, but somehow completely forgot about the mustaches (cut out of black poster board and glued to crazy straws) once everyone started to arrive, and since the boys aren’t old enough to know fashion yet, they were the only ones I could convince to wear the ties (although my Dad rocked a silk black bow tie as only he could).

I found the tutorial for the bow ties here, but ended up making it an even faster process via YHL’s old favorite – hem tape. Basically, I grabbed a discount yard of dapper fabric from JoAnne’s, cut out rectangles of different sizes, folded the long sides in to meet in the middle, taped them down and folded the short sides in to stick to the other side of the tape. After that it was a quick bit of raffia or ribbon tied around the center (girls received them on bobby pins for the hair and the boys had long strings to tie around the neck) and voila, bow ties for everyone.

I also decided to bake their first birthday cake (yes, I, the one who manages to screw up spaghetti). Because the boys were born two months premature, there is a difference between their ‘actual’ age (turning one) and their ‘adjusted’ age (how old they would be if they were born on time). Therefore, we follow their 10 month adjusted age for quite a few things, including introducing new food. Most one year olds can begin to have regular amounts of sugar and oil as well as try things like honey, strawberries, nuts and shellfish. That’s why you see so many regular birthday cakes with sugar-laden icing at first birthday parties.

Since they were preemies though (adjusted age is taken into consideration usually until 2 years old), I didn’t want to overload their systems. I searched for a ‘healthy infant’ birthday cake alternative and found the Wholesome Baby Food website. The Carrot Cake and Whipped Cream Frosting recipes came from there (though I added my own touches: a cup of grated apple and a sprinkling of dark chocolate chips in the cake and I only added 1/3 cup of sugar to the frosting instead of a full cup). The boys each got their own little cakes in mini loaf pans and since it was such a dense cake, I actually made two rounds of plain white fluffy cake (recipe here) and created layers for the ‘adult’ version. Turned out amazingly well for someone who did a double take at another recipe when it called for tartar. I mean, it’s not like I was making fish sticks.

(FYI – I got the Happy Birthday banner template from Armommy and just worked the font and colors the way I wanted them in Photoshop.)

I forgot to grab photos of the food, but it all turned out great. My mum helped me prep while E’s mom watched the boys and the men set up the tent and drinks, etc. I actually did manage to make ‘gourmet’ grilled cheese sandwiches for the adults as well as plain ones for the kiddos as I planned, however, I didn’t exactly follow any of the recipes I found… used them more as guidelines to create my own.

I grabbed fontina, blue and buffalo mozzarella cheeses, a couple sweet potatoes, bag of kale, head of cauliflower and one loaf of crusty sourdough and one olive loaf. The sourdough I cut into thick slices and topped with buffalo mozzarella, slices of baked sweet potato and chopped kale, with another layer of mozzarella on top to make an open-faced sandwich. I just stuck them under the broiler in the toaster oven for a few minutes until the cheese melted. The olive loaf I sliced thin and stuffed with roasted cauliflower, fontina and blue cheese and heated on a frying pan with just a touch of olive oil to help brown the bread. I don’t know about anyone else, but I absolutely loved the way they came out and it was the first time we found out the boys like kale and sweet potatoes. The sandwiches even tasted good left over for lunch the next day. Accompanying the sandwiches we did simple pigs-in-blankets, veggies and dip, cocktail shrimp and kettle chips. YUM. I’m hungry again just thinking about it all.


On to what everyone really wants to know… how the boys celebrated! Simply stated: we blew bubbles, looked at pictures of their first year, hung out with amazing friends and family, had a cake smash and bubble bath, and opened some wonderful presents. And since I think pictures are sometimes worth more than words, I’ll let my favorite photos do the talking (warning: there are a lot of them):

We had so much fun and I know the memories of their first birthday will last with me as long as the memories of their birth. I’m just happy our friends and family were here to celebrate with us and as I said, kick off year two of the little men in style. We’re looking forward to walking, talking, a trip to India (!!!!) and whatever else these minimonsters come up with. Wish us luck!

Penny for your thoughts?