Every year we go pick pumpkins with my in-laws and every year I get some of my most favorite images of my son and husband. This year was no exception. Actually, this year was even better because not only was there a thick fog that made the landscape gorgeous, but Oliver acually posed for me!
Here in Upstate New York, big blizzards that dump two feet of snow on our lawns within hours don't scare us a bit, and on this day a couple weeks ago, neither did the travel ban! We braved the roads for the very short drive to the park down the street for some fun in the snow. Oliver is four years old and SO over his mom taking photos of him, so I had to take advantage of the opportunity to get some shots of him smiling. Snow might scare other photographers (technically hard to get exposure and wet equipment are two major concerns), but I was in the mood for a challenge!
My son is not a fearless risk taker the way other children his age seem to be. Oliver is very cautious, always has been. It may stem from his perinatal stroke...his lack of confidence in his body's ability to do what he asks it to do. Or maybe it is just his personality and he would have been this way anyway. I will never know. In some ways I am thankful he has this trait. I really never have to worry about him doing something crazy and getting hurt. But I sometimes worry that it will hinder him, that he will be too scared to try anything his whole life and miss out.
A week ago we went on our first family vacation. My mom and stepdad took us to Florida for a week. We stayed in a vacation house in central Florida and used it as our base for several planned trips around the state. We went to SeaWorld, because Oliver is obsessed with sharks and stingrays. We went to Bok Tower, because it was on my bucket list. We went to Busch Gardens, because roller coasters. We wanted to show Oliver the ocean, so we went to the beach on the Atlantic side, then decided to also go to a beach on the Gulf of Mexico. We packed a lot into one week, including Oliver's first airplane ride. Every single day that we were there, my son did something brave. Every single day of our vacation, Oliver stepped outside his comfort zone and surprised us. With all the amazing things we saw and did, those small actions were without doubt the best part of our vacation.
We took my son to Fort Rickey for the first time today! It is a petting zoo that my mom used to take me to when I was little. My mom wanted to do something special as a family to celebrate her birthday, and I suggested Fort Rickey. I wanted my mom to be with us the first time we went because it was such a special treat for me when I was young.
I dug out the old photo albums and found a bunch of photos we took there on two separate trips. Once when I was Oliver's age and once when I was about five years old. Inspiration struck as I flipped through the pages. How fun would it be to try to recreate these photos with Oliver! I took out my favorites and put them in a plastic baggie, charged my camera, agonized over outfits, and got my mom and husband on board (well, mostly). Things didn't go quite as planned, but it was a blast trying!
The top image is from when I was just about two or three years old. I'm actually standing behind my mom here. I have no clue who that cute little boy is! The building in the background is still there and hasn't changed a bit.
We walked into the pediatric emergency room in a little bit of a daze. I sat down in the waiting room while my husband went to park the car. By the time he came back, they were ready for us. We were whisked into a room and suddenly surrounded by what seemed like a hundred people all asking questions. Then Oliver started twitching. More people ran into the room. They told us he was definitely having seizures. We were scared and overwhelmed. Oliver started crying because he was hungry. I needed to feed him. I needed to. They told me I couldn't breastfeed him before the MRI because they would have to give him general anesthesia and if he spit up he could aspirate. What did all this stuff mean?! I just wanted to feed my baby...let me feed my baby!
They gave him medicine to stop the seizures. A nurse finally took pity on me and let me breastfeed for a few minutes. He spit it all back up when I burped him. The nurse said it was probably better that way and took him back from me. At some point I ended up in a wheel chair. I had just had a c-section 5 days ago and I had edema so bad I could barely walk.
I honestly can't recall everything that happened. The next thing I knew, we were watching a nurse wheel him into the MRI room on a stretcher. He looked smaller than ever and so helpless. I was more scared than I ever remember being. They had explained all the risks of a newborn being under general anesthesia. What ifs raced through my brain. I said goodbye and was terrified that he would die in there.
The waiting was torture. When he came out of the MRI, he was in recovery until the anesthesia wore off. Again I was told I couldn't feed him. We were brought up to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (pICU). We still had no idea what was going on. At some point we had called our parents and they were now in the room with us, waiting to find out what the MRI showed. My husband and I just cried. We were convinced that we broke our baby. What had we done wrong? We went over every detail of the last five days. Finally a neurologist and a group of other doctors and nurses arrived to give us the diagnosis.
My newborn son had suffered a stroke.
The world stopped. My heart stopped. Every mouth in the room was hanging open. Someone asked the question that was in all our minds. HOW? How could a five day old baby have a stroke? None of us knew it was even possible.
The neurologist explained that he did not specialize in pediatrics and that another doctor would be there shortly to take over and give explanations. A resident neurologist answered some of our questions but basically told us that the tests they use on stroke victims are either unreliable or not able to be used on a patient so young. They couldn't tell us exactly when the stroke happened. They couldn't tell us exactly why it happened. He left the room, leaving us more confused than ever.
At some point, the EEG techs came in and hooked Oliver up to the monitor. He had wires stuck all over his head and a few on his chest and back. They wrapped his head in gauze so they would stay in place. We looked down at our son, helpless, scared and confused.
Cassandra Zingaro - photographer, mom, wife, owner of HeartStrings Photography and first time blogger