The picture you see above is my first touch of my baby. Not the first hold. That would come many days later. My first touch was an hour after he was born, maybe more. The room was spinning, a blur of purple scrubs and white coats and blue gloves. It was cold and sterile and everyone was buzzing around. I had to open my eyes wider to see well.
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I had only recently regained consciousness and was feeling the nausea of the anesthesia and pain medications after labouring a full day on an empty stomach. I could feel the stinging and throbbing of my freshly sutured abdomen. But above everything, amidst the dried tears stuck to my face that I didn’t remember crying, I remember an overwhelming primal need to find my baby and touch my baby. To hold my baby and protect him. I needed him. I sat straight up on the gurney, only to have an abrupt, sharp reminder that I had just had surgery.
“Mrs. Storm, we have stabilized him and the NICU transport team will be here to take T soon. But you have been through so much we want to be sure you can at least see him before he goes.” I still didn’t fully comprehend what was happening. Nor did I understand what an undertaking it would be for the medical staff to allow me to see him. Three nurses navigated the hallways with cords and oxygen and his tiny isolette where he lay.
There was a small area I could put my hand in to touch him. My first touch. The first contact I could have with the tiny being I had been growing inside of me for forty weeks and five days. It wasn’t the first touch I had imagined going into the hospital that morning. I pictured the baby being placed on my chest. I pictured holding him skin to skin and soaking in every newborn moment. But this was the first touch I got, and I was going to savour it because I knew he would be swept away soon.
I touched his silky skin. I soothed him with my voice, trying to calm his harsh entrance into this world. I grasped his tiny hand and wrapped his fingers around mine, since he wasn’t able to do that himself. I rubbed my hand across his belly, the body that I had nourished within me for months. My husband snapped a picture of me doing this, and in a blink that moment was gone.
“We’re sorry Mrs. Storm, we have to take him now.” An emptiness and emotional ache came over me as I watched them wheel him away. I wasn’t ready, I needed more time. I didn’t get to hold his warm body against mine. I didn’t get to smell his sweet, freshly hatched, new baby smell. I couldn’t soothe him and promise him it would be okay.
When your first touch isn’t to hold your baby, it changes everything about your path moving forward. I would touch his fuzzy little duckling hair while he lay unconscious and intubated. When I was discharged, I’d reach for his snuggly swaddled body only to feel an empty bassinet. When he finally came home, I would soak in all of his weight as I cradled him in my arms while he slept. I’d find myself sneaking in during the middle of the night as he got older to touch his face, and to feel his warm breath on my hand to reassure me so I could go back to sleep. I would trace the outline of his face as he lay under his play mat, swatting at the stuffed animal owls above him. I marvelled at his chubby feet as I changed his diapers.
Now we sit on the floor on play blocks and I gently rub his back. I take the extra ten minutes to hold him when he first wakes up in the morning, at risk of being late to work. I comfort him a little longer when gets a scrape or bruise. I carry him close to me on hikes. I read him the extra bedtime stories, marvelling at effort to use those hands, that couldn’t grasp my finger, flip cardboard page after cardboard page.
Being a NICU parent and going through trauma at birth can change your outlook on everything. But it doesn’t always have to be all bad. My first touch of my baby isn’t how I had planned, but it made me appreciate the miracle that he is so much more. It’s made me recognize every small accomplishment. It sparked my faith in the human body’s ability to heal and the strides we have made with medicine. Our path and our story has given us a stronger bond, and I’m grateful for the lessons it continues to bestow upon me.
This article was written by fellow blogger ‘trial by storm’, you can find her at http://trialbystorm.com and the link to this story is http://trialbystorm.com/when-the-first-touch-of-your-baby-isnt-to-hold-them-in-your-arms/ You can read more about the author by following this link http://trialbystorm.com/about-me/
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