Over Christmas weekend, while sharing a room with Jax at my Grandparents’ house, I laid next to him as he slept. I kissed his head, and noticed that his hair has become coarse, not baby-fine and silky smooth like it once was. I ran my hand over his. It felt different, older. Still small, of course, but so much bigger than the impossibly small and impossibly smooth hands that I once held in the NICU, when I met this boy for the first time, at a time when holding his hand felt so inadequate and all I wanted to do was pick up his tiny, frail body and hold him close.
Sometimes, I feel like I don’t even remember him being a baby. Like his babyhood just flew past, without me taking time to really savor it and soak it in.
And I could actually swear that upon walking into my hospital room after I had Jory, he became a boy, and gone were any traces of babyhood. I’m sure the way short, big boy haircut didn’t help matters, but my heart broke a bit upon seeing him that day.
I felt like I had missed out, in those 9 very difficult months of being pregnant with Jory. I felt like I had missed things he did that signaled this change was coming, things that mamas are supposed to be involved in. I learned just how many things you can miss out on by being in bed or on the couch all day, and not being nearly as involved with the first half of his second year as I would have liked to.
This disconnect isn’t new to me though, unfortunately. As I’ve mentioned, I dealt with PPD/PPA/PTSD related to his birth injury and prematurity, and I honestly never felt fully bonded to Jax, like he was really mine for at least his whole first year. I spent that year worrying about him, thinking of how things could have ended so much worse, reenacting the events in my mind, and wishing things had gone drastically different than they did.
His birth and start to life left me feeling helpless, as did my inability to breastfeed him, so I guess that motif just continues? I don’t want it to. I need to remind myself that this is the same small person who poked my ribcage every morning at 5am sharp when he was my “belly monster”. He’s mine. He needs me. and right now? He loves me best, tied with his daddy of course. I’m his mom and nothing can change that. Not NICUs, not bad memories, not bedrest, not time.
I do know one thing, this time is completely the opposite, as I wanted more than anything for it to be. I often heard fellow NICU moms say “the only thing that will heal your heart from leaving your baby in the NICU is having one that you get to take home with you”. And honestly? I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe anything could erase the hurt from the hole in my heart for the birth experience that was just so very wrong.
But thankfully, those mamas were so right. I’m whole again. My heart is healed/healing. And as my mom pointed out recently, I’m infinitely happier than I ever was before.
Not because I love her more, because I assure you, those babies have my heart equally divided. I just feel so connected to her, so bonded, so crazy, lovestruck, blissed-out happy about the whole thing that I am a better mom to both of them for it.
It’s taught me that when either of them cries, it’s ME they want. Nobody else knows them like I do, and nobody ever will. It’s taught me that babyhood goes so freaking fast that if I don’t take time to park myself in a rocking chair with her and sniff her little head, before I know it she will be a big 2 year old that wouldn’t dream of falling asleep on me. It’s taught me that my arms are where my baby belongs.
One thing I have noticed lately is how different my children are. Maybe it sounds hokey, but I think their sleeping styles, and maybe even their personalities speak to how they spent their first minutes, days, weeks of life.
Jax spent his first weeks of life in a NICU bed. He was poked, prodded, moved by nurses, but only rarely held by me. He wasn’t touched unless he needed to be, as nurses assured me that he would recover and grow best undisturbed. When he came home, he slept best swaddled, in a pitch black room, with a sound machine and no one touching him or near him. He put himself to sleep and he liked it that way. And aside from the swaddle, none of that has changed. Sure, it made for an awesome sleeper, I will say I appreciated never having the problems I heard other moms lamenting about.
However, again with the bonding. There’s something so amazing about rocking your baby to sleep, and as pathetic as it is, I can’t recall doing that once with Jax (which makes me cry to realize).
Jory? Totally different. She spent her first weeks in my arms. She was put there right after birth and we could hold her whenever we wanted, which believe you me, after our experience with Jax, was pretty much constantly. She slept in her cozy Rock N Play Sleeper right by me, but we would doze off after feedings and she always slept infinitely better snuggled close, right next to me. She hates the dark and cries if the room goes black, although like her brother, loves the sound machine. She will fall asleep pretty much anywhere, as long as she’s close to me.
I rock her to sleep for every nap & bedtime.
So I take waaay too many pictures.
I “hold her too much” (not my words, I assure you).
She already has a bit of Stranger Danger and prefers for me to hold
her over anyone else.
And we cosleep, which my mom happens to think is more dangerous than a baby riding in a car without a carseat, but I digress. I love it. Trav loves it. Jory loves it. And her room is “all the way” upstairs, and since she does feed a couple times a night, she’s not going to sleep up there since I have no intentions of trudging up the stairs several times a night.
None of this bothers me one tiny bit.
Call it bad habits if you want, I say it all goes too fast and I highly doubt I’ll look back and say “Ugh, I wish I hadn’t rocked Jory so much as a baby. I wish I would have held her less.” I was talking to a friend lately whose children are both grown and have families of their own and told her about this and she said “Oh no no no. Don’t put her down. I don’t know how often I think ‘If I could just hold my baby ONE more time…'”
Because she’s right. I know I’ll feel that way some day. I don’t want to miss a second.