On Mothering & Healing

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.

Comments

  1. 1
    Michelle Spatafora says:

    I was complaining/ venting a few weels ago on another site about the NICU experince and someone reminded me of something… our babies will not remember it! We will, but they won’t and that has given me some peace of mind… I don’t know… They won’t remember that our bodies failed, they won’t remember we could not breastfeed them, etc…

    I am still wondering how I am going to do all this with two… Thanks for always sharing your stories with us… I feel like I have someone who gets it so thanks!

  2. 2
    Brina Witkowski says:

    My mother rocked my brother and I to sleep until we were about 4. Not every night, but if we wanted to, she would. She says she doesn’t regret it, and I plan on doing the same with my children. I say, do what the ‘mother inside you’ feels is right!

  3. 3
    Twesterbur says:

    Becca, I love your post but must clear up one thing – I never said it is worse than riding without a carseat….I believe I said the rear facing issue and sleeping in bed with parents was probably a same risk. You have to remember that I lost a nephew sleeping in a bed – suffocated from blankets. I am just defending a comment because I would NEVER want my grandkids to not be in a carseat! Everyone…..I am not that kind of a grandma! I love my grand kids and daughter so much and I want them all to be happy. Reading this post made me cry to think that my daughter is now so happy and glad that she loves the differences in her children. Love you Becca.

  4. 4

    I loved every word of this. I sat here crying and crying – with hurt for you, and with happiness for you. I hope your heart continues to heal. You are an amazing momma, and your babies know it! Much love. <3

  5. 5
    Jackie Coltrain says:

    Hey Becca! We cosleep too! And I love it. But I do keep it to myself most of the time because I just don’t feel like listening to people’s comments. I never told my mom about it, but she probably suspects by now. I just don’t understand how something so natural feeling could ever be wrong!

  6. 6

    I’m so glad you are healing! You are such an amazing mother and we all love the pictures of your beautiful babies.

    I’m still rocking my almost 3 year old to sleep. I went through that “I’m afraid I’m going to cause a bad habit” phase and then I quickly realized that I didn’t care. I don’t want to hear my baby cry. I can’t handle hearing my baby cry. Frankly, I like rocking my baby. The last few weeks, every night my son is walking in my room around 3am. I pick him up and plop him next to me to sleep for the rest of the night. No questions asked.

    I was at a friend’s house once when their 3 year old would not go to sleep. She came down the stairs and her parents said she had to go to bed and she complained that she didn’t want to sleep alone. Mommy and Daddy don’t have to sleep alone, so why do I have to? Excellent point from a 3 year old.

    I was that kid. I had bad nightmares. I hated to be alone. I assure you I am find and a darn good sleeper now if you let me :)

  7. 7

    Oh Becca, I love love love this post! I understand all of it, except the healing because I haven’t had another baby yet, that I got to take home. I still have the hole in my heart from Mia’s traumatic birth ad leaving her in the NICU and not knowing if she would survive! I hope and pray my next baby things go so very differently! Thanks for posting!

  8. 8

    Amen. Beautiful written and from the heart. I think this infact is my favorite blog post you have EVER written. And I’ve been reading your blog for going on 2 years now. My baby boy is 9 months old now and I have my parents and others tell me all the time that I snuggle him to much or he should sleep in our room with us as much as he does. But I know in my heart I will never get these baby years back, and I’m going to snuggle him and much and he’ll let me. Being a Mom is such a beautiful thing, a true gift from God.

  9. 9

    *or that he shouldn’t

  10. 10

    I just wanted to say thnx for sharing your story. I found my way to your blog through a picture on Pintrest. I have 2 boys, Maximus is 4yrs and Leonidas is 3mnths. They were both born premature and spent time in the Constant Care of our hospital. Your words made me remember to treasure these moments with my baby, because it goes by so fast! Even when I am so tired and want to give up, just seeing my baby boy smile at me or his big brother kiss his head, just makes me so thankful they are healthy and growing :)
    Look at me getting all mushy.. anyway.. God Bless you and your family.

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