Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A baby that doesn't feel like mine

I visited Alexa every day that she was in the NICU, a grand total of 27 days. Although to some of the mommies of micro preemies and preemies with other serious health issues this may not seem like that long, but for me it was a lifetime. That many more days feeling distant, apart, and strangely detached from her. The nurses really only wanted us to hold her during feeding time, once every 3 hours, for about 20 minutes. So we would come to the hospital for at least 2 feedings a day. Usually spending about six hours there, sitting on the couch, watching her sleep in her incubator, and later, her crib.

During my OB rotation in nursing school I never understood those women that demanded their babies be immediately handed to them, still dripping with blood and birth goo, cord still dangling, to be held skin to skin and begin the bond. To be quite frank I thought it was horrendous, I mean for God sake wipe the thing off or something first. But as I sat there in the NICU, looking as this little baby from across the room I just felt like she belonged to someone else. I had not bonded with her at all, I felt like she was stolen from me, held captive. I hardly even saw my baby after she was born, a split second, then the window was shut. I got to hold this baby, my baby, for less than an hour a day and that's only when my husband or family didn't want to sneak in on the chance. She was tied to the wall by an entourage of tubes and monitors. You couldn't go further than the rocking chair by her crib.

When we were not at the hospital my husband and I lived pretty normally, like we had no baby at all. My husband was laid off at the time, and I was on maternity leave, so there we were baby less parents. Oh yeah and I kept pumping.

Another way a new mom bonds with her baby is through breastfeeding. My baby wad being fed breast milk with added formula for extra calories to help her gain weight via a tube through her nose. So that was out of the question. Everything that you read encourages what they call "kangaroo care" or "skin to skin" holding of your baby but whenever we tried that there seemed to be a problem. The nurses would ONLY let me hold her during feeding times and she had horrible reflux. This being said it took a long time to get her pj's on and off with all the monitors she had and they did not want her to be moved around after her feeding or she would spit it up. So the closest I ever really got was being able to unswaddle her and hold her pjs to skin, still for 20 minutes or less, once every three hours.

The baby I was looking at was not my own. She belonged to someone else. Some one else was meeting all of her needs and I was useless to her. Just another face, just another visitor.

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