am i the only one struggling to connect with my baby?

this is what you expect: this is what you get:

i thought it was time to do another post on this issue after reading some of the replies to this question on thebump.com preemie message board. the issue of bonding and preemieness is SUCH a common one. but i have to say, even i didn't have the courage to talk about it in the first few weeks of wren's little life....

seeing her in that isolette (plastic box), not being able to take care of her (nurses constantly over my shoulder- telling me what to do, and how to do it), constant fear of attachment (there are so many things that could take away this little life), she is so fragile (what if i do something wrong and hurt her?), i feel like she won't love me (look what happened to her! i couldn't even keep her in my womb and care for her like i should have. the guilt is so heavy), there's so much to learn (throw out what i thought i knew about being a mommy, and any tiny bit of security on the subject).

kudos for the mommy who posted the question... that takes courage and honesty- something we should all have more of. (i've chopped them a bit, but hopefully got the intended point across, if you'd like yours taken down or changed just let me know.) here are some of the responses:

"Your body is very likely in panic mode. Your emotions are just on the back burner while you deal with what is essentially an "emergency situation."
- i had never thought about it this way... but it's sooo true... i've often heard that preemie parents can have a form of ptsd. just dealing with all the trauma and loss of pregnancy and stress of baby's (and often mommy's) health is a lot to ask.

"While Zoe was in the NICU, and even once she came home, I was in crisis mode. Letting myself bond with her was a slow process of leaving crisis mode and slowly releasing my fear, worry, and hyper watchfulness for/of my daughter.
Zoe is my first child and I don't have anything to
compare the process by which I felt bonded to her to. I would say it took many many months and was never a sudden feeling. In all honesty the process is still happening now."
-ditto. i haven't gotten to take wren home yet. but i feel more and more like her mom everyday.

"While in the NICU things that helped for me included (once they would let me do them): kangaroo care as often as they would let me, being there for feedings once we started to nipple her, giving her a bath, changing her diapers myself, and doing other "cares", dressing her and changing out her isolette, and just sitting there reading to her. I was in a different situation, I had only one and no other children at home and I was off work the whole time she was in the NICU. I say those things helped in the NICU and they did, but I didn't feel really really bonded with her until after we were home."
- i can't agree with this mommy more. the only way that i started to feel connected was to care for her, cuddle her, and comfort her. i would add in too that information and actively being part of wren's care helped me feel like a mom. (though i'm sure the docs and nurses hate me for it! :)
as well as being there for proceedures and tests to "contain" her, or soothe her with words or holding a dummy or whatnot.

"Zoey has been home with us since May, and I am just starting to feel like her mom. I feel confident and more connected to the rest of the world, and I think she feels it, too. Be patient with yourself."
- what a great point. you know, being married to a sociology major, i have to bring up social interactionism. (the theory that we see ourselves through other people's eyes.) i hadn't really applied it to preemie mommyhood. but i HATE having baby fat (not much, since my little one only cooked about half of what she was supposed to) and no baby to show for it. i HATE buying baby stuff and being given a gift reciept. i HATE seeing other mommies with their babies and feeling like i'm some sort of three eyed monster who leaves my kid with strangers across town. part of what makes this so hard is being a mom, and no one in the whole wide world realizing it when they see you- you're missing the kid. the other day one of the nurses was laughing about me getting spit up on. i believe i replied something like, "it means i'm holding my baby, my baby's eating, and possibly that i'm feeding her. i can't begrudge the spit up." in essense, it's proof that i'm a mommy. take that skinny girls- i have spit up on my shirt, i'm allowed the gut and gigantic boobs.

"It is very normal. When DS was in the NICU and even first home I didn't feel a bond with him. I liked him, but I just didn't really feel like he was mine. I really think it has to do with not being able to make decisions for/about them."
- i liked wren. as i've said recently, i loved her in an "everybaby" sort of way. in an "i hope this baby makes it out of this" way... but now, i'm beginning, just beginning to love her in a "this little poop machine is mine and i can't get enough of her" way.

"I remember about 2 weeks after Lily was born finally telling her that I loved her when we left for the day, and I wondered why it hadn't occured to me to say this sooner. "
- i think it took much longer than that for me. in fact, i still don't say it all that often. i cry everytime i do. i'm crying now just thinking about it.

"To be perfect honest, I was almost scared of my son at first! I was scared of what was to come, I was a little disappointed in myself, and he looked a little scary (red skin, very skinny, tubes, etc...)"
- so true. for those of you who've only had experience with termies, take how you feel looking at the picture, subtract my baby, add your baby, now multiply by your freaked-outness by 10, that's how preemie parents feel.

"In the NICU, any time something quasi-normal would happen, we'd (us and any of the other parents around us) always say "like a real baby." The nurses would always correct us and say "he IS a real baby" or just look as us like we were nuts. I don't think they get how surreal the whole thing feels as parents. "
- if you read me much or talk to me often, you know i say this all the time. and i almost always get the same response or look from people and nurses.


Laura said...

All so very true. Just reading this brings me back to every one of those weird surreal NICU moments. The tears I shed because I was reading to my babies for the very first time, and each time after that, with someone else in the room like a NICU nurse watching over me. Even when I was alone with them I never felt like I was with my children, just visiting some sick kids. It wasn't until they were home and it was all me and my DH that it really felt real. It took a very, very long time to bond with the boys.

Trish said...

Good post. And hey, I got quoted!

Reading Laura's post reminded me of the first time I was alone with Robbie. We'd been moved to the step down unit which had seperate rooms (they are all now private rooms, at that time, they were still opening everything, so we shared with one other baby.)

Well, one day the nurse left and closed the door. All of a sudden Robbie and I were alone (well, another baby sleeping, but no other adults.) And I burst into tears. He was nearly 3 months old and it was the first time we'd EVER been alone.

Preemie life is just effing weird.

wrensmommy said...

that's one thing that i wish i could have had, more moments to just cry or smile, or talk to her, or cuddle her... i always felt weird (being that we were in an open nicu) bearing my emotions so openly. sometimes i would just savor time behind the breastfeeding screen- then a nurse would stick her head in. :/

tuesday night i "roomed in" with wren. i wrote her a letter as i was holding her in my arms... reclined, and comfortable for the very first time. when it hit me that we were alone... i just wept. everything seemed so real at that moment... and i wondered about the person she will be someday. and being the first night that i would take care of her all by myself... i wondered how good of a job i would do at raising her.. how she would turn out...