Last April I had a Baby Boy born at 32 weeks. Eight weeks early. Two months premature. It was a shock and it still makes me cry. During labour I prepared myself for the worst. I saw my baby’s life before us and I realized then that it might not be as I had dreamed. There could be complications, health problems, delayed development, other things that I wasn’t aware of yet. I even told myself to get ready to hear silence when he was born; I was ready to not hear that cry, I was ready for no breaths, I was ready to say goodbye.
The labour was short and intense. It was full of anxious glances between my husband and me. We didn’t know what to make of all this; only a few hours earlier I had been complaining of tummy pains and then here I was wired up to too many machines laid on my back experiencing that need to push that you just can not stop, even at 32 weeks!
And then our Baby Boy arrived. And he did cry. I did hear that beautiful noise. He was placed on my chest. He was tiny, really really small. My brand new Baby Boy, my second boy to join our tribe. He looked so familiar. He had his Daddy’s eyes, just like his older brother. I loved him immediately. He had to go though. Whisked into that plastic box amongst the noise of far too many medical professionals all of who are grey shadows in my memory. My husband looked at me. He didn’t need to say anything but I felt his dilemma; who should he go with? Choose the boys, always choose the boys! They left. I laid there feeling absolutely stunned, shell-shocked, scared, numb. I felt nothing but I felt everything.
Baby Boy and Daddy made their way down to the Neonatal unit and into intensive care. Daddy in his shorts and flip-flops, it had been an unseasonably warm April day, and Baby Boy in his plastic box with hands too tiny to reach for Daddy’s hand.
The next month unfolded very slowly and quietly. We spent four weeks in The Framlingham Ward at The Ipswich Hospital. The first week was spent in Intensive Care. By the second week he had been moved to Special Care and then by the end of that second week he had been taken out of his incubator and was in a cot; that was a happy day!! It is with huge pride, a lot of emotion, huge thanks and so much love that I’m able to say that from the very beginning little miracles started to happen. From birth Baby Boy was able to breathe on his own, he didn’t need a ventilator or oxygen. I used to sit for hours watching his tiny chest moving up and down all by himself! He was able to take milk from the very beginning too. He was tube fed for the first three weeks. I pumped and he fed. I pumped and he guzzled. I pumped and he grew! Exclusively expressing was hard work but we did it. At the start of the fourth week, we were able to start breastfeeding; he did good, we both did good!! They were long weeks. We spent a lot of time sitting and watching, sitting and waiting, sitting and holding hands. Throughout it all Baby Boy quietly grew and got stronger and grew into my little hero.
Here’s why I think it happened, I held him. I held him at every possible moment. I held him on my chest for hours and hours. I picked him up, settled down and held him tightly. When people told me that I would make a rod for my own back I sniffed his head deeply. When people told me I would regret cuddling him so much when we got home I made sure my hands rested firmly on his little back. I cherished those moments and look back so fondly at those hours passed with Baby Boy on my chest.
In a past life, before mummyhood and broken nights and milk stained bras, I trained as a child psychotherapist. My understanding of Neuroscience and Attachment Theory is solid. It was my passion for these subjects that inspired me to pick Baby Boy up and hold him tight. Throughout those quiet hours of mummy and baby solitude, I closed my eyes and imagined his brain drinking in that touch. I could feel those neurological pathways being fired up. I felt every response and every movement. He drank those touches in and he flourished! After four weeks we were discharged and family life began. His progress amazed so many people.
So please don’t put your baby down. Hold them tight. Please don’t worry you’re making a rod for own back, you’re not. Please don’t worry they will become dependent and clingy, they won’t be. To quote a good man, Donald Winnicott, babies need complete dependence before they can be fully independent. That touch is vital. I had a Baby Boy born too soon. He was fragile and small and weak. I held him and touched him and cuddled him and he thrived.
My name is Hannah. I’m Mummy to three-year-old Oscar and one-year-old Alfie. I’m wife to Ash. We are a boy heavy household; we love dinosaurs, trips to the zoo and jumping in muddy puddles. My days are powered by coffee and cake! When I’m not being Mummy I work as a Play Therapist. I work in Primary Schools offering therapeutic support to traumatised children and those who experience behavioural, emotional and social difficulties. Along with my best friend, I run a Mummy blog called ‘Pinky and Pug’ which chronicles our ramblings whilst we navigate parenthood. We’d love you to join our tribe, find us at http://pinkyandpug.co.uk and like us on Facebook at http://facebook.com/pinkyandpug