Look at that little face. Can you imagine leaving him for even one day? Can you imagine having no choice but to leave him every day for four months, without his mommy and daddy, when he was at his most fragile? Because his home was not your home? Because he didn’t belong to you yet? We did that for 112 days and it still hurts my heart tremendously if I allow myself to think about it too long. I actually have to limit myself from looking at some of Jack’s NICU pictures, because I know if I do, I’ll go down an emotional road that is sometimes better off not traveled. I start to think about the day when another parent, heartlessly mentioned, “You know he cries a lot when you aren’t here.” I was there sometimes 8-12 hours a day, but it was never enough. I almost always left when he was asleep, because I never wanted him to see me walk away. And I often didn’t visit at night, because there was something inherently wrong with leaving him when it was dark outside.
Or I start to feel the exact same desperation as I did the day I left the hospital, for the 100th time, without my little boy, and barely made it ¼ mile down the road before I broke down in a grocery store parking lot (me, not my car). The feelings involved with leaving your baby, and not by choice, are difficult to describe. It was hard on me, hard on Jeff, and I’m unfortunately imagining, hard on Jack. Instead of it getting easier every day, it just got harder and harder to leave him behind.
I worry about what it did to his sense of security*. At a time when he was supposed to be learning about the comfort and care a mother provides, he was learning about needle sticks and tubes inserted into his mouth or nose and pain. His nurses were great, but they also had other babies. So there were many times that he cried and wasn’t held and comforted as he would have been by me. When he should have been developing a sense of safety and security, he was “alone” without his parents. No matter how wonderful & loving the nurses may have been, they were not me and not Jeff...and I will forever be devastated by this fact. Even though I know Jack and I have an amazing bond now, there will always be a small part of me that worries what those 4 months did to him and a large part of me that will spend the rest of his life making up for it. Jack rarely calls for me when he is in his crib. Is it because he thinks I won’t come, like when he was in the NICU? Has he learned that mommy and daddy WON’T always be there for him? He's not much of a cuddler or hugger, but he does lean on me. Is that because he wasn't held and hugged enough in those early days? He is in a stage now where he seeks me out, just to make sure I’m still there and I always say, “I’m right here, buddy.” And he repeats it, "Right here, bubby" and somehow, it makes my heart sing and suffer at the same time. Because there was a time, when I wasn’t there. And I should have been.
Jack's doing well...but his mommy is losing it! I have to say that I can hardly stand to go the hospital and once I'm there, I hate to leave. I'm just about sick every time I have to leave Jack and it gets worse each time. (10.23.10 CarePages entry)
Scientists are still learning a lot about bonding. They know that the strong ties between parents and their child provide the baby's first model for intimate relationships and foster a sense of security and positive self-esteem. And parents' responsiveness to an infant's signals can affect the child's social and cognitive development."