“Now, at almost 21 weeks pregnant, I’m finally starting to feel as if I can bond with my baby. Until now, I’ve kept my distance for fear of getting too close too soon. And, I can’t begin to tell you how much guilt I’ve had about this lack of bonding.” – November 5, 2011
“Granted, it’s getting harder and harder to dismiss the swift kicks to my rib cage and the pitter-patter of little feet on my bladder, but it is still possible not to be fully committed to your child even at 33 weeks gestation. I know that I am carrying a living and thriving human being right now, but I haven’t been able allow myself to completely bond with her. But, I’m getting there.” – February 2, 2012
For those of you who are regular DTT readers, the above comments may seem vaguely familiar to you. They should, as they were taken from two previous posts. From the very beginning of my pregnancy with Elyse, well before I started blogging, I admit that I had a very difficult time bonding with her for obvious reasons. And, I made these feelings abundantly clear in my writing. During my pregnancy, it was such welcome a relief to be able to vent these thoughts in my blog posts and to get feedback from other moms who, at one time or another, could empathize with my feelings. Well, now here I sit almost three weeks after Elyse’s birth and can honestly say that my inability to bond with her is a thing of the past. After one of this afternoon’s nursing sessions, it became apparent to me that this week’s reflection should focus on my most sought after, but now readily available feeling — that of bonding.
Since Elyse’s birth, I feel as if a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Now, I hate to use this old cliché, but it’s true. Now that I no longer have to worry about carrying a NAIT pregnancy, it’s as if my life, as well as my spirit, have been renewed. Instead of being filled with doctor’s appointments, ultrasounds, IVIG infusions, worry and stress, my days now center around caring for my two daughters — a job that is like no other. Compared to my February calendar, my March calendar is a blank slate — just the way I like it. Taylor, Clara and I are all adjusting quite easily to having a newborn at home. Granted, I could do without the broken sleep, but otherwise, Elyse has assimilated herself nicely into our quirky, little family. I really can’t imagine our lives without her.
One activity that now takes up quite a bit of my time — anywhere from 4 to 6 hours each day — is nursing. Now, as a disclaimer, the next paragraph or so is in no way meant to pass judgment on those moms who bottle feed or those moms who plan on bottle feeding. Also, this is not an opportunity for me to stand on my virtual soap box espousing a pro-breast feeding message. It is just me, your friendly DTT blogger, sharing my thoughts on nursing and how this very natural activity has helped me close the mental gap in my psyche pre- and post-Elyse’s birth.
It’s funny how you don’t really even know your child until well after s/he is born and able to express verbally and/or nonverbally their feelings toward you. Take Clara, for instance. I know now that she loves me and trusts me, as she is able to verbalize, as well as nonverbally show, these feelings. But, when she was an infant, we didn’t know her and she didn’t know us, so these feelings had to be nurtured. Over time, Clara learned to trust us, as we were able to provide her with food, shelter, affection and love. Now, Elyse is in the same position that Clara was just over two years ago. Although she may recognize our voices and be familiar with our scents, Elyse doesn’t know us, so we have to earn her trust. One way that I, as a mother, can do so is by nursing her. Through the hours we spend in close contact with one other during each day’s nursing sessions, I am finally able to bond with the child that I sometimes ignored as I tried to protect my vulnerable self from the emotional stressors of carrying a high-risk pregnancy. The bonding that is now taking place will lay the foundation for trust to be established and for our mother-daughter relationship to begin taking shape. So, yes, for me, nursing is an integral component of the trust and bonding processes. But, as Elyse gets older, we will have to take up new activities to strengthen the ties that already bind us. For now, I’m confident that nursing will allow us to connect with one another on an emotional level.
Not only do I feel comfortable with my ability to bond with Elyse, but I also feel a renewed connection between Taylor, Clara and myself. When the four of us sit on the couch at the end of the day to enjoy one another’s company (and watch Clara entertain us with her antics), this overwhelming sense of completion envelopes me. The first time I felt this “complete” was when Taylor took Clara to visit Elyse and I in the NICU for the first time. As I sat in the recliner and nursed Elyse, Taylor and Clara looked on, allowing themselves to be a part of the experience, I remember thinking, “This is my family and we are finally all together. Everything that Taylor, Clara and I have been through as a family has made this all worthwhile.” Although neither Elyse nor I had been discharged from the hospital at that point in time, Elyse’s NICU suite felt much more like home with Taylor and Clara sharing in the moment with us.
Not only has overcoming NAIT strengthened the ties that bind between Elyse and I and Taylor, Clara, Elyse and I, but I also feel a stronger connection to my sister-NAIT moms. Since finding them on Yahoo! almost two years ago and getting to know more about them and their own struggles through Facebook, I felt less and less alone in my own fight against NAIT. They supported me before and during my pregnancy with Elyse and have shown nothing but unconditional love since her birth. Now that I have survived my first, and only, treated NAIT pregnancy, I am proud and honored to be able to help other NAIT moms who are either just finding their way to our little group, contemplating their first treated pregnancies or currently experiencing their first treated pregnancies. I am very eager and willing to share all of the information that I’ve learned from my own experience as an expectant NAIT mom and hope to allay their fears in the process. Carrying a NAIT pregnancy is not a punishment as I once thought, but an opportunity to connect and bond with others who have experienced, are experiencing or will experience this unique, but challenging, occurence.
As this week’s reflection draws to a close, I can’t help but smile at the little bundle of newborn baby who sleeps peacefully in my lap. While I’ve been busy unloading yet another week’s worth of emotional baggage, her little face has been resting up against my chest. Whenever she naps in this position, I always wonder if she was this comfortable when she slept inside my womb? I know that I am much more comfortable having her rest outside my belly rather than inside and hope that now that I’m allowing myself to feel as if I couldn’t live without her, that she’s beginning to feel the same way…