The first time I held my baby I longed to kiss him; longed to be able to bend my head, to be close to him, to tell him that I was there.
I waited six long day to be able to hold my baby; but placed in my arms he still felt so far way. Looking down I saw lines and wires tangled around his limbs, a breathing tube obscuring his face and buzzers alarmed with each move as he acclimatised to the outside world. It would be a few more days before I could hold him close to my chest, before I could kiss his tiny head and whisper I love you.
From then on, like other mums and dads in the neonatal intensive care unit, I would sit patiently beside his incubator waiting for a chance each day to hold him against my skin. Some days he was just too poorly – I missed him dreadfully on those days, heading home in the evening empty and heavy hearted.
Kangaroo care or skin-to-skin helped me to feel like a mum, his mum. It gave me comfort knowing that this act would help him to regulate his own breathing and heart rate, it would help us find our way out of NICU more quickly. More importantly I saw how deeply he slept on my chest, how quickly he would settle when listening to my heart beat and I knew that sleeping equated to growing time.
The move to special care gave more opportunity for kangaroo cuddles. “Don’t hold them for too long” one nurse used to say, “they’ll get used to being held and it’ll mean more work for you when you get them home”.
I watched as mothers listened when they were told to put their babies back after feeding, “they sleep better and grow more when there in their cots” I heard another nurse say. I didn’t put my baby back, I kept him close.
In NICU and SCBU he would have been alone in his cot for most of the day; alone for much longer than a new born baby born at term and certainly held a lot less. I didn’t agree with the theory that by too many kangaroo cuddles I risked bringing home a clingy baby from hospital. Besides, I knew that the best place for my baby to sleep and grow was close to my heart and that is where he stayed.
Kangaroo care, skin-to-skin, is not only beneficial to mum and baby, it is precious, powerful and vital. When being mum is difficult, when you find yourself lost in a place you hardly know, kangaroo cuddles can silence even the loudest monitor and quieten your darkest fears. Precious moments snatched in an uncertain world – rare private moments to whisper “I love you”.