The first time you leave your baby can be a big moment for new mothers; this little person, a new life you have carried, part of you in someone else’s care.
I remember leaving my baby for the first time.
The memories, although hazy through shock and disbelief, are still ever present.
He was only a few hours old and I did not leave him with a trusted family member of friend.
I did not cuddle or kiss him goodbye, knowing that I’d only be gone a short while.
Instead I would be gone until morning time.
I held his tiny fingers through the incubator portholes and whispered ‘see you soon’.
I had not held him in my arms and my body ached from labour.
I would leave my tiny baby, born too soon, in the care of strangers, not knowing what the morning would bring.
I was empty and without my baby to hold.
I was numb and grieving for the baby I had left behind.
Neonatal intensive care, a world of medical devises and babies housed in boxes. A place of uncertainty and of up and downs. An environment where you are tested to the limit as you watch your baby fight and grow.
In neonatal intensive care I cared and tried to provide for my baby. Expressing became ingrained as part of my new life and pumped breast milk became like liquid gold.
When the time came I was able to hold him in my arms, but tubes and wires obscured his face and prevented me from holding him close.
I longed to kiss him, to whisper ‘I love you’. My heart ached for the baby I so desperately wanted to hold tight to my chest.
He was in the care of an exceptional medical team and wonderful nurses cared for him 24 hours a day as if he were their own. Their kindness made leaving him a little more bearable each day, but behind the safety and warmth of his incubator I was a mother, but he was not really mine.
For weeks I would ask permission to hold my own baby; on occasions I would be told I was holding him too much.
Nappy changes were done on a strict timetable and feeding was scheduled around charts and numbers.
The unit where my baby slept was behind security doors and rigorous hand washing became the norm.
I cared for my baby in hospital, but he did not feel like mine and I did not feel like a mother.
We were unsure of how to celebrate his fragile birth. Cards of congratulations trickled in slowly as we tentatively announced his early arrival.
Finally, we were at home, that first magical night together. I’d been a mother for months, yet now I was on my own!
We held a naming ceremony some weeks later, a way to celebrate a new life, to introduce him to the family and to say ‘He’s here!’
I searched high and low for a quote that would sum up our journey and the way we felt about early starter. I eventually found it –
“Sometimes” said Pooh, “the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts”….
I had become a mother.