This photo is from the night I first held my one minute older son, six years ago today. He was six days old.
My face is red and tear-stained because this moment almost didn’t happen that night. For those first few days – which, at that time felt like six eternities strung together – we kept asking when we could hold our babies. “After they get X test done.” I don’t remember the name, but the test was a scan to check for brain bleeds…it sounded important, and I was so frustrated when, every time I showed up at the NICU, I learned that the test had been pushed back yet again.
On October 10, 2011, though, something happened. “They haven’t gotten to hold them yet? Why haven’t you let them hold their kids? Let them hold their babies,” I overheard the attending neonatalogist tell the charge nurse. There had been a miscommunication. We didn’t need to wait for that scan to hold them. We should’ve been able to hold them October 5th. October. Fucking. 5th. 5 eternities earlier than that day.
I knew this now. I could finally hold my babies. Cradle their whole bodies in my arms, feel them against me, rather than reaching awkwardly through a hole in a plastic box, feeling them through a tangle of wires and tubes, trying to will my hand to be encompass the entirety of their small bodies so that they felt secure and loved and not alone. I knew that there had been a mistake. I knew I was authorized to hold my own children, and by god, I WAS going to hold them.
Only this happened right around shift change…”You’ll have to leave the ward for an hour and come back once we’ve changed over.”
And I lost control. The tears weren’t new, but the anger was…well, the anger directed outwards. For the first time since my preeclampsia diagnosis in September, I was angry at someone else. Them. Those nurses. The doctors who hadn’t been clear in their instructions. The hospital. The world. Everyone who, in that moment, was conspiring against me to keep me from holding my babies. I don’t remember what I said, or how loudly I said it, but I let loose.
Finally, after yet another set of eternities, someone relented. A goddess in pink and teal scrubs would stay late so that we could hold our babies. I scrubbed up again and changed into a gown. I sat in the vinyl recliner. And for twenty glorious minutes, I got to hold one of my children for the first time since they had left my body.
And I sobbed. For the first time, I had a glimpse of what it might mean to feel like his mother