Okay, we all know the amazing benefits of skin to skin/ kangaroo care, but what do you do to bond with and help your baby when you can’t hold him? That’s the agonizing position we were in. As I said before, CC was ventilated for the first nine weeks of his life which meant we couldn’t hold him in our arms and so I was desperate to know what exactly I could do. While in Cyprus we were blessed to benefit from the help of their Developmental Therapist, P. I truly began to believe in angels on Earth after meeting her. P gave me the tools to be a mother in the most alien environment I could imagine.
I know so many of you won’t benefit from a professional like her. I was dismayed when we finally arrived home to our London hospital to find they didn’t have someone like P on staff. I was dismayed for the babies who wouldn’t benefit from her expertise but also for the parents who were left without crucial knowledge. I just want to say that the staff at our London hospital were amazing and that overall we had a wonderful experience there but that I just think it could have been even more wonderful with a Developmental Therapist on staff. In my first post I said I am not a health care professional and that if there is anything you read here that you question then I urge you to speak to your child’s doctors and nurses.
The following is a list of what P showed me and I am so happy to share it with you.
1. Before entering CC’s room we washed our hands with soap and water, dried them, rubbed them with alcohol, and then washed them again to wash the alcohol off. The smell of alcohol is very strong and unnatural and we were told we should try to make ourselves smell as different from the doctors and nurses as we possibly could. We were worried about washing the alcohol off at first but we were assured our hands were clean and that doing this would in no way mean we’d be introducing germs to CC.
2. In the car on the way to the hospital, in the lift to CC’s floor and as I walked to his room I briskly rubbed my hands together to create heat and to get the energy flowing so that when I touched him my hands would be warm and so that he would feel my loving energy. I was skeptical about the energy part but the warm hands made total sense to me.
3. I was fortunate in that I had plenty of breast milk to spare and so I would keep some aside to rub into my hands before touching CC as the smell and taste of it is very similar to that of amniotic fluid. I had to remember though that breast milk lasts for only a few hours unrefrigerated before it begins to grow bacteria so I would have to replenish my little pot throughout the day.
4. Every time I visited CC I would greet him in the same way and I would speak in a low calm voice to try to mimic the way my voice might sound within the womb. Whenever I spoke or sang to him, which I did a lot, I used this same voice.
5. Having been born so early CC’s nerve endings were underdeveloped and so his skin was hyper sensitive to touch. My natural instinct was to gently rub CC, which I think you can see me doing in the photo from my second post, and I’m sure you can imagine my horror when I learned that this actually causes pain. I had to begin to think of my hands as heavy blankets that I would lay firmly on him.
6. Babies develop their core strength and their ability to hold a midline from being squashed in their mother’s womb. CC didn’t have this experience and so I had to recreate this for him within the incubator. You can see what I’m describing here in the photo I’ve attached with this post. You have to remember that CC was tiny, really tiny, so it wasn’t hard to hold him as I’m describing. I laid my hand on top of his head and used my thumb to close his mouth to relieve the strain caused by it hanging open from the ventilator tube. With my other hand I brought his legs together and tucked them up. With this same hand I held his hands in across his chest. This curled up position is natural for babies and the position they are most comfortable. It also contributes to later development as the stronger their core muscles are the quicker they are to roll over, sit, crawl, pull up and walk, and as we are just learning it also contributes to control over distal movements (hands and feet).
7. Finally I would leave something in his incubator that smelled of me. I’ll speak more about this in my next post.
You are the only constant in your baby’s life. You are the one who will bring comfort in what quite honestly is a painful world. I hope that some of what I’ve written here will help you do that.
Want to read more from Eryn? Born too Soon; Life on a NICU for a Preterm Baby and his Mom,and Meeting Your Premature Baby for the First Time
For more information about Prematurity Awareness Month, click here for 10 Reasons Why Prematurity Awareness Month Matters