In previous posts, I described the loss of our first child, Angel, and the birth of our first-born, Abigail. To continue ...
When Abigail was born, almost 5 years after we started trying to have children, I was overwhelmed with joy. She was born at 33 weeks, so they took her away from us pretty quickly after she was born. I got to spend about 2 minutes with her before they wheeled her incubator away at around 4 PM on January 3, 2010. The NICU doctors told my husband that they needed about 45 minutes to get her set up in her NICU area before anyone could go see her. So around 5 PM, my husband went to visit with her.
Because I had an epidural, I wasn't allowed to get up until my legs worked and I had been transferred to a recovery room. So while my princess was laying up in the NICU, I was getting placed in a postpartum room and getting loaned a breast pump so I could hopefully make some milk for her (more on that later).
I was ready at about 6:45, but when we called up to the NICU, they told me to wait until 7:30 because it was almost shift change and we would be thrown out at 7 anyway. After several delays, it was about 8PM before I finally got to go into the NICU to see my baby girl. We had been separated for 4 hours.
Now, here is where things got painful. When my husband rolled me into the 'Rabbit' room, where Abigail was located, there were 6 or 7 babies in the room, and I felt no magnetic draw toward any of them. I didn't have any idea which one was mine. I was so embarrassed. I had to ask which baby was ours. Feelings of shame overwhelmed me because I didn't just KNOW which child was mine. She had been in my womb for 7 months. Shouldn't I feel some magical link to her?
When we located her, I looked into the incubator, and she did not look as healthy as when she was wrapped in a baby blanket and all I could see was her sweet little face. She had a tube taped in her mouth, an IV in her foot, and cords hanging off of her. She was sprawled out in the incubator with her eyes closed, ribs sticking out, skin a little orange, and her chest heaving. She was so tiny. So fragile. So scary.
Once we had been there for a few minutes, the nurse practitioner asked if I would like to hold her. First, they had me move from the wheel chair to a more sturdy chair, and then she wrapped the baby up and transferred her from the incubator to my arms. I looked down at this tiny baby that they said was mine, but I felt nothing but fear and confusion. Again, I was so ashamed. Shouldn't I feel some type of connection with this child? She was, after all my child, wasn't she? Was this the right baby? My fears of being a bad mother came again very strong at that point. A good mother would have a melty feeling of love when she looked at her baby, even if she had been separated for 4 hours.
I was afraid that something was wrong or that maybe the time apart had destroyed our bond. I wasn't sure what to do to fix it, but it had to be fixed.
Over the next couple of days, as I cared for her and showed her off to my parents and our pastors, the feelings began to grow. I don't pretend to understand the way that hormones may have played a part in that initial feeling of ...well ...of nothing really toward my child. But as I began to spend more time with her, I found myself being very protective of Abigail, and I started noticing little things about her that were like my husband. And my love for her grew exponentially from there. By her third day, I felt so much love for her, I would almost cry just looking at her little face. I didn't want to be away from her for more than a couple of hours.