tales from a stay-at-home mom of four boys

Too many moms

My son has been in the NICU now for seven weeks. He has some of the most wonderful nurses there. We totally appreciate them and all they do and often express our gratitude through chocolate. These nurses are there around the clock, most of the time when we can’t be there and they take care of my little guy as if he were their own. I often wonder though, with so many secondary moms taking care of him, does my son know who I am?

These wonderful NICU nurses diaper, clothe, feed, and comfort my baby when I am not there (on top of all the medical treatments they constantly provide). They are amazing at their jobs and I feel good knowing that my son is in such good hands when I can’t be there. I have three other sons at home to care for, so I can’t be at the hospital 24/7. We are so fortunate to often have the same nurses taking care of my son over long periods of time. It is nice to have consistency. The thing is, some of these nurses have spent more time with my son over the past 7 weeks than I have and it makes me sad that in the first weeks of life my son is being attended to more by other people than his own mother.

When my other three boys were born, they hardly left my arms. I didn’t send them to the nursery so I could rest while in the hospital, they didn’t sleep in cribs, and they didn’t have a nanny. I held my babies unless I was going to the bathroom or showering. The voice they heard the most and the scent they were enveloped by over the first few months was mine. Sure, dad and some family members got to hold them and maybe even feed them on occasion, but 98% of the time they were with me. With a baby in the NICU though, all this is impossible. Even if this was my only child and I lived in the NICU 24/7, I still wouldn’t be able to hold my baby as much as I did the other boys. I didn’t even get to touch my baby for almost 24 hours after he was born and it was a little over a week before I was able to hold him. Even once I was able to hold him, it was only for a limited amount of time each day because he wasn’t able to maintain this body temperature and had to be in the isolet for most of the day. Once I was able to hold him for less limited amounts of times, we still ran into problems like a horrible bum rash that required him to lay on his belly with his bum undiapered and sunning under a lamp for most of the day. Then of course is the reality that he isn’t my only child, so I am only able to be with him for 4-6 hours a day. This leaves him spending the majority of his time with those fantastic nurses and leaves me wondering if he ever gets confused about who mom really is.

Most babies can at least make a connection with being fed and mom (or sometimes dad), but as I attempted to feed my little guy the other day, I realized that this wasn’t true for him. He still gets most of his nourishment through the tube in his nose, which is the main reason he is still in the NICU, but bottle feeding is attempted at most feedings. These days, I can only be there for one feeding which means 7 out of 8 feedings a day are being given to him by someone other than mom. It is a strange thought to think that your baby is being feed your milk by someone else more often than he’s being fed it by you. Which means, he isn’t associating the taste of my milk with me. As far as he is concerned, I’m just another lady who comes into his room and fusses with him for a few hours and then leaves until my next shift. That makes me so sad.

As much as I love the nurses and the care my son gets from them, it breaks my heart to think that I’m just another person in a whole line of caregivers and I’m not mom, that special lady who cared him for months and makes that milk he drinks. I know that eventually he will make that distinction and he will be as attached to me as my other sons, but it is just so hard to not feel that connection when he is so little and especially since I was suppose to still have him all to myself inside me right now. I suppose this is just one more reason why I am desperate to get him home. If only we could get past all the road blocks and get him home so I could be his one and only mom. Of course, once he is home, there is a chance that I won’t put him down until he needs to leave for college. Then again, there are online colleges now, so maybe I won’t even have to put him down for that.


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