The 5 Love Languages of CHD Families: Physical Touch
I had to wait an entire day before I was able to hold my daughter for the first time and it felt like eternity. Unfortunately I had severe preeclampsia and was on a magnesium drip for the twenty- four hours following the emergency c- section of my heart warrior. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal because they would just bring the baby to you as you sat in the recovery room with the IV. That is, unless your baby was whisked off immediately after delivery and taken to the cardiovascular ICU for intervention. I asked my husband to stay with my daughter and I went back to recovery by myself. All I wanted was to hold my little girl.
As many heart parents know, some days you aren’t able to hold your child. They might be on a ventilator, have an ART line, have recently come out of surgery, are too sedated, and a slew of other reasons. Luckily my daughter was fairly stable for the first couple days so I was able to hold her; I know many parents who didn’t even have that much. Sometimes it would take two or three nurses to help navigate the multiple IV poles and multiple pumps. The first time I held my daughter I was afraid and nervous. One wrong move and it might pull on a line. But we spent hours holding our sweet baby; hours, and hours, and hours. Because sometimes that’s all you could do. We did our best to get our daughter to the No. 1 pediatric cardiology hospital, but much of our time was spent with the “wait and see” mentality. It was hard. So hard. And all we could do was hold our baby and make sure she knew how much she was loved. When we had days, or even weeks that we couldn’t hold her, we held her tiny little hand or embraced her little bitty foot. We couldn’t snuggle her or put her in a baby wrap. We couldn’t really bathe or feed her. That small amount of physical touch was all we had.
Parents are well-aware of the nurturing that can be done while holding your baby. There’s advice out there encouraging “skin-to-skin” or “kangaroo care”, but what if you couldn’t hold your baby that way? What if you couldn’t even hold your baby at all? I think this is one of the hardest things to go through as a heart parent. Even as they get older, or bigger, or stronger, you just want to hold them and tell them it will be alright.