It's CHD Awareness Week, which I have been actively involved with for the past three years. This year, however, I did nothing to prepare, and I have to admit, I've let the CHD Blog run far behind in posts. But it's for a good reason. I've been bonding with the very reason that brought me into the nightmare world of CHD.
Having a baby you can't hold in the early days has a huge impact on your ability to bond. Ask any parent of a premie who's hospitalized a long time, or anyone who has a child with a chronic, life threatening illness in the early days. Sadie missed out on those early caresses - I couldn't touch her for more than a week beyond brushing a fingertip across her hair without her heart racing. I didn't hold her until she was almost three weeks old. She could not tolerate touch, really, for months, unless she was bundled tightly to minimize it, and bounced to draw her attention away from the fact she was being held. It's difficult to bond under those circumstances.
And that's part of the reason I have been such a 'warrior' about Congenital Heart Defect Awareness. I felt so robbed. If she had been diagnosed, as she SHOULD HAVE been prior to birth, I wouldn't have lost as many days as she stabilized. I have felt that the lack of knowledge, the lack of simple tests, had cost me the bond with my baby. And I was pissed about it. And when I get pissed, I take action to make changes. I don't know what caused this to be my genetic makeup, but it's what happens when I'm faced with something I can't understand, or I think is wrong, or I feel I can make better.
I always felt so awful about not having that special bond with Sadie that I had with Katie in her early years. I craved those moments I'd had with Katie as a newborn - when she'd gaze up from nursing into my eyes and just stare. How she'd snuggle into me and fall fast asleep. How she smiled in those early weeks. With Sadie, it just didn't happen. Every day was a battle. I was, to be honest, disappointed. Let down. Sad.
That's not to say I don't love Sadie more than I can express. I love her so very, very much - coming so close to losing someone makes you realize how much you want them to be in your life. I would content myself with watching her sleep (when she did). Time marched on, and month by month she became a little easier to deal with - allowing me to touch her without crying. Eventually making eye contact. Hugging. Kissing. She became a fairly normal toddler - full of moxy, highly temperamental, but funny and sweet. Still, we didn't have "that" bond.
All of a sudden, three and a half years later, it has finally happened. In fact, I can almost name the moment. We went out on our first mommy-daughter date to the movies a month or two ago, and we sat. We chatted. And the communication began to grow. Now she's attached to my hip (literally, she's sitting her on the couch beside me, on my hip as I type), snuggling constantly and telling me how much she loves me a hundred times a day. And each time I tear up a little bit, so thankful for these moments that were so long in coming.
As for CHD Awareness, I will continue to promote the need for better testing - simple tests can save lives, and maybe even just one mom can have more of a bond with their baby than I was able to have. So I'll champion it. But I won't be putting the hours into it this year. It is time for me to step back and be thankful. To hang up the gloves I've had to keep on to fight for so long for Sadie, and just enjoy her and revel in my new found bond.