Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Kanga & Roo

Last August, for Trevor's birthday, I made plans to take him out for an evening of wine tasting and live music downtown with friends.  My mom came to town to stay with the boys and while getting ready for our night our, 3-month old Will threw a fit unlike anything I had ever seen.  I tried holding him, nursing him, rocking him, all to no avail.  I remembered hearing that skin to skin contact for infants can calm them down.   This practice, also known as Kangaroo Care, is very common after babies are born and I remember holding both of my boys on my chest for close to an hour after they were born.  But somehow in the hustle and bustle of parenting, the practice gets lost.  I can't recall doing it a single time after birth with either boy, but I decided to give it a shot.  So, desperate to calm my baby down before leaving for the night, I tore off my shirt and bra, stripped him down to his diaper and held him against my chest.  I took a cardigan out of my closet and wrapped it around us, nuzzling him to me in a warm mama cocoon.  Within seconds, he calmed down.  His body relaxed until the only noises he made were the sounds of him catching his breath, still calming down from the sobbing.  I sat there with him for about 10 minutes until it was safe to hand him over to my mom.  He was fine for the rest of the night.

Last week, 16-month old Will had outpatient surgery that required anesthesia.  For the first time I knew what the word faith meant.  It's a miracle of faith that parents can hand their babies over to gowned up pediatric hospital staff, who are absolute strangers, to operate on our absolute most important treasures.  So I had to have faith in these people and thank God for them because the surgery was very successful and Will is going great.  

The staff brings parents back once their child has woken up.  A nurse led us through a series of double doors until we came to a hallway that led to his recovery room.  I could hear the unmistakable sound of my baby's cries the minute we hit the hallway.  When we got to the room he was crying and completely entangled in wires and cables that were monitoring everything from his blood pressure to his blood oxygen levels.  The nurse was holding him, his back was arched as he wriggled and writhed around, confused and scared.  When I heard him cry out "Mama" I nearly lost it myself.  Will still breastfeeds and I asked the nurse if I could nurse him.  She said, "of course!"  She showed me to a chair where I gathered my tangled up baby into my arms.  As I yanked up my shirt to help him nurse, tears sprang to my eyes.  I was instantly taken back to May 1, 2013 in the minutes after he was born.  He was scared, crying, and unsure about where he was.  But when he found me he knew he was home.  Fast forward to last week.  He was scared, crying and unsure about where he was.  I looked up at the monitor.  His heart rate was 172.  But as soon as he started nursing, Trevor and I looked up at the monitors, amazed at what we saw.  His heart rate immediately went down- 160, 150, 140, 130 until finally settling around 120.  If there was ever a testament to the power of human touch, we saw it in that little room.  We hear about the power of touch, but I've never actually seen it with my own eyes displayed before me on a monitor.  Love and science all mixed up together.  I was his Kanga and he was my Roo.  A calm came over the entire room.  We all just held space together, grateful for the wonderful outcome of that scary day.  As much as I calmed him, he calmed me too.

I think back to those moments now and I reflect on how precious few opportunities we have to truly connect with other humans.  We never lose our need to connect, to touch, to embrace, to hug, to kiss, but we develop very rigid boundaries about how and when those things should happen.  I smother my boys with hugs and kisses while they're at an age when they'll let me.  And I want them to grow up to be men who aren't afraid to be affectionate with people they love.  And after a very scary day for both of us,  I will forever hold this image of Will, cradled safely in my arms, very close to my heart.  That I could be his harbor, his home, and his Kanga in the moment when he needed me most was a moment I'll treasure my whole life.

Kanga & Roo after the surgery