NOTE FROM MICHAELA: The Mighty published this post on their site. Wow, such an honour!
Stories often circulate about the healing and comforting power of a mother’s love. It’s something that’s simply accepted and understood by all of us but, for a time, I believed that it was a power lost to me. Until a heart rate monitor showed me otherwise.
In the weeks following Harry’s accident he was in a coma, on a ventilator and had no less than 6 tubes going into his 11 month old body at any one time. I ached to hold him and bury my face into the warm, chubby little folds at the back of his neck. The physical pain of not being able to wrap my baby in my arms was sharply felt throughout my body.
As soon as he was breathing on his own, I attempted to hold him for the first time. I was terrified. Terrified of holding my own child. It took 2 nurses, a doctor and my husband to attempt to delicately place him in my arms whilst ensuring that none of the lines got tangled and that the most important tube that was draining fluid from around his brain was carefully monitored.
But I knew of the healing touch of a mother. Perhaps this would be the miracle we so desperately craved. Perhaps this would be the moment of Hollywood tear-jerking dramas. My touch would heal, calm and reassure my son.
Slowly, carefully, down into my arms…
Finally I could feel the familiar and comforting weight of my son in my lap.
And then I felt warmth on my arm. The tube draining fluid from around his brain was leaking. Carefully, quickly, efficiently he was back on the bed. Still, silent and safe on the clinical comfort of the hospital bed.
Time passed, tubes were removed.
Harry then entered the confused and agitated stage of recovery after a traumatic brain injury. In this stage, adults recovering from a brain injury are often verbally abusive and have to be carefully watched for fearing of hurting themselves or others. They are unable to control this behaviour as they struggle to make sense of the world around them.
For Harry, this stage manifested in him grizzling. His hospital room had to be kept dark, no stimulus, quiet, just the sounds of my boy grizzling.
For 3 weeks, he grizzled. For 3 weeks I held him, day and night, unable to comfort him. Occasionally there would be a brief moment when my voice would calm him and he’d be quiet and peaceful. But just for a moment.
Time passed, the grizzling ended.
Having only had 11 months experience at being a mother, I feared that I didn’t have the great, big healing love that I so desperately wanted to envelope my son with. I wanted to touch him and for him to know that everything would be okay, his mum was with him and everything would be okay.
Time passed, my seed of doubt remained.
Harry was back in theatre for some major neurosurgery when we were advised that he was out of recovery and we could head to PICU (Paediatric Intensive Care Unit) to meet him. The surgery, whilst successful, was more complicated than his surgeons had hoped for and our little boy was having a tough recovery.
There he was lying on the hospital bed, eyes shut, head bandaged up, making little cub grizzles. He wasn’t comfortable. From months of obsessing over hospital monitors I noticed his heart rate was elevated – 140, 142, 141, 142
I wrapped my arms around him – 130, 126, 121
I put my face to his – 118, 114, 110
I kissed his closed eyes, kissed his forehead – 108, 105, 100
I whispered that his mum was here and that everything was going to be okay – 98, 92, 80