When a Heart-Rate Monitor Showed Me How Strong a Mother's Love Is
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 his accident, my son, Harry, was in a coma, on a ventilator and had no less than six 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 two nurses, a doctor and my husband to attempt to delicately place him in my arms, while ensuring that none of the lines got tangled and that the tube draining fluid from around his brain (the most important tube) was carefully monitored.
But I knew of the healing touch of a mother. Perhaps this would be the miracle we so desperately craved. 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. He was carefully and quickly placed back onto the clinical comfort of his hospital bed.
Time passed, the tubes were removed. Harry then entered the confused and agitated stage of recovery after a brain injury stories”>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 behavior as they struggle to make sense of the world around them.
Harry began whimpering during this stage. His hospital room had to be kept dark. No stimulus. Just quiet and the sounds of my boy whimpering.
For three weeks, he whimpered. For three 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 would be quiet and peaceful. But just for a moment. Time passed, the whimpering ended.
Having been a mother for only 11 months, I feared that I didn’t have the touch of healing love that I so desperately wanted to envelope my son with. I wanted him to know that everything would be OK, his mom was with him and everything would be OK. Time passed, but my seed of doubt remained.
Harry went back in the hospital for major neurosurgery. After the procedure, we were told to go to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) to meet him. The surgery, while 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, whimpering. 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 mom was here and that everything was going to be OK: 98, 92, 80.
A version of this post originally appeared on Give the Boy a Chance.
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