Before Emmie was born, I was pretty sure I was going to be a super crunchy attachment-parenting-type with an all natural birth and maybe some bed-sharing going on. I would wear her so I could have my hands free, but she could also feel securely attached to me. I would breastfeed and we would have a wonderful, all-natural connection.
Then came cancer and kind of derailed some of those plans. I had to have treatment starting when Emmie was 3 weeks old, so I had to be away from her for 4-6 hours a day, every single day, while I got my infusions. Even when I was home, I seldom could hold her because I always had an IV in my hands and moving them much was painful. She slept in our bed prior to my infusions, but once I was getting treatment, it simply wasn’t safe for her to be in bed with me (I was far too drowsy), so she started sleeping in her own crib. Even breastfeeding was derailed during that month, although I still pumped and dumped (meaning I pumped the milk but had to pour it down the drain because there was no research proving or disproving the safety of Emmie consuming it).
As a result of all of this, Emmie had different caregivers each week or two in the second month of her life (her grandmothers and great-grandmother). I was bonded with her, but I think the experience of leaving my newborn every day also shaped my attachment to her: I could be secure in my love for her, knowing that she was being cared for by another loving person. This is relatively unusual for people in our social circles (although very likely common for mothers who simply have to return to work quickly). I know many friends who have never left their baby with anyone else until they are one or more. Even never leaving your baby for the first few months seems to breed a different kind of anxiety for some friends; they seem to be much more worried about their babies than I ever was.
Part of it was that we had bigger fish to fry. How could I be worried about leaving my infant with her capable grandparents when I had to leave every day to battle cancer? (Trust me, those days with a new IV every other day and infusions daily definitely felt like a battle). The baby-caring was the easy part. Needles, breast pumps, and side effects from treatment were the real challenge. Even when Emmie was a few days old, I had no fear of bringing her out into the world, nursing her in public, or any of the common worries most new mothers face. I just did what I thought I needed to, and relished every second of “normal time” we had then (knowing full well that treatment was coming soon). In some ways, it was nice to have a much bigger concern to worry about, because it put parenting into perspective.
The upshot of all of this is that I think we are now seeing some of the fruits of these circumstances. Emmie has been having sleepovers at Gigi and Bapa’s (my parents) apartment, as well as a 2 night sleepover at her fairy godmother and godfather’s, Arwen and Aaryn, with zero difficulty. She is able to transition caregivers with almost no issue, including sleeping in the same room as Uncle PJ, then Oma with hardly a break. In fact, the only time we ever see any problems is when she transitions from another caregiver back to us, because we actually put limits on things (she can sweet talk anyone else into anything, I swear). I’m so proud of her ability to separate from Peter and I, and yet still be overjoyed at seeing us on her return. She is getting so grown up and independent, and I’m so proud of the little girl she is becoming, even while I mourn a little bit at losing the baby she was.
I never thought that Emmie being cared for by different people would lead to greater adaptability, but here we are! Have you ever seen an unexpected benefit to something unplanned for?