I was never the attachment parenting type. My toddler son was kicked out of my bedroom and into his own room at an early age, as were my newborn twin daughters. And while I did my fair share of baby-holding with my son in the weeks following his birth, my daughters got a lot less cradling time those first few weeks–mostly because of the fact that I was, at that point, outnumbered, but also because admittedly I’m just not that type. (Don’t get me wrong–I love my children more than I can even articulate. But I’m OK with the idea of holding them on an as-needed basis, as opposed to by default.)
That all changed about three weeks ago, when the smaller of my twin daughters was diagnosed with torticollis. As a result, she has difficulty turning her head to one direction and has developed a flat spot on her head. The treatment? Physical therapy, at-home exercises, and keeping her off her back–which means holding her during waking hours as much as possible.
These days, I spend much of my days walking around with my daughter either in my arms or in a carrier–a challenge unto itself, but fueled by the fact that I’ve got a toddler and another newborn at home who also need my attention. Though the carrier does a great job at freeing up my hands so that I can play with my 3-year-old–or even briefly hold my two baby girls simultaneously–when you’re wearing your baby on your chest, you can’t exactly bend forward (you know, that whole gravity thing), which makes tasks like laundry and cleanup all the more difficult.
But as trying as this situation has been, it’s also brought me a lot closer to all of my children in different ways. Firstly, I feel good about the fact that although my daughter has this condition, I’m able to do my part to help her improve. As our physical therapist said: the more I can do, the better. So in my head, every minute I spend holding her brings her one step closer to building up strength and expanding her range of mobility. And while I don’t relish the daily head tilts and twists that are part of our at-home therapy program (my daughter pretty much hates them), I’m finding that instead of resenting this forced physical bonding, I’m actually able to enjoy it.
And here’s the funny thing: you’d think this situation would’ve driven more of a wedge between me and my other children, but if anything, it’s done the opposite. Because I now spend so much time holding my one daughter, I’m extra mindful of the fact that my other kids require physical attention as well. Though my toddler is past the point of needing to be lifted and held throughout the day, I make a point of hugging him in between nursing sessions and snuggling with him in bed for a few minutes before naptime and bedtime.
As far as my other daughter goes, I’ve mastered the art of lap cuddling, which involves laying her down face up across my legs and using one hand to stroke her cheeks while holding her sister upright using my other hand. Also, whereas I used to have this policy that my breasts were not to become pacifier substitutes, nowadays I’m far more liberal about letting her comfort nurse, even when I’m certain she’s more than full. Though I can’t help the fact that she currently gets less time in my arms than her sister, I’m more careful to do these little things that help make up for it.
I never imagined myself being the type of parent who would so much as invest in a baby carrier, let alone wear one for hours on end every day. But being flung deep into the throes of mandatory infant bonding has taught me an important lesson: that no matter how busy life gets, I should make it a priority to hold my children close.