When Finn was a newborn and doing his time in the NICU after his surgery, I was given a little flannel doll by the nursing staff. I wrote about it during that dark and woozy time:
I walk around with a ragdoll the NICU provided me with, stuffed into my bra for Finn. I sleep with it as well. I hope when he is able to have it, my scent will help him remember his mommy when I can’t be there with him. I hope it makes him somehow feel how very much I love him.
It was a sort of bridge between me and my new, sick baby. I couldn’t be with him all the time, I couldn’t snuggle with him and wrap myself around him as I longed to do, and the doll came to represent his missing form for me on some level, and a way for him to know his mommy’s presence through scent.
When he came home, I placed the doll in his bassinet with him, where it remained until he finally outgrew the bassinet and moved into a crib in his own room. At that point, I put it away in a drawer in his room. He had never really developed any attachment to it; I think I had hoped it might become his “lovey,” but it never did.
All this time – three years now – it’s been stowed away in the back of a drawer, along with baby blankets long outgrown.
Then this morning, I found it in the girls’ playroom, casually tossed aside with a pile of toys, forlorn and undone.
It used to have a little yellow flannel hat stitched on, and a yellow length of yarn tied in a bow around its neck. Now it was just a shapeless piece of flannel with a gob of cotton stuffed inside. I felt like crying. I was furious. Furious that the girls had taken something that didn’t belong to them and ruined it without a thought. That they so casually demeaned something that, as it turns out, means so much to me.
I ranted and yelled at them. And I felt a grief well up inside me. Why did this silly doll mean so much to me? Why have I hung onto this talisman of sadness in the first place? Finn was never attached to it – I don’t even know if he really got something from it during his time in the NICU. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what my attachment to it is. What does it represent? An ability to do something during a time of what felt like utter helplessness? Maybe. And what about now?
Maybe it’s as simple as being a sometimes much-needed reminder of a tough time we got through. Intact and thriving.