Two weeks ago, my baby was admitted to the hospital. And I didn’t stay with her.
It breaks my heart to admit this, but the truth is, my daughter prefers my husband to me. At night, when she wakes up crying, in the morning, when she reaches up her chubby little arms to get out of her crib, and in those three days she spent hooked up to oxygen, fighting her monitors and nurses with every ounce of her sassy little spirit, she doesn’t ask for me.
I want to justify myself and tell you that I was with her until she was admitted to the children’s unit after a day of waiting and testing and during the hour-long ambulance ride. I want to tell you that I used to be the only person she would go to, that I held her for the first 12 months of her life, breastfeeding her and wrapping her to my chest and carrying her everywhere. From business trips and vacations to vacuuming my house, she was right there with me. She was my happiest baby, as long as she was close to me, and I soaked up every minute.
I want to tell you all of those things, hold them up as proof that I am a good mother, even though I know it’s silly.
I want you to know that I did all the right things, because right now, it feels a whole lot like I have done something wrong. At night, when I try to rock my daughter to sleep, she screams and twists out of my arms and cries for her “dada.” My heart drops every time it happens, and I hand her over silently, creeping under the bedcovers while my husband settles her in happily on his lap to read their favorite story together.
I should be grateful to have a husband so involved, so capable. I should be patting myself on the back for having an equal partner. I should maybe even be celebrating that extra 10 minutes of sleep I get at night.
But I don’t feel any of those things. I just wonder what kind of mother I am if my daughter doesn’t want me first.
In the hospital that first night, after we had been to urgent care and to the local hospital, then transferred to a pediatric unit, by the time my husband got there around midnight, I was exhausted and so glad to see him. My daughter is a fighter, and nothing we did could get her to settle down enough to monitor vital signs or even stop screaming. It was a nightmare, and I knew that I would need my husband to handle her. In the end, it took four nurses and my husband just to get her monitored.
I collapsed onto the couch at our cousin’s house (did I mention this all took place while we were on vacation?) with our three older children, and despite the worry and heartbreak I had over my daughter being so sick, I also realized that I felt so, so grateful to know she was in good hands with my husband.
Over the next few days, while my daughter recovered, I manned the fort with our older kids, who were banned from coming to the hospital because the whole place was on lockdown from the flu. I would visit her at night after I had put our big kids to sleep. I found myself overcome with guilt that I wasn’t the one with her in that hospital room, explaining to anyone who would listen that my husband was there because physically, he was the one who could handle her. Which was true. But what I didn’t admit was that when it came right down to it, she wanted him over me anyways.
I wanted to let myself wallow in self-pity and berate myself for being a bad mom. But then again, when I really thought about it, I realized that having a baby who loves her daddy so much doesn’t have to mean that I have failed as a mother. Maybe instead, I should think of it as succeeding as a wife. Because when it comes right down to it, that’s why we are married, right? To tackle this parenting thing as a team.
Sometimes, that might mean taking turns in comforting our children or being the “favorite” parent and sometimes that might mean taking my pride down a notch to realize I’m not the only parent that matters just because I happen to be the mother.
We are a team and at the end of the day, all that matters is that when our children need us, there will never be a doubt that someone will be there for them.