Coping With Separation From Your Baby

Mother's Hospital Discharge

Going home without her was about the toughest thing of all. ...You get this disconnected feeling, as if part of you isn't fully there. It's hard to describe. ~~Linda

It was weird to return home without my baby. I felt as if everything had changed, but when I returned to my apartment, it seemed as if everything was the same. I was at a loss. it was painful to look at the empty crib -- I so longed to have it full. ~~Claire

Coming home was especially difficult. I knew I was leaving the most important piece of my life in the hospital. Some friends had decorated our house with "It's a boy" decorations. ...I don't know if that made it easier or harder. It was very depressing. ~~Misty

I can't even begin to tell you how terrible it is to have to go home without your child, not knowing if you'll ever see him again. ~~Dawn

Being discharged without your baby may feel like the most devastating separation. Even if you knew you were likely to deliver prematurely, you probably didn't envision leaving the hospital with empty arms. Seeing other mothers being discharged with their healthy newborns presents an unbearable cruel contrast with your situation. As Jayna recalls: "This new mom had her baby with her. They were going home together. My baby would have to stay in the hospital for months, fighting for his life."

It can feel strange to enter your home, knowing your due date is still weeks or months away but that you are no longer pregnant. Instead of carrying a baby in your womb, you are carrying a heavy emotional burden.

I firmly believe that leaving the hospital that day (and I stayed as many days as they would allow me) was the hardest thing I had to do. I was discharged with three other mothers, all of whom had their babies with them -- big, healthy, fat newborns -- and mine was still upstairs hooked up to machines that he couldn't live without. And I was being forced to leave him. I can't think of anything that was as hard. ~~Sterling

Even though I knew my chances of having the babies in the NICU were about 95 percent, I hoped throughout my pregnancy that I would take them home with me. When I went home without them, I didn't feel like a good parent. I felt like I was leaving them behind. I felt great guilt, rather than the joy I had anticipated. ~~Jill

Debbie was being discharged the day after the kids were born, and it was very ugly because here, you're carrying twins, you give birth to your twins, and you come home with nothing. ... We had the feeling of, like, a close family member had died -- it was like coming home after a funeral instead of coming home after giving birth. ~~Mitch

Your discharge may also bring you some relief. After all, your home is more comfortable than a hospital room. Especially early on, when the NICU is so overwhelming and you don't feel at easy with your baby, being able to retreat to your home for rest and respite may not be all bad. It is normal both to wish for more closeness with your baby and to appreciate your freedom to leave the hospital. Separation can be both an agony and a relief.

I was discharged just thirty-six hours after his birth. It was so hard to tear myself away from that warming table. I knew that as soon as I left, he would go downhill again. I didn't want to leave, but I didn't want to stay. ~~Jayna

Going home was almost okay because I had spent about ten days in the hospital. I couldn't stand to see mothers and babies going home together. It hurt. So I yearned [for the babies] from the safety of my home. I was still too emotionally drained to think too much about anything else. I only rolled with what life was throwing my way. ~~Rosa