One of the biggest immediate everyday emotional challenges of the double mastectomy so far has been that I cannot cuddle with my 1-year old son, Connor. He is a master snugger. Since the day he was born, I have snugged him to sleep in my arms. Our pediatrician told me not to do this, and I’m sure she is right, but it always felt like the right thing for us. Every night he drinks a bottle on my lap, I read several books and he nestles into my chest on the recliner in his room and we rock together for at least 15 minutes and sometimes 30, just enjoying our snugs as he drifts to sleep. Most nights, I close my eyes and picture myself as an old woman. I envision my old woman self as possibly alone, probably frail, just sitting on a recliner all day rocking back and forth, savoring the memories of snugging with Connor as a young woman, and feeling joy. It is really the best. But that is all really about me- which is not the real problem. The real problem is him.
He is 21 months old and doesn’t understand why I can’t snug with him. If fact, right now, I actually have to stay away from him and occasionally physically push him away from me with my surgical drains still dangling around my belly. I hope this is harder on me then him. Despite being the master snugger, he is also our typical cool as a cat, independent, archetypal second child. He seems to have taken this all in stride, and his dad is getting some extra snugs in the meantime. But I do worry about the impact of not getting any hugs from mom for 6 weeks at his age. I am trying not go down that rabbit hole.
Fortunately, we have deployed a secret weapon to help us which seems to be working well: Teddy bears. Before my surgery, I bought three new teddy bears. Two big teddies for Aden and Connor, and a small one for me. After I got back from the hospital, we all sat down and we gave them the teddy bears. We explained that we were still all going to snuggle together, but we are just going to do this using the teddies. When you want a snug from mom- you can get it anytime by snugging teddy. This has worked wonders with my older son, Aden. He understands the concept. Every night, he gets his teddy and brings me my teddy. Aden also makes sure Connor has his teddy every night. Both kids sleep with the teddies and we will often sit on the couch, side by side, with all the teddies in laps. I am not sure how much of this Connor understands, it is so hard to tell at his age, but he seems to be doing just fine. I think the teddy has helped. There is no doubt it has helped my 3-year-old, he is really into it and probably gives me more snugs through teddy now than he did before! If nothing else, it has made me feel a lot better about not cuddling Connor and Aden right now, a lot better than I thought it would. If you have young kids you can’t cuddle right now for whatever reason, I think this is really something to consider doing. Mom-snugging teddies have been one of several superpowers for us so far.