Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Bond With One's Child

I've written in posts shortly after Leif died that it felt like having a part of me cut off, and though it still does, like an amputee, I am learning how to live with it, though that doesn't mean I will ever stop missing him. I have speculated that there is something very physical about the bond between a mother and child, something in the DNA, perhaps, that knows when it is missing, but now I've read a study in Scientific American that has a different and compelling explanation. It says that the brains of new mothers change and areas grow as they bond with their infants. There literally are neural connections that are deep and strong, physical ones, not just psychic bonds, or are they one and the same? The article, "A New Mom's Changing Brain," by Nathan Collins, explains how these changes occur and what the effects are. The entire article is not available with this link, but if you have access to a good public library that has databases or a college or university library that does, you can access it there.

I found myself wondering just how profoundly my bond with Leif had changed my brain, and how acutely my brain, and thus my feelings, suffers from the lack of him and the bond being supported by his presence in my life. Is this at least partly why mothers (and perhaps fathers, too, for someone needs to research that) grieve so terribly over the death of a child, no matter what age they are when they die?

I also wondered whether love of any kind, romantic love, friendship, also creates changes in the brain, demonstrable proof of the response to another. I'll bet research would show that, too, but that it would be in some ways different than the response to one's baby.

I have felt sad that I haven't had time to post on this blog for the past 12 days due to other family needs. The living have to take precedence over the dead, and although I know that and believe it, still I felt as though I were neglecting Leif during this time, not giving him the time I want to devote to his memory, not keeping up the blog as well as I would like to do during the last part of the third year since his death. I can hardly believe that in only 18 days, it will be three years since he died. I still don't want to believe it, still want him back. It doesn't seem like three years could already have passed.

I was talking to my neighbor and friend whose son died six years ago this month and she said she heard a man whose son died man more years ago answer the question about whether it hurts and less over time this way, "No, but it hurts less often." She agreed with that, and so do I.

These photos of Leif were taken in our quarters at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico around February 1991 when Leif had just turned 16 and was starting to let his hair grow longer. They are unusual because I think this was the only tan outfit or shirt he ever had. Tan was not his color or a favorite of his, so I don't even really know how or why he got it. Note the acid rock t-shirt under it.

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