Alex came home from work at the hospital on Friday night feeling achy and clammy. Our immediate worry was that he’d caught coronavirus. Deep down we knew it would be inevitable at some stage. He surely couldn’t go three months working directly with covid-19 patients every single day without catching it himself, could he? Even with the most meticulous hygiene, this beast is contagious!!
As he came in the door, our son threw himself at him. ‘Daddy’ he screamed in delight, ‘let’s play, rough and tumble’. Our four-year-old hadn’t seen much of Alex this week and was desperate for some daddy time. But with these few words, we were suddenly faced with a huge dilemma. Do we let our children cuddle my husband?
My heart sank. As you’ve probably read in our – diary of a doctor on the front line – we’re already sleeping in separate beds. Did we need to take this one step further, and cease contact with him altogether?
As a mother, as far as I’m concerned, humans were born to be cuddled. When my child is sick, and even if they’re not, I can’t help but snuggle and hold them. As any parent will know, it’s simply instinctual, you do it without thinking, and there’s good scientific reason why this is so.
Theory of Attachment
The attachment bond is an emotional connection between an a child and their primary carer, which at first, for obvious reasons, is usually the mother. A secure attachment bond is central to your child’s physical, emotional and intellectual development. It provides feelings of love, belonging and safety that allow your child to experience optimal development of his nervous system.
The nervous system is crucial a part of any living being because it coordinates its actions by transmitting signals to the rest of the body.
In doing so, your child’s body can learn to collect, interpret and process information from his senses (smell, sight, touch, taste and hearing), and from his external environment (everything in his physical surroundings), and respond appropriately.
In this way, a secure attachment bond provides the foundations for life ahead. It helps your child establish the ability to deal well with stressful situations, form good relationships and have a healthy self-esteem.
In other words..
If your child feels safe and loved from birth onwards it gives them the confidence to go and explore the world, experiencing life to the full. One way you do this is through regular cuddling.
Furthermore, from an immunological point of view, cuddling produces oxytocin, the love hormone. Oxytocin inhibits cortisol, the stress hormone, that in excess can weaken our immune system.
Therefore, the hormonal exchange stimulated by cuddling not only feels nice for everyone and builds confidence, but importantly it helps you and your child recover more quickly from illness.
I can’t even imagine right now how it would feel to be dying from coronavirus, knowing that you are not allowed any physical touch and comfort.
As written in Alex’s diary, this is one of the hardest aspects of doctoring right now. It’s instinctual to console someone in distress and pain, to hold their hand when they are dying.
Looking back in time to another world crisis, during World War 2 children were sent away to the countryside to stay safe. Picture not being able to talk on the phone, see their little faces on skype, let alone cuddle them. My heart aches with the thought.
So, with all this in mind, we’ve decided to carry on cuddling our children. I don’t know if we could do anything else. Our son climbed into bed last night after having a bad dream. Our daughter slipped in the bath and bumped her head. We cuddled them without thinking.
On Monday Alex tested negative to coronavirus. But it’s coming for us sooner or later, that’s for sure.
What do you think? Are we being reckless? Should we be keeping our distance? We really don’t know, I guess only time will tell. It’s a scary world we’re living in.
But together we’ll get through this! Stay well.