My husband and I were tired, and after an eventful delivery, we were finally able to go see our daughter in what they called the "NICU." We washed our hands thoroughly and entered a dimly lit "pod." Here we were in front of our newborn's warmer and after giving us a moment to take everything in, the nurse for the night looked at both of us and said, "I was a preemie, too. Don't worry, she'll be taken care of." With a smile she proceeded to tell us that she was a NICU patient in the same hospital and decided to become a Neonatal Nurse to help other babies. Still to this day I'm convinced that maybe she could hear our racing hearts or chaotic inner thoughts.
After her reassuring words, I became present in the moment...
Bubbling C-PAP machines.
Classical music softly playing from a mobile on the other side of the room.
Beep. Beep. Be--
My anxieties lessened as I looked around at the other sweet bundles around us, some with their parents at bedside, and thought to myself, "We're not in this alone."
That experience is one of many I will never forget when reflecting on the blessing of NICU nurses.
NICU nurses made it "home" by encouraging us to decorate our baby's isolette, bring clothes, etc.
NICU nurses treated our daughter like their own. Leaving notes for nurses who'd be caring for our daughter for the first time, answering our numerous calls (some in the middle of the night), and telling us how they were fighting over who got to hold her while her isolette was being changed, haha :)
NICU nurses believed in our baby.
NICU nurses believed in us.
Many NICU parents feel cheated out of their baby's "firsts," and some have even reported feeling resentment toward NICU nurses in the beginning. Often these feelings are not directed toward the nurses themselves but are a result of feeling out of place as a parent. During our daughter's NICU stay, parenting looked and felt a lot different than my husband and I expected. From asking permission to change diapers to being told that we had to wait three hours to hold our daughter because she needed to get as much rest as possible, it was HARD.
But as much as we didn't understand, we still appreciated our baby's nurses for sacrificing time, energy, and sleep to take care of her.
At our hospital we were assigned primary nurses for day and night shifts which helped with consistency in care. One nurse became very close to us and after we were moved to the "Going Home Pod," she would still come by and visit us or check on Ariah when we weren't there. She even encouraged one of her colleagues to request to be Ariah's primary night nurse for the duration of our stay and educated her on "all things Ariah" :) It was the little things that mean the most to us as NICU parents. They did everything they could to make sure we were included and active in her care times. We are forever grateful for NICU nurses.
I reached out to a Facebook group for preemie parents to see if anyone wanted to submit a "Thank You" clip for NICU nurses. Jennifer Lawson, mom of a 1lb 14oz warrior born at 26 weeks, took a break from work to thank NICU nurses and staff at McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence, South Carolina. Thank you, Jennifer, for your submission!
“At the beginning of the twentieth century, many people labeled babies born prematurely, weak or congenitally debilitated. Few measures existed to save them. However, as the century progressed the increased attention showered on all babies benefited those born premature as well. The exhibition of premature infants in incubator shows and articles written in newspapers and magazines presented parents, and the general public, with something previously hidden from view. These infants, tiny, frail and under-developed yet portrayed as ‘fighters’ rather than ‘weaklings,’ could with the appropriate care, survive to live a normal life. The portrayal of these infants as survivors rather than victims enabled the public to respond by labeling them as cute, desirable and worthy of life saving care. They demanded change and doctors, public health personnel and hospitals responded.
Individuals with an interest in premature babies responded to public interest by developing new techniques, new machines, and new facilities to care for them. When the first permanent hospital unit for premature babies opened in 1922, it signaled the beginning of a new era. In the 1930s, premature care expanded, and doctors found even more ways to ensure survival of ever smaller babies. By mid-century, premature infant care was established as a societal obligation.
The changes in the care of premature infants over the course of the twentieth century while truly inspirational continue to leave room for improvement. Ethical dilemmas are inherent in matters of life and death.
By the late 1990s, neonatal intensive care was available for babies in almost every area of the country. Specialist and sub-specialist pediatricians, pediatric nurses, respiratory therapists, social workers, physical and occupational therapists, nutritionists, and a host of others responded to the needs of babies and the demands of their parents and the public. At the beginning of the twenty first century, research and innovation continue to transform the lives of these babies, giving many more of them the potential for healthy, long, and possibly even notable lives.” - Research provided by Penn Nursing
Not all NICU babies are preemies, but ours was, so I am grateful they took that chance.
We all are.
And that NICU nurses and staff are still taking that chance.