This is for all the NICU parents,
I remember when my babies were born. They were the opposite of premature. All of them 41 weeks plus. It still felt like a wall of crashing bricks when I realized I was now responsible for keeping a small human alive and fed.
When your wall of bricks came crashing down, you handed your baby over to me, to the NICU team. You watched as we whisked your baby away. Tears ran down your cheeks as you said “go” to your husband when you couldn’t come with us. Your heart pounded faster in your chest as you were forced to choose between your baby and your wife. Or maybe you were both told to wait. We promised to update you as soon as we could.
When we got to the NICU it was a flurry of activity. If you came along you probably watched, stunned. Either all this was happening way earlier than you planned, or maybe NICU wasn’t supposed to be part of your story at all but complications arose.
I see you standing there to the side, or lying in the labor bed as we walk away. I see the cascading emotions pouring over you. Fear. Joy. Terror. Worry. Helplessness. The elation of delivering your awaited for baby is a wave going the wrong direction….the waves of gut wrenching fear going the opposite way seems stronger as they clash and swirl together.
I see you the next day, doing everything you can to squeeze a few drops of colostrum from your breast. I see you looking lost and confused at the desk syringes of breast milk in your hand, the ones you brought so the mother of your baby can recover in bed. I see how desperately you want to hold your baby but how much pain you are still in, or how worried are that you’ll pull out a tube or a wire, but you hold them anyway because we told you that doing skin to skin will help them.
I see you as the weeks creep on. Tired, juggling life and multiple trips to the hospital. Sleeping in chairs or on cots at bedside. Pumping around the clock. Going to work when you’d rather be at the hospital. I see your feet dragging a little bit slower and feel your frustration when time after time you offer a breast or a bottle only to be met with sleepy eyes and a closed mouth.
I hear your tears as you kiss them goodbye at the end of the day leaving them in my care. I see you scrub and scrub again at the sink. Dispelling all germs like it’s your job to protect your sweet baby, because it is. I see you come night after night for the night shift because mom was here all day and needs to sleep. We pull out the extra cot or the colouring books when you have to drag along a twin, or siblings.
I offer you to get you water, or warm a scone from Made by Momma because I see how hard you are working and I wish I could do more for you. I answer your questions over and over because I know that you desperately want to hear a different answer.
To those parents that are with us for months, I see you the most. I see how guilty you feel when you take our advice and go on one more date night before your baby comes home. I see your disappointment with every setback, every new brady. I feel your anticipation mixed with nerves that home is going to be way different than hospital. I see you glance at the monitor wishing you could take it home with you. I laugh as you joke that you wish you could take a nurse with you too, but deep down I know you aren’t really kidding. I remind you that you’ve got this…because you do.
To all the NICU parents I’ve had the honour of working with, of partnering with, to give your babies the best start we can, I want you to know I see you. Even when I’m busy and I seem rushed. Even on the days where I’m tired and answer questions with bare basics. I see your tears. I cuddle your babies when you aren’t here, I hold them and tell them how much their parents love them. To those parents who have had to say goodbye too early and forever, I remember your babies too. I cry for them in the quiet of the night sometimes wondering how you hold your heartbreak. I see. I remember.
I know walking away is sometimes the hardest thing you have to do. I’ll smile and joke and downplay it, but know, I see your heart. I see how much you love your NICU baby and how torn you are. Thank you for teaching me what sacrificial love looks like. I have learned so much about the human spirit from your resiliency, from your ability to keep going even when it seems like nothing’s going right and no one is listening to you. You encourage me with your gratitude and trust for the work I do and you make me want to alway be a better nurse and a better mom.
So to you and your little warriors Happy World Prematurity Day. I know this world seems like something few people truly understand and it’s true, many of us have not walked your path, but the challenges and joys of a NICU baby’s journey are something that everybody can learn from.
Your NICU Nurse.