“I won’t be seeing you on Friday,” our NICU nurse said to us. In shock, I asked, “why?” Her answer is one that will always stick in my heart; “because you guys will be getting out of here, I can just tell.” For anyone in the NICU the words “getting out” seem like a dream come true.
My daughter was born healthy, 10 fingers, 10 toes, and the cutest little cheeks; but shortly after birth she was transported to our local Children’s hospital NICU. She wasn’t keeping milk down and was very bloated in the stomach. My heart sunk seeing my Little one with IV’s attached to her head and monitor wires everywhere. Nothing can prepare anyone for the NICU and I certainly was not ready for the unexpected stress and chaos following my delivery.
Yes, the stress. Worrying (wow, what an understatement!) about my baby on top of being physically sore and exhausted from having her was a lot to handle. I just wanted to be in the comfort of my home with my sweet girl in my arms. Instead, I was experiencing spinal headaches from my epidural and sleeping in the noisy NICU on top of and being completely overwhelmed with fear and worry for my daughter. The staff of the NICU was my saving grace - they were simply wonderful and got my husband and I through those heart-wrenching days. The staff not only took great care of my newborn, but they were great at helping me be as comfortable as possible as I recovered from my post-delivery complications. Even the housekeeping staff were excellent and made sure we had extra sheets, pillows, towels, and a clean room every day. If we couldn’t be home, at least we had some of the comforts.
One housekeeper was especially amazing, complimenting how pretty our Little was and she even suggested that I go get a milkshake in the cafeteria just to get out of the room. Leaving the room was definitely hard. As a mom, you want to be there in case your baby needs you or a doctor decides to stop in with test results. But she was so right; sometimes the best thing for my husband and I was to simply go down to the cafeteria. When we weren’t in the room, it was always reassuring knowing that a nurse was in charge of watching our Little one all day and all night.
The nurses we had while in the NICU were absolutely AMAZING! Being first time parents we knew very little about having a Little one, but each nurse had their own tips and tricks for us. Since our Little one was initially getting IV fluids and was not allowed to eat anything, she would get quite hangry. One of the nurses suggested we put chap stick on her lips, which gave her feeling that she was getting food. Another nurse coached me as I changed her diaper for the first time (first of many, LOL). When I had to get a blood patch to fix the spinal headaches and was sent home to recover, the nurses helped my husband learn to properly bottle feed, burp and swaddle her. In many ways, we look back now and feel like we got free parenting lessons from the amazing staff while we were there. NICU nurses work long shifts in a highly emotional environment but they still managed to keep us sane!
It is safe to say that without the support, guidance, and daily words of encouragement, our NICU stay would have been much harder. We only stayed a week there before we were blessed to be able to go home. My heart goes out to any family in the NICU and it is my hope that, should you ever be put in that situation, your NICU staff is amazing as ours was. September was national NICU awareness month; a month to not only recognize the Little ones and their fight, but to celebrate the amazing NICU soldiers that fight alongside them, but if there are any nurses in your life, please take the time to thank them for their tireless and selfless efforts all year long!
Author and photo credits: Karissa Sargent