I have had 4 babies, and 3 of those ended up needing to spend time in the NICU at hospital.
My first had some injuries sustained during a traumatic birth, and was struggling with the effects of the general anaesthetic I had been given. As a scared, bruised and battered new mum, the NICU was a terrifying place to be. It’s not somewhere you think you will be spending any time, not something you plan for, and you have no idea what to expect. I wasn’t prepared for all these tiny, sick babies covered in tubes, locked away inside incubators, with alarms sounding every few seconds. I wasn’t prepared for all the tearful parents, and the level of care some of the babies needed. I wasn’t prepared for our longed-for, full term baby to be here.
On our first visit, we were greeted at the entrance by a neonatal nurse. She took us to a family room first, she sat us down and she explained what had happened to our baby. She was connected to a drip, which was running into her tiny hand. She had wires all over her body, monitoring her vital signs. She had a wound to her scalp, which would require a scan. My baby had only just been born and they needed to check her brain. It was terrifying, and I burst into tears. I had failed her.
Our nurse had clearly been here before, she knew how to help. She allowed me to cry, to ask endless questions. She suggested that we come and see our baby, because despite her being a few hours old we hadn’t seen her. She told me that the thing my baby needed most was me. That really helped. I needed to hear that, and I needed to know I could help her.
Seeing her for the first time was a shock – despite the fact we had been well prepared. Our neonatal nurse sat with us, again talking us through everything, explaining what each and every machine was for. She gently unhooked my baby and placed her in my arms. She made sure we were comfortable before quietly leaving us to get to know our new baby. She allowed us that time to be a family.
As the days and nights passed, I spent almost all my time on the special care unit, and each and every nurse we encountered was the same. They truly cared, they empathised with us when we had to watch our baby be wheeled away for a brain scan. They celebrated with us when she latched and had her first feed. They were gentle with us when there were setbacks, and delays, reminding us that we were doing everything right by our daughter. They helped us to see the end goal, the day we would walk out of that hospital with our daughter in our arms. And when that day came, they honestly and truly couldn’t have been happier for us. They wanted us to be a family, they wanted us to start the next stage of our journey without the NICU.
Our next 2 children also needed NICU care after being born prematurely. Again, it’s not where we wanted to be, not where we expected to end up, but we truly were in the best hands. There wasn’t one nurse in that unit who I wouldn’t have trusted with my baby’s life – and did so on a daily basis. Having to leave our second child in the NICU when I was discharged home was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but I knew he couldn’t have been in better hands. If I couldn’t be there to care for him, I knew the NICU nurses were the next best thing.
They work tirelessly, and they care deeply about each and every one of those babies born too soon, or too sick. There is nothing they want more than to see those babies go home with their parents. And that just shows you how much love they pour into their work.