Dear NICU mama,
I see two types of families come through the NICU—those who had a pretty good idea their babies would be there (for example a mother or baby who has an ongoing condition), and those who are entirely taken by surprise.
A family that expected a NICU stay most likely spoke to a neonatologist beforehand and discussed what may happen, what to expect, and may have even toured the unit and met some staff. The second group is completely blindsided and usually in shock.
But to be honest, no matter what 'group' you are in, it's not fair. You walk into a unit that is bright and loud, filled with babies big and (very) small. It is beyond intimidating.
There are so many things I want to say to you, mama of a NICU baby—
I know you have a million questions and that's ok.
You will be overwhelmed with all kinds of information and I don't expect you to remember it all after the first time you hear it. If you need me to, I will explain it again (and again) until you're comfortable. There's somebody watching over your baby 24 hours a day, so when you're tossing and turning at 3am and your mind is racing with what if's—call me.
I will celebrate every milestone with you and those milestones will genuinely make me happy.
The first time that breathing tube is taken out, when you breastfeed for the first time, when those phototherapy lights are turned off, when they don't need that feeding tube anymore, or when (one of my favorite duties) I take your baby out of their isolette for you to hold for the first time. There is nothing better.
Speaking of holding the baby.....Please don't ever be afraid to ask to hold your baby. Sometimes things can get crazy busy, and I may forget to ask. So remind me. It's ok, and you're not bothering anybody. I know firsthand how good kangaroo care is for the baby (and for you!) and want you to be able to do it as much as possible.
I know you feel helpless.
The simple joy of being able to feed, hold, and care for your baby has been taken from you. We will try to involve you in your baby's care as much a we can but I know it's not the same as being at home. But please believe how important you are. You are a member of the team, just as much as I am. You make a difference in your baby’s life every day.
I recognize all the hard work you're doing.
Pumping around the clock, to give your baby the nourishment only you can provide. Pumping, collecting in our tiny containers, washing pump parts in the middle of the night...your efforts do not go unnoticed. Be proud of that freezer stash that has accumulated!
You’re also coming to spend time with your baby, every chance you can. Maybe you are recovering from a c-section. Maybe you have another little one at home. Life is so hard right now, but you are trying so hard, and I see you.
I know it's really hard to watch the other babies in the unit come and go.
It's hard not to be envious of the family whose baby only had to stay for a day or two while you may be there for weeks (or even months). You're sitting there watching your baby through their plastic isolette while the family next to you is joyfully putting on that adorable 'going home' outfit and adjusting those car seat straps, ready to head out the door.
After what may seem like endless hours, days, and weeks, slowly but surely that will be you.You will be putting your baby in that adorable outfit and hat that's too big. You'll tighten those car seat straps and walk out the door and take your precious, beautiful baby home. There's nothing that makes me happier.
Just don't forget to come back and visit.
Being your baby’s nurse is such an honor. Thank you for trusting me to take care of her for you. Remember that I am here for you too.