Dear NICU Mama,
Our eyes meet as I walk into the room to introduce myself as your baby’s nurse for the day. You smile politely and secretly wish that I was a familiar face instead of another new one. I understand. In a world full of so much that is unfamiliar, it’s nice to have some consistency. However, if I could be completely upfront with you, then this is what I would say in our casual morning greeting:
I know that you may feel like a fish out of water.
When we use medical terms, even the most educated individuals get lost. Please stop anyone who tells you something along the lines of, “Your baby’s hematocrit is low,” if that means nothing to you. With that said, l will listen to your concerns about your baby, because you are part of our team here. It requires mutual trust for this team to function at its highest. We all have the same goal: for your baby to thrive and go home.
I want you to know that I see you struggling, and it’s okay to ask for help.
If you are learning to pump, I can give you guidance now that I have done it myself. I would also be happy to get a lactation consultant to assist you. If you can’t pay your bills because you are not able to work while your baby is in the NICU, please let me get the social worker to see what we can do. If you need someone to play with your older child while you focus on your sick baby, let me see if I can find a volunteer or child life specialist who can help. Furthermore, if you have a supportive community back home, then now would be a great time reach out. One of our amazing social workers told me once, “I can’t meet a need I don’t know about.”
Please take care of yourself.
I know that you are focused on your sick baby, but you are important, too. If you haven’t been home to see your husband or older children in days–or possibly even weeks–then please do so. I promise to call with any updates on your baby and obviously you can call me, too. It’s sometimes necessary to get away from all the incessant monitors alarming to clear your head and rejuvenate your spirit. Remember you must eat and sleep in order to recover from having your baby.
Lastly, I want you to know that you aren’t bothering me.
I want you to be involved with your baby’s care, ask questions, and bond. If you were waiting for permission to do those things, then consider it granted.
Your NICU Nurse
I am always impressed by how resilient even the tiniest and most fragile baby is on our unit. Most of our babies have endured more medical procedures and surgeries in their first few months of life than I have as an adult. The babies I am honored to care for are such fighters, and I could never overstate how amazing they are. However, since becoming a mother myself, I more fully appreciate how strong our NICU mamas are.
If you are a NICU mama, read this post for five tips for surviving in the NICU. You might also relate to this mom’s experience. Or if one of your loved ones is a NICU mama, then this post will help you show your support.