Becoming a NICU Mom Made Me a Better NICU Nurse

September 11, 2018
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Photo courtesy Guardia family

by Laura Guardia

The day my daughter was born took three years in the making. My husband and I struggled with infertility: seven IUIs (intrauterine insemination), a surgery for endometriosis, and one round of IVF (in vitro fertilization) later, we got our miracle we and our loved ones had been praying for.

I started having contractions at 33 weeks 4 days, but being a first-time mom, I figured they were just Braxton Hicks, since I had been having them since about 30 weeks. Much to my surprise, I have a much higher pain tolerance than I once believed! These were real contractions.

The next morning, I called my OBGYN, who instructed me to go the Triage Unit in the hospital.

I was admitted and placed on a monitor, where it was confirmed I was having contractions. After taking some labs, doing a cervical check, and giving me fluids, my contractions slowed down a bit. The nurse practitioner gave me the choice of going home or staying for monitoring for two more hours. I chose home.

We were maybe home for two or three hours, and my contractions kicked into overdrive. My husband called the OBGYN’s office, and they told us to go immediately to triage again.

When I arrived, the nurses visibly saw the changes in me. The nurse practitioner checked my cervix to discover I was now dilated to three centimeters.

During my first visit to triage, we discovered my baby was breech. Knowing I was now dilating, I knew I would likely need a C-section. In the 30 minutes it took the on-call OB to come see me, I went from three to eight centimeters! They started prepping us for a C-section.

Did I forget to mention that I am a NICU nurse? My coworkers were throwing me a baby shower on this very day. But instead of my coworkers giving me a shower, I was going to give them their next patient.

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Photo courtesy Guardia family

This is where my story differs from most. In a time that is typically terrifying because you are facing the unknown, I found the opposite. Having familiar faces coming to take my daughter gave me such peace of mind. I knew exactly what would take place, who would be attending the delivery, where she would be taken and what they would do once she arrived in the NICU. She was in the absolute best hands possible.

This gave me a tranquility that most moms don’t have in the NICU. Many moms are faced with the uncertainty of decisions being made or the pain of leaving their child in the hands of strangers. We were blessed to know our surroundings, our medical team and our nurses. It really did give us peace of mind leaving our daughter in their hands.

No, this was not how I expected my experience to be, but I wouldn’t change it for the world because it gave me Mia Cristina, my daughter.

When she took her first cry, it was so surreal. I became a mother. I had looked forward to this day for so many years. She was in respiratory distress and was placed on a Bubble CPAP for about 24 hours, then on a nasal cannula. I count my blessings that her respiratory and feedings were her major struggles while in the NICU.

Mia just turned four months old and is a happy, chunky little girl who loves to smile and coo. Her favorite thing to do currently is lay on her side. Any day now she will be rolling over. She is already a daddy’s girl and gives him the biggest grins.

Our 18 days in the NICU were some of the longest days of my life, and trust me, I know that is a short stay. But having gone through this experience with my daughter and my husband has made me a better mom and NICU nurse. Although our stay was short, I have so much more compassion and respect for the mom whose babies are in the NICU for months and undergo surgeries, procedures and exams.

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Photo courtesy Guardia family

Now I not only see things through my mom eyes, but also through a NICU parent’s perspective. I can relate better to what a parent is going through when their child has learned how to regulate their temperature and are breathing on their own but are still waiting for “the light to turn on” for their feeds. When a mom can finally come up to see her child for the first time after her C-section. When a parent gets to hold their baby for the first time. When they have to see her baby being poked for labs over and over. When they finally get to hear their baby cry for the first time because they just took out the endotracheal tube after their first two weeks of life. To the parent who had to say her final goodbye after weeks of fighting for their baby’s life.

NICU parents are just as resilient as their babies. They are built tough and strong and speak up for their baby when they are not able to. Nobody fights harder than a NICU parent.

I want NICU parents to know that as a NICU nurse, I see you. I feel your pain, your struggle, your fears, your fierce protection and love for your baby. This makes me want to advocate even harder now for all my patients.