With all of the overwhelming changes that come from having a preemie in the NICU, one thing that can greatly impact your mood, vibe, or experience is the care provided by the nurses. But another thing that can impact it as well: you.
We spent a lot of time in the NICU with Lochlan having been born 15 weeks early. The very first time I went in to see my little man, I was pretty much bawling my eyes out. I couldn’t control my emotions. It wasn’t the out loud cry, but it was the “if I look at anyone, or try to speak; tears will run down my face kind of cry.” The nurses were very understanding and empathetic. One in particular grabbed me and gave me a big hug. It was just what I needed.
Another thing that I didn’t realize I needed was building connections with Lochlan’s nurses. It wasn’t anything that I could control, it just sort of happened. You will find that there are some nurses who become your favourites, the ones that you just have that certain connection with. There were a few of those for us. One of my favourites believed in the power of energy and touch. She encouraged us to hold little folded up mini blankets and pillows and then once they were placed by Lochlan, our energy would transfer to him and stay there for a little while even after we were gone and would comfort him and let him know that we were there for him. I remember one time holding on to a pillow and kneading it in my hands only to have another nurse take it and throw it in a drawer. Needless to say I was disappointed and a little upset that not all of the nurses felt the same way. So it always brought me comfort and peace when our “energy” nurse was on duty. She would also have us place one hand on his head, and one at his feet as a way to hold him. It was another one of the energy tricks too that just felt right. Lochlan’s skin was way too fragile for us to touch him in a normal way, so this was a way to do it without hurting him. (He was only a pound and twelve ounces when he was born.)
The very first time I got to hold him was almost three weeks after he was born. What an amazing memory. I couldn’t believe it was actually happening for one as I hadn’t expected to be able to hold him for quite a few more weeks. I was completely unprepared as well since I didn’t have a camera with me. But what made it perfect and sealed in my mind was that the moment was just about us. It will forever be with me. He was so tiny. Despite all of the wires and tubes everywhere, it felt so right.
I spent quite a few visits wanting to hold Lochlan but was too afraid to ask the nurse. Don’t be afraid. Ask. If they say no, there is a valid reason. And if they say yes, there you are with your baby back in your arms, a giant smile on your face, and warmth in your heart.
Being in the NICU, you will feel like so many things are out of your control. Numbers on screens won’t make a lot of sense to you, beeps and alarms will go off and you won’t know what it means. There will be a lot of terminology floating around, and many other worries and concerns. You won’t be sure if it is alright to ask to hold them, or help give them a bath, or feed them, or change their diaper, or even sing to them. Breathe. You are their mom (or dad). Trust yourself. Ask questions. Speak up. Touch them. Hold them. Love them.