{Professional Insight}: Loving Yourself

February 25, 2015
Courtesy of Jill Wilke

Courtesy of Jill Wilke

The month of February is full of roses, dinner dates, love letters, champagne, and sugary delights in heart shaped boxes… Not exactly the things that a mom in the NICU—sitting in a rocking chair, watching numbers on a monitor, praying her baby will be OK—is experiencing.

It’s not uncommon for a NICU mom to feel isolated and alone. Most people don’t understand what it’s like to sit, day after day, waiting patiently for a glimpse of little eyes opening, for the opportunity to snuggle, for a chance to be a parent and feel loved. As a NICU nurse for 15 years, I have heard mothers blame themselves, beat themselves up, and diminish their role as a parent, but I’m here to tell you:

You are a hero.

We want you to love yourself – look at what you have accomplished!

You are powerful. You carried your baby into the world despite complications. Your milk fills your baby’s belly and nourishes his body and soul. You fought for your baby before birth and you’re still fighting now.

You are a Mama Bear. Your voice is known by that little being in the isolette and sings a soothing and comforting song. You know your child better than anyone else. Who else could do that? The staff is in awe of the connection you have.

You are diligent. You take care of others at home while vigilantly watching over your baby in the hospital. You may not be able to do all that you want to do, but everyone, including your baby, feels your love.

You are passionate. You take pictures, create memories, and journal to welcome the baby into your heart and life. You read, question, knit, learn, and sing: all to prepare for the anticipated homecoming.

You are a survivor. You stop negative self-talk because you know it won’t help you or your baby. You pray, cry, yell, rejoice, reach out, and cope with things you never anticipated.

The NICU staff is proud of you and wants you to be as proud of yourself as you are of your baby.

So instead of feeling left out of the love celebration, take part in your own way – by loving yourself! Take care of you:

  • Sleep, eat nourishing meals, laugh, surround yourself with those who are supportive and lift you up.
  • Seek out those who “get it.”
  • Be kind to yourself when you are struggling.
  • Take time to nurture your spirituality.
  • Meditate: Meditation reduces stress, anxiety, and pain. Experience what you are feeling. It’s ok to feel as you do. Write down what you and your family go through. You will all be able to look back at this time and realize the great things that you have accomplished.

Never forget that you are powerful, diligent, passionate survivor.

You are a mother.

You don’t need gifts or fancy dates to feel love: You, mom, have captured the biggest love already in the tiny heart beside you. Besides, you can buy your own chocolates later at 50% off.


jill wilkeJill joined Bereavement Services in September of 2010 after 22 years of caring for patients at the bedside. Jill’s extensive nursing experience began in the Level III NICU at Evanston Northwestern Hospital, IL, where she cared for babies and their families for nine years. After moving to Onalaska, Wisconsin, Jill started working in the NICU and PICU at Gundersen Health System. After 5 years, she decided to expand her experience and moved to the Trauma and Emergency Center, where she was also a sexual assault nurse. Jill also served as the Organ/Tissue Donation Liaison at Gundersen Health System from 2008–2011. Today Jill serves as the Lead Educator for Bereavement Services, developing and updating training programs, and presenting nationally and internationally. Jill received her CPLC in 2013 and is currently working toward her MS in Nursing and Organizational Leadership at Winona State University.