During the 68 days my preemie spent in the NICU, there were a few, and only a few, moments when I felt everything was going to be okay. That my son was going to be okay. The rest of the time was spent alternating between fears he would never be able to come home, or that I would never be able to take good enough care of him once he did come home. His nurses in that NICU took such amazing care of him, and made it seem so effortless, I was convinced I would fail my son yet again. I failed at carrying him to term. I failed at providing breast milk for him. I then became convinced that I would never be able to give him the care he needed once I was all that he had. Thankfully, I was wrong!
My preemie is now a healthy, thriving, 3-year-old. But I can’t take all the credit. Along with taking such excellent care of our preemies, NICU nurses also take such amazing care of us parents. They teach us so much and help us to gain confidence in our own abilities as caregivers. That confidence does happen over night, however.
One such nurse who helped build my confidence also just happened to be my former boss. I walked into the NICU on a Saturday morning, and saw her taking care of my preemie. I could not believe my eyes! While I never expected one of his regular nurses to be there on the weekend, I most certainly never expected to see someone I used to work for. This was one of those rare moments which I felt was a sign that my son was going to be just fine.
You see, six years before I gave birth to my son at 29 weeks, I found out that Pat, the director of the library I used to work for, left the field of librarianship to go back to school to become a neonatal nurse. From what I heard, it was something she always felt she was meant to do. I remembered being so blown away by the news at the time, and so impressed by her willingness to want to care for the sickest and tiniest patients among us, never imagining that, one day, it would be my sick and tiny baby she cared for.
I only got to chat with her briefly since her shift was just about over (and I never did get a chance to take a picture!). However, I did see her again before my preemie was discharged. I was intentionally sitting alone in one of the hospital hallways, just wishing there was somewhere else I could go that would allow me to just scream my head off or punch something. It was one of those moments. Along comes Pat. She was on her lunch break. She came over and sat right next to me. After I explained how I was feeling at the time, she told me something I will never forget. She said, “You know, as hard as it is right now, once you get him home and settled in, he is going to be just fine! You and his dad are such good parents, I have no doubt he is just going to thrive once he’s out of this place.” And she was right.
What I learned from Pat, and from all of my preemie’s nurses, is that despite all of my faults, perceived or otherwise, I am the best person to care for my child. Just like you are the best person to take care of your child. And believe me, I had to remind myself of that plenty of times once we were home. I still do.
Also, another valuable lesson we all can learn from my experience is that you should always be careful how you treat your boss because you never know when you might discover her taking care of your kid!