I think I speak for a lot of parents of NICU/preemie babies when I say that the moment you are thrust into uncharted territory, it’s hard to know where to turn. While we knew that there was a possibility our son was coming early, when the time came I had no clue who to turn to.
If only you were handed a contact list full of NICU graduates upon your arrival, that would have been great! Of course we received plenty of information on what to expect from a medical standpoint and how the doctors and nurses would go about Jayden’s care. But my wife and I struggled with how we were going to process our feelings. As first time parents, we were dealing a lot with fear, doubts, and uncertainty as opposed to typical feelings that full term parents have such as joy, pride, and stability. There were some happy moments in the NICU, no doubt, but all the same there were only a few people we felt we could talk to during our stay: The NICU nurses.
It’s only fair to point out the team of doctors we got to know while Jayden was in the NICU were wonderful people. They always made time to answer questions we had and did it with grace and compassion. The reality though is we only got a chance to see them once or twice a day. But the NICU nurses? They are the ones in the trenches every day with your child. They are the one’s who’s trust you put your child’s livelihood into when you leave. It is so very important to build a relationship with those nurses because having that trust can make the difference in how your experience in the NICU plays out. There were a couple of nurses we met along the way who meant so much to us.
One in particular, “Auntie” Carol, as we affectionately called her, made all the difference. She was Jayden’s primary nurse. We met her the night Jayden was born and made an instant connection. I can’t put my thumb on exactly what she said to make my wife and I chuckle, but I knew at that moment I wanted her to be a big part of Jayden’s nurturing.
Carol was the perfect blend of straight shooter, comforter, cheerleader, and advocate. Not only for Jayden but for us as well. She always knew what angle to take, whether we needed a laugh, to be told tough news, or just to be a good listener when we wanted to talk about how we were processing the journey. She was there the day I had my darkest moment.
While holding my son, I managed to put him at an angle that cut off his air supply and sent him into a bradycardia episode, setting alarms off and forcing nurses to stimulate him to get his heartbeat back to a reasonable level. The clock for how long he needed to be episode free before going home had just reset itself. I felt so guilty and clumsy. She knew how awful I felt. She looked me straight in the eyes and said “Hey, it’s not the end of the world, okay? Your son is going to be fine. You’re going to be a great father.” While the memory still stings a bit, her no nonsense comments helped me refocus on what was most important, our son’s well being.
Carol put her blood, sweat, and tears into giving our son the best care possible. It brought my wife and I a great amount of relief to know we had such a wonderful person looking out for our preemie. The NICU nurses meant so much to our family.