Mom of five shares open letter: Dear NICU nurse


Dear NICU Nurse,

To be honest, I never knew you existed.

Back when our birth plan included a fat baby, balloons and a two-day celebratory hospital stay, I hadn’t yet seen you.

I had never seen a NICU.

Most of the world still hasn’t.

There may have been a brief "This is the neonatal floor" introduction while drudging by on a hospital tour.

But no-one really knows what happens behind those alarm-secured, no window-gazing doors of the NICU.

Except me.

And you.

I didn’t know that you would be the one to hold and rock my baby when I wasn’t there.

I didn’t know that you would be the one to take care of her the first 3 and a half months of her life as I sat beside her, watching and wishing that I was you.

I didn’t know that you would be the one to hand her to me for the first time, 5 weeks after she was born.

That you would know her signals, her faces, and her cries.

Sometimes, better than me.

Read Michelle's story here: Miracle baby born at 25 weeks, weighing only 715g

I didn’t know you.

I didn’t know how intertwined our lives would become.

I know you now.

I’ll never be able to think of my child’s life without thinking of you.

I know that in the NICU, you really run things.

That your opinions about my baby’s care often dictates the course and direction or treatment (like when you tried her off oxygen) as you consult with the paed every day. 

I know that you don’t hesitate to wake a sometimes sleeping doctor in the nearby call room because my baby’s blood gas number is bad.

Or because her colour is off.

Or because she has had 4 brady episodes in the last 45 minutes.

Or because there’s residual brown gunk in her OG tube.

I know now that you are different from other nurses.

I know that, at times, you are assigned to just one baby for 12 hours straight.

You are assigned to her because she is the most critically sick and medically fragile baby in the unit.

I’ve seen you sit by my baby’s bedside for your entire shift.

Working tirelessly to get her comfortable and stable.

Forgoing breaks while you mentally will her numbers to improve.

I’ve seen you cry with our family when she hasn’t made another milestone quite yet.

I’ve seen you cry alone.

I’ve seen you, in an instant, come together as a team when chaos ensues.

And let’s be honest, chaos and NICU are interchangeable words.

When the beeper goes off signalling an emergency 26-weeker baby or 29-weeker twins are incoming.

When three babies in the same pod are crashing at the same time.

When the power goes off and you’re working from generators.

In those all-too-often chaotic moments, you know that time is more critical in this unit than in any other, and you don’t waste it.

You bond together instantly as a team, methodically resolving the crisis until the normal NICU rhythm is restored.

Yes. I know you now.

I’ll never be able to give in return what you have given me.

Thank you for answering my endless questions, even when I had asked them before.

Thank you for your skill, you are pretty great at what you do.

Thank you for fighting for my baby.

Thank you for pretending like it was normal when I handed you a vial of just pumped breast milk.

Thank you for agreeing to play lullabies in my baby’s crib when I was gone.

Thank you for waking the doctor.

Thank you for texting me pictures of my sweet miracle, even when it was against hospital policy.

Thank you for crying with me on the day we were discharged.

Most of the world still doesn’t know what you do.

They can’t understand how integral you are to the positive outcomes of these babies who started life so critically ill.

But I do.

I know you now.

I will never forget you.

In fact, our story can never be told without mentioning you.

So the next time you wave your access card to enter the place that few eyes have seen, know that you are appreciated.

I know you, and you are pretty amazing.

Your fan forever,

A NICU mom 

Chat back:

Share your story with us and we could publish it. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

WhatsApp: Send messages and voicenotes to 066 010 0325

Email: Share your story with us via email at chatback @

Read more:

8 out of 100 babies are born too soon in SA: You can help

Mom of eight shares her transformative birth experiences at a government hospital

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Authorities should bring in the army already
10% - 1573 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
54% - 8562 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
33% - 5323 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
3% - 508 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.