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.
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
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