When we were touring the hospital where we were planning to deliver L, they took us by the entrance to the NICU. I listened as they explained all the ways their NICU was amazing, and I gave it a cursory “isn’t it nice that’s here just in case” in my head without really believing we would ever pass through those doors. A few weeks later, that unit became our entire world – and the people within it truly became an extension of our family.
NICU nurses are amazing people. Sure, there are some bad eggs among them, and like any of us they have their off days. But by and large, they are superheros. They choose to spend their lives saving lives, day in and day out, sometimes minute by minute. They devote themselves to the tiniest little smidges of humanity, babies so small even their own parents may be afraid to touch them for fear they’ll break, and commit to making those tiny people grow into healthy, strong, resilient children with bright futures. They face the unimaginable and not only find the strength to keep going, but find the strength to be an immense support for families who need them.
NICU nurses are the kind of people who call to check on their patients on their days off. They are the kind of people who take the time to read a bedtime story to a sleeping 1-week-old preemie, because they know it’s important to the parents who had to leave the unit during a storm. They are the kind of people who understand the significance of being able to take your baby outside for the first time, and who don’t stop until they make a courtyard excursion happen – and turn it into a newborn photo shoot, to boot. They are the kind of people who help navigate the difficult emotional terrain of the first days after a traumatic birth or terrifying diagnosis, and do everything in their power to make sure that scared, overwhelmed, trauma-stricken parents are given the tools to transform into competent, confident care partners. And they are even the kind of truly heroic people who can get sprayed in the face with womb juices while assisting with a delivery and then spend 131 days with the owner of said womb and never once mention it.
I never wanted to meet our NICU nurses. I never imagined I would have to. But our primary nurses spent almost as much time with L in his first 4.5 months as I did. As mothers themselves, they knew perhaps better than we did exactly what we were missing out on, and what we needed in order to normalize our experience as much as possible. From teaching us how to care for our child, to fighting for our child as if he were their own, to fostering the confidence to spread our wings as parents, to celebrating so many of his firsts and triumphs right alongside us – they are our family, and they have been our saving grace many times over.
In an age when we have lost much of our “village” mentality, it was difficult to accept that we needed the help of so many others to care for our child. But I could not have made it through the last 3.5 years without the help of a very mighty village, of which our NICU nurses were the foundation. To our amazing primary nurses and many, many more – thank you. To so many people big and tiny, you make all the difference.
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