If you asked me what was the most stressful time of my life, I would immediately respond with the first two months of my son’s life. He spent those first few months in the neonatal intensive care unite (NICU) and had it not been for his medical team, I would not get to snuggle his fully-recovered self every day as I do. I mainly interacted with a series of NICU nurses; some I loved, others who aggravated me, but all who did their job. Looking back, there are so many things I wish my NICU nurses would have known, from how grateful I was to why I sometimes acted completely unlike myself, to everything in between.
I spent an obscene amount of time in the NICU. The hospital my son was in was 30 minutes away from my own home, so I did what many other moms might do: I moved into the hospital. I saw parents come and parents go every single day, but I remained. I would go home every 48 hours or so for a quick shower and a change of clothes and then I would rush back. I slept on stiff chairs and uncomfortable couches, ignoring the very real pain from my birth injuries that said couches and chairs were doing nothing to help heal. I took a steady regimen of Xanax and codeine to handle it all. Aside from the occasional company of my parents and my husband, I was alone and interacting mainly with the nurses.
I know there are many things that NICU nurses should and need to hear from us. However, so many of us NICU moms were too broken to speak up at the time, while the rest of us were too frustrated, or just didn’t know what to say. If you’re a NICU nurse, here’s what those glances and looks we gave you (or are currently giving you) actually mean:
We’re Sorry We Can Be Such Jerks At Times
The postpartum days can be wrought with emotion, but they never run higher than when your baby is in the NICU. Not only are you dealing with the fact you just gave birth, you’re also potentially terrified you will lose your baby, or that they will be chronically ill; wondering if you’ll ever get to bring them home.
So, NICU Nurses, we need you to know it’s nothing personal. Sometimes we lash out at whoever is there. Thanks for always being there and for not deserting us and our babies.
We Want To Be Involved As Much As Possible In Our Baby’s Care
I still remember the first time a NICU nurse asked if I wanted to help change my son’s diaper. I was terrified of pulling on a tube or hurting him in some way, but she was incredibly kind and patient with me.
From then on, some nurses asked if I wanted to help while others just did it all on their own, but I always wanted to chance to lend a hand and do mom-like things. Please remember that we are dying to touch our babies in any way we can. Give us that chance.
It’s Helpful When You Give Us A Rundown Of How Our Baby Is Doing
Some nurses are, well, chattier than others. Some would come and give me updates on medicines, when the doctors would come see my son, if any tests were coming up and any other updates; from the small to the significant. Others wouldn’t say anything unless I asked. Be like the former nurses and tell us until and unless we ask you to stop.
We Need To Hear At Least One Positive Thing Each Day
The NICU is a very scary place, and can get especially grim on certain days. However, and usually, there is some silver lining in our child’s case. Always tell us what the silver lining is. We need to keep faith alive.
We’re Sorry If We Talk A Lot When You’re Around
Spending so many hours in silence with a newborn can drive you bonkers. This is especially true when your little one is sick and your mind continues to go over the worst scenarios, over and over again.
So, when we finally have an adult human around us, we’ll sometimes just completely unload our every waking thought, without actually thinking.
Remind Us About Kangaroo Care Often (Because We Might Forget To Ask)
Every time I saw a NICU nurse, I wanted to ask if they could help us with kangaroo care. I wasn’t allowed to do it alone because my son had so many wires attached to him, but I hated asking because some nurses seemed to feel like it was a pain to do. Other times, of course, I would just forget in my exhaustion. It would be lovely if every NICU nurse asked if we wanted to do this since chances are the answer is, “Yes!”
Please Don’t Belittle Our Concerns About Our Children
We will ask you a million questions and they will be repetitive and we’ll almost always follow them up with, “But are you sure?” That’s because we’re terrified our child will never come home. So when (some) NICU nurses act like something is just no big deal, it does not help anything.
We Apologize For Smelling Like We Haven’t Showered In Days
I mentioned how I rarely went home for those first two months of my son’s life, right? Well, I also kind of let personal hygiene go by the wayside at times. It happens to many of us, though, and we are sorry in advance for what you may or may not smell.
It Might Be Routine For You, But Understand It Isn’t For Us
One of the worst things about being in the NICU was standing by while they changed my son’s NG tube (that is, the feeding tube that went through his nostril). I knew it must have felt horrendous to and for him (as it would to anyone).
Still, some nurses acted like this was no big deal and it was not, to me, appreciated. Dear NICU nurses, please understand that this is our baby and that we suffer whenever they appear to be uncomfortable or in pain. Please be gentle, with them and with us.
We Appreciate Everything You Do For Our Babies (Even If We Don’t Say It)
When my son was in the NICU , I must’ve had every single nurse in the department in our care. Most of the time, I was too exhausted, or too preoccupied, to say thank you. But honestly, I thought about saying it all the time.
So, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.