What Our NICU Nurses Taught Me
Being a first time mom in the NICU is scary AF. It’s not how I imagined my entrance into motherhood going, as I’m sure no one who finds themselves in that situation does. It is, quite frankly, permanently life changing, traumatic and… just DIFFICULT.
But, it’s not all terrible.
During our 147 days total in the NICU, we got to know all the amazing nurses in our unit, and several of them quite well. Not only did they teach me about “NICU things” like how to use the thermometer or what all the beeps and machines were, they also taught me how to care for my twins. What newborns need, thrive on, and like. Ways to soothe crying babies. What reflux looks like. And more…
They taught me how to change a diaper, for crying out loud!
I was so naive. I had never been around babies before having my own. I didn’t really know anything about them. I didn’t even know how to hold a baby. I was still awkward at holding them MONTHS later… although I partially blame that on all their wires and leads, which made it a bit more complicated than picking up a baby who isn’t attached to 4-10 different tubes and wires. And, because of their small sizes, I was so afraid of hurting them. But babies are more resilient than you think (another thing the nurses taught me).
The nurses taught me more than just Parenting 101.
I learned how to use a syringe.
I learned how to place an NG tube.
I learned how to check for air in said tube, and how to check for stomach contents/acidity.
I learned how to calm down a crying baby.
I learned how to hold a baby.
I learned how to breastfeed (before it became apparent the boys needed tubes).
I learned how to read their hunger cues.
I learned how to get them to sleep.
I learned how to swaddle them.
I learned how to “hand hug” them (holding their heads gently before we were allowed to hold them fully).
I learned how to hold them for IVs and PICC line insertions.
I learned how to position them to avoid flat heads!
I learned how to tell if they were having a seizure or not.
I learned how to recognize signs of increased intracranial pressure.
I learned how to recognize a shunt failure.
I learned early warning signs of sepsis.
I learned that not every baby makes it out of the NICU.
I learned how to use all the fancy hospital gadgets, like the expensive bottle warmers and thermometers.
I learned what all the numbers on the ventilator screen meant.
I learned what sizes ET tubes come in.
I learned what words like desat, emesis, Brady, tachy, TFI, TPN, PICC, echo, ad lib, NPO and many more meant.
I learned how to forget all the beeps and wires and just focus on loving my babies.
I learned how to tune out the bad news and find my good news in Axel and Jaxon’s eyes instead.
I learned which diagnoses were worth losing sleep over and which ones weren’t.
I learned about other babies who had been through similar journeys and who had gone home already.
I learned about love and faith (not necessarily the religious kind).
I learned about patience.
But most of all, I learned about hope.
Our nurses kept me hopeful most of the time. They saw when I needed a break, they knew the days we got tough news. They would find ways to work positivity into our days and become such an incredibly important support system to my husband and I on the worst days. On the good days, they amplified our happiness.
That is hope. That’s the NICU life. ✌🏼