Bee beeep beep.
Bee beep beep.
Bee beeeep beeeeeeeep.
Ding ding ding diiiiing. Ding ding ding diiing. Ding ding ding diiiiing.
Two years have passed, but the noises are the same. The sounds of ventilators, heart rate monitors, oxygen saturation monitors, and more. I walked into the dim Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with a lot of apprehension. I immediately felt a rush of memories, feelings, and heartache.
It looked the same, but it did not feel the same. Because I was not one of the parents waiting and watching and wishing for the day when the doctors would finally say “Your baby is ready to go home.” I was not arriving scared to death that I would receive a report that my baby had had some setbacks and was struggling.
This time I entered the NICU as an employee.
My role is different, but my heart is not.
As I walked by each incubator I steered far clear of the 2nd spot in room two.
Kathryn’s spot. The place where I held my two day old daughter as she breathed her last breath.
The spot was still empty.
Breathe in, breathe out. Remember why you are here.
You can do this. You can do this. I mentally cheered myself on as I forced myself to approach the first father that I saw, watching his baby girl grow in her incubator.
I began to chat with him, and it started to come more easily. I saw one of the nurses who had been a frequent nurse of Tiny’s, and she hugged me and welcomed me back to the NICU.
I began to settle in.
Today was my second week as a Family Partner with a non-profit organization that supports parents with babies in the NICU and families with children with special medical needs. I have three roles. One as a representative of my organization in the NICU follow up clinic. I provide parents with brochures and information about our services.
The second, and most important role, is a presence in the NICU itself. We visit with parents in the NICU and let them know that they are not alone. We have a support system for them, if they choose to use it.
But beyond that, I like to believe I provide them some hope. My first week I chatted with a woman who had just delivered her daughter three days earlier. The baby weighed 1lb 14 oz. It was so hard to believe, as I stared in at the tiny little creature, that my own daughter had been that small. Tiny had been 1lb 10 oz.
This mama also had two older children at home, and like me, spent four weeks in the hospital prior to giving birth. We had a lot in common and it was easy for me to comfort her.
Then I spoke with a dad who was very nervous because their baby was scheduled for surgery in a few days. To place a G-tube (a feeding tube surgically inserted into the stomach.) I knew all about that since Tiny had a g-tube. I was able to answer his questions and calm many of his concerns.
Soon my post traumatic stress of being back in this place of so many tears and fears melted into a satisfaction that I was doing good. I was helping.
I know that I was called to do this job.
It fell in my lap at just the right moment. It allows me to continue to be a stay at home mom while only working 3-8 hours a week, doing something that I love.
I am blessed.
We all just need a little bit of positive affirmation in our lives.
(And if you can’t reaffirm yourself, watch this video of this spirited two year old!)
So my life as a NICU support parent has begun, and I hope that I will bring hope to many.
Before I leave you, I also want to give a shout out to another blogger who is changing the world with her focus on philanthropy and social good. Sunday, my friend Jennifer from another jennifer, heads to Nicaragua with the global non profit WaterAid, to gain insight, concentrate on community empowerment (especially women) and job skills training for at risk youth, and learn about some of the realities of living in this area of Nicaragua. I am so excited for her and for what this trip will teach her and what she will be able to teach others. Please keep Jennifer in your thoughts as she travels on this trip.
Do good, feel good. It’s the truth y’all.