Its usually is one of our proudest parent moments, the one where we drive home excessively slow being carful not to jostle new baby and ever mindful of the precious cargo in the back. Then you get the magical moment that you bring the sweet baby home to siblings and begin your new life with your family and heart just a little larger than it was before. Instead we drove home with an empty car seat. The the sounds of my tears drowned out the rain outside. To be clear, I was OVER THE MOON that our baby girl was alive and stable but I already knew the drill from previous experiences and this wasn’t right. You’re not supposed to drive home empty handed without the baby that we’d prayed so hard for who has now been left under the care of complete and total strangers. It had been 5 days since I’d been home where my 2 and 3 year old were. I needed to be home with them. 1/2 of my heart was home but the newest piece that had just broken off was left behind at the hospital in NICU and it was aching.
Over the next 45 days my heart began to ache less. I remember meeting the first nurse our KC had so clearly. She was nearby when I delivered and she was the first face I saw when I finally made it down to the NICU. She smiled every time she looked at KC or talked to us about her. Her happiness for us and our girl was genuine and it was written all over her face. We were so nervous for KC and that nurses joy meant the the world to us. It wasn’t “yay! You guys bought a new car from me. Thanks for the sale and I hope you love it.” It was a joy unlike any other. She wasn’t getting paid extra for being happy with us. There was no customer satisfaction card for us to fill out based on her excitement level. It was a “these are the moments that make a 12 hour shift in a busy NICU worth all the sweat and tears” joy.
A couple days later I came in early to discover a new nurse. I wasn’t comfortable with the change at first but then I noticed she’d actually taken the time to decorate the bed space and KCs protective eye mask. She could’ve used her free time any other way but chose to use it making us all a little more comfortable. Those small things She did helped create the feeling of individuality for our girl. KC wasn’t just another baby in the rows of full bed spaces. She was the girl with the long eyelashes (which hadn’t actually grown in yet!) and the Winnie the Pooh decor.
Every time shift change occurred I cringed yet almost every time someone just as fabulous and caring came in to take over. A night nurse in the first week made pretty cards with KCs footprints on it for her to “send home” to her big sisters. That was the moment that I realized that these nurses weren’t just caring for our fragile baby, they were also extending the same love and care for our whole family.
As time went on and KC improved, we were upgraded to a less intensive area. We were excited for the progress but that meant a whole new set of nurses. Again, I was nervous about the changes and again we were quickly surrounded with a team of amazing nurses and therapists that we felt were genuinely happy to be caring for our girl. We quickly established “our” care team. They always called KC by name. She was no longer “baby girl” or “bed space 215.” They kept me company during the long hours of sitting and waiting for signs of improvement. They convinced us to go out to dinner and just breathe. They reassured us that KC would be just fine despite the tubes and wires and constant dinging noises that haunt you in your sleep when you doze off the noisy reclining chair all while they are busy providing our girl, and others assigned to them, with the best possible care.
They were all so very different but they all worked together with us towards the same goal; graduation.
We met the tidy and always on schedule nurse, the funny nurse, the lets dress that baby up nurse, the be quiet and let her sleep nurse, the lets try something new today and see how she responds nurse, the don’t you worry momma, it’s all going to be ok nurse and most importantly, the lets talk about what this will be like when you’re finally home nurse. The ones willing to talk about the future always brought more hope than they’ll ever know. Even though they were all so different, they all added so much value to KCs care and to the helpfulness of us surviving the divided home. We will forever be thankful to the people that cared for our girl in 12 hour shifts. When we finally got our proud parents moment, they there were there just a few days later to check on their former patient in her newest bed space; home. Ps almost three years later and they haven’t quit checking in on her yet.