As FirstHealth of the Carolinas celebrates its 2021 NICU Reunion, this letter to parents is written on behalf of all of the hardworking staff who take care of premature and sick babies in the Clarke NICU.
Dear NICU parents,
There are many journeys in life that shape us into the people we become. If and when you choose to journey into parenthood, the challenges can seem endless. Your character and strength come into question more times than one could ever imagine.
When your parenting journey begins in the NICU, every single preconceived thought you had about what that would look like completely changes in an instant. Planning the birth, preparing things at home, baby showers. Those things all go out the window.
The thoughts of holding your baby close and looking into their eyes, snapping photos and bonding after the birth in a loving and intimate setting fade because those things are not happening.
Instead, your pictures are riddled with feeding tubes, IVs, monitors, leads and strange beds next to big, noisy machines. Your bonding time is centered around these things called “touch times or cares” that seem to change every other day depending on the nurses’ assignments. There are “feeding pathways” and IV fluids and medicine, minimums and maximums - time limits and limited stimulation.
There are neonatologists and nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, techs and nurses. Oh, my goodness, the nurses! There are so many of them it’s hard to keep them straight! The ones you like, the ones you don’t like, the crazy ones, the funny ones and the ones that seem just like you.
For some parents the NICU journey is brief. For others, it lasts several weeks or months. Maternity and paternity leaves are long exhausted and the difficult planning for work and child care is an arduous task. Then when you finally get discharged you are faced with the challenges of trying to keep your family healthy!
Sadly, there are some parents whose NICU journey leads to loss. For these parents there is extensive grief and sadness that can only be understood by others who have experienced the same.
When you complete this leg of the journey and transition into life outside the NICU, you have a different way of looking at things. Whether or not you recognize it, you have made it through “battle.” You have sacrificed things that other parents often take for granted.
You have endured the uncertainties of life on a level known only by a select few. You and your family have made it through some of the most difficult times in your life and you are so much stronger for it.
Please know that we admire your courage, we appreciate your sacrifices and we are so very grateful and blessed for having had the opportunity to care for you and your children.
We miss you when you leave and are filled with curiosity about what great things our NICU babies are doing, so please keep those updates coming!