by Alyssa Voight
Here is the letter I gave to all of the wonderful women I hung out with for the past 44 days…
Dear all of our NICU nurses,
For many, bringing a new baby home feels like the beginning of a new story in their lives. For us, while bringing Luca home might be a new chapter, it certainly isn’t the beginning of his story. His story began long before he made his entrance into the waiting arms of what seemed like a swarm of nurses. This part of his story, the NICU part, is woven together with the people we have met; the woman in the teal scrubs that would become our friends, if even for a short time.
At 20 weeks, we found out our baby was measuring small and had a possible heart defect. We were sent to a specialist, where over the next 12 weeks I accumulated a litany of ultrasound pictures and very little good news. I learned new words every week as our baby seemed to develop new issues, new concerns, new percentages that were lower and lower than the previous measurement. Screenings and tests and ultrasounds, each one scarier than the one before. We met with the genetic counselors, a fetal cardiologist and a NICU doctor to prepare us for what was inevitably going to happen. There was no doubt our baby would be born early; the question was how much time did we have.
When I started bleeding in early September, I was worried but optimistic. When I bled the following weekend, reality started to set in. When I bled 4 days after I was a discharged for the second time, I knew I was walking onto the 3rd floor of the hospital and not walking out for potentially two months. But after only two weeks, eight bleeds and far too many bedrest and clear liquid diet days, our baby boy decided to come rather quickly into this world, surrounded by women in teal. This is where my NICU chapter started.
From my admission on September 19th to Luca’s discharge on November 15th, I was surrounded by nurses everyday. And so I feel like my 57 days, 44 of those in the NICU, qualifies me to say this:
When you meet the moms of these small babies, they come tired, physically and emotionally worn out. They have worked for 32 weeks to parent their other three children, work their three jobs, go to way too many doctor appointments, prepare to leave their family at any day and keep a baby growing inside them. They come already having mourned the loss of two babies in the span of a few short months and even when a heartbeat is found, the feeling of emptiness and fear has settled so deeply it still has not dissipated. They come being told their baby will look a certain way, not be like their sister and brothers, have a disorder or disease or deformity or d-something. They come still waking up at night thinking they are having a bleed so bad it gives the nurse another nightmare. They come with their lives feeling out of control. They come helpless.
And they are greeted by you. You Matter.
You care for their baby. You explain the beeps and the wires and the tubes and the machines. You bring them chairs and pillows. You reassure them. You bring them tissue when they cry and friendship when they feel alone. And the greatest gift of all, you give them kindness and warmth when their reality seems to be nothing but cruel and cold.
The NICU is meant to be a place of healing and the longer I spent in there, the more I realized the babies weren’t the only ones being healed.
To all of you, the NICU is where you work. To the moms that enter those doors, the NICU is our child’s first home. And you are the ones that keep that home safe, filled with love, and running like a well-oiled machine. You are their moms when we are not there. Sometimes you act likeour moms when we are there, which we need. The responsibility you have taken on is great; the love and kindness required of you is even greater.
When walking into the NICU simply feels like work, remember how much you matter. You matter to the babies. You matter to the moms. You matter to the husbands who have no idea what to do with their hormonal wives and seemingly breakable babies. You matter to the doctors as you explain each baby in ways labs and x-rays never could describe.
Luca has a life and a future because of you.
Thank you for mattering so much in our lives. May you continue to matter in so many more.