I had imagined leaving the hospital with my first baby the way every new mom seems to -- pushed to my car, in a wheelchair, with a sleepy baby nestled in my arms and my husband by side fumbling with our never-before-used car seat. Instead, my husband and I left alone.
I still recall my first job. I felt like an impostor in my uniform. I didn't feel like a nurse because in my mind a nurse was someone who could start an IV blindfolded, resuscitate a patient while sleeping, and recognize all the signs and symptoms of septic shock at the drop of a hat.
Babies and their families have their own stories. As NICU nurses, these stories are our stories too. They are our forever stories that are etched in our memory and have chipped away at our hearts, sometimes leaving a mark so profound that we are changed forever.
To love beyond the walls, to cry behind closed doors, and to rise above the unpredictable moments to create lasting and meaningful memories. To believe. To breathe. And to find the courage and strength to do it all again tomorrow.
There are few things as upsetting as not being able to take your baby home from the hospital after birth, and there is nothing worse than watching your baby suffer through medical interventions in a hospital.
What is it like to be a preemie? What is it like to be alone in a plastic box for days, weeks or even months, when developmentally, you're still supposed to be engulfed in your mother's warmth? What is it like to be forced to breathe, eat and live when your body is not physically ready?
I felt like a failure. I'd had two children; the first got cancer and now the second one was probably going to die because I couldn't hold up my end of the bargain. I'd brought our whole family back into the world of sickness and worry. The guilt was all-encompassing.
I didn't know that you would be the one to hold and rock my baby when I wasn't there. I didn't know you. I didn't know how intertwined our lives would become. I know you now. I'll never be able to think of my child's life without thinking of you.
I was on rotation, and a couple came in after a botched attempt at a home delivery. One by one, the baby's systems shut down. As instructed, I just kept adding stuff to keep him alive. Nothing was working. I was 26, depressed, and started to cry.