A Letter to my Daughter’s NICU Nurse–Six Years Later

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You probably don’t even remember me. I’m sure I’m just one of the thousands of anxious moms you helped over the years. But six years ago, you took care of my baby, who came at 32 weeks. I had a sneaky suspicion I was leaking fluid. When I finally decided to get it checked out, we discovered I had been leaking fluid for three or four days. I was also in labor and didn’t know it. We did two fluid checks and I dilated from a 4 to a 6.5 between the two checks. I didn’t plan to have a baby for a few more weeks and was in shock.

When you deliver that early, the normal delivery people are in the room with you, plus the cardiology team, respiratory team, and NICU team. A couple hours after getting to the hospital, our newest addition arrived. I held her for a quick second while my midwife sucked her nose out, and she was whisked away to your care. You probably don’t know it, but every year when her birthday rolls around, I think of you.

You sat next to me and kept me company when I still couldn’t hold my newborn. We talked, and you were so positive and cheerful. That first day, you even invited me to a mini church service the hospital did for the staff. I was the only non-employee in the room. You sat next to me there, too, and squeezed my hand. When I could finally hold my baby, you helped me juggle all of the cords and tubes and get situated in the rocking chair. Then you’d pull the privacy curtain around us so it could just be me and my baby. When it was time for me to go, you’d come back to help with the cords and pretend you didn’t hear me sobbing the entire time. We followed the same routine day in and day out, except for one time.

It was about a week after delivery. I was making at least two trips each day to the hospital to visit my daughter, but I also had a fifteen month old daughter at home. I was exhausted. On this particular day, you helped me get situated in the rocking chair, just like always. You closed the privacy curtain, and the tears started flowing, just as they always did, but you didn’t leave us alone that time. As soon as the curtain was closed, you opened it again. Grabbing a stool, you sat directly across from me. You looked right at me and instead of offering condolences, you gave me some tough love. I’m a better mom because of you, and I will never forget what you said:

“Your daughter is fine. You do not need to be making all of these trips to visit her. She has an entire team of people to take care of her and love her, and you have another baby at home who needs you right now. Visit when you can, but do not put that pressure on you or your family.”

Of course that only made me cry more, but that was the last time I cried while visiting. I had been completely torn between wanting to be at the hospital with my newborn 24/7 while also wanting to be home with my other baby. You saw right through me. What you said might have sounded harsh, but it was the reminder I needed. My newest baby was just fine and always had two or three people assigned just to her, but my other baby was the one that needed me at that time. She was also adjusting to not being the only child and center of our world anymore.

I still made the trip each day, or at least every other day. You updated me on everything that had happened since that last time I visited. You remained cheerful and upbeat for the duration of her stay. Visiting became a happy thing and I stopped being jealous as babies came and went home before mine. I wasn’t having this internal conflict about where I “should” be anymore. When we finally got to take our baby home, you knew more about my baby and her mannerisms than I did, but my oldest had the love and support she needed during that transition time. 

After:

I now have five tiny humans and often think about that conversation we had that day. It helped me get through high risk pregnancies and bed rest. It also helps me focus on my every day activities. I try to think about what’s most important and where I’m needed the most. I’m not perfect, but more often than not, that means more time playing with my girls than cleaning. Sometimes it also means taking time for myself, so I can better care for these little people.

I am forever grateful for the love and care you gave my daughter those few weeks. I’m also grateful for the lesson you taught me that day. My time is limited and my life is busy with five kids seven and under. Prioritizing my attention to the things that are most important makes me a better mom. Thank you. 

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Katie
Originally from Portland, Oregon, Katie relocated to Madison with her husband, Ross five years ago. They have five daughters together: Claire (7), Aoife (5), Tiegan (4), Emma (18 months) and Juliet (3 months). She survives the chaos with Diet Coke and trips to the gym by herself. Katie enjoys music, weight lifting, and building fun things for her kids out of PVC pipe. Zelda, the family dog, is her other true love. Katie worked as a stylist here in Madison until her fifth daughter came along and then decided to be a full time mom.

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