Sunday, October 21, 2012

the unwritten rule.

... it's moments like these when I wish I could pick up the phone and say, "Hey, Ma! Can you please scan that picture of me when I was like eight + spent two days with all seventeen of my dolls in the hammock in our backyard?" ... because I know that picture existed once upon a time + it would be a great addition to this post... but you will just have to imagine me, freckled, tow-headed + sunburned, swinging between two trees with what looked like the fruits of my robbing-of-FAO-Schwartz labor...

Technically, I have been a NICU nurse for 4+ years but when I look back at my life, it's easy to see that I have been preparing for this profession long before I knew what a profession was. One of my earliest memories is sitting on the bed at my Baba's house in between two dolls with crocheted hats at the age of about two. I can't remember what Baba looked like but I vividly remember that the bedspread was electric blue + itchy. The dollies were dressed in pink and white. And I sat there for hours seeing how far I could tip their heads back before their eyelids flung shut.

I can't really remember a moment in my childhood when I didn't have a doll in tow... except that time in second grade when my mum ran an Alzheimer's home + one of her "clients" stole my doll in a freak lapse-of-memory accident where she thought it was her own + wouldn't give me "her daughter" back.... I can't recall if that crazy, old lady returned my baby doll but I continued to play with my other sixteen dolls long past when it was socially acceptable to continue to do so. 

Come to think of it, two Christmases ago, I found a box of old toys that somehow made it to a shelf in my sister's garage in Tennessee. Sifting quickly through + casually disregarding the expensive extensive collection of Gund stuffed animals, my heart nearly stopped when I discovered my set of twins that cried when you separated them at the bottom. If it wasn't for the {real} newborn baby inside, I probably would have stayed in the garage rocking + feeding my twin babies well through the new year...      {crickets.}

Growing up, I tried to find a way to incorporate babies in to all my free time. I would sit out at gymnastics practice to play with my coach's son in middle school. I babysat three nights a week in high school. I was a cuddler every Monday night my freshman year of college + I nannied the latter three years. Some have even called me "the baby whisperer."  

An old boyfriend used to tell me I had a "smile just for babies," one where my eyes lit up + it was externally written on my face that my heart was melting from the squishy goodness. Sitting across from him at dinner, he would ask, "Is there a baby behind me?"   "How did you know?!"   "You're doing again. Your I-see-a-cute-baby smile."

I nearly dropped out of nursing school every semester for 4 years declaring that if I had to step my Rainbow-clad foot in that chemistry lab or smell C. Difficile one more time, I would die... until I did my senior practicum in the neonatal intensive care unit and although it was well, intense, I had never felt more at home in my entire life. I was surrounded by newborn babies and with them came teeny, tiny accessories: microscopic clothing, preemie-sized blood pressure cuffs, the smallest little diapers you had ever seen. And it was about the time I learned the importance of finding a passion that I landed my dream job in a NICU on the other side of the country at Childrens Hospital LA. It was like my backyard transformed in to Hollywood, all the dolls in my hammock came to life + my happy place was now my "profession"...  

Turns in life courses, travel nursing and clinical settings have brought me to several NICUs in various regions of the country + outside the country, too... And within each NICU, I have learned that there are many ways to do the exact same thing. I've learned forty-seven ways to take a temperature, change a diaper and swaddle a baby. I've seen a gobjillion different isolettes, syringe pumps and charting systems. And although the end result is always the same regime to feed-grow-discharge-convalescing-preemie-home-with-loving-parents, it is never done exactly the same way...

Except one thing. There is one thing that cannot be taught or altered. You won't find it written in a protocol or in a a policy + procedure manual. It's an unwritten rule, only written in the hearts of every neonatal nurse. If a baby should pass away, it must do so in loving arms. Whether that be the arms of a parent, a nurse, a resident or a practitioner... No baby should die in an isolette or on a warmer no matter how many tubes he or she is hooked up to, not whether they are 1 pound or 10 pounds. Every baby is held as they take their last breath.  

I was recently reminded of this unwritten rule. In the final hour of my 5-day stretch, a baby was born with faulty DNA that was incompatible with life.  I stepped in to the the patient room right at shift change where the nurse providing "comfort care" handed off a beautifully bundled baby, whose every breath was getting gradually harder than the one taken before, to the oncoming nurse whose sole purpose for the next twelve hours would be to hold + love that fragile being in its final moments of life.

Leaving the hospital that evening, my eyes welled up with tears... but not with tears of sadness... tears of pride. I'm so incredibly proud of my profession. While I rarely write about my job as its impossible to put in to words just what I do for a living, I can assure you I have the best job in the world + I am insanely proud to be a neonatal nurse. I am beyond prideful of the work that we do in our tiny sterile bubble with the most fragile of patient populations. Being a NICU nurse is a large part of who I am... and most days, the only thing I am certain I am. With every challenge comes the greatest reward and with every heartbreak comes over-the-moon happiness. I'm not sure why I got to be so lucky to be given the passion of "loving on little miracles" but, ohmyword, am I happy it found me.  

rest peacefully, tiny angel + dance among the lucky stars for me. 


Katie said...

So many tears right now. You are an amazing person!!

Jenna E said...

Awww what a beautiful post! After having a baby of my own I have a whole new appreciation of what you do. I creepily fell in love with each and everyone one of my nurses. They taught me so much and were the most compassionate, caring people I have ever met. I can't even imagine how much my heart would ache having a baby with any kind of complication.

So thankful there are people like you in this world. Not many people can do what you do!!

Ann Marie Queen said...

Found your page from a Pinterest link to your Hipster Ariel costume, decided you were fun and to check out what else you had to share. Now I'm crying at work. Beautiful. Thank you for the work you do.

Marianne said...

I love everything about this post. And up until the last couple paragraphs, I could have written it about my life word for word. Eerie how that happens. I know you've had a crazy year+ in school, but I am so happy you still love your job just as much. It's nurses like you, that are so passionate about what you do, that made me fall in love with the profession.

In related news: I took the NICU job in Indy and have been working now for a couple months. I love it. I also applied to CHLA, but was not chosen. Fortunately, I have an amazing job at an amazing hospital and while it's not in a fun city, I'm happy for now.