Having a Preemie: Continuity of Care in the NICU

Care and Continuity for Premature Babies in the NICU

I strongly believe continuity of care is one of the most important things we can do for the happiness of our babies. The proverb, “it takes a village,” is the belief that emotional and physical support, from extended family and caregivers, ensures a calm and welcoming environment for children to grow into healthy adults.

As a first time mom, having nurturing people around me meant more sleep and less stress. It also meant having more time to focus on bonding with my son. He thrived having “a village” to meet his needs with sensitivity and familiarity.

Reminiscing

There are many memories from my time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit I can recall with clarity. I remember the first nurse I met in the NICU, Lisa, she was working beside my son’s bedside when I saw him for the first time. I can call to mind the view out the window from my chair next to the incubator and even the parking attendant in the garage. The moment I can’t recall is meeting the nurse who became the source of our greatest encouragement in the NICU, Lora. I know it was the first week, because she was with me on day five. The first day I was able to hold Bastian.

Although I was a mother with a newborn, until that day, I hadn’t been able to hold or care for my baby. His micro prematurity required a level of care which could only be provided by medically trained professionals. In our first foray into Kangaroo care, often called skin-to-skin contact, I finally felt like a normal new mom.

Primary Nurse Care

A short time later Lora came and explained what a primary nurse was to me. A nurse who would care for Bastian anytime she was on duty. She expressed an interest in being Bastian’s primary nurse for daytime. It meant he would have some consistency in care and I readily agreed. NICU nurses tend to work twelve-hour shifts, one to four days each week. It means many different personalities and nurses to get acquainted with if your baby is in the NICU for months. I noticed the days Lora took care of him, he tended to have fewer apnea and bradycardia episodes and be more stable overall.

As the weeks passed I made many challenging medical decisions and I often wondered when we would go home. Sometimes on the spur of the moment, signing a form to agree to a blood transfusion or listening intently to the results of a cranial ultrasound. Lora would patiently answer questions and explain things like why it was taking so long for his bilirubin to come down and why a pacifier was important for babies in the NICU and she even let me change all his tiny diapers.

Hernia Surgery

After Bastian and I had successfully overcome our difficulties with breastfeeding and were nearing discharge, it became obvious he was going to need surgery for an inguinal hernia. A procedure that required general anesthesia. On the one hand I was happy. The fact they wanted to move forward with the surgery meant he was stable enough for anesthesia. In my mind that meant we were going home soon. On the other hand, I was concerned it could cause a medical setback after all the progress he had made.

The surgeon explained how important it was not to delay repairing his hernia. Therefore I decided to move forward with the operation. If there was a setback, it would be better to have the hernia repaired while he was still an inpatient. Lora called the morning they took him in for surgery and kept me abreast of his post-operation recovery. All the while reassuring me that we were going home soon, she couldn’t say when, but things were going well.

Graduating

The day we graduated from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Lora wasn’t on duty. That’s how it happens in the NICU, one day to your surprise, they tell you you’re ready to go home. Lora called after I settled in at home and told me I didn’t need to stay confined to my house. She encouraged me to enjoy being a mother to my, now term, healthy baby. It was obvious to me then and even more so now, over the many weeks she was with us on our NICU journey, little by little, she had alleviated my anxieties and fears, and given me the confidence I needed to embrace being a preemie mom.

I asked her not too long ago what she wished every parent knew about their NICU nurse and she said, “I wish parents knew that we want what’s best for their child, and everything we do comes from the heart.”

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