Inside the NICU

When thank you isn’t enough …

Thank you so much to graduate mom Christine for allowing us to repost her amazing piece from her blog. It seems like the perfect way to mark World Prematurity Day. And just so you know, Christine … we love you too!

As we approach World Prematurity Day, on Sunday November 17th, I am reminded of how far my little girls have come. This time last year, I never could have envisioned what was to come. I had just begun to feel my girls (I didn’t know that they were even girls at the time) move for the first time. I was finally starting to get that pregnancy belly when they decided to make their early debut. Reflecting back on the entire ordeal, I cannot imagine what I would have done if Sunnybrook hadn’t accepted me into their care that scary, Monday night.

How do you begin to thank an institution for giving you the greatest gift of all – the life of your babies?

For those of you unfamiliar with NICUs, they are generally comprised of a large room with anywhere from 6-8 babies. There is no privacy, and you are forced to stand on one side of your baby’s isolette, so as to uphold patient confidentiality. The NICU at Sunnybrook, however, was completely different. Babies have their own rooms, with built-in couches for parents to sleep on. You are encouraged to stay as for as long as you want. There are sliding glass doors to provide that privacy. They even have specialized rooms for twins so that both babies can be together. The physical set-up alone made it a much more intimate environment to spend those long days and nights.

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Then, there was the staff. We were privileged to have met so many nurses, nurse practitioners, doctors, respiratory therapists, lactation consultants, parent coordinators, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, social workers, environmental services professionals, and “dairy queen,” staff. Not only did they all work tirelessly to promote the health and well-being of our girls, but they supported us during the most emotionally-charged time of our lives. I cannot tell you how many times the nurses, for example, sacrificed their breaks to provide comfort to me when one of the girls was having a rough day or when everything became so overwhelming. The random ‘drop-ins’ from the respiratory therapists or pharmacists helped to normalize a sometimes unbearable situation.

Celebrating holidays in the NICU was challenging enough and the staff worked so hard to make things a little easier on the parents. There was a visit from Santa (one of the neonatologists dressed up as Santa) and a custom stocking filled with little presents for each baby, a cookie exchange that staff did for the parents, Valentine’s day surprises with hand and footprints from our nurses, celebrations of the girls’ 100 days with a personalized banner and cute stuffed animals from some of our primary nurses, and all of the little awards that the girls received along the way. I also had the honour of judging an Easter Egg decorating contest among the Respiratory Therapists. All of these little actions served to normalize this experience for us and bring a glimmer of hope to an often desolate situation.

We had the privilege of having primary nursing care, wherein when specific nurses were on shift, they were assigned to look after our girls. It was comforting to know that these nurses understood Maja and Alexis and advocated for them. I remember one of our nurses challenging an order to do bloodwork on Alexis, because she knew what was normal behaviour from Alexis and that she wasn’t, in fact, sick. There were the countless cuddles from all of the staff and this was so comforting to know that they were being held in our absence. Then there were the dreaded eye exams. One of our other primary nurses always seemed to have the privilege (NOT!) of working those days. As a parent, I could not even begin to watch one of those exams so I would wait in the hall and I would get the “all clear” when it was safe to return. My anxiety was lessened substantially when I knew that she was there with the girls.

Although we were happy to come home and leave the NICU days behind us, it was also a grieving process for me as I lost the company  and companionship that I found in all of the exceptional Sunnybrook staff. They have, and always will hold, a special place in my heart. When I look into the eyes of my girls and watch them achieve their milestones, I know that it is because of the love, dedication, and support that was given to them along the way.

Thank you just doesn’t seem like enough!

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Kate Robson