I went to the NICU last night. I still really enjoy it for the most part. Sometimes I don’t have enough baby holding to do and have to do laundry or something, but that still makes me feel worthwhile and helpful and that is what I was going for — not feeling useless in this world.
Last night I held a little guy who was born addicted to a substance. I don’t know what one. I sat and held him and made up a little song to sing to him over and over. He seemed to find it soothing.
The words were ‘wonderful precious, sleepy, sleepy baby, God loves you” over and over, except instead of saying ‘baby’ sometimes I’d say his name. It was soothing to me too.
I’m getting more used to going to the NICU. I no longer chant (okay, not much), the code for the door to the volunteer center or my volunteer log in number. I know where I’m supposed to go. I know the code to the storeroom. I know how to stock the scales with blankets and washcloths for baby baths and now to stock all the different areas for gowns. I am enjoying a chance to comfort the little ones. I realized the other day that one of the kiddos I was holding was almost 2 months old and I can tell, now that I know that, that she is not neurotypical. She really still presents as a very, very newborn. She’s a beauty though and I enjoy holding her. I’ve only held one baby in the NICU who seemed to want to look at my face and had a quiet alert time. Most of them are just so irritable and if they are not asleep they are super fussy. I ran into an old friend who is an occupational therapist there in the NICU and I asked her what types of things they do for therapy. She said that they try to get the babies to look at people, to track with their eyes and to be able to be alert and not swaddled. They seem to need to be swaddled and have a pacifier all the time. There was a couple there, with their baby and they were quietly fussing about the nurses not, according to them, giving him his opiates on time and I kind of thought that they had some nerve, exposing the baby to dangerous drugs in utero and then complaining about his drug dosing and acting all superior now. Anyway, it’s interesting and I can’t wait to go back and hold the little sweeties. I wish I could go every day. I really do.
Tonight in the NICU, there were not as many babies. A couple of sets of twins had gone home, leaving a big space in the middle. However, the babies that were there, were pretty restless. There was a lot of crying tonight and I had plenty to do. I probably went through about 12 gowns. Each time we switch to another baby, even if it is just to offer comfort without picking them up, we have to wash our hands and change gowns. So I was back and forth, changing gowns and washing quite a bit. I mainly held one baby who was born addicted to drugs. She had been taken off her supportive/weaning drugs today and was having a hard time. She didn’t seem to be able to sleep without jerking awake quite frequently. I took her directly from the day volunteer and except for a couple of breaks when she would sleep for a while and I held other babies, she was my primary for tonight. She was very beautiful. While I was holding her, her CASA volunteer came in to talk to the nurses and try to get an idea of how the family visits and how they act when they visit. The CASA will study the extended family’s request for custody and make a recommendation on the baby’s behalf to the judge. The dad is in jail and the mom apparently lost custody when the baby was born addicted. It’s sad. While I was holding her, I kind of watched the parents with the baby in the next bed. Their baby was absolutely tiny, so delicate. The came in and gave her her bottle, then put her back in the bed and sat there beside her, not holding her or talking to her over an hour, both of them looking at their phones or Ipods. I thought that was kind of weird, but it may be typical for all I know. If I only had 1 hour a day with my baby, I’d hold her. Maybe they’re afraid because she’s so tiny? Okay, they could at least stroke her and talk to her. Again, sad.
My arms are sore tonight, but hopefully I kept the baby’s stress levels down tonight and helped them as they try to learn to cope with the world while going through withdrawal.
The part of the NICU that I was in last night is, I think, where they keep babies that are born drug addicted. I think that’s what they told me on my tour last week. I didn’t ask last night, I just did what I needed to do, soothed fussy babies. There was one little guy that I call Elvis (I didn’t look at anyone’s name) who had the lip curl thing that Elvis had going on. He would cry and fuss until I would hold him then he’d lay there so sweet in my arms and smile in his sleep. What a total doll-baby. So cute. So precious. After a good night’s sleep, I’m less discouraged and looking forward to next week.
I worked my first shift in the NICU tonight. It’s a large hospital with a lot of NICU units, maybe 8 or 9? I can’t keep them straight in my head. There may be as many as 14. Anyway. I went to the one I was told to go to and I was able to comfort a couple of little babies. One I got to hold for quite a while a couple of different times. That was cool. Then after he settled down, there wasn’t much to do. I went from unit to unit asking if anyone needed help, but no one did. I ended up leaving a little bit early because I just felt like I was bugging the nurses and unit secretaries, because when I went from 1 unit to another, I had to be buzzed in each time by the secretary and then I had to find a nurse to ask what they needed help with. Maybe next week will go better. I need to watch myself and make sure I don’t quit during the rough beginning part, because I have a tendency to do that ….
I’m going to start volunteering in the neonatal intensive care unit of a local children’s hospital. I’m excited and scared. I’ve been on a tour of the place. I’ve been told when I go in, to follow the sound of the crying and find a baby that needs soothing and ask the nurse if I can hold him or her. Then I am to gown up and glove up and hold the baby as long as necessary. Then, when the baby goes to sleep or is comforted, I will de-gown and glove, go out and wash thoroughly and come back and start the process over again with another little sweetie. In this particular NICU, our job is comforting babies, not fetching supplies and we only do that if there is not a baby who needs us. I don’t mind fetching supplies and I will, but I think it’s kind of cool, that baby comfort is the first priority.
When I took my training NICU tour last Saturday, I saw so many babies. There was one little girl who just kind of haunts my memory. She had just had, I guess, spina bifida surgery and she had an incision on her back, uncovered, that was half the length of her body. She was lying curled up on her stomach, sleeping and was just the most beautiful, beautiful little thing and was kind of smiling in her sleep. I am so glad that we can now do surgeries for these children so they can live a normal life. I’m so glad that she was seemingly pain free and able to sleep.
So when I start on Monday, I’ll write and let you know how it goes.