Month 1: NICU
This is the weirdest place on Earth. No joke. It is this weird
quasi-reality where you don't know how to speak to anyone because they
could be facing the worst day of their life or their best. You don't
want to make a hilarious joke (mine are always hilarious) about your
surroundings to someone whose baby is struggling to even live. That is
awkward. Trust me. I now know from experience. So you don't really
talk to people most of the time. At the same time, you see these
people everyday and feel like you are in this ship together and are
going to be stuck together for hours a day for quite some time. So,
you do the awkward acknowledgement nod. The nod that says, "Yeah, we
are here together and I recognize you because I see you thirty times a
day. No, I'm not going to actually speak to you because that might be
even more uncomfortable than this."
The other reason NICUs are so bizarre is because the way that the
everyday stuff is done depends completely on who is there for that 12
hour period. Nurses, god love 'em, can NEVER seem to agree. Case in
Day 1. I have no idea how this place works so I just tell the nurse I
need her to tell me what to do and when. Throughout the day she
explains things to me, coaches me, "shows me the ropes", you might
Nurse A. "Oh yes, touch them and talk to them as much as possible.
They can hear and feel you."
"When you change the diaper only use diaper cream if it's a bit red."
"You should start diaper changes and temperatures about 10 or 15
minutes before the hour since there are three of them." Super. I feel
good going and doing stuff. I'm not on edge. I know the basics. Blah
Day 2. I'm rarin' to go. I know what to do. They told me yesterday.
I feel confident.
Nurse B. I go over and touch a baby's hand. "Don't touch the babies
while they are sleeping. It is far too stimulating to them and could
lengthen their NICU stay."
I change a diaper. "You forgot the diaper cream. You need to put it
on no matter what to prevent diaper rash."
I start diapers and temps. "It's not the hour yet. We don't do changes
and temps until the hour."
Now, I have 3 children that I am supposed to be helping to care for. I am
recovering from major abdominal surgery. My hormones, though
stabilizing, are a far cry from stable. Also, i am just
generally-speaking socially clueless. Telling me I am doing
everything wrong is not helpful. Looking at me like I'm a
liar-liar-pants-on-fire when I tell you that someone else SAID to do
it like this is really really not helping. Of course the only
rational thing to do at that point is communicate. Use your words.
Tell the nurse you are getting conflicting information and calmly ask
her to walk you through what to do for the rest of the day. Let me
tell ya what. Since being pregnant, no one has EVER accused me of
being rational. Thus, I took a somewhat different approach- smile,
walk to the pumping room, lock the door and cry like a first-grader
who finds out the teacher is calling his mom about what he did in the
bathroom. (You do not not not want to know what he did in the
bathroom. Trust me.)
On every consecutive day you got someone new who did some things like
nurse A, some like nurse B and some in a completely new way. You then
have to remember who does what how or risk yet another, "Oh my god,
you are the stupidest person alive" look and tone as they show you the
"proper" way to do it. Don't get me wrong. Every nurse we had was
fantastic and gave our children phenomenal care. I would even call
some of them my friends (like friends from summer camp where you don't
know their last name and never actually speak to or see them again-
that kind of friend). I'm just elucidating the fact that they should
maybe warn a girl that none of them will agree and ya just gotta deal