You're a new mum, getting to know your new baby.
Sleep deprived you wrestle wriggling limbs into a baby-grow, changing yet another sicky item of clothing, wondering if any milk is staying down at all! How perfect they look in their new sleep suit, the cute one your friend brought round the other day. Then their cheeks flush red and you smell that smell... off to the changing table again! Dressing your baby, feeding and changing nappies are all part of being mum.
Yet for mothers of premature babies these everyday tasks, so synonymous with parenthood, are undertaken in the most clinical of environments.
Parent's often wait days, if not weeks to dress their baby.
Nappy changes happen through incubator portholes and are all done to pre-determined times dictated by your baby's daily chart.
And to hold your baby...mothers can wait hours, days or even weeks after birth for that first precious hold.
Parents of premature babies will tell you, there is a lot of watching and waiting in NICU. Hours can be spent beside incubators, mothers and fathers watching their new babies, yet not able to do those seemingly basic tasks.
A mother will always remember the nurses who helped her to be a mum on NICU.
The nurse who helps you with that first touch; the one who shows you how to hold and cradle your baby in their incubator.
The nurse who shows you not only how to change their nappy, but who understands how nervous you are; how scary it can be to move your own babies limbs so small and fragile, and how the sound of alarms and buzzers can terrify you as you contend with a host of wires and tubes.
The nurse who asks if you'd like to dress your baby for the first time, the one who helps you to manoeuvre limbs and lines into tiny sleeves.
The nurse who tells you that you are doing just fine.
Nothing can be more important than helping a mum to be mum or a dad to be dad when a baby's life is short. Still just as precious, still just as loved and parents still parents.
In neonatal intensive care the small things matter, particularly when you are unable to hold your baby. Simple acts such as wiping tiny eyes or cleaning tiny fingers can leave lasting memories, create bonds and fulfil a mothers need to care; the importance of these acts must not be underestimated for all parents, no matter the length of their NICU stay - days, weeks or months.
Neonatal care is a medical world, a hidden world alien to most parents. Incubators housing tiny lives, monitors, machines, tubes and wire.... For medical staff the sound of alarms and buzzers are part of everyday and moving tubes and tiny babies becomes second nature, but for parents whose worlds may have be turned upside down in just a few hours it can be a scary, isolating and depowering place.
It is a NICU nurse who can give you back that power; a NICU nurse who can give you meaning in a world which can suddenly seem empty.
It is a NICU nurse who can help you to be the most important person to your baby - mum.
First published on the Smallest Things site; campaigning for premature babies and beyond.
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