Working in a special care nursery is an absolute privilege. To be tasked to look after tiny, new humans is incredible. It is a stressful and complex job and involves a high level of practical skills and emotional awareness.
This is the most difficult time for new parents, being separated from their brand-new baby and having limited control over what is happening. The environment can be daunting and the equipment confronting. There is a whole new language to learn. Ask questions about what is happening and what things mean.
Walking out of the room or the hospital with empty arms is one of the most difficult things a parent can do. We can see the emotion in your face and body. We feel it with you and will try to support you as much as we can. Talk to us about how you are feeling and tell us if anything would help, we can try to organise these things for you. You can always request how you would like things to be done, if possible, and provide clothes and blankets as appropriate. Let us know when you are coming in for feeds and call us for updates.
Often, we must explain to parents that they cannot hold their new baby and watch them physically ache to do this. There are a lot of tears and anxious pacing and questions and quietly sitting, waiting. The plans change frequently and there are no definitive answers or timelines.
The frustration is felt by all, believe me. We see parents comparing their little one’s progress to other babies; weight gains, starting suck feeds, no longer needing medications or equipment. We know you are happy for that family but sad for yourselves. Keep asking questions and talking to staff, every baby is different and will progress their own way. For more information on how to cope, see Surviving NICU.
The special care nursery is also a space where we can help parents to learn how to care for their baby, we get to share the highs of the first successful breastfeed or celebrate every tiny weight gain. We get to watch a new Dad read a story to their tiny human. We hold and rock and swaddle (and sing badly too) these precious bundles and love them when Mums and Dads can’t be there to do it.
We are aware this is not the same, but hope it is reassuring to know how blessed we feel to part of their lives.