the people that you meet each day

As a NICU nurse, nothing gives me more joy than seeing “my babies” grow and thrive and grow up outside of the NICU. Actually that is kind of a universal joy felt by all NICU nurses, respiratory therapists, unit coordinators and neonatologists. Moments like this:

OMG! I’m crying again. Seriously.

After over 25 years and more patients than I can keep count, I can tell you there are the ones I will never, ever forget…ever. And some I have remained close to through the years because sometimes you do become much more than just the nurse and patient and patient’s family. Hurray for Facebook (after my tiny human patients are officially discharged) for that. Truly.

Then there are the moments when you are in your neighborhood at the mall, the movie theater, the local farmers’ market, the grocery store, or even while at play at a Pumpkin Fair Carnival and you find that you are being stared at…literally. I check to make sure nothing is amiss…spinach stuck in my teeth, a bra strap showing, or worse…and then I smile, perhaps a little awkwardly because what if they are not smiling at me? What if they are smiling at the old man behind me; or perhaps the kid flying down the Giant Slide ride before my kid.

Excuse me, is your name Laura?

She looks familiar to me, but Im not sure why or from where. But she has a stroller with a sleeping toddler so maybe…

I nod my head yes and confess that she looks very familiar but I’m not sure where we have met.

You were my baby’s nurse.

Oh! That’s where I met you, lovely lady with the most striking, velvet dark eyes. I peek at her sleeping little one and honestly I don’t remember him at all. Then again, he was oh so much smaller as mom catches me up on life this first year after leaving the NICU.  It’s clear that it hasn’t always been easy.

I recall a late night conversation in the NICU where I promised her that it wouldn’t always be easy after the NICU…speaking as a NICU mom myself.

I nod my head, understanding. Understanding much too well.

It’s then that my son comes running up to me breathless after flying down the giant slide ride for the umpteenth time. I introduce her to my very excited and eager to take on the next carnival ride, thirteen year old son.

Wait! He was a 24 weaker too! Right?

She reaches out to shake his hand. Daniel, graciously, yet shyly, shakes her hand as he flashes his brace-faced, dimpled smile  before he heads back up to the giant slide ride because he tells us that it is actually that amazing.

Thank you, son!

I peek one more time at her sleeping toddler and I hug her good-bye as I quietly tell her:

It’s hard work but you are doing great mama! 

We both wipe away tears as we say goodbye until we meet again here in our neighborhood.


It’s the last day of school, people! #6thgradelife achieved and completed.

Naturally, one celebrates with a toga party because what could possibly be more fun than a toga party…and games…and yearbooks signed by your classmates, teachers, principal, yard duty, janitor, cafeteria workers and anyone else on campus you can think of.

Looking through Daniel’s yearbook, I couldn’t help but notice the graduating 8th graders’ pages. Two more years, people. This is happening in two more years! We need to prepare for this. Then I turn the page and come upon the class favorites…superlatives that the classmates bestowed upon their favorite classmates…the ones who are most athletic, friendliest, smartest, funniest, most outgoing, with the best hair, the nicest eyes,…and let’s not forget the shortest.

Yes, recognize the shortest girl and boy in your class.

Daniel looked at it and muttered, Well that will be me, I guess…because, yes, he is the shortest kid in his class. The. Shortest.


His friend on the left is average height amongst their classmates and he, like most of Daniel’s classmates, is a year younger than Daniel. This is our son’s life and his reality because his pituitary gland doesn’t function like pretty much every other child’s does at his school. He has to deal with daily injections to try and stimulate his body to grow with the hopes that he just might reach his minimum projected height as a man before full-blown puberty sets in; not to mention the quarterly all-day visits to Valley Children’s in Madera and the x-rays, blood tests and MRI procedures. All this to help this kid to grow and, god willing, catch up to the normal kids growing normally on the growth curve.

Looking back at the class favorites page, I’m just not sure how I should feel about this kind of superlative.

The shortest?


True, he likely would never be considered for most athletic or most outgoing or having the best hair because…omg, look at his hair! Still there is so much more to him than his obvious lack of stature. His kindness. His wicked sense of humor that models his Dad’s. He has the most beautiful, green eyes I have ever seen…next to his Dad’s. He is someone all his teachers, faculty, classmates and support staff  say exemplifies the six pillars of Character Counts (citizenship, responsibility, caring, trustworthiness, respect and fairness) that, ironically, certain members of the school board recently have failed to reflectahem.

But he remains, and likely will remain, the smallest in his class. And I’m just not too sure how to feel about such a superlative being bestowed upon my child. I put that feeling out there on Facebook and, sadly, that feeling was lost…because he is kind, he is special, everyone else struggled being short or tall (everyone commenting being female), it’s part of life (the bullying…?)…All true. All well-meaning. All just not understanding.

Scroll back up to that picture and look at Daniel standing next to one of his peers.

I’ll wait.

Now let us all think of all the short statured men in our lives, men standing tall at 5’5″ or less. Let’s think about these men. Think about what they do for a living. Think about their successes and failures. Think about how WE regard them.

Short man’s syndrome

Napolean Complex

Sure you have your Daniel Radcliffe, Bruno Mars, Dustin Hoffman, Ryan Seacrest, Prince, Kevin Hart, Seth Greene, Danny DeVito, Michael J. Fox…I’m sensing a pattern here…there are also your Robert B. Reich, Yasser Arafat, Voltaire, Beethoven, Picasso, Houdini, President James, Madison, Gandhi, Lenin and, of course, Napoleon Bonaparte.

But the reality is it is so much harder for a small statured man to be successful and respected than his taller peers. Yes, short women have it hard too but think of a 5’2″ woman you know and a 5’2″ man you might know. We do view them in a much different light. It’s the short man’s curse, if you will. That curse has probably never been more pervasive than it is in today’s appearance-is-everything society. The short man must not only conquer the usual challenges that guard success but also withstand ridicule and even prejudice. Studies have revealed that short men are less likely to be hired, promoted, or paid as well as their taller colleagues, and are less prized by women.

Yes, it’s hard out there for a short girl and a tall girl and a tall man but then again…I don’t know…Like I said, I’m not sure how I might feel seeing my son, my teen-aged son fast becoming a man, being recognized first for his size because our sizes, our shapes, our physical appearance should not matter. Middle school is rough. We all deal with a certain degree of teasing, and worse, bullying because of our physical differences; and yes, we survive…well, most survive. Still, living with it right here, right now with my child, I just don’t know. Before Daniel, I likely would not have seen what the big deal is. I would likely roll my eyes, shake my head, sigh and offer the same feel good encouraging words not understanding at all because my girls all were and remain average, NORMAL height. But living in our own Holland here it is a big deal…

no pun intended…

For the record, for the curious, my 13 year old son is now 4 feet 5 1/2 inches tall.

Grow Daniel, grow!

for the love of the shrimp lover

Because his endocrinologist says he’s not gaining enough weight. Because nothing ruins a delicious meal more than having to say eat your chicken…eat your rice…eat your vegetables…yada, yada, yada, through the entire course of the meal. Because nothing provokes a day filled with anxiety for him than when mom pulls chicken out of the freezer to thaw in the morning. Because this child truly, truly, truly takes the term picky eater to a level that pretty much every other parent ever could never understand…remember when I first started this blog and we were just trying him to get food INTO HIS MOUTH and hopefully chew it and swallow it? Because this child has caused me to break every rule or belief I have had about feeding my family and my family will never, ever let me forget that….EVER!

And because he tells me that he is a shrimp lover as he eats a plate full of shrimp, I keep a big bag of frozen shrimp on hand and have no problem sauteeing a pan full with garlic, butter, lemon and red chili flakes just for him. I just got him to literally inhale more than 100 calories there. He then asks for seconds which I will happily oblige…AFTER he eats his vegetable please.

parenting NICU style

Wa-ay back when I was a nursing student, one of my professors shared a cautionary tale about patients and medical abbreviations. A nurse, preparing to assess her patient, sets down her clipboard. While she is carefully assessing her patient, the patient spies his name on her clipboard with the word “SOB” next to it. What followed, the professor shared, was more than awkward for nurse and patient.

In case you didn’t already know, “SOB” is a medical abbreviation for shortness of breath. The nurse’s patient had emphysema and indeed was struggling with shortness of breath. He might have also been an SoB too…then again, he might have been an all around nice guy. Who knows?

There were many takeaways for us to learn from that scenario that the professor shared. For me, the biggest one was to not let my patients or loved ones see my shift notes. I keep them in my pocket.

This lesson came to mind the other day while reading through one of the micropreemie parenting forums I participate in. A parent shared her frustration of over-hearing her baby’s nurse share with the nurse taking over her baby’s care that she had been crying. Not understanding what that had to do with anything, she vented that they should not be worried about her because their job is to take care of her baby. Who cares if she was crying? The NICU nurse in me wanted to comment as to why the nurses might have been talking about her during their hand-off report. The NICU parent in me knew that she just needed to vent because for many micropreemie parents, there are few, if any, safe places to vent off some of the tears, fears, pain, frustrations and anger that is life as a parent in the NICU.

As a parent in the NICU, I know too well that feeling of being watched over, scrutinized even. In the NICU where Daniel was, where I also worked, parents had access to the bedside chart and were more than welcome to look at it. It was not uncommon to see a note or more about Bill or myself visiting Daniel. Weird to be under a microscope and analyzed in that way…especially because we already felt intense pressure from social workers, family and friends who questioned our motives to want to be Daniel’s family. Stir in the fact that a number of my own colleagues were against our plans (and quite vocal about it) and my being called into my manager’s office a couple of times because staff and administration had a number of concerns about my wanting to adopt a patient in the unit because something like this had never happened at that hospital before. “People might think we are ‘giving babies away at Good Sam’!” 

The horror of such a thing! 

Not fun it was.

If only there was a forum like the one I participate in thirteen years ago!

With most NICUs in the US focused on Family-Centered Care and many hospitals keeping an eye on overall patient and family satisfaction, odds are families are going to be right there during change of shift hand-offs and rounds…unlike the “old” days when I was a baby NICU RN and the unit was closed to family visits and calls during change of shift so that we could focus on the hand-off of patient care.

Being a parent in the NICU is hard. Other people seem to know more about your own baby than you do. They tell you when you may touch them, when you can hold them, feed them, change their diaper. You feel guilt that your baby was born early, that you can’t be at their bedside 24/7, that your other children need you, that your husband needs you, that everything else going on in your life is being ignored. You deal with questions…questions all the time as to why the baby was born early, what did YOU do to cause that, what’s going on currently with the baby, why isn’t the doctors and nurses doing what your co-worker’s nephew’s baby had done to her, why aren’t you at the hospital right now, why aren’t you spending time with your other children because they need you too….and on and on and on. Doctors and nurses and staff either seem to act as though you’re not even there or are hovering not giving you just a quiet moment alone with your baby. And god help you if you break down and cry or yell and scream in the NICU, at home, in church, at the school drop-off, in front of your parents or your in-laws.

NICU parents, am I close?

For what it’s worth, speaking as a NICU RN, when we share with colleagues that mom was crying today, or dad keeps asking the same question repeatedly or the family’s only car broke down or almost anything else family-related it is because the care we give is Family-Centered Care. Our role is to care for the baby first but we also are caring for and supporting the family during one of the most stressful times in their lives as a family…until their baby is a moody teenager. It helps the staff to know that mom is having difficulty producing breast milk or that her mother in law doesn’t want to drive her to the NICU anymore or dad just got laid off or little brother is sick with the flu so that we can better address what the family and the baby needs right now…and what they need to be ready for discharge because, god-willing, discharge will happen sooner than a NICU parent can hope to imagine.

What an amazing day that is when your baby is finally free of every single wire, tube and tape that is attached to his body and you pick him up and hold anytime you want to!

It’s a day that every NICU parent and NICU nurse, doctor, respiratory therapist, social worker and unit coordinator looks forward to as well.

Meanwhile, dear fellow NICU parents, cry if you want to, vent away too, but most of all, hang in there. Your journey is just beginning and this right now is preparing you for the weeks, months and years after the NICU.



this is 13

I am no longer the mother of a child.


I’m kind of glad that I have been sidelined the past four days with an ugly, ugly stomach bug because I haven’t really had time to really feel all of the emotional feels going on with the reality that my baby boy is THIRTEEN!!!


But factor in the usual emotions that roll around every year just in time for his birthday when I think about his precarious beginnings, yada, yada, yada. Yeah, I know, I talk about all of that too much, as most parents of 1lb babies who survive past their first birthday do. Daniel knows too well. He mostly appreciates it too. But today he is thirteen and he’d much rather do what he wants on his thirteenth birthday as most teenagers want to do.

Yeah, as much as he won’t admit it, he was probably glad that mom has been sick.

Every chance he got he told me that today was the best birthday because this is thirteen.

Happy birthday my beautiful, wonderful, miraculous son!