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.

 

 

for the future important people

This week in my social media:

And one special gem that made me smile and made me cry.

Dr. Carey D. Andrew-Jaja’s joy shines out like a bright beacon in this video. It reminded me of the fact that for the last 25 years I always whisper “happy birthday” to each and every tiny human I have the privilege of greeting on the day that they are born because this day really is a day to celebrate meeting a future important person. Oh, and I am reminded once again that I do have the best job ever shaking the hands of countless important people.

The mother of this one reminded me yesterday that she turned 9 years old. Honestly, it seems like it was yesterday when she and I shook hands for the first time.

 

 

the hardest parts

I have always said that my most favorite age and stage in the lives of each of my children is this one, the one they are in now…except for the adolescence of my first born. Don’t judge. She agrees. It was hard on both of us. And we both lived to tell the tale.

Thank gawd!

But yes, the best part in the lives of my individual children is this part right now when you are asking me what is the best part.

And it is often also the hardest part.

Sharing a moment with one of my grown circus clowns, we discussed just this. We talked about potty training and how she remembers the day I gave up and put her back in diapers because we both weren’t ready. I remember relief and later feeling vindicated when two months down the road she was ready and accident free. She remembers feeling so mad and sad that I put her back in diapers.

OMG, she was 2½! She remembers that!

And sharing a glass or two or more of wine, we recall each age and stage…the big sister worship, the picking on the baby sister, the silly times, the hard times, the scary times, the fun times.

And now here we are, sharing wine together…and she shares what’s going on in her life right now I am wishing we were back in the days of potty training battles because potty training was a lot easier than this is right now. This part where they are grown up and they make mistakes and they deal with consequences and tears and fears and heartbreak and mommy can’t fix it is hard. Too hard sometimes. I could easily dispense my wealth of wisdom telling her what she must do. But in spite of the wine…or because of the wine, I just listen because just listening is what she wants, what she needs the most right now…and hugs and wine and The Kitten Bowl that I dvr’d especially for her.

This parenting gig gets harder and harder I swear. What I wouldn’t give for a little potty training right now…seriously.

Sorry millennial parents! The hardest part of parenting, like the very best part, is the here and the now.

Hang in there.

I am.

 

 

a dining oasis

Married now for decades…decades…that sounds like a really long time, doesn’t it? Well, yes, 31 years and more is a long time to love and be loved and be stuck together like the old married folk that Bill and I are.

So what about Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day?

Really?

Truthfully, as an old married lady, I haven’t thought too much about it as Love Day was approaching. But my darling husband, on the other hand, was thinking about it a lot. Again, just when I think I know him and can predict almost anything about him he goes and does something like this.

I hate when he does that.

I love when he does that.

He does too because, yes, he loves catching me off guard.

So let’s get dressed up and go somewhere really nice for a Valentine’s dinner?

Around here?

Well, there is an oasis?

An oasis?

Yes, an oasis in the dining desert that is Manteca. It says so right here in Yelp.

So it does. Well, okay then. It’s a date.

And we waited this week for date night to finally arrive.

Ah, the romance of anticipation!

And…

Yes.

Yes.

Yes.

Yes, indeed Ernie’s Fine Foods & Spirits truly is an oasis in the desert that is Manteca’s dining offerings of endless fast food restaurants, taquerias and chain restaurants.

The appetizers, the 5 onions soup, the grilled to perfection steaks, the lobster, the spirits, the wine, the service, the ambiance all perfection.

But Bill impeccably dressed in his grey suit and me in a jersey column dress were definitely overdressed because this is Manteca.

Still, good food, good drink, great uninterrupted conversation…this was good. This was very good. My darling husband definitely hit this one out of the park.

We shall be back, Ernie’s!

hahs comes yinz don’t tahk like yinz are from here n’at?

I sometimes refer to myself as “just a steel town girl” because a good part of my childhood was spent growing up in Pittsburgh. But anyone familiar with the delightful, almost musical way someone from Western PA speaks, aka Pittsburghese, might actually question whether I am just another girl from Pittsburgh, er Picksburg.

Just the other day I found myself struggling to describe the uniqueness that is the way a still-tahn gurl might converse n’at with a friend of mine. As I said words like :dahntahn, still mill, stillers, nebby, gumbandz, Jine Iggl, Ahn City, jagoff, n’at to her I could see her eyes start to glaze just a bit as she shook her head saying, “Sure, Laura.

But it’s true. It’s all true!

She laughs some more.

Yeah, she isn’t believing this fable.

I may not ever really learned to speak like a native, but I have no problem understanding the language.

Listen, yinz, ta this story.  Last Mundy, when I got home from dahntahn Picksburg, I redded up the hahse, worshed the clothes and did the arning, n’at.  Then I decided ta take a break coz I was gettin’ rilly hungry.  I looked ina fridge, but it needed stocked.  Alls I had was butterbread and leftover city chicken.  No jumbo, no chipped ham, no kolbassi.

So I headed aht to Jine Iggl.  I got me a buggy and picked up a hoagie, some pop and a duzn eggs in case I wanted dippy ones in the mornin’.  When I got back home, I headed aht to set by the crick ta eat in peace and quiet.  Just as I was gonna take a bite a my sammich, my nebby neighbor, Shurl, shows up, wantin’ ta know how I been.  Whiles we’re chattin’, I see a grinny sneak up and start nibblin’ on my mill.  I tried ta chase him, but the grass was slippy, and I fell in ta the jaggerbushes.  I never been so flustrated.”

For those who are scratching their heads, allow me to translate for you:

Listen, all, to this story.   Last Monday, when I got home from being in downtown Pittsburgh, I cleaned the house, washed the clothes and did the ironing.  Then I decided to take a break because I was getting really hungry.  I looked into the refrigerator, but it need to be stocked.  All that I had was buttered bread and leftover city chicken (cubed beef or veal, skewered, breaded and fried).  I had no bologna, thinly sliced ham, no Polish sausage.

So I went to the store and got a cart.  I bought a submarine sandwich, soda and a dozen of eggs in case I wanted eggs over easy in the morning.  When I got back home, I headed out to sit by the creek to eat in peace and quiet.  Just as I was about to take a bite from my sandwich, my nosy neighbor, Cheryl, appeared and asked how I have been.  While we are talking, I saw a chipmunk and it started to nibble on my meal.  I tried to chase him, but the grass was slippery and I fell into the thorn bushes.  I’ve never been so frustrated.”

See? I do understand…because I am indeed just a still tahn gurl…although I would never, ever drink Ahn City Beer.

After my late night convo with my friend, I knew I had to find proof of the unparalleled delight that is Pittsburghese.

And now I miss the ‘Burgh and the way yinz all tahk.

Well, maybe not this. Yinz stay warm n’at!