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.