Earthy and Expecting: Moms need to wean off NICU, too

On Monday, Jax graduated to the Continuing Care Nursery, the CCN. Staff often refer to it as the Country Club Nursery — it looks more like what you’d imagine a hospital nursery to look like. Plus, it’s quieter and has fewer nurses because the babies there don’t need to be supervised as closely as in intensive care.

That’s because CCN is usually just a brief layover before discharge.

I have to admit that, as excited as I am for Jax to come home, I’m going to miss the NICU. I know that might sound insane to some preemie parents, but I didn’t realize how much I’d come to rely on it as a sanctuary until Jax graduated out of it and into this new space that still isn’t his home.

Sure, there’s a couch and TV in this new breast-feeding room, and a stuffed animal wallpaper border, and lots of happy pictures of parents and preemies on their discharge day.

But where are my favorite nurses? There are only two on duty at a time in the CCN. Intensive care is larger and more staffed, so even though everyone takes shifts in the CCN, there’s a greater chance of just running into a familiar face even if that person isn’t the one taking care of Jax on a given day.

I definitely feel I’ve built up a rapport with more than a few of the nurses. I’ve read some testimonials of preemie moms who felt the nurses were intrusive or made them feel like inadequate mothers. Some resented the amount of time nurses got to spend with their babies, believing that inhibited parent-child bonding.

I’ve not experienced any of those emotions. I feel occasional twinges of sadness at the thought of Jax waking up and seeing a nurse instead of me, but I have no hard feelings about that. I’m grateful for their attentiveness, the specialized care they give my particular preemie — and to me.

The heated isolette (incubator) and various vital statistic monitors are a NICU nurse’s domain. Yes, they hear the beeps in their sleep. I’ve asked. Photo courtesy of Flickr user NomadicEntrepreneur

It’s the job of neonatal nurses to know when to feed Jax, and how much to feed him, and if he’s prone to being gassy or spitting up. It’s their job to keep detailed charts of his progress. It’s even their job to provide occasional emotional support to parents.

It isn’t their job to know that to comfortably nurse, I need two pillows and a boppy, I prefer the rocking chair instead of the big K-care chair, and I like a foot stool. They don’t have to read my columns or ask about my day at work. A NICU nurse doesn’t have to bring me a glass of water or grab the camera when Jax does something utterly adorable. And none of them have to endure, let alone laugh at, all the nicknames I try out. (My personal favorite is Cuteous Jaximus, and all Jax’s nurses agree: both it and he are keepers.) But they do all those things.

I know they are highly skilled caregivers who go above and beyond at times. I know they are a support system I will sorely miss. But I also know the names of some of their children, a couple of whom spent time in the very NICU in which they now do their exceptional and compassionate work. I know that it’s unusual to see a certain nurse on night-shift, and that another one makes the absolute best fudge I’ve ever tasted. Another gave me her cellphone number and said I could call her if I was having a bad day.

Dare I say, some of these nurses have become my friends?

To the nurse who made me laugh so hard last week when she read Jax’s weight (then, 5 pounds, 11.5 ounces — he’s since hit 6 pounds!) and said, “Get your fat baby off my scale!” — thank you.

To the nurse who is not only a fellow Steelers fan, but can also tell by looking at me if I need to skip the clinical talk and just hold Jax quietly for a while — thank you.

To the nurse who thinks none of my questions are stupid or redundant and will spend an hour with me speculating on all the what-ifs, then still print off more information to send home with me — thank you.

Jax isn’t the only one who is weaning off of your care.

Stacia M. Fleegal

York Daily Record multiplatform journalist. Degrees in creative writing from Lycoming College and Spalding University, and a coupla books with my name on them. Central PA native who came home after floating around for a while, but always grounded by words and the places and people I remember.

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1 Response

  1. Alicia says:

    I felt the exact same way when we graduated to CCN. It just took some getting use too, we spent just under a month there and that becomes your new home. I also felt the exact same way about the nurses there too! They definitely become friends! I actually miss them and think about them often! I’m hoping to plan to make a visit soon to see some of the night time nurses. We are having one of our team nurses over on Sat. and on the day we were discharged the nurse on duty forgot to send home her vitamins and she dropped them off at our house once she got off work. I could have easily wrote this word for word right from my mouth, but not as nicely. They are very special people! I hold those memories very close to me!

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