09 October 2009

Being a NICU Parent

We have become NICU parents... Nobody gave us a crash course. We have just learned on the job. And it began right after Bennett was born and immediately rushed into intensive care.

Here are some of the things we have learned about what it means to be a NICU parent:

* We don't need Identification to come to the NICU. Everybody just seems to know who we are.

Since Day 1, we walked through the security doors no questions asked. Everyone seems just to know us in the NICU (and somehow knew us before we knew them) so we don't have to ask for permission to get through the security doors. When they see us, they make sure we have access to go through.

* Visiting hours are 24/7.

This is one of the most wonderful things about the NICU. We can visit our little one at any time of the day or night. If we wake up in the middle of the night and want to see our man, we can go to the hopsital to visit with him.

* We can call the doctors or nurses at any time to discuss Bennett's care.
The doctors typically call or come find us in the hospital every other day, if not daily to discuss Bennett's care. They are patient as we ask questions and they are more than willing to explain anything to us. If we are ever concerned about his care (such as the other night when we thought he might be in pain and need more pain medication), we can simply call them up to discuss. We've never felt so powerful! :) The doctors truly make us feel part of the team working to get Bennett better.

* We have to scrub up every time we see Bennett.
The NICU is a sterile enviroment - and for good reason. Each time we come in to the NICU, we have to take off our jewelry (which is why we have stopped wearing any), scrub up to our elbows with soap, and put on a hopsital gown. Since most people, including the doctors, are walking in and out of the NICU all day, few people ever tie the back to their hospital gown. So, it's common to see people walking around in hospital gowns but notice their clothes peeking out of the back.

* We thought Brian was getting his PhD in Religion but it looks like we're both getting a degree in Medical Terminology.
Ileostomy, malrotation, infra-red spectrometer, and meconium peritonitis are all new words we did not know a week ago. We still don't know how to pronounce cannula. But we have become very familiar with these words and learned what they mean for our boy. Believe us, we now know waaay more about the intestines than we ever thought we wanted to know!

* Holding times are 8 o'clock, 12 o'clock, and 4 o'clock.
This has been pretty disappointing - to think we have regulated times we can hold our baby. This is when we can feel the baby doesn't belong to us. But, it's for Bennett's best care. The reason his physicans/nurses have set this up is because they want to make sure Bennett has time to sleep throughout the day. The reality is that between the nurses having to take vitals, the surgeon residents needing to mess with his ileostomy, the respiratory therapist having to give him treatments, the doctors wanting to examine him and mom and dad wanting to hold him, Bennett could potentially go all day getting no rest at all.

* Every 12 hours, Bennett has a different nurse. If we could change anything about the NICU, we'd like to be able to change the fact that Bennett's nurses change after every shift. Each time we come, morning or night, we end up meeting a new nurse (so far, Bennett has had almost a dozen nurses care for him). This means each time we come to be with Bennett, we have a new face, a new name to remember and a different personality to work with. We have learned that we have our favorite nurses...and we have our least favorites. I'm sure the nurses feel the same way about families.

* Despite the open room and no walls, it's a no-no to look at other babies in the NICU without the parents there. Breck made the mistake the other day of observing the beautiful baby staying next to Bennett's bed. Breck had met the parents and was simply curious to follow the soft sound of baby music coming from the baby's bed (this baby, who is very stable, was in a crib, rather than an isolet like Oliver). It wasn't but 2 seconds later that a male nurse (there's only 1 in the NICU these days) came over and scolded Breck. Apparently, it's a big no-no - HIPPA regulations, we're sure. Nonetheless, who knew glancing over at other babies when there are no walls or curtains preventing you is against the rules!?

* The nurses know our son better than we do.
This is very hard for us, especially Breck. Because we don't understand all the tubes and because we aren't with Bennett all day, we don't always know why he's unhappy or how to best comfort him. We appreciate the nurses who love and care for him throughout the day. But it is terribly disappointing to see a stranger be able to calm your son in a way we feel in capable of doing. This is the process of getting to know Bennett - something that we will continue to do. But it's still one of the hardest things about having a baby in the NICU.


  1. You two are amazing parents... It is amazing how the NICU is a culture in itself. Hope your favorite nurses start to cycle back through, soon :) Love you guys.

  2. being a nicu nurse it is really neat to see your side of things. helps me to comfort the parents more thanks. and I wish i could come down there and take care of your little man so you would have a more familiar face. You all continue to be in my thoughts constantly and when ever you come to mind I am praying.

  3. Thanks for the insight into the culture of the hospital. I remember how we learned all sorts of medical terms when Erin was sick. And, like you, we had our favorite nurses too. It sounds like you're at a great hospital with wonderful people caring for Bennett. I know it must be hard to not get to care for him as much as you'd like, but you'll get to soon!


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