Saying Good-bye to the NICU after 20 Years…

 

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

                                                                            “Closing Time” –Semi Sonic

 

Yesterday was my last scheduled shift as a NICU nurse.

For the past twenty years, the NICU was my professional “home”.  I never intended it to be…when I was in college, I wanted to be a Labor and Delivery nurse. That, I believed, was where I was meant to be. My clinical rotation in L&D was so exciting and wonderful and adrenaline-filled. New life coming into this world-it was a mostly joyous occasion filled with celebrations. It was hard to comprehend in those moments just before the birth that there was going to be another person entering the world who was created from just two separate cells 9 months before. One minute they are not there, and then one minute later~Boom! There’s another person on this planet.

Incredible!

But I couldn’t find a job in L&D after graduation in the mid 1990s. Everyone wanted “experience” and I didn’t have that yet. I was just a brand-spanking-new- idealistic nurse.

I was offered a job on a Medical-Surgical floor, so I took it. I had to gain nursing experience while waiting for that L&D opportunity to open up.

Yeah, needless to say, that wasn’t my cup of tea. Back in those days, we had nine patients each with one nurse’s aid for the whole floor to help out. I felt like all I did was hand out medications and change bed linens. I didn’t feel like I was ever making a difference in their lives. I never felt like I was making their lives a little easier, a little less scarier, a little more comfortable…who had the time to do that when there was blood to be hung, peritoneal dialysis to do on four different patients, medications to be handed out, charting to complete? I often left in tears because this career that I had worked and studied so hard to join was not what I had envisioned AT ALL.

And then a new couple moved into the apartment below me. The girl was a NICU nurse at a different hospital and said they had a few positions open and that I should apply. I had spent a day or two in the NICU in college during my Mother/Baby rotation, but it hadn’t interested me at the time because it looked so scary.  Truthfully, I was so unhappy at the current job that I did apply and got the job. I thought it would be another stepping stone to finding a job in L&D.

God works in mysterious ways, doesn’t He?

This “stepping stone” job became my passion, my love, my vocation, my “calling”. I remember walking into that NICU on my first day so full of nervousness, excitement, apprehension and fear. I had never even really changed a baby’s diaper before and now I was going to learn how to help a 500 gram, 24 week gestation infant live?

But I had wonderful nurses there to show me the way. They became my second family, my mentors, the nurses I wanted to imitate, to be like. They shared their knowledge, skills and “tricks of the trade.” After months of orientation, I was on my own.

But not really. If you work in a good environment, you are never really “on your own”.  There is always someone to refer to, to ask questions, to offer nursing advice, to save you from drowning during your shift. Everyone is there with one goal~to take care of the babies and their families as they go through such a difficult time.

And as time went on, I gained confidence and started loving it.

Every part of it.

The adrenaline pumping high-risk deliveries we were needed to be present for if the baby was preterm or distressed in utero…

The first stunning moments a parent sees their child for the first time, and he or she is connected to wires, IV’s, tubes and machines.. or gets to hold their child for the first time…sometimes they had to wait WEEKS for that moment…

The hard times when a sick infant gets even sicker and there is nothing you could do to help…

The good times when a baby who has been in the NICU for months gets to finally go home with his parents…

Seeing a family develop right before your very eyes, tentative at first because of all the uncertainty, but with time becoming more confident…

Developing relationships with the babies who are entrusted in your care…taking care of them like you would like your OWN child cared for if he or she were in the NICU…

Developing relationships with the parents who entrust that care to you…who have to leave their babies in the hospital while all they want is for their child to be healthy and home with them…

Having a part in something greater than anything I could explain…

I loved all of it.

But in the past two years, I have felt a new calling, a new passion, a new love that I would like to pursue.

I have taken a much greater interest in helping new moms and babies learn how to breastfeed. Again, this was not something I ever envisioned of myself doing as a career in the beginning, but now I do. Funny how things change and evolve, isn’t it? At first I tried to ignore it because I felt “safe” being a NICU nurse. It’s what I have always known.

But more and more I found myself enjoying this aspect of NICU nursing the most. I started reading more about becoming a Lactation Consultant. I took a week long course that earned me the title of  “Certified Lactation Specialist”.  I prayed long and hard over what to do, where my next step should be.

Am I scared?

Yes! This is a big change for me. Sometimes I feel like I am standing on the edge of a cliff about to jump off and I don’t know if there’s a safety net there.

But I’m more afraid NOT to try.

A few weeks ago, I found this guy sitting on my couch…

butterfly

It was exactly –17 degrees outside that day in the middle of February, but this guy was on my couch. How he got there, I have no idea.

But he symbolizes change to me. Beautiful change.

I had gotten an email from a recruiter on Linked-in. Out of the blue. He had seen my qualifications on the site and referred me to a position that was opening up. I forwarded my email to his contact. They called me in for an interview and I went and did my best. I was very impressed with the leadership team and really wanted the job! They called me for a second interview, a peer interview.  I was really nervous, but was myself and tried to let my passion show through.

In the end, they are awesome enough to give me a shot at working in the Lactation Department. I truly can’t wait to start.

When I was leaving the new hospital after getting my new I.D. badge picture taken, I passed by their outdoor atrium and spotted this…

metal butterfly

I had to take a picture of it.

I am excited to take on this new adventure, I am sad to leave the old one behind. I am thrilled I will still be able to work with mothers and babies, just in a different capacity. I will never forget how truly blessed I am.

butterfly quote

Peace,

Kathy

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14 thoughts on “Saying Good-bye to the NICU after 20 Years…

  1. Kathy, OMG wow! I’m reading with tears in my eyes as you shared your wonderful story woven with love & talent. The butterfly on your couch was amazing, and yet that was topped by the one you saw in their courtyard! What wonderful signs you were given, what proof of a divine power even though you hadn’t been asking. I’m floored. Thank you for sharing this powerful post. Good luck! Though I’ve no doubt blessings will be in abundance and luck will not be needed! ♡♡♡

  2. Crying. Blessings to you my good friend. I believe in signs. To receive 2 is without a doubt a validation that it’s meant to be. The women and babies you have met and will meet will be touched by an Angel. Love you Kathy Meade

  3. This was an absolutely great post. Congratulations and good luck on your new position. I must say thought that NICU nurses are my personal heroes. My daughter was born weighing 2lbs, 3 oz. and spent 2 full months in NICU. The support from the nurses was truly stupendous. I do not know how we would have made it without the nurses giving care for all of us. Their primary concern had to be the babies, but they really understood that the entire family needed support and assurances. Thank you for your years of service.

  4. Ti wish you so much luck as you begin your new adventure! My youngest daughter was in the NICU for her first 7 days of life. The nurses there got us through the hurdles and we brought her home healthy and safe. I will always be grateful to them. I’m sure y made an impact on your former patients families and you. Ow have the opportunity to help others in a different way. All the best, Janie

  5. Tears streaming down my face my beautiful daughter! What a blessing you are, have been, and will be to future families! What a beautiful synopsis you shared with all of us, you are truly a blessed and loved woman! An I am so happy to watch this next chapter of your life unfold! All my love to you alwayhs, my Daughtercita!

  6. I am so happy that you found a position in this new area. I can see you being a knowledgable, empathetic and trusted resource for new moms. The new hospital is lucky to have you! Congratulations and good luck!

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