Mark and I got home from a lovely, restful vacation on Friday afternoon, and I will post a blog telling all about that tomorrow, but I'd like to touch on something that I haven't really talked about before: my work.
I love these NICU babies. I love to cuddle them (which happens not often enough), and I have poured blood, sweat, and tears into some of them. I have fought for them and with them, I've chased them and their lab values into oblivion, I've caught illnesses early (and also later than I've wished as well.) I've laughed and cried with their families, cheered over small hurdles ("He peed!! Just a couple drops, but his kidneys are working again!!"), mourned over huge losses, prayed for them... I really, really do love them.
When people first learn what I do, where I work, their immediate reaction is usually something along the lines of "Oh, that must be so sad!" And really, it isn't as sad as most people think. We have a lot more happy moments than sad ones, because babies' bodies don't really like to die very much.
But sometimes it's hard. Right now, I'm in a pod with a few of your run-of-the-mill preemies, not really sick, just not really big enough to be well at this point. But also here with us are some heartbreakers. Babies who will never be "normal," babies who will potentially be vegetables, babies whose mothers don't care about them, babies who would be perfect, aside from the fact that their mothers did drugs while pregnant, thus sending them into a spiraling withdrawl from birth. These babies can be frustrating to take care of. They are long-timers, they stay for months, they can be very irritable, they like to pull tubes and IVs and other important things out, and a lot of people don't like taking care of them very much. And I fall victim to the frustration too. But sometimes, in the quiet of the night, a little part of my heart whispers "You know you love them the most." It's true. Because they need it the most. They are the "unlovable," if a baby can be such a thing. But there's just something about walking up and down the unit with a crabby, crying baby in your arms and ever so slowly soothing it to sleep, placing it in its crib, and knowing it will stay asleep until time to wake up and eat again. There's something about finding beauty in babies with congenital malformations, and agreeing with their parents that yes, they really are lovely. That, despite the fact that a baby may never read or readily communicate, they still have worth and deserve a fighting chance in this world.
Sometimes this job rips my heart out. When a baby dies, part of my heart dies with it. Sometimes you know that medically, it's for the best. Best for their quality of life, best because it's never right to prolong the dying process in a tiny little precious person (at least, that's my opinion...) And it never matters. It never becomes commonplace, never routine, never okay. And I hope it never does.
But other times, which happen much more often, my heart overflows. With love, with joy, with happiness that a little life has been spared by the grace of God and His mercy. Because He loves these babies too. I think God has a very special place in that big, big heart of His for our precious NICU babies (and all babies who are sick, in fact.) I rejoice inside every time a baby goes home to a loving family. I rejoice every time these little miracles prove that they are stronger than anyone believed them to be, and beat the odds. I rejoice even more when I hear from a family I took care of before, and get an excellent update on the baby (who is now walking/talking/sitting/smiling/hearing/will never have CP/etc, etc, etc.) In fact, tonight at least, I rejoice when it's quiet, when all my babies have calmed down and I have done a decent job at placating them. It's funny what you never take for granted in the NICU.
All of this, this long, drawn-out explanation, is why I am commuting back and forth from here to Birmingham, to wait for a NICU job there to open up, rather than seeking out just any old something just to have a job. I am a NICU nurse, and a good one at that. I know that sounds pretty terrible to say, but it's just what I'm good at. I am always so impressed with anyone who can work in a nursing home or on a medsurg floor without completely losing their minds. Other jobs just aren't for me at this point ... I'm a NICU nurse, through and through. So I will wait, and be patient, and God will provide me with my dream Birmingham job. I just hope that it's sooner rather than later, so me and my dear hubby will not have to be parted for so long.