Journaling You Home
By Jamie Burt, BSN RN
NANN Footprints: Stories from the NICU February 2022
Experience big, small, and meaningful moments as NANN member Jamie Burt shares journal notes written throughout a patient's NICU stay.
As NICU (Neonatal Intesive Care Unit) nurses, family-centered care is a goal we strive to achieve.
Our NICU is 3 years young. As a new NICU we saw many changes. As we grew more comfortable in offering a higher level of care, we actively pursued ways to focus on more family-centered care.
I have sweet memories of mommy, daddy, and a 4-year old sister coming to visit their NICU baby. Daddy would help scrub big sister's hands so gently and carefully prior to their visit.
We understand more everyday the impact on parental well-being and infant health that skin to skin affords.
I can see the twins' parents singing as they held them skin to skin.
I remember the grandma eager and willing to do skin to skin with her grandbaby.
I fondly picture two adolescent big brothers here to meet and lovingly talk to their surprise little sis.
Beautiful reminders of families coming together even when their baby needs special care.
Then all came to a screeching halt. So much uncertainty.
Who can enter the NICU?
Only one support person was allowed to be with mom and baby throughout the hospital stay.
Our NICU decided to allow mom and dad/significant other to care for and be present with their baby together.
FaceTime became vital to family connections.
There is guilt when you are a parent gone from the NICU!
As nurses we pondered: How can we offer assurance and comfort when you, the parent, are not physically present?
Crib cards are decorated with an individualized touch for each child.
Crafty nurses lovingly make octopus developmental devices.
We have our parent dry erase board for both medical and milestone updates.
We welcome and encourage your phone calls.
We offer you "Postpartum Inn" when possible: food and a room to be close to your baby a few more days post discharge.
Then we encourage you to realize the benefits of time away from the hospital.
Restorative sleep in your own bed!
Hugs, visits, and gifts of food with friends and family.
Laughter and playtime with your other children.
But we know your heart is torn.
There is guilt when you are here:
- Could I have done anything while I was pregnant that made this happen?
- I need to be ome, my other kids don't understand, they need my attention too and we aren't being used to being apart.
- I must get food for my family.
- My baby came early, and I did not have things ready.
- We only have one car, and my partner must work.
We get it! There will be no easing of your restless spirit until this precious baby is home where she belongs! With her family all together.
We encourage you, her parents, to talk openly about your feelings and concerns. Join a NICU support group. Be mindful through your own journal of good days and hard days and how to get through them. Name your gratitude for the day. Parents of NICU graduates will tell you it takes many small steps on the homeward journey.
How do we best express our service standards of Love Me and Keep Me safe?
We want to let you know, yes, we can care for your baby, but we also care about your baby!
This journal project started at our hospital when a group of caring ICU (Intensive Care Unit) nurses started the project to bring comfort to family members who could not visit gravely ill loved ones during the pandemic.
The seed was planted! NICU nurses realized we can mold this idea and make it our own.
Our purpose with journaling is to provide a method of recording and celebrating milestones during baby's NICU stay. Nurses, therapists, and Chaplains all contribute to document each baby's unique journey. A birthday celebration page with baby's name, birth date and time, and measurements starts the album. There are scrapbook pages to celebrate milestones: first bath, no more IV, finishing off the whole bottle for the first time! We end with a graduation celebration page. But oh, the pages in between. Here the care and compassion of caregivers pours out.
"Look at me! I got my first bath now that I'm off oxygen. My nurse can't believe all my soft-rocker hair. It sticks up straight, pretty cool huh!"
"I enjoyed my first massage today! Occupational therapy!"
"Sweet boy got a little fussy after eating, wide awake in the middle of the night. In the swing he went, and he loved it! Went right to sleep."
"Look at me Mom and Dad. No IV! My nurse told me I'm one step closer to going home! I can't wait!"
"Happy birthday! You were in a big hurry to get here 6 weeks ahead of schedule. It has been a big day with lots of new noises and textures. Mommy doesn't feel well but Daddy came and held your hand, talked softly to you, and took pictures to show Mommy. Rest now little one."
"Mama is at big sister's school program today and you are bored. You are getting to be such a big girl as you learn to eat! You were wide awake, so I got to hold you and visit. You have the most expressive eyes and beautiful lips. We had a great conversation sweet one."
The creativity of heart and mind is shared, and the message is wonderfully conveyed. We are here. We care. We see you, precious baby. We celebrate your individuality. We want to help you connect with your family.
This has brought such reassurance to parents, they love their baby's journal and, in the process, we have created a valuable keepsake as we journal you home dear baby.