National Association of Neonatal Nurses logo.

Hey, Little One

By Reena Blackwell, MSN RNC-NIC NE-BC

NANN Footprints: Stories from the NICU January 2019

BabyOlivia-15Hey little one. I know today didn’t go the way we were hoping it would; life is tricky that way, but we are all excited to meet you. You are so tiny little one, but your tiny little hands hold so much hope for the future. I remember seeing hands like yours for the first time all those years ago; I was afraid to touch them then, regardless of how many times I washed my hands. But here we are, your entire hand around my one finger—you have a strong grip little one.

Are you scared little one? Don’t be afraid. I know everything is bombarding your developing senses and nothing seems familiar to you. These are not the noises that made you feel safe and loved; not the warmth that surrounded you for all those weeks. It’s OK little one; I promise I will shield you from as much of it as I can. Help me show them, little one, how much you like to be contained and held; help me show your mom that her heartbeat relaxes you and reminds you of the familiar. Help me show your dad, little one, that he is important too and that it’s OK for him to cry. Hold their fingers, little one, but be gentle because you are holding all their dreams and their whole heart in the palm of your tiny little hand.

You’re getting bigger, little one, and less and less equipment surrounds you. Does that feel better, little one, breathing your own breaths, hearing your cry letting us know who is boss? You have a personality now, little one, and can melt our hearts with a grin, or make us laugh when make that face at vitamin time. You can hold two of my fingers now, little one, and now the hearts of all of those who know you.

You got sick today, little one, and to be honest, you scared me. I didn’t show it though, little one, because your mom was scared too. I held her hand, little one, and told her you were a fighter. I told myself too because I knew we all had to believe it. I know it was painful, little one, to get that new IV and your breathing tube back, to be poked for tests and positioned for X rays and we’re so sorry little one, but we had to find out what was wrong. It hurt my heart too, little one, to see you in so much pain. I just want to put you in your mother’s arms, little one, so she can tell you it’s going to get better, so you can hear her heart, little one, and know that you are safe. You didn’t want to hold my fingers today, little one, and I understand. You’re still holding our hearts and our hope for your future.

You’re going home today little one, and I am so happy to see you doing so well; to see you and your family so happy and how you fit so well in your outfit your mom brought when you could still fit in the palm of her hand. I am happy, little one, but also, you’re taking a small piece of my heart with you.

I’ll always think of you as I pass that bed space; it will always belong to you little one, regardless of how many ‘little ones’ get admitted to that spot. Your mom and dad say that I helped save you, little one, but in truth, you did so much more for me than I can ever express. Thank you for teaching me lessons in listening without words and learning to trust my instincts. Thank you for teaching me what it is to find my calling, little one, and for helping me develop a love for neonatal nursing I will never be able to properly express. Thank you, all my NICU little ones, for giving my life meaning.