Twin Cities Mom Collective

A NICU Nurse Perspective

I’m not sure I’ve ever labored over a blog post this much…no pun intended.

Like many of you, I’m a mom. I’m also an optimist, a perfectionist, a champion of women and the strength God gave them.

I’m also a NICU nurse.

Perspective From a NICU Nurse | Twin Cities Moms Blog

I started in the NICU fresh out of nursing school.

Never had I seen a one-pound baby, abdominal contents in a bag outside its stomach or a little one on a ventilator giving so many tiny breaths a minute that they’re vibrating on the bed.

I did not know the overwhelmed look of joy and terror that appears on a new dad’s face when he gets a first glimpse at his preemie’s itty-bitty body.

My ears had not heard the raw pain in the cry of a mother saying a goodbye to her beloved baby far too soon.

When I got pregnant with my first child, I had several years of “NICU Normal” which included all of the above experiences and very few “normal newborns.” I was nervous that anything and everything was going to happen to my baby. The weight of my impact on our baby’s development from the moment of conception until birth made me analyze everything I did, ate, and thought.

Even accounting for everything, you can’t control what happens. The many NICU nurse’s babies I’ve seen as patients are proof. The mother’s have eaten right, rested, had routine ultrasounds, abstained from caffeine or alcohol, worked fewer hours and still, the delivery happened early or the baby didn’t transition well.

My plan for the birth of our first did not involve 24-hours of labor, an epidural, low blood pressure, a fever, baby’s heart beat racing, and three hours of pushing. (All of which took place). No, my “ideal” plan was to have him without pain meds or other devices because my body was made for this, right? But by this time, I had been a NICU nurse for three years so I already knew something that most first, second or even fifth time mom’s don’t know.

When it comes to having a baby, it’s not about YOU.

With my time and experience as a NICU nurse,  I’ve learned a few things. Some of which are not popular with many, but I’m going to share my thoughts anyway.

Please hear this: I am not condemning, blaming, or guilting anyone into changing their minds. I’m also not saying anything that happened to your baby was your fault or could have been prevented.

I do, however, feel there is something to be learned from my experience caring for the sickest of babies.

The small percentage (1-10%) of babies who experience complications at or after delivery are 100% of my patients. So, when you think that your chances of complications are nil, please think again.

Perspective From a NICU Nurse | Twin Cities Moms Blog

As a NICU nurse, I can tell you “natural” is not always best.

You think you should be able to perform a “natural” birth outside the hospital with no pain meds or modern medicine because your body was made for it?

I will tell you it’s not worth it.

Until you’ve put your hand of comfort on the slumped shoulder of a father, sitting alone while his wife is in the ICU after birthing complications and late medical care, who is getting the news from the doctor that the baby went too long without oxygen during delivery and probably won’t make it, you don’t know what you’re risking.

Before you consider a vaginal birth after C-section (VBAC) because so and so said you should, or push back when a C-section is required, I will tell you it’s seldom worth it.

Because watching a family discontinue support to let their seizing, asphyxiated baby go after mom’s tragic uterine rupture is too devastating to put to words.

When you think we are over-medicating with eye ointment or a Vitamin K injection at birth, I will tell you that you’re wrong. The normal newborn who comes in with a brain bleed because his blood didn’t clot right will forever suffer because you read somewhere on the internet that it wasn’t necessary.

That ultrasound you’re resisting? Have one. While they don’t catch everything, some congenital defects can be detected. Your baby’s outcome will be so much better with a prenatal diagnosis that allows prompt and appropriate care at the time of delivery.

Don’t think any of this will happen to your baby? Neither did any of my patient’s parents.

Before you comment about how great your VBAC, water birth, or home birth was, know that it is not you I’m referring to right now. I’m talking to those who have not yet made the decisions and have a little life they want the best for.

Educate yourself, make sure you know what and WHO you’re risking. Remember, it’s not about you.

I know there are risks with conventional medicine and that C-sections are a big deal. I am certainly not saying to stop using your head. Just be smart, know the positive and negative outcomes of what you choose.

And me?

I’m forever wrecked in favor of following the recommendations of knowledgeable medical professionals and I will always be prepared to accept EVERY intervention that looks out for my family.

I love moms.

I love babies.

I love that our bodies were made to bring forth life.

I also love that because of science, technology, research, and experience, fewer moms are dying in childbirth and more babies are surviving.

I love being a NICU nurse, but I hope and pray that one day my skills will no longer be needed.



Original post published November 2014





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Stacey April 16, 2015 at 1:00 AM

As a NICU nurse, you see the worst of the worst. You do see the VBACs that end in uterine rupture, but you don’t see the many, many babies that are born from VBACs that don’t end with a uterine rupture. However, with each RCS the risk of placenta accreta goes up and you will see almost all of those babies as they won’t avoid the NICU.

Tara Glenn January 5, 2016 at 5:46 PM

My children and I have an MTHFR mutation – all of my children have at least one mutated gene, as I only have mutated genes to pass onto them. We did not do the vitamin K injection. I opted to breastfeed and consume extra vitamin K in my own diet. It was not worth the additional risk that comes with MTHFR mutations, as we cannot properly detox heavy metals and other harmful toxins. None of our four children had the injection, and they are all still healthy and well. With each medical procedure, and yes administering a vitamin K shot is a medical procedure, you should be helping the parents make an INFORMED decision, not bullying them into getting one because getting one also poses a risk. As a nurse, you should know better.

Elaine August 10, 2016 at 8:03 PM

Temper, I couldn’t agree more. Well said ! To all prospective parents….listen to her. I daresay almost 100% of my NICU colleagues over the past 37+ years would agree that Temper’s advice is spot on.
Elaine, RN BSN

Sutton Turner November 19, 2018 at 10:51 AM

I like how you said that when it comes to having babies, it’s not about you. I have been thinking of becoming a neonatal nurse. Thanks for the information from a NICU nurse.

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