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.
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.
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.
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