By Debbie Moore-Black, RN
I always knew my work schedule.
But this time I got it wrong…. Or maybe I got it right.
I clocked in, and reported to ICU for my nightshift to start.
But I wasn’t on the schedule. And strangely enough, they had enough nurses that night.
The nursing supervisor asked me if I would be willing to go to the neonatal ICU (NICU) and rock a baby.
Except for nursing school, I knew nothing about neonatal nursing much less NICU.
But this should be easy. So I said yes.
I entered the NICU and the charge nurse asked me if I could rock this little 5.5 lb premature baby girl.
She was irritable with a frantic shrill cry. Her body trembled.
I immediately thought: “what have I gotten myself into?”
Her tiny self had a nasal cannula attached to her nostrils.
Little Greta was going through withdrawal symptoms.
Her mom did drugs. Opioids.
My heart wept.
Little Greta would tremble. An uncontrollable body tremor.
But I held her close in my arms as I slowly rocked her.
She was perfect. Her tiny fingers wrapped around one of my fingers. We looked into each other’s eyes. Those small brown eyes. And I slowly rocked her, slow and rhythmic. I put her close to my heart. So she could feel my warmth. Feel my heart beating.
Feel my love.
I was told the mother was already discharged. That she was undergoing drug rehabilitation which included methadone treatment.
Social services would make visits to see the progress of Greta and visits to the mom also.
The goal was to eventually return Greta back to her mother, when she was physically able to go home.
DSS would eventually make well visits to the mom and baby Greta when she was returned to her mom.
Within 2 hours of rocking Greta, her breathing slowed to a restful state. Her little eyes closed as she slept peacefully in my arms.
I could have rocked her forever.
I said a prayer for Greta that she would have a happy life. I said a prayer that her mom would be rehabilitated and would never go back to drugs.
This perfect creation. Sleeping quietly in my arms.
And I wished her the best that life and love could give her.
I could only pray a positive prayer.
I did not want to begin to think the dark thoughts that circled my mind.
After two hours of rocking baby Greta, I handed her over to her nurse, I slowly walked out of the hospital. My “assignment” was over with.
Tears slowly fell to my cheeks. Tears I couldn’t hold back.
Tears for baby Greta. Her perfect self, and that peaceful snuggle against my chest as she held her tiny hand tightly wrapped around my finger.
SAMHSA National Helpline
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Confidential free help from public health agencies to find substance use treatment and information.
(Photo: google images)