This post is more about me than it is about Little Miss Minion. She’s doing very well, but I have volunteering news.
As I mentioned several posts ago, I am now a member of a NICU Parent support group. The very short story of what we do is provide additional support to families of babies who are currently in the nicu or who are hospitalized and at risk of needing the nicu. We host activities once a week where the parents can make door decorations or photo frames or other little crafty things for their baby’s room. We host dinners where the parents can get free food and talk to the other parents. Last weekend was a Fathers Day event where a photographer was coming to take professional pictures for free. And we also visit moms-to-be who are on the ante partum and labor and delivery floor of the hospital. These would be women who are on hospital bedrest, women who are on meds to stop early labor, women like me who were suspected of having preeclampsia, and any other case where early delivery of the baby is a possibility or the baby has health problems that will likely result in a nicu stay.
I did something called a Unit Visit last weekend. This is where we go into the nicu itself and visit each and every room to drop off welcome bags and flyers for upcoming events. First, we made up the bags. This consists of putting journals and booklets into bags for each category of nicu stay. There are the short term stays, which are for any baby born after 36 weeks. There are middle stays, which are for babies born from 32 weeks to 35 weeks 6 days, and long term stays, which are any baby born before 32 weeks. It was strange to make up bags for someone who was in the same boat that we were in. The long terms get a preemie book, sponsored by the nicu group, that I remember reading during the first few weeks of our stay. I had thought everyone got one, but they are actual published books and probably cost-prohibitive for everyone to get a copy.
After we made the bags, we loaded them all onto a cart and wheeled it down to the nicu. Our nicu is divided into wings. One side is for babies who need higher levels of care, and the other is for babies who are “feeder-growers,” or just need to learn to eat and keep growing. Our stay started on the higher care side, since Little Miss Minion was on oxygen support and needed more intensive monitoring. My mentor and I began our Unit Visit on the same side, waiting at the double doors that Mr Minion and I passed through for most of our stay.
We scrubbed up at the sinks, where I remembered frantically checking the clock to see if I had made it in time to help with cares and get to hold her for an hour. Then we started in the first pod and began our visit. We dropped off the bags for new arrivals, plus flyers about upcoming events.
Walking through the doors to our first pod was surreal. I immediately looked down to the room we had called home for about half of our three month stay, to see if the light above the room was on. If the light was on, there was a nurse in the room. We got up to that room and I couldn’t make myself go in. I looked through the doors and saw that the occupant was a girl, and there was a tiny pink dog sitting on her isolette. Little Miss Minion has an identical one.
We continued our visit, talking to all the parents who were around. When we got to the feeder grower side, the change was dramatic. There were windows, for one thing. High needs babies are generally micro preemies and light hurts their eyes.
I went into our last room. It’s a corner room with huge windows that look over a little green area and a parking garage. The family in there was going home the next day. It was so strange to stand in that room, since the last time I was there, I was taking my three month old baby home for the first time.
I’m so excited to be able to return to the NICU and provide another source of support for the families who have found themselves there.