The phone conversations became my new normal. “Jack received his vaccine tonight. He cried a little bit, but don’t worry. I held him and rocked him until he fell back asleep.”
The words came when I called to check on my twin infants, Jack and Lilly, who were born on Sept. 14 at 28 weeks gestation and spent the first 72 days of their lives in the neonatal intensive care unit at Palmetto Health Richland.
This is the care that showed me where the angels live. They live on the fifth floor of Palmetto Health Richland. They are NICU nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians and other health-care providers caring for the premature and critical babies in South Carolina.
Having a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit is a journey that can’t possibly be understood until you go through it. Walking down the hall, ringing the bell, scrubbing up, checking in, never knowing what you’re going to hear when you walk into your babies’ room. It’s scary.
But the scared feeling doesn’t last long, because before you know it, you’re greeted by a kind of person you never knew existed. Nurses, practitioners and physicians who have a different kind of soul than anyone you know. Strangers who love and care about you and your baby as much as you do.
Instantly, they turn from strangers to second mommies and daddies. They are the people who got to hold your baby first. Calmed them down the first time they cried. Held their hand during midnight procedures. They know what sleeping positions make them the happiest. They changed their first diaper. Gave them their first bath. They laugh with you. Cry with you. Comfort you. They are your new family. Your home away from home.
Having a premature baby is tough and something I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, and it’s something that often can be prevented, so please educate yourself on the causes. In our case, it couldn’t be prevented. That is why I am grateful for the level of service at NICUs such as the one at Palmetto Health’s and for organizations dedicated to furthering medical science to take care of babies like mine. Should you find yourself in my shoes, know that there are amazing resources in South Carolina capable of taking care of premature infants.
Thank you Palmetto Health for loving our babies, helping them thrive and making us feel so at home. You will never be forgotten, and there is no place else in the world that I’d rather give my firsts to than you.