I held 1.26 kilograms to my chest last Saturday. I picked up an extra shift at TG last Saturday, and to my delight, was staffed downstairs in the NICU [lately, I've generally been put in the intermediate care nursery when called in]. I had a generally easy assignment. Two girls, and one precious IUGR baby boy. This little guy was tiny, 1.26 kilos; 2.7 pounds. According to his gestation, he should have been at least a kilo heavier. But he was an IUGR baby. Tiny little boy, with his precious big head [typical IUGR]. I cared for smaller babies before [a 600 gram baby; 0.6 kilos], but this particular little one was 1.26 kilos all by himself [aka. BREATHING all by himself].
I finished this little guy's care time, hooked up his feeding, and settled him in his nest. An hour later, I could hear his little cries from across the room, muffled by the heavy isolette doors. I would open his isolette, and put my hands on him to settle him. One had over his little body, and one hand cupping his head. Preemies do wonderfully with containment of any kind. He settled, and I quietly closed the isolette doors. A few minutes later, he was crying again. This little man should have been sleeping. There really was no reason for him to be awake. I would put my hands on him and settle him, and then he would wake up 20 minutes later.
Finally, I decided that I was going to take this little guy out and hold him. This is a luxury that NICU nurses almost never have time for. Either babies are too sick to be held, or parents and volunteer hold. Holding by nurses generally only happens when we bottle feed babies. As soon as they're done, they're back in their crib, and we're off to the next baby. I found that I had 30 minutes of extra time. Not ideal for holding a baby who depends on an isolette for maintaining their temperature, but I thought this little guy was tough enough. I set up my rocking chair, and took my precious little handful out and settled him on my chest. Babies, especially preemies, LOVE to be held skin-to-skin. They regulate their temperature perfectly, sleep better, and are healthier when held skin-to-skin on a regular basis. However, nurses aren't allowed to hold skin-to-skin. This little guy knew what he wanted though. He burrowed up against my neck, his little body right over my heartbeat. His tiny hand clasped the chain of my necklace. There was no way I was going to move him or take it away from him. He instantly settled, and we rocked for almost an hour. I suddenly found more time to hold him. I was exhausted. I had worked more overtime that week than I had ever worked before. But, I wouldn't have chosen to be anywhere but in that intensive care nursery at that moment; rocking and praying for the precious little boy in my arms.
If you had asked me five years ago, or even 10 months ago if I would have ever wanted to be a "baby nurse", I would have said an emphatic "NO." But as I rocked those 1.26 kilos, I was once again reminded of why I am a nurse. I never knew I would have the capability or desire to care for such a vulnerable population. But it is exactly the population I love, and it is exactly why I love being a nurse.
With two other babies calling my name, I put Mr. 1.26 kilos back in his isolette. He didn't even wake up. He was in a happy, deep, peaceful sleep. I am so blessed to be able to act as "mama" for this little guy for one hour. And five days later, I'm still thinking about those 1.26 kilograms.