World Prematurity Day – An open letter to Harley’s NICU nurses

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Dearest sisters,

I came around for a visit to the NICU with Harley yesterday, wanted to show off just how big she’s gotten. I wanted to show you all how far she’s come, how much she’s grown. I brought a cake and snacks and whatever else I could think of that would be nice for the team, a nice treat for all of you. But nothing I could buy, nothing I could give you could ever compare with what you gave to me. It was so wonderful seeing you all, taking pictures of you with an almost-year-old Harley – even if she did cry in all the pictures.

Growing up, I remember seeing donation tins for The March of Dimes. They used to be next to the check out counters in the drug stores in New York, and I would always look at them, but never really noticed what they were about. In fact, even last year I didn’t really pay attention to this day. I was already a mommy blogger, and I saw some of the other moms writing about it, but I don’t think I even read the posts. Oh how times have changed.

Harley entered this world ahead of schedule. It wasn’t her fault – she wasn’t like those kids in primary school who jump on stage before their cue. No, I was the one who got sick, who needed the emergency C-section. It’s scary to think how close we both came to dying, how differently things could have gone.

So, eight weeks ahead of schedule, I became a mom. I hadn’t even had a chance to go for the prenatal classes I was booked for. We hadn’t even bought a cot or car seat yet. Instead, Harley came into this world, and we both went off to our separate ICU. I do remember seeing her in the C-section… it’s one of the few memories I have of that day. But then I was in the ICU, and Dean would come visit me and show me pictures of her in the NICU. I didn’t even know if I’d be able to breast feed, or when I would feel better.

nicu-nursesEventually, they moved me out of the ICU and over to the Maternity Ward, and that was when I finally met my baby, and all of you. She was so tiny, so incredibly, terrifyingly small. I didn’t know people could come into this world so little. I was afraid to touch her, afraid that I would break her or hurt her. She was so fragile, naked except for her folded nappy (even those preemie ones didn’t really fit her yet) and connected with wires to all sorts of devices. But that very first day, you let me hold her feeding tube, let me be a part of taking care of her.

Did I ever thank you for being my eternal cheerleaders? You danced with me when I managed to express the smallest drop of milk, promising me that it was liquid gold and every little bit helped. You cheered with me when Harley gained even the smallest amount of weight. And every day when I’d drop off her milk you would thank me, THANK ME for doing such an amazing job. But all of you were the incredible ones.

You were the ones who held my little girl when she would scream and cry in the middle of the night. You were the ones who kept her clean, fed her, changed her nappies, burped her, and watched over her 24 hours a day. You were the ones who recorded everything the doctors said, everything she needed, telling me the whole story when I’d arrive in the morning. You were the ones who put Harley against my chest so we could bond, who watched me the first time I tried to nurse her. You were the ones who showed me how to change her nappy, and encouraged me to do it when I’d visit, who taught me how to bathe her, who encouraged me to still take care of myself.

From the moment Harley came into the ward until the joyful day of her “graduation”, you were her angels, her carers, her other mommies. You took care of my baby when I couldn’t, making sure that she was strong and ready to come home, saving not just her life, but our lives too. Thank you and a cake doesn’t cut it, but it’s what I can do. So thank you for taking care of my little princess, your “Makoti”. I don’t know how you do what you do over and over again, taking care of these tiny ones and eventually seeing them off into the world. The world is a better place with you in it, and my gratitude is greater than words can express.

Thank you, amazing sisters. Harley and I were lucky to have you when we needed you.

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  • Naxie

    such a beautiful post, zoe….i am crying….remembering all of it and how the sisters loved you and harley so very much – and for sure, were your angels.

    • Zoe Hawkins

      *big hugs* scary times to look back on, but all worked out so well

  • Keshnie Kitti Mathi

    This brought back memories of my own experience with Rach’s birth. Suffering from late onset pre-eclampsia, being rushed into theatre for an emergency C-Section, not being able to hold her properly or see her without the tubes for all those days. What gave me comfort was the care of the NICU nurses, the prayer circles they created, the love they showed. That you for sharing this! Beautiful!

    • Zoe Hawkins

      <3 So many of us have gone through it, but this day serves as a lovely reminder that we really aren't alone.

  • Enricoh Alfonzo Naidu

    I saw this hashtag trending today, very interesting day indeed. My cousin was born prematurely in the back of my dad’s car lol. i remember it was even featured in the YOU magazine.

    • Zoe Hawkins

      wow, that must have been quite a story! O_O It’s amazing just how common prematurity still is, even in our “modern” age.