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 the ICU for my night shift to start, but I wasn’t on the schedule. Strangely enough, they had enough nurses that night. The nursing supervisor asked 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 the NICU. But I thought this should be easy, so I said yes.
I entered the NICU and the charge nurse asked me if I could rock a 5.5-pound premature baby girl. She was irritable with a frantic, shrill cry, and her body trembled. I immediately thought, “What have I gotten myself into?” She had a nasal cannula attached to her nostrils, and was going through withdrawal symptoms because her mother did drugs – opioids. My heart wept.
Little Greta would tremble uncontrollably, but I held her close in my arms as I slowly rocked her. She was perfect, with 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, and feel my love.
I was told that Greta’s mother had already been discharged, and was undergoing drug rehabilitation, including methadone treatment. Social services would make visits to see the progress of Greta and the mother, and the goal was to eventually return Greta to her mother when she was physically able to go home. DSS would eventually make well visits to the mother and baby Greta when she was returned.
After two hours of rocking Greta, her breathing slowed to a restful state and 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, and that her mother would be rehabilitated and 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, as I did not want to think the dark thoughts that circled my mind.
After two hours of rocking baby Greta, I handed her over to her nurse and slowly walked out of the hospital. My “assignment” was over. 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.
Debbie Moore-Black is a nurse who blogs at Do Not Resuscitate.