My daughter was born nine weeks early. Her first moments of life were met with silence — hers, and everyone else’s in the operating room who were waiting for her to take her first breath. When it didn’t come, she was rushed to the NICU. In that moment, my husband and I joined a club we never imagined joining — the NICU parents club.
It’s a club marked by a specific kind of helplessness, one that shadows NICU parents. It’s found in the space between wanting to be the one to care for your baby and knowing you can’t. It’s found in the breath you take as you step into the NICU in the morning and brace yourself for the nurse’s report regarding respiratory episodes, cardiac episodes, ounces consumed or not.
NICU days are hard days, often full of anxiety, uncertain, and everything in between. The hard truth is the number of obstacles, complications, and setbacks are often too impossible to keep track of. Every moment hangs on the shriek — or not — of a monitor. NICU days, however, are also days lined with a quiet hope, one that’s often too fragile to put into words.
Jennifer Sedler, MD, a pediatric resident at Stanford, is helping parents give voice to that hope. She posted on Twitter about how she enjoys flipping the conversation with NICU parents and focusing on the successes.
She wrote, “My new favorite hobby is hyping up my NICU babies to their parents. I list their accomplishments for the day, say how proud I am of them, or highlight how strong they were today. It’s such a joy to see/hear their parents beam with pride over their tiny fighters.”
As of this writing, the tweet has received 6,826 retweets, 1,481 quote tweets, nearly 150,000 likes, and almost 3,000 replies.
NICU parents overwhelmingly praised this approach. They tweeted about how grateful they are to the doctors and nurses who do this.
@sosimplyari wrote, “From a mom of a 1 pound 3oz, 23 weeker that lived nearly 6 months in the NICU, THANK YOU. It is so important for conversations begin with what things our tiny humans do WELL before the morbid laundry list of issues lurking around the corners.”
@ShinnersCro wrote, “The fabulous @RotundaHospital NICU nurses did exactly this when we were there in 2020. They danced around her incubator calling her ‘Princess Alice’ as her surname is King. Angels. Will never forget how they reassured two new parents, both of us medics, scared out of our minds.”
NICU graduate parents also chimed in with their stories—and updates on how their preemies were doing years and even decades down the road.
@TeachingMama wrote, “My former NICU baby is 15. We loved our NICU docs and nurses. They helped this scared mama probably even more than my baby who had trouble eating. Can’t believe that now considering he NEVER stops eating. Thank you NICU!!”
@MavisnMavis, wrote, “My son was in the NICU for 7 months. The reports kept me going. We were laughing the other day when I told him I used to celebrate when he gained 10 grams!”
@Diana88376957, wrote, “I can tell you from experience that concentrating on the positive is so helpful! My NICU baby is 14 and, while he still has challenges, is beating the odds!”
Of course, not every NICU story has a happy ending. While that’s painful to hear, those stories shouldn’t be silenced either. Dr. Sedler highlighted a tweet by @cloudycanuck, who wrote, “Unfortunately, not all NICU stories have a happy ending. Our son Wyatt would have been 9 yesterday! He suffered a hypoxic injury at birth. We were blessed to have him with us for 3 years. On our journey we joined @HopeforHIE a family run group that provides support to families.”
Taken all together, stories of life, heartache, and truth, combine into a thread that has transformed into a beacon of hope for NICU parents.
@Lindsaylu0406 wrote, “As someone with a baby in the NICU currently, this brings a smile to my face. Thank you for all that you do for these amazing little babies and their parents!
With so much grief, gloom, and doom populating our newsfeeds and our social media feeds, this is Twitter thread focused on hope—on giving and believing in hope. Hope is something we can all use a little more of these days.
And P.S. … as for my NICU baby — who spent eight weeks in the hospital, who needed blood transfusions and respiratory interventions, who “may not make it through the first night,”— she’s almost 12. And she’s a sight to behold — a heart and soul forged in strength, aided by the care and love of NICU doctors and nurses.
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