Behind Closed Doors – What I Wish You Knew About the NICU

Behind Closed Doors – What I Wish You Knew About the NICU
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To most, the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) is a scary and secret land.  Full of beeping machines, itty-bitty babies, and death.  It’s a far off land to those not familiar.  If you’ve never been or haven’t ever heard of the NICU, bless you.  I hope you never ever, ever step foot in one.  But if you have been, I hope that at least one thing I say resonates with you.


The NICU is a Scary Place Full of Miracles

Sick baby in the NICU

Yes, the NICU is a scary place.  Even for those of us who are seasoned.  There are days when I walk into work; scared out of my mind from the second I arrive at the second I leave.  I mask my fear by being extra vigilant and keeping busy.  By cracking stupid jokes and trying to distract me and others.  But inside I am constantly anxious and nervous.  There are some days that even when you feel like you did all you can… it still wasn’t quite enough.  Which rings true for both nurses and parents.

But overall? Overall the NICU is a place of miracles, smiles, and tears.  Sometimes even happy tears.  The NICU is the perfect example of a place where if you fight hard enough, you can survive.  And the littlest of people, are sometimes the biggest fighters. This is the side of the NICU I wish everyone had the privilege of witnessing.

Anyone who has had a loved one in the NICU can tell you that it is truly a place of miracles.  A place where a baby often goes from one pound to 12 pounds.  From having one mL of breastmilk pushed into their stomach every four hours to eating 90 mL of milk from a bottle!  From having apnea and bradycardic episodes – to going home without oxygen! Where a baby can go from sleeping all day and all night to being wide awake and playful all day!


In the NICU Milestones Are Being Met Every Single Second

Nurse and baby

Behind those closed doors, milestones are being met every single hour of every single day. Behind closed doors, we’re celebrating the first time a baby latches on to their mama.  We’re celebrating the first poop!  We’re celebrating every single ounce gained, every centimeter of growth, and weighing every drop of urine.  We celebrate when we hear that first cry, or see those beautiful little eyes open.  We celebrate a soft, round belly.  And a heartbeat where you can no longer hear the whooshing sound of a PDA. We celebrate when there is a good gas, normal lytes, or an infection is beat.  We celebrate when parents get to skin-to-skin for the first time.

So for those of you who haven’t stepped foot in the NICU – I hope it stays that way.  But just know, that inside are the smallest people, putting up the biggest fight in the world.  And the next time you think of the NICU or wonder what goes on behind those closed doors… think of that.


If you like this post, make sure to check out…

 Being a NICU Nurse Has Taught Me

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Neonatal Nurse

A Day in the Life of a NICU Nurse


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Please note that all pictures provided in this post were approved by parents and supervisors.  Thank you.

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Kylee is a traveling Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU) nurse with a love for solo travel, wine, and Taylor Swift. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia. Passports and Preemies was created as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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