At 36 weeks into my “by-the-book” perfect pregnancy, my husband and I were busy planning the upcoming arrival of a healthy baby. We had names picked out for a boy or girl and a green and yellow ‘Winnie the Pooh’ nursery to cover us either way. Around 34 weeks, we took a pregnancy class. Aside from packing our go bag, we were ready.
Or so we thought.
After spending the day out, we returned home for the evening. A few hours later, our lives changed forever. I was in horrible pain and thought for sure it was labor. When it did not let up at all, I knew there was something wrong. Luckily our hospital was near and we got there very quickly, as did my OB/GYN. After a few agonizing moments in labor and delivery, the nurses realized the baby and I were in danger and I was rushed into the operating room for an emergency cesarean.
The birth of my daughter was very traumatic. She was a full code. When they were able to resuscitate her, she was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) immediately. I was taken to the ICU. My husband had been going back and forth between the ICU and NICU all night and came in shortly after I woke up. He told me we had a little girl and that she was upstairs in the NICU.
I was eventually let out of bed and wheeled up to the NICU to meet my daughter for the very first time.
The NICU is a scary place. When I saw Casey hooked up to what felt like a million machines, I started crying. She was so beautiful and so fragile. All I wanted to do was pick her up and run away. I didn’t know if I could touch her without hurting her. I had been in love with her since conception and my heart broke into a million pieces as I watched her lay there.
The nurse caring for Casey was named Cathleen. She introduced herself to me and then gave me the most amazing gift.
No one knew if Casey would make it through the night, so they let us break a few rules. Cathleen made it so that I could hold Casey. Only for a minute. Casey was on a ventilator. In order for me to hold her, Cathleen had to manually bag her to breathe. I will always treasure that minute.
Casey was in the NICU for a month before transferring to another NICU. During that month, all of the nurses caring for Casey were wonderful, but Cathleen was special. She was Casey’s primary day nurse and she treated Casey like her own child. She would cuddle with her when we could not be there. She would hold her hand and talk to her to calm her down. She showed Casey so much love and that to us meant the world.
When Casey was moved to a larger NICU, we were very sad to leave the nurses, especially Cathleen, who we had come to know and trust.
We eventually made it home with Casey. We took her to visit her original NICU nurses and show them how well she was doing.
While we were there, Cathleen offered to come by and watch Casey at our home so that my husband and I could take a break every now and then. The rest of the time that we lived in Santa Monica, Cathleen would come by every week or two and stay with Casey for a few hours. She became part of our family. We knew if we left and Cathleen was there, Casey was safe and loved.
We moved away shortly before Casey turned 2. Cathleen continued to check up on Casey throughout her entire life (she would have turned 10 in April 2016).
The experience of being in the NICU was one of the hardest times in my life. Cathleen helped to make that time a little easier on all of us. We will never forget all that she did for us by showing our daughter so much love.
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I have always been a quiet person who wanted everyone to get along. I would do whatever I could not to cause trouble or to prevent it. The word "no" was not in my vocabulary.