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Hugs for NursesStories, Sayings, and Scriptures to Encourage and Inspire
By Philis Boultinghouse
Howard BooksCopyright © 2002 Philis Boultinghouse
All right reserved.
Little Annie wasn't much different from the hundreds of other tiny babies who'd
come through the neonatal intensive care unit of Morris Memorial Hospital.
Just like all the others, she was dangerously below normal birth weight. She
weighed just three pounds, eight ounces when she'd been born. Like the other
premature babies, her heart and lungs were underdeveloped. And like other
preemies, little Annie had numerous tubes invading her tiny body, carrying
precious nutrients and medications into her fragile system. She also had probes
and wires attached to her paper-thin skin, monitoring her heart rate,
temperature, pulse, and oxygen levels.
for all her similarities to her NICU cohabitants, there was something different
Annie was alone.
visiting hours in NICU were very strict -- nine to ten o'clock in the morning, four
to five in the afternoon, nine to ten in the evening,and one to two in the
morning. All the other babies in the unit were visited regularly. Weary moms and
dads and concerned grandmas and grandpas made daily visits to the isolated unit
to stroke, sing to, or simply feast their eyes upon their beloved offspring.
They cooed softly, touched gently, and cried silently.
of the babies were so sick and so small that physical touch was too much
stimulation for their underdeveloped nervous systems. But even the parents of
these babies came to gaze longingly on the objects of their affection, willing
the tiny bodies to grow and become strong.
the beginning, Annie's mother had come with the rest. But she always came alone.
No friends or family ever accompanied her. No husband, no grandparents -- no one.
During her visits, she spent more time looking around the room or at the other
babies than she did looking at Annie. She would stand by Annie's Isolette,
leaning on it a little, looking forlorn and hopeless. She didn't ask questions
like the other parents did; she didn't touch or talk to her tiny little girl.
She came to the hospital out of a manufactured sense of duty, and she had no
intentions of getting attached to the baby that, deep down, she knew she
wouldn't take home.
wasn't just that she didn't expect Annie to live; she had no desire to take on
the responsibility of caring for this needy human being. Her visits became more
and more sporadic until, eventually, she didn't come at all.
Annie wasn't completely alone.
There was someone who cared, someone who stood by her Isolette and gazed
longingly at her, someone who stroked her spindly legs and hummed sweet songs in
the night. Marcie was an NICU nurse who worked the night shift. She watched
Annie's mother during the first few weeks; she saw her growing detachment and
her gradual decision not to love her little girl. And as Annie's mother's heart
pulled further and further away, Marcie's heart moved closer in.
some ways, Marcie identified with Annie. Like Annie, Marcie had no one in her
life who cared just for her. Sure, she had friends and family -- lots of people who
loved her in a general sort of way -- but since her husband's death two years ago,
Marcie had come to the awful realization that she was no one's "special only."
Annie's need to be someone's "special only" touched Marcie deeply. Marcie had no
idea how she would make it happen, but her resolve to see that this baby was
loved and cared for grew with each passing day.
it was the night Annie was crying inconsolably and couldn't be comforted by the
usual methods that Marcie's resolve became personal. Annie now weighed five
pounds and was strong enough to be held. NICU babies who had no regular visitors
were routinely rocked by volunteer aides during the day, but at night, it was
the nurses who rocked the babies as they had time, and Marcie always volunteered
to rock Annie.
wasn't difficult to persuade the other nurses to pass on Annie. Annie's mother
had been a heavy drinker, and her alcohol consumption had left Annie with fetal
alcohol syndrome. You could already see some physical signs of the disease: a
small head, drooping eyelids, and a thin upper lip. Though the abnormalities
were not severe, Annie didn't have the same "cute" appeal as the other babies in
this particular night, Annie's shrill screaming was agitating not only the other
babies but the entire nursing staff. Marcie had finished most of her routine
duties, so she offered to take Annie from the frustrated nurse who was walking
and bouncing the screeching bundle in a futile attempt to quiet her. The weary
nurse willingly gave her up.
Marcie dragged a rocking chair into the supply room, pulled the door
shut -- leaving it open just a bit so she could see -- and turned off the bright
overhead light. Cradling little Annie in her arms, she rocked her gently back
and forth...back and forth. Marcie improvised a lullaby as she rocked: "It's time
to go to sleep; it's time to close your eye-es. It's time to lay your head down
and go to sleep, my darling." But Annie's cries only intensified, and her tiny
body arched and stiffened. No matter how Marcie rocked or held or positioned
her, Annie continued to cry. Marcie was running out of ideas.
she remembered a technique she'd learned in nursing school years ago -- it was
something she'd taught many mothers to do but had never had the opportunity to
do herself. It was called "kangaroo care." Marcie unwrapped Annie's blanket and
draped it over the arm of the rocking chair; then she removed
Annie's hospital-issue pink gown, leaving her clad in only her diaper and
warming hat. Almost timidly, Marcie unbuttoned the bottom half of her scrub
shirt and placed little Annie against her bare abdomen. Then she loosely closed
her shirt around the baby to keep her warm and resumed her rocking and quiet
Annie's fierce screams subsided almost immediately, and her little body seemed
to melt into Marcie's. A peaceful warmth filled Marcie. She was profoundly aware
of the need of this helpless human being for someone to love her constantly and
unconditionally -- someone who would love her as a "special only." And Marcie was
just as aware of her own need for someone to love.
to skin, the two of them rocked together in quiet bliss for nearly half an hour.
Thinking Annie was asleep, Marcie opened her shirt and laid Annie on her lap as
she reached for the little pink gown. But Annie's eyes were wide open, and she
stared lovingly up into Marcie's. Not wanting to shatter the moment, Marcie
covered Annie in her little blanket and returned her intense gaze. At that
moment, two lonely souls connected -- it was a spark that ignited Marcie's
imagination and fired her determination to take this baby into her life -- to care
for her and raise her as her own, to love her as her "special only."
Marcie had no idea what the adoption process would entail, but she felt a peace
and resolve that the desire of her heart would become a reality. Marcie was no
longer gazing into the eyes of one baby among many; she was gazing into the eyes
of her "special only" -- the eyes of the tiny baby she knew with all her heart
would one day be her daughter.
Marcie's dream became a reality six months later when she stood before the judge
who signed the final adoption papers. Cradling her precious daughter in her arm,
streams of tears flowing down her face, Marcie signed the papers that declared
Annie and Marcie each other's special only.
Excerpted from Hugs for Nurses by Philis Boultinghouse Copyright © 2002 by Philis Boultinghouse. Excerpted by permission.
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