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It’s the most bittersweet “Congratulations!” you can give.

Just a few hours ago – sometimes, just a few minutes – I know, you never dreamed of this place. The place with all of the beeping, the wires, the rushing – and, beneath it all, a tiny, squeaky baby. It’s all a blur, I know. You never expected to meet us, and you’re just so worried about your little one.

Maybe she came to early. Maybe he came to fast. Maybe there was a problem. Maybe we still don’t know why your baby needs us.

And when you first meet us, we say, with a smile, “Congratulations!” your baby is here! But we see the fear in your eyes. The confusion. The concern. We see you watching our every move, wondering the implications. What is that monitor? Is he okay? Why are you taking blood? Is she okay? What is that machine? Will my baby be okay?!

In those first few moments, our congratulations can be hard to hear. But we offer congratulations, not only because your little one has come in to the world, but to reassure you; that your new baby is in the hands of doctors and nurses who care. That beneath all of the tubes and wires there is a baby, your baby, and that is a wonderful thing. That, one day, we hope you will look back, and there will be joy in the arrival of your little one – even if, right now, you don’t know how to feel. We hope you will remember that, through the stress, the tears and the struggles of having a sick baby, there were people whose reassurance helped you through those times.

Maybe, we will watch your little one grow, over months and months, and celebrate all of the firsts; the first cuddle, the first bath, the first tiny outfit. Or maybe, it’s a flying visit, and within a few hours your sweet babe will be snug in your arms, happy and healthy again.

There will be a lot of “maybes”. So many “what if’s”; even more “what then’s?”

It’s never a certain journey, and no two babies are the same. But if there is one thing for certain, it’s that caring for your baby and helping your family is one of the most rewarding things we will ever do, and a privilege we’re lucky to know.

So, congratulations, and welcome to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Did your baby go to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit? Please feel free to share your experience in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

  • We had a 28 weeker. I can’t be any more grateful to the amazing nurses and doctors at mater hospital answering all our questions letting me come visit our daughter in my hospital bed making us feel like “normal” parents as much as we could while she was in nicu. It is amazing the connections you end up making with the nurses, doctors and other parents in the nicu

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  • Special Care nursery for us but just as scary the first time around, second time not so much, the staff were wonderful as were most of the other scn parents. You really learn how strong your tint babies are

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  • I still remember the day they told me numb is ok, tears are ok but most of all laughter is healing they where miracle works for our family

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  • What a great article, thanks for sharing.

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  • I was very blessed that all went well with my baby and he didn’t need to go to nicu. My friends however both have babies in there currently – twins that were born 10 weeks early and a singleton who was born via emergency csection and has complications

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  • What an amazing, rewarding job God bless them

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  • These nurses and doctors are amazing. They don’t get enough credit for the work that they do.

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  • What a read. I am lost for words.

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  • I had a threatened pre-term labour at 30 weeks. I would have had my baby go to the Neo Natal Unit at Flinders Medical Centre in South Australia if she was born then. I held on till 37 weeks & 3 days. Had her by planned C – Section due to complications. I am extremely thankful that I got to have her in my home town and I will always admire the work of the staff in Neo Natal Units. Thankyou for your awesome and amazing work.

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  • I was actually banned from the NICU as I was so sick myself. I don’t blame them, but it was traumatic.

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  • what a great well written article

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  • Our 2nd child a little girl but now she’s 21, I had her at 30 weeks, I was poked & prided, I had numerous amniocentesis which was traumatic enough. I broke down this particular day & said to the obstetrician that I’ve had enough, well the next day my obstetrician came in & said you’ll be induced tomorrow (Friday) our daughter weighed 1.8 kgs, she was in the Neo natal unit for 6 weeks. 6 weeks of traveling over an hour, 1 day we didn’t come in as the nurse said you need a break. They are amazing nurses & Drs, keep up the good work.

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  • Wonderfully written. I can only imagine how scary it is to have a babe that needs extra help. Compassionate, assuring and empathetic staff make a world of difference. Nurses and doctors do an amazing job

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  • Offering congratulations first is so hope giving and encouraging. I guess I’m blessed to not be well acquainted with the knit unit

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  • My twin boys were in the Neonatal ICU for a month when they were born at N1city hospital under the care of Dr Ricky Dippenaar and his staff he is an amazing doctor and I know my boys would not have survived if it was not for his care and supervision

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