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The moment I stopped being a Nurse and instead, a Mum

A friend and old colleague of mine wrote this beautiful Facebook post a month or two ago and her message was one that I feel many of us who are both a Mum and a Nurse, should hear. I want to thank my friend- you know who you are!- for sharing these words of wisdom.

May we never judge our colleagues for being in their Mum mode and instead support them, knowing we’ve got their back and they need our objective help.


Nerida’s Story

It’s been just over two weeks since Nerdia’s grand welcome earth-side, and what a big two weeks they’ve been. Challenging for sure and a big wake up call reminder for me to put more trust & faith in my instincts. This week has been hard, for all of us as a family, but mostly for Nerida and her small little body.

When we returned home, Lucas had a cough and so we did what we could for him, took him to the GP and we treated it as a case of croup; two days of steroids and it slowly cleared up…. but it couldn’t have been croup because Dad then started with the cough and sore throat etc… Despite or best efforts to keep the house clean, hands clean, cover mouths and noses, it was almost inevitable that Nerida was going to catch whatever had inundated our home. I mean, how could we keep the kids away from their new sister, especially Lucas who is so excited to have her in his presence (something I want to encourage!).

Unfortunately, at a week old, Nerida started to have a runny nose that turned to congestion requiring nasal drops & aspiration but she was still feeding ok and looked well. She had no fever.

Stupid me debated with myself if I should take her into our ED. I fought with myself, telling myself “don’t be that parent” and “I’m sure you’re overthinking it! It’s just your anxiety.”

The next night, watching her, in my heart I began to worry, her breathing became more pronounced & obvious.

Stupid me debated with myself if I should take her into our ED. I fought with myself, telling myself “don’t be that parent” and “I’m sure you’re overthinking it! It’s just your anxiety.”
So I made a GP appointment for the next day and tried to reassure myself that I was doing the right thing… well, we didn’t make it to the doc appointment.

The Maternal Child Health nurse who listened

We saw the MCH nurse as planned just after lunch and as soon as she asked that trigger question “how are you?” my facade disappeared and I blurted it all out, likely in one pent up breath, all of my worries, justifications, excuses and apologised profusely for being stupid. The MCH Nurse stopped me there looked at Nerida’s breathing and directed me to take her in to the ED ASAP.

Which I did, Nerida was alert but exhausted from not being able to feed properly & working moderately for every breath. She was still pink and her rate was ok but she needed the support of a little extra oxygen.

From there Nerida has her first ambulance drive to Melbourne for ongoing monitoring and specialist care.

We were looked after by my amazing colleagues, people who I could trust wholeheartedly to take over and assess her fully with a clear purpose & judgement, something I had failed to be able to do.

An urgent hospital transfer

From there Nerida has her first ambulance drive to Melbourne for ongoing monitoring and specialist care.

A multitude of pokes and prods later including a feeding tube & monitors attached, we learned that Nerida has RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus) – often the cause of our common cold, but in little ones, can cause Bronchiolitis or Pneumonia.

We have been lucky that Nerida has not needed aggressive oxygen/breathing support as little ones who contract RSV often do and now that she is at day 3 or 4 we have hopefully passed the worst part. But this was a reminder also that this could have been so much worse!

I am so incredibly lucky that it wasn’t flu or whooping cough, or worse! I can only imagine from my experience, the heartache of parents whose young babes have had to fight these horrible & preventable diseases.

… from now on, I give myself permission to just be mum; the allowance that if I must be ‘that parent’ – the overbearing, overly anxious, just-needing-reassurance-parent- then so be it.

We have now been a patient on the children’s ward for 2 days and Nerida is improving, we have upgraded from continuous nasal feeds (to elevate the work required to properly latch and suck) to bolus feeds with some normal feeds as well.

Hopefully, we will be home soon and can return to a somewhat normal life.

Permission to be that parent

Now that Nerida is improving and my emotional state has eased reciprocally, I can only see that I should have taken Nerida in earlier- when my very first mum instinct told me to- I should never have denied my instinct or ignored it. And I hope my mum friends never do either!

If a parent comes to me as I came to my colleagues, there will be no such thing as that parent; only care, support and reassurance. From all of this, I’ve given myself permission to be ‘that’ parent from now on.

I’ve always said that there is ‘mum mode’ and ‘nurse mode’ and that they generally do not communicate or coordinate well, this whole experience has been clear evidence of that. So, from now on, I give myself permission to just be mum; the allowance that if I must be ‘that parent’ – the overbearing, overly anxious, just-needing-reassurance-parent- then so be it.

But also, as a nurse, I hope that this experience has removed any predisposition I might have had caring for paediatric patients and their parents. If a parent comes to me as I came to my colleagues, there will be no such thing as that parent; only care, support and reassurance.

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