At work we have a digital camera with an instant photo printer that we use to take photographs for the parents. We take photos of the babies when they first come to us; the mums tend to need a few hours to recover from the birth before they can come up to the unit and so we print the photos and send them down to mum.
When Squidge was born the Northern One had taken several lovely photographs of Squidge looking rather unimpressed with the whole birth thing within ten minutes of him arriving but for the majority of the babies that arrive on the unit their birth has been an emergency situation or they’ve become acutely unwell shortly after birth. Usually the parents have only had a quick glimpse of their baby before they’ve been whisked away to the unit in the transport incubator.
We also take photos of things the babies do that we don’t want the parents to miss. Most of the time we’re able to wait until the parents visit the unit before baby has their first bottle or we remove their hat to reveal their hair (or lack of) but some things are spontaneous and the only way for the parents to be included is by capturing the moment on camera.
The little boy I was looking after was only a few days old and although his parents came to visit him every day they lived about an hour away from the hospital and had other children at home.
I looked into his cot and saw this his beautiful, big blue eyes were open and he was just quietly looking around his cot. I wasn’t sure if his parents had ever seen him with his eyes open fully before so I shot out to get the camera. When I came back he was still gazing around so I took a close up picture of his little face snuggled up in his blanket and those gorgeous eyes.
I cropped the photo before I printed it, making sure you could see as little of the medical paraphernalia attached to him as possible. I managed to remove all of it apart from the piece of tape holding his feeding tube into his nose.
I wanted these parents to see their little one with his eyes open but I also wanted something more than that. i wanted them to have a photograph of their new baby looking like just that; a baby.
Not a baby who was sick or a baby who was in hospital but just a beautiful little boy at a few days old.
As well as the numerous photos of Squidge’s first days I also have a photo on my phone of Squidge when he was sick and in hospital, complete with feeding tube in his nose and cannula in his hand. I have it partly to show him when he’s older, partly because it was taken when he was actually getting better and I remember the relief I felt and partly to show parents I meet at work if I feel that it’ll help them in any way.
If this was the earliest photo I had of him; looking ill and fragile people wouldn’t be telling me how lovely he was, they would look worried and pitying and ask what was wrong with him and whether he was better now.
I wouldn’t have experienced the feelings of pride that I did when people commented on his big dark eyes and his mop of spiky hair; something that helped me to bond with him in early days and adjust to being a mummy.
Something that every parent should be able to experience.
I wanted these parents to have a photograph of their little boy that they could show people if they wanted and know that the first thing people would notice was how cute he was and not that he’d been in hospital.
I left the photo clipped to the little boy’s observation chart with the date and time written on the back of the parents to find when they came in to visit.
I hoped they’d like it but didn’t anticipate just how much they’d like it; their reaction completely made my day. Noticing their little one was awake and taking a photograph was such a small thing for me to do but for them it was much bigger. They thanked me so many times for the photograph and told me that they planned to frame it and put it in pride of place in their hall for everyone to see.
A photo that I took will be in their home for years to come.
Up until that point I was having a rather bad day; I’d made a mistake earlier in the day and not only was I feeling stupid and embarrassed I’d had a dressing down from the sister in charge that made me feel about five years old. It was entirely deserved and she had every right to be annoyed with me but it had got me wondering whether coming back to work so soon after Squidge was born was the right decision.
Maybe I shouldn’t even have come back to work at all; it wasn’t the first mistake I’d made since I’d been back and while there’d never been any harm done I was still feeling like a terrible nurse.
Then I took the photo and the parents reaction reminded me that I’m not a terrible nurse; I may have made some mistakes but I’ve accepted the consequences, I’ve learned from them and moved on.
I remembered that even though coming back to work has been hard it’s worth it because I love my job because we have the resources and the opportunity to do things like this for parents and families and although we are usually busy and a bit under staffed we still have the time to stop and think about what else we can do to make the baby’s time on the unit more bearable for the parents.
Even if it’s just a simple photograph.