I have always associated September with National Infant Mortality Awareness Month…a time when we all pause to reflect on the thousands of babies who die each year before their 1st birthday and the causes of those deaths including prematurity, birth defects, and sudden infant death syndrome. But this year on my ever current Facebook timeline I was informed that it was also the first Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Month. Who knew? Certainly not I! The goals for Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness are to bring attention to those medical conditions requiring admission to the NICU but also to the staff that care for those babies and the awesome families who celebrate these tiny fighters. To add to that October in Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death Awareness Month which focuses more on pain of miscarriage, still birth and early infant deaths.
So just think about that National Infant Mortality Awareness Month and Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death Awareness month .. in honor of death AND Neonatal Intensive Care Awareness Month in honor of life. Talk about night and day…but the more I thought about it the more I realized this makes perfect sense. It’s one of the reasons that I love my job so much!! Although I am constantly walking the line between life and death…beginnings and oh so short endings..I am constantly blessed in ways that can’t be measured in words. What have I learned in these moments between life and death, beginnings and endings from these tiny warriors and the people they call family?
I have learned that angels come in many sizes shapes and packages. They may hold my hand at the bedside when I am trying not to cry in front of a parent. They may visit in a sweet prayer circle as we stand around the tiny bed of an even tinier soul. They may arrive bringing pizza in the midst of a horrible night shift when no one has had time to eat or even go to the bathroom for 12hours. They may visit for few moments in the delivery room, just to allow us to witness a few precious breaths or the occasional fragile heartbeat all just to remind us of our humanity. As if anyone in this business could ever take for granted the fragility of life. But then things go back to normal and angels come back to visit this time for days, even months in the NICU and then decide suddenly without warning but with great fanfare, that their work here is done. In the quiet..through the tears we receive again..another reminder that none of us are in control. Yes here more than ever we do understand that control is an illusion!
I have learned that miracles are not trapped in the pages of my bible but miracles are living, breathing, crying and walking around me every day…I just have to open my eyes…clear my ears…take time to breathe. So I open my eyes and clear my ears and I see a baby crying, kicking and screaming… and I smile …why? Because it’s a baby I thought would not be here..yep Miracle. I see a baby finally get to go home after 10 long months…months when so many of us had given up..yep Miracle. I see a family visit yearly to celebrate the staff and honor the memory of their child…a sweet angel gone too soon..and I see staff comforted. Who does that??? Yep miracle. I see foundations started in memory of babies gone …and in hope of babies to come… Yep Miracle. And I see me a little brown girl form Louisiana blessed with being able to live her dream in a world where many are not…Yep Miracle.
The little people have taught me to LIVE in the moments…the moments in BETWEEN life and death, in BETWEEN beginnings and endings…for in this great big thing we call life…that’s truly all we have. And you know what the Angels are there. The Miracles are there. It’s enough for the little people. It’s enough for me? I pray that it’s enough for you too!
Terri L. Major-Kincade MD MPH
Pediatrix Medical Group, North Dallas
Pediatrix Medical Group, North Dallas
Chair Neonatal Palliative Care Teams THR Dallas and THR Plano