To be a NICU nurse means...
To see the overwhelming look of pure joy and sheer terror on a new father's face as he lays eyes on his tiny, fragile daughter for the very first time.
To hear the sweet sound of a faint heartbeat as the respiratory therapist puffs air into the small, underdeveloped lungs of a micro-preemie during a long and exhausting code in the operating room.
To feel the raw and intense pain in the cry of a mother saying goodbye to her son as he is placed on her chest to take his first and very last breaths.
To notice the uncertainty in the eyes of a grandfather as he sits silently by his grandson's incubator, searching for answers and seeking reassurance, comfort, and hope.
To respect the mother whose personal choices are far from perfect and to simply care for her and her baby regardless of her decisions and walk in life. To guide her without bitterness, resentment, or judgment.
To console the frantic cry of a baby boy as he painfully withdrawals from the narcotics he was exposed to and became dependent upon for the nine months prior to his entrance into this world.
To support the grieving father as he makes the unimaginable decision to discontinue life support and let his tiny baby girl go, only after just witnessing the tragic, heart-wrenching death of his wife just hours before.
To protect the premature baby's need for sleep as he recovers from a long and difficult night. To be brave enough to speak up for the sake of patient advocacy and to always be the voice for those who have no voice.
To encourage the new and frightened mother as she changes her tiny infant's diaper for the very first time, despite all her fears and uncertainty.
To celebrate the baby that finishes her first bottle, gains just one ounce, or makes it through an entire shift without a single "episode," as these little victories are huge accomplishments for this once small but growing preemie.
To understand the importance of sharing real human moments and quiet connections with babies. Some as simple as comforting their cries or tucking them safely into their little nests to sleep and to grow.
To cherish a job that at times can be less than ideal. To work long and sometimes difficult shifts with no lunch or bathroom breaks. To love beyond the walls, to cry behind closed doors, and to rise above the unpredictable moments to create lasting and meaningful memories.
And to find the courage and strength to do it all again tomorrow.
Jodi Dolezel is a registered nurse and currently works in a single room family centered care level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care in the Charlotte, NC area. Jodi is also the founder and facilitator of Peekaboo ICU, where this post first appeared.
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