They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what about 36 children?
A group of 36 NICU nurses have created their own little community now that they’re all mothers with infants at home. They all gave birth in 2019 and have continued raising their children together ever since. These women get to go through this experience together as they navigate motherhood and their careers.
Some say the experience of giving birth has made them a better neonatal nurse because they can now relate to what the mother is going through.
A True “Baby Boom”
If you visit Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, you’re bound to see some children running around.
Sarah Carbaneau, a NICU nurse, recently reflected on the experience of giving birth around the same time as many of her colleagues.
“I think being a mom has given me a whole new perspective and now when I take care of a baby, I really do … I know what that mom and dad feel like, and this baby is their whole world,” she said.
Allison Ronco, a 32-year-old critical care education coordinator and nurse, was the first NICU nurse to give birth in 2019, but she says the hospital’s recent baby boom is nothing out of the ordinary.
“We always have a baby boom going like this. For us, it is just our normal,” Ronco said. “Patients joke not to drink the water in this place unless you want to get pregnant. We definitely truly are all really good friends. We are all raising these babies together.”
The facility is the only Level IV NICU in the region and these nurses care “some of the most complex and critically ill infants in the Midwest,” according to a hospital statement.
Carbaneau knows what it’s like to be the parent of a sick baby after her son was born with a rare heart condition.
“I was a mess because I’ve seen a lot of things [as a nurse],” she said. “It was an out-of-body experience because I knew what to expect when he was getting transported to the NICU.”
Her son Ben has since recovered, but the ordeal traumatized her, nonetheless.
“I was nervous about going back to work, as it was the most traumatic event of my life,” Carboneau said. “There was another baby with the same diagnosis as Ben. I talked with the mom to give her some peace of mind to share Ben’s experience … the positive outcome of Ben made me more grateful and blessed and has reaffirmed what I do every day.”
She says her fellow nurses gave her the support she needed to come back to work.
“These girls helped me get through this time in my life because they were able to support me even just by reminding me to eat and to bring me coffee,” Carbaneau added.
Photos of the women standing side-by-side holding their babies have gone viral, but the nurses are just as close in real-life as they appear on camera.
“We can chat about it and vent about it and be excited for each other,” said nurse Michelle Janes. “Especially those of us who already have kids. Many of us give each other opinions on things. We have a Facebook group, and we weigh in on everything from diaper rash to kids crawling out of their crib.”
All that extra parenting advice has come in handy as these women juggle parenthood and the stress of working through the pandemic.
But finding daycare usually isn’t a problem. All the kids will usually play together while their parents are busy at work. Nurses will usually rotate watching the kids to accommodate everyone’s busy schedules.
“It’s great support and there’s always a mass of toddlers running around,” Janes added. “And they’re all getting to recognize each other, and that’s fun.”
The women say that having a baby has changed their outlook on the job. They’ve all experienced the challenges that come with being a new parent.
“Once you have your own baby, everything suddenly gets shifted,” Ronco said. “For the most part, we have gotten to go home with healthy babies. And we can really empathize with those moms and the struggle they must go through not being able to.”
Nearly all the babies have been boys with just a handful of girls.
Melanie Cole, one of the few nurses that had a girl, said, “You’re immediately swept into this Mama Tribe, you and your baby. It is just a fun group to be able to grow with, learn from and always feel like you have someone in your corner that supports you and your baby.”
Most of the children were born healthy with a few exceptions. Being able to bring their children home from the hospital showed them how scary it can be to have a child in the NICU.
“Most of us take our babies home as healthy babies, and to work where you help very sick babies gives you a different perspective and a whole new level of empathy,” Ronco added. “We do it because we love the babies.”