When I discovered this book I reached out to Alyssa and asked if she was interested to be featured on the blog. She agreed and sent me this blog. She is an amazing person and I really admire her approach for going above and beyond as a neonatal nurse. – Lisa
Written by Alyssa Veech
It was a rainy day in March. The damp, cold air seemed to permeate the walls of the operating room in Labor & Delivery. Delicate music was playing, occasionally overpowered by the confident chatter of a seasoned obstetrician performing a cesarean section with ease. This was not my first premature delivery as a neonatal nurse practitioner; yet, the perpetual waves of “what ifs” came crashing down upon me with anxious fervor. Moments later, the baby emerged and was hastily taken away for resuscitation and transfer to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I could hear the mother gently sobbing as she apologized to her husband for “being a bad mother” and delivering the baby so early.
Later that day, I let my mind wander back to this delivery. I remember thinking how uneventful it was. Uncomplicated c-section. Straightforward intubation. Prompt stabilization. I simply chalked it up to another busy day in the NICU.
She realized it wasn’t her fault, didn’t she?
Yet, I couldn’t shake the uneasy memory of this mother’s unsubstantiated guilt. She realized it wasn’t her fault, didn’t she? Hundreds of babies are admitted to the NICU every day she must know that, most of them growing up to live happy, healthy lives. But, the more I thought about it, the less convinced I was becoming. Doubt slowly crept in as I felt heavy with remorse; I had been hit with a ton of bricks.
The previous four years of my life had been a whirlwind, filled with long clinical days, rigorous examinations, and a never-ending doctoral capstone project. I was so focused on becoming a book-smart, clinically-competent practitioner, that I left my ardor for the tiniest of patients at the wayside. I felt an undeniable sadness. And, it was in this moment that I realized I needed to reclaim my passion for neonatal nursing.
Reclaiming my passion for neonatal nursing
I spent the next several months glued to the computer screen. I read scholarly articles on family-centered care and “how-to” guides on completely integrating parents into NICU routine. I scoured the internet for NICU “mom blogs” and joined as many neonatal Facebook groups as I could find. I spoke with numerous NICU parents, listening to their stories and unearthing the raw emotion that comes with caring for a critically ill child. And, as cliché as it may sound, I laughed and I cried with these parents, so grateful that they entrusted me with their most delicate memories.
As I grew a deeper understanding of the true upheaval a NICU admission poses upon the family, I found myself compelled to expose what I’ve learned. It’s easy for us to cover up this gaping wound with a Band-Aid; sweep all the fear, guilt and uncertainty under the rug. After all, its just another day in the NICU…right? But, as a spirited NICU mom once told me, “It’s hard to wear a brave face. The NICU is scary. It’s ok to feel that way.”
“Wires and machines
they fill me with worry.
But, I wear a brave face
for this uncertain adventure.”Small But Mighty by Alyssa Veech
About the book
This mentality is the driving force behind why I decided to write a NICU children’s book. Small But Mighty serves as an inspirational book for mothers to read to their premature babies. It not only validates their feelings of fear and uncertainty, but celebrates the incredibly special bond shared between a mother and her preemie. Many of the mothers I interviewed reported feeling helpless or “in the way;” this book supports their critical role as a caregiver as reading to premature infants improves cognition and language development.
Prematurity is a worldwide problem
Prematurity is a worldwide problem, and its only getting bigger. Over 11% of all pregnancies end in preterm birth – and 80% of those are unanticipated. Events leading to preterm birth are still not completely understood, and scientists across the globe are working hard to identify those at risk and improve prematurity outcomes.
As I sifted through all of the interviews I collected, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed. Yes – prematurity statistics are staggering. But, it’s not the numbers that are surprising. It’s the raw, deep, and personal outcry of NICU parents who need a stronger voice. It made me think. Why aren’t we talking about prematurity? Why aren’t we providing an emotional outlet for parents who feel so isolated and scared?
As I reflect on my experience as a neonatal nurse practitioner, I cannot help but feel grateful for a career that has brought me both grief and incredible joy. I have discovered an excitement for prematurity awareness and a new understanding for the extraordinary journey parents undertake with a premature baby in the NICU. My hope is that Small But Mighty makes that journey just a little bit easier.
Social Media Profiles
Book Website: small-but-mighty.org
Alyssa Veech is a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner from Buffalo, New York. After obtaining a degree in nursing, she began working as a critical care nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Her passion for preemies led her to become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, earning her doctoral degree from the University of Pittsburgh.
Alyssa lives with her husband, Peter, and their dog, Sophi. She works as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner at Sisters of Charity Hospital and is a faculty member at the University at Buffalo. In her spare time, Alyssa loves to travel and spend time with her husband and family.