Monday, December 18, 2006


A Sunday or so ago I was on duty for the entire day and evening. As I walked by the family waiting room outside the NICU in the late morning I noticed a young woman, a teenager, there with a small baby and a toddler.

I didn't think too much of it, but as the day wore on I kept seeing them there. The baby looked very young; the toddler looked to be just shy of two years old, so to say he was cute is almost redundant. Sometimes when I walked by he would smile and point at me. I would point back at him and he would smile more.

Finally, in the evening, after they had been there at least ten hours or so, the mother waved me over as I walked by. "Do you work here?" she said in a quiet voice. When I replied yes, she asked me if I could get her some formula for her baby. I inquired about the baby and discovered she was only three days old. The teenager was the mother and had run out of formula.

When I went to get the formula some nurses heard about the situation and one went out to obtain more information. It turned out the teenager was here with her aunt, whose daughter was laboring in the delivery area. Not expecting to be at the hospital that long, the teenage mom had run out of food and formula. In addition to the formula, the nurses got some milk for the toddler, who had been drinking cool-aid or juice all day, and a sandwich for the mom. When asked why she hadn't stayed at home with her three day old baby and toddler, she replied that she was afraid to be alone there.

I wish I knew what to do with people like her. Spending all day in a hospital waiting room with a three day old baby and a toddler? That's almost mind boggling. Part of me wants to take her under my wing and give her a good home with lots of support, but I know that she is just one of many, and I can't take care of all of them. Also, society would look pretty askance at a middle aged guy who takes in teen-aged women who aren't related to him. And part of me just wants to keep living my comfortable lifestyle and act like I did something good by getting her a little free formula, when really, that's like just a small drop in the bucket of her problems.


Anonymous Shamhat said...

Three days old? Couldn't you have snuck her a visit with a lactation consultant? Give a woman a free bottle of formula, she feeds her baby for a day, but ...

9:22 PM  
Blogger Sarabeth said...

Ah, samhat, if it was only that easy to get women to breastfeed.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you will think this is amusing we had our first child in our thirtys and tried to run a quick errand of course the baby got hungry so I was breastfeeding our plan was I would unlock the door and get ready he would get the baby apparently all our running about made the neighbors come running to see what was wrong and get a full show cause I was going to feed my poor baby no matter what

1:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

um... punctuation marks, anyone?

4:39 AM  
Blogger Marcia said...

Wow. That's so sad. I was all set to be irate with her for her poor judgment until I read that she was afraid to be alone.

11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think a visit to the lactation consultant would have been very appropriate.

1:16 PM  
Blogger Shinga said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:04 PM  
Blogger Dream Mom said...

Sometimes a little kindness is all you can do. I can't begin to imagine how difficult it must be to see all of those issues and then, well, not be able to help them or do more. On the flip side, no one can solve all of their issues.

And a three day old baby? Wow, that would be pretty hard to hang around all day. And to take care of a toddler on top of that to boot. I give her credit for that.

8:03 PM  
Blogger Fat Doctor said...

Heartbreaking, as are most of the patients at our hospital around the holidays. Heartbreaking.

9:40 PM  
Blogger purple_kangaroo said...

I like the tone with which you write about these things. It's apparent you have a good heart.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Brandy said...

Yes shamhat, it is proven that breastfeeding is best, but IT isn't the correct choice for everyone. If the mother isn't or can't eat correctly, or just won't take the time and effort to nurse then is it really as beneficial? (but I see what you are meaning...and commend you for your thought. :)) I commend the teenager for having enough courage to ask someone for help with her infant. Along with the hospital staff for going the extra mile in providing for the infant, toddler, and mother. It's acts like these that make me proud to be a nurse.

Neonatal Doc, I too find myself wanting to take people in, and or help them in anyway I can. At times it can be very heart breaking, but once again I think that is what makes good doctors, nurses, and support medical staff.....the caring ones....the ones that give 110%. That's why we chose this profession isn't it. To help people. Just some days seem better than others.

Kudos to you, the hospital and the mother for reaching out!

8:01 PM  
Blogger neonataldoc said...

Thanks, everyone. I wonder what kind of Christmas this mother will have.

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Dianne said...

ND: You did do something good for her and I don't mean just giving her free formula. You showed her that when she asks for help she can get it and that authority figures can be kind and helpful. I have the feeling that this poor child needs that example in her life. And so do her children. Yes, it's still only a drop in the bucket, but enough drops can make a difference.

11:28 AM  
Blogger Highland Midwife said...

That poor girl's time would have been well-spent with a lactation consultant, for sure. And yes, even starving mothers have milk that is more nutritious and beneficial than formula. How empowering it would have been for her if she could have suceeded in at least partially breastfeeding...and so good for her baby.

For a teenage mother living in fear, what you did for her was a very positive experience. Does your hospital have an outreach counselor who may have resources to offer someone like her? There may be a pamphlet with a great list sitting in someone's office on another floor that should be shared with staff.


3:14 PM  
Anonymous Shawnee said...

I would be asking what she was scared of... Maybe there is a bigger problem there and she was crying out for help.

9:17 PM  

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