I have spent the last year learning about being a supportive presence (aka a chaplain) to NICU parents, patients and staff. This weekend I put the finishing touches on a resource manual for future students and chaplains. And the more I read, wrote and pondered, the more complex it became.
The unanswered questions abound. How little is “too little” to sustain life? The answer depends on so many factors that there isn’t an easy answer. Is in vitro fertilization a wise and ethical option when being pregnant with multiple babies runs so many risks for the — mom and babies? When is it time to stop the aggressive medicine and withdraw care for an infant with irreversible lung disease?
You can read statistics, be encouraged by a new drug regimens, and so on. But the simplest answers are not adequate.
The nurses in the NICU where I’ve been a resident are amazing. Their attention to detail, compassion and skill are amazing. I’ve watched them find a vein in an arm the size of my pinkie finger. I’ve seen them comfort and gently cradle a newborn the size of a Beanie Baby ™. And I’ve grieved with them when one of their little charges succumbs to one of many complications of prematurity.
There is no question that life is precious. And these little ones, so tenuously hanging to life, doubly so. I’m praying for wisdom I do not have as I love and listen to their parents.