I mentioned yesterday that March is a busy month. In addition to Child Life Month, it is also National Social Work Month.
One of the many learning experiences that came with Charlie’s birth was when I found myself in the role of the client. Here is my account taken from an earlier post:
I was well aware of the role of a social worker before I had my micro-preemie. A few years prior to Charlie’s birth, I had earned my BSW. The graduate program decision was in process when my husband proposed the idea of having a baby.
Charlie’s early birth transposed things and placed me on the opposite side of the exchange from what I was accustomed. Therefore, it was peculiar for me to be visited by the NICU social worker a few hours after Charlie was born at twenty six weeks.
It was more than likely difficult for her to visit me during the midst of my nightmare. Anger was one of the many emotions I was experiencing at the time and I had no problem expressing it. But, social workers can be counted on to respond where they are needed no matter how unpleasant (or, in my case, angry) the situation may be.
The NICU social worker managed to introduce herself in between my magnesium sulfate fueled rants and my heartbroken sobs. She left a bag with booklets and literature about the NICU, preemies, and support organizations. I dismissed the encounter as something that was part of the administrative process and had no intention of ever speaking to her again. I mistakenly believed that I did not need a social worker. After all, I was one.
The day after I was discharged, she found me by my baby’s isolette. We retreated to a quiet room in the back of the NICU and talked. I profusely apologized for our first meeting. However, I was hardly more agreeable that day. Undeterred, she proceeded to address the concerns of a new long term NICU mom.
First, she helped me understand my baby’s insurance situation. That was followed by a crash course on our new NICU life which included information such as where to eat, where to pump, parking, visiting regulations, resources, and NICU procedures. Next, she explained that I needed to advocate for my baby. Finally, we touched on the unthinkable as I asked about choices, decisions, and options in my baby’s care.
The first month or two that Charlie was in the NICU, I was consumed with grief. It was confusing for me to be lost in grief despite my baby’s survival. The NICU social worker directed me towards helpful resources and I attended NICU parent groups she provided. Eventually, the grief started to lift. Each time we passed in a hallway, she reminded me she was there if I needed anything.
After a little over two months, Charlie was considered a feeder-grower. At which point, we had opted to have her transferred to a different hospital. My husband and I looked forward to having a shorter drive, a private NICU room, and several other advantages the new hospital afforded. Despite our eager anticipation, the transfer stalled for unknown reasons.
No one could answer the questions I asked and appeared to be irked that I asked them. I was stuck, frustrated, and had no where else to turn. That night, I pounded out an angry email rant to the NICU social worker. I wanted her to sympathize. I needed to let off steam. I hoped she could explain what was happening and possibly offer ideas of what to do next.
Instead, her response exceeded anything I hoped for. She simply responded, “Do you want me to help you with this?” I was thrilled to have an ally and accepted her offer to help. She instructed me to meet with her the next day.
As I left for the hospital the following day, I muttered to my husband, “I’m not leaving the hospital today until I get my baby out.” Once at the hospital, I stomped through the parking garage with my teeth grit and fists clenched. I was ready for battle. I made my way up to the NICU with my head held high and chest thrust forward. If necessary, I was prepared to create a scene.
A fight wasn’t necessary that morning because the social worker had taken care of everything. She explained that Charlie had been, in essence, lost in the system. Due to the social worker’s intervention, Charlie would be transferred the following morning at 10 AM.
The social worker was there when I thought I was on my own and powerless. She was a compassionate voice of reason when I was overcome with emotion and overwhelmed by the situation. I can’t imagine how the three months in the NICU would have been without her.