I recently spent some time in the NICU with my baby, Claira. She's just fine, but was a month early and had to be taught to do normal newborn things like breathe and eat. Luckily she was a quick study and got to come home after a couple weeks. I was delighted by that (and maybe just a twinge regretful since that meant I no longer had a room full of nurses to take care of her while I blissfully slept ALL NIGHT LONG. Seriously, when does a new parent get to do that?) (I also went out to movies and to dinners as much as possible during that two weeks. Does that make a horrible person? I know I should have spent all my time by my baby's bedside fretting and worrying, but that got old really quick, and my kids at home were not happy with that arrangement.)
I did spend some hours there every day, holding little Claira and doing whatever mom things the staff would allow me to do. Mostly I sat in my appointed rocking chair and observed. I learned great tricks from the nurses, such as a rice bag on a sleeping baby's stomach is magic, theirs were actually elbow length gloves filled with rice and sewn shut so that it looked like disembodied hands were holding the babies. Awesome, and creepy. Also, the nurses there are human and have to do whatever they can to make their day more tolerable. One nurse had a picture collection of babies with ridiculous hair (yes, Claira has the same male-pattern-baldness curse her sisters had, so she made the collection). One nurse liked to make molds of all the newborns hands as gifts to the parents, or more likely, it was a devious way to play in the mud while keeping a technically sterile environment. Hmmm...more disembodied hands...I'm noticing a theme.
I also learned some things about the other parents, and myself. First off, I am totally able to control myself and not point and laugh when the young parents of the infant in the next door bassinet sang I Can Show You The World in harmony at regular intervals. It was difficult, but I managed to keep a straight face, that is something I never thought I was capable of. Secondly, I learned that at some point parents are way too comfortable talking about breast pumps and bowel movements with complete strangers. And news of a good bowel movement can make cheers erupt through the whole nursery. Parenthood does strange things to a person.