In less than a week I start my last clinical affiliation for my graduate school program. Most of my previous affiliations have been in outpatient clinics and, while busy, have been relatively low stress and the majority of them have been for between 3 and 6 weeks. I have had a few in hospitals or residential centers, but nothing quite like the one I am about to begin next week, especially since it is 16 weeks long. Which means on my last day I will be one day shy of 38 weeks pregnant. Not cutting it close at all.
I requested this spot at the beginning of my 3 year graduate school career, long before a baby was on the horizon, and now I find myself facing a bit of a mental challenge. You see, next week I begin working in the NICU.
I am having a bit of an internal struggle because this affiliation, this experience, is something I have wanted for so long, but at the same time, I know it is going to be mentally and emotionally exhausting. Thankfully, this isn’t the NICU at the hospital where I’ll be delivering, so it’s a little removed from my real life. But as my pregnancy and this affiliation progress, I think it’s going to get more and more challenging.
I am going to see babies that are the same gestational age as my son, fighting to learn to breathe and eat. I’m going to see mothers who should be where I am in pregnancy, instead, devoting hours, days and weeks to their tiny infants. Families who are facing one of the toughest fights that I can’t even begin to imagine. It breaks my heart just thinking about it, I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to face it each day.
I want so badly to be able to help these infants, these families. To help their children grow and eat and to provide quality care for them. This is a setting I’ve wanted to work in for years, and it is an extremely difficult affiliation to come by, so it would be insane to turn it down. Not to mention a lot of trouble since it starts in less than a week. But I just don’t know how to prepare for something like this.
My current plan is to do the best I can to take it one day at a time, like all things. I think it’s normal to be a little scared in this situation and I’m not going to try to pretend otherwise. I’m just going to breathe, relax and try to learn what I can. And hopefully I can walk out of that NICU on my last day with a great experience under my belt and a jumpstart to a career I’ve always dreamed of.