October 22, 2008

My New Job

Remember a few weeks back when I hinted that I was a teensy weensy bit bored and that I was looking for something to do in the NICU? Well, I found it!

About two weeks ago, a new baby was admitted to Cameron's NICU bay. After getting the baby settled in her isolette, the nurse took a Polaroid of the baby and gave it to the baby's father, who was standing nearby. The mother of another baby in the room saw the nurse take the picture and asked the nurse to take a picture of her baby too. The nurse was very nice, but explained that she was only allowed to take pictures of babies whose mothers weren't able to visit them in the NICU. The mother's face fell and when it did, it hit me: the woman didn't own a camera.

My suspicions were confirmed the next morning when the mom showed up to the NICU with a disposable drugstore camera which she didn't know how to operate. The camera only had 12 exposures and the poor mom wasted at least half of them trying to figure out how to get the flash to work.

I went home that night and couldn't sleep. My son was a week old and had hundreds of pictures to show for it. This woman's baby, by contrast, was six weeks old, and hadn't had a single picture taken of him. That was simply unacceptable.

I waited 24 hours before violating the hospital's privacy law. Then I asked the mom if I could take some pictures of her and her baby. I was a little afraid to ask because I didn't want to insult the woman and, truth be told, I was a little scared of her as well (the woman yells at the nurses and doctors a lot). Before the woman could give me an answer, I told her that I was going to get my camera and that I would be right back. When I returned a few minutes later, the woman had reapplied her lipstick and had put a new outfit on her baby. Anyone who reads this blog with any sort of frequency can bear witness that I am no photographer. Similarly, my camera is nothing to write home about, but it does take pictures and the ones I took, printed, and copied (at a whopping cost to me of $4.58) made this woman unbelievably happy.

I'm not telling you this just to "toot my own horn;" in fact, if anything, the ridiculous length of time that it took me to pick up on the need of those around me demonstrates how self-centered and clueless I am. What this incident reminded me of is that small gestures can make a big impact on other people's lives. Over the past month, I've been the beneficiary of many simple acts of kindness--a sweet email, a thoughtful note, a handmade baby blanket, a hug at just the right moment--yet I've fallen short in my responsibility to pass it on and pay it forward.

No thanks to anything that I've done, that has changed. Word has gotten around the NICU that I have a camera and I'm not afraid to use it. My list of "clients" is still small, but is growing. Most people are very supportive of what I am doing. Some of the older nurses, however, get kind of cranky when I wander around the NICU, but I've let it be known that if anyone crosses me, I'll take pictures of their butts and put them on the bulletin board by the front door.