Preemie, Preemie Mom, NICU Parent Mentor
– Kristi Hernandez-Barrientez
I was a preemie myself.
I don’t know how many weeks. I do know I was supposed to be born in June, and I was born in April. I was three pounds and 10 ounces. So, I know what it is like to grow up [like] that. But even that doesn’t prepare you.
My second daughter was my preemie; she was born at twenty-eight weeks and weighed one pound, 10 ounces. I thought I did everything right. I felt I did everything right. But she just wanted to come early.
When you know something’s coming, you prepare for it. My daughter wasn’t due until August 28th and she came on June 8th. When I was pregnant, I thought I had plenty of time to get things that I need(ed), things for her. But with her coming so early, we were not prepared…we had nothing. Our first daughter was full-term, so we didn’t expect it.
I remember being in the hospital. It felt like the doctors had no compassion. They were trying to explain so much and ask for much, and I felt lost. My husband was there, helping me understand it all. I remember being so thankful for him because some moms did not have anybody to go on this journey with them. They were in the NICU basically by themselves with their child.
My daughter was in the NICU for two months. You learn a lot from being there. You learn about your baby and what you would do to protect your baby.
I remember a bad experience in the NICU. One night, the nurse who took care of my daughter was a traveling nurse, not our regular nurses. When my daughter’s heart [rate] would dip low, our regular nurses would try to rub the bottom of her foot or the middle of her chest to bring her heartbeat back up. This night, this nurse was flicking her foot.
I knew what she was trying to do, but…she was flicking my one-pound daughter on the bottom of her foot and it bothered me. I know my daughter didn’t like that or need that.
I didn’t want to come off [as] rude, but I learned to be vocal about things like this. I had to say something because this nurse [would] be taking care of my baby all night when I [was] not there. I ended up staying the whole night because I told her I did not like it, but I was not being heard. I went to the charge nurse, apologizing, and the next day my daughter had a different nurse.
I came to midwifery from a community organizing place.
I was working in Washington, DC doing advocacy work and I realized I really liked working with my hands and Spanish speakers, so I started volunteering in different capacities to try out different jobs. I literally opened a phone book and found a clinic in DC that needed Spanish interpreters.
The night that I got assigned to work was the night that they did a prenatal clinic. Thinking about that is when I think about my ancestors. I think about how I’ve been guided in this. It hasn’t been accidental. The clinic had a lot of Central American refugees who were coming to the city and really needed help. Midwives were running the clinic and I was like, “These ladies are awesome.” I just fell in love with midwifery.