I work as a specialist nurse at the neonatal unit at Sachsska Children’s and Youth Hospital. In this ward we get babies born in week 27 or later. The most common reason babies come to us is that they are premature, but it may also be due to infections or respiratory disorders. I really like the workplace and therefore I also work as a child rights representative and a specialist in children and youth medicine. Working there often leads me to think about how to care for a patient who can speak for himself, compared to a patient who’s not able to talk yet. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child also describes how children should be taken in and cared for in our hospitals. If a 10-year-old breaks his arm or gets a cracked appendix, the parent would never be forced to go home and leave the child alone in the hospital. It would even be perceived as absurd. You shouldn’t either split up healthy newborn babies and their parents in the maternity ward.
Unfortunately a newborn baby of just over a kilo in the neonatal ward who needs his parents just as much, may not have his parents close because we do not have enough parents’ rooms. They can stay at the maternity ward if there is room and otherwise they need to go home. It is not pleasant when you as a nurse have to tell the parents “Unfortunately, we cannot offer you a room. I’m sorry, you’re going to have to sleep at home. But we’ll call you if there’s a problem. Don’t forget to pump if you are able to, mom. Here, you can borrow a breast pump.” It doesn’t matter how many hugs you give them afterwards. What’s the difference between the 10-year-old and the newborn? Is it because the 10-year-old can talk and actually speak up? Because he or she can express his or her feelings and opinions in a way that the adult can interpret and understand? Just because a newborn child can’t talk doesn’t mean it doesn’t have opinions or feelings, or that they can’t express them. They clearly show how they feel, and what they want. It just takes the right skills to interpret them.