In 2011, the World Prematurity Day was celebrated for the first time in various countries. The observation was initially proposed by the European Parents’ Association in 2008. Every year, on November 17, World Prematurity Day is celebrated in different countries with the aim of raising awareness and alerting the public about the challenges faced by premature babies. Approximately 15 million babies, accounting for one in ten births worldwide, are born prematurely each year. Sadly, not all premature babies survive, as one million of them pass away annually, while others may experience complications such as cerebral palsy and vision and hearing problems among others.
The typical duration of a pregnancy is between 37 and 40 weeks. However, due to various reasons, some babies do not complete the full term in their mother’s womb and are born prematurely. The causes of premature birth often remain unknown, though it is more common among young and middle-aged women. Factors such as inadequate prenatal care, multiple pregnancies, and improper nutrition during pregnancy can increase the chances of giving birth to a premature baby.
In a hospital located in the southern part of Iran’s capital, equipped with advanced facilities and staffed by specialized nurses in NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) departments, premature babies receive the necessary care until they fully recover and reach their ideal weight. Anita Nazarbeigi, a 29-year-old nurse who has been working in this hospital’s NICU for nine years, exemplifies the qualities required for a NICU nurse. According to Anita, apart from knowledge and skills, patience and precision are the most crucial characteristics of a NICU nurse. The department often presents challenging and distressing situations, wherein nurses need to set aside their emotions and collaborate with the medical team to save a baby’s life.
Anita, herself a mother of a one-year-old daughter, emphasizes the importance of kindness and patience in dealing with extremely vulnerable and defenseless premature babies. As nurses, they become the sole hope for these infants, and their delicate touch, slow feeding, and overall care require special patience and love.
Anita recalls a heartwarming memory of a baby who had been hospitalized for two months. Due to severe brain and vision issues, the baby’s mother was unable to visit him during that time. However, when the mother finally visited and held the baby in her arms, the baby experienced a sense of tranquility upon hearing the sound of her heartbeat and smelling her scent. Miraculously, the baby’s conditions improved significantly before being discharged. Anita attributes this improvement not to medical intervention but rather to the power of a mother’s love and embrace. She firmly believes that babies need a mother’s hug more than we can imagine.
Even outside of work, Anita finds it challenging to forget the events that unfold in the baby department and the stresses associated with her job. These experiences often linger in her thoughts, even when she falls asleep. Anita explains that the world of babies represents purity and innocence, and every word spoken and action taken by nurses has an impact on these vulnerable beings. Since babies cannot speak or make decisions for themselves, they are entirely dependent on others, which Anita considers the height of their vulnerability.
Nursing is a profession associated with high levels of burnout, but despite the night shifts and long hours, it has been a fulfilling and nurturing environment for Anita over the years. Witnessing families joyfully receive their healthy babies upon discharge brings immense happiness to the department and serves as a testament to the impact of their work.
In a heartwarming moment, a 7-year-old girl, who was once a 900-gram baby in the same ward, enters and embraces Anita tightly. Together, they cut a beautiful cake brought to the ward to commemorate World Prematurity Day.