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By Alice Lesch Kelly
I met Vicki when my first child was born in 2017. She was direct, and seemed intense at first. But her guidance was clear and concise, and I found myself referring to it over the years through my second, and now third, pregnancy. Her competence is unparalleled. Everything I remember about perineal care, nursing babies, being able to tell what I’m doing right or wrong, all came from Vicki. She imparted the most knowledge for helping me heal and helping my baby nurse, and in the end that’s the most important thing. I was THRILLED to see her again for the birth of my third child, just a week ago so that I could tell her how important her guidance was to me for the last four-and-a-half years. She gives the best of her knowledge to her patients, and thus empowers them to give the best possible care to themselves and their babies. She is the one nurse whose name and face I remember, and always will.
—Nominated by Nancy Cook
When Vicki Everett first began her career as a nurse in the 1980s, most new parents had some experience with babies. They may have worked as babysitters during their teen years or looked after younger siblings. And with extended families living nearby, few people made it to adulthood without having held, fed, and diapered babies.
But Everett, who works in the special care nursery at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Massachusetts, says it’s different now. For many new parents, the first baby they ever hold is their own newborn.
“They’ve read books about baby care and have put diapers on dolls during parenting classes,” Everett says, “but many have no real hands-on experience with living, squirming babies.”
That’s where Everett comes in. As a self-described “baby nurse” who has worked in just about every baby-focused department in hospitals – from neonatal intensive care to pediatrics – Everett has devoted herself to helping new parents feel comfortable caring for their newborns. She has worked at Emerson Hospital for about 13 years, and also raised three children of her own.
“Every baby is a miracle, and it’s so rewarding to help new parents,” says Everett. “My job is to make sure they have all the tools in place so they can leave the hospital and transition to taking care of their baby at home.”
When Boston Globe Media asked readers to write in thanking nurses who have made a difference in their lives, hundreds submitted glowing letters. A note from Nancy Cook, who gave birth to three children at Emerson Hospital and raved about the care she received from Everett, was one that stood out.
“Her competence is unparalleled. She was direct and seemed intense at first. But her guidance was clear and concise, and I found myself referring to it over the years through my second, and now third, pregnancy,” Cook wrote.
“I’m known to be blunt,” Everett admits, “but we nurses don’t necessarily have much time with the parents. I get right down to business, because it’s important for me to focus on helping parents learn what they need to know.”
For example, Everett helps new moms and babies get the hang of breastfeeding. Although breastfeeding is natural and babies are born with the ability to suck, they don’t always latch on easily, so Everett offers guidance to help get breastfeeding off to a smooth start.
She also teaches parents how to read various types of “baby language,” such as what it means when a baby draws their knees up to their belly (usually, gas). And she shows them how to wrap a baby in a soothing, womb-like way.
“I want parents to feel empowered, happy, relaxed, and ready to go home from the hospital,” Everett says. “Our families are our motivation. We want them to be successful.”
Everett makes sure to include fathers as she shares tips and information. “Most dads are willing to help, but they don’t know what to do,” Everett says. She shows fathers how to hold their babies – many men feel comfortable with what’s known as the “football hold,” she says – and she tells them all the ways they can support a mother who is breastfeeding and recuperating from childbirth.
Some of Everett’s best advice for new parents? Ask for help from family and friends. Take frequent naps. Drink plenty of fluids and eat properly if you’re breastfeeding. Trust your instincts. Call the hospital’s 24/7 help line with questions, even in the middle of the night.
And most importantly: “Relax and enjoy your baby,” Everett says. “The time goes very quickly.”
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