Karen Catalano, RN
Tell us about your own journey and how your experiences have changed the way you look at motherhood and parenting.
My journey into motherhood was not an easy one. While I was pregnant I was also dealing with a lot of external stress in my life. But the delivery was beautiful and there was no better feeling in the whole world than seeing your baby for the first time. But the morning after we took our son home, he stopped breathing while I was doing skin to skin with him early in the morning. This single moment in time had officially changed me as a mother, and as a nurse, forever. We now have a completely healthy wonderful two-year-old, but this experience has empowered me to help others even more! Parenting can be very scary. There is so much information being given to you and you have so many questions! Is this normal? Am I crazy? The answer is, You're not! Adjusting to parenthood can be difficult, and most of the time it's just not the Instagram fairytale picture that people show. I know mine wasn't! I think that my experience as a nurse and as a mother is so incredibly valuable because I have the medical experience, education and degree mixed with real life motherhood that makes for an excellent resource.
Tell us a little about your nursing career.
I became a nurse at the age of 21 back in 2008. I started my career doing a new graduate program in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Women and Children's hospital in my home town of Buffalo,NY. I was also trained to attend high risk deliveries at this time. After 2 years of working here, I took a trip to California and fell in love! I was then blessed with the opportunity to work in the NICU right here in San Diego at Rady Children's Hospital, so off I went! I worked in their NICU for 4 years while taking a subspecialty in neonates with congenital heart disease. When the hospital opened their Cardiovascular ICU I transferred and have been working there for the last 6 years. I absolutely love taking care of these patients and their families, and helping them navigate through the toughest time in their lives.
What are the two most important lessons you've learned working with moms, babies, and families?
No baby or family unit are the same. Everyone needs care tailored to their specific needs, strengths, and weaknesses. We also all handle stress differently. And while one person may externalize stress with tears and emotions, the next might internalize while trying to be the rock for their family. It is so important to be able to recognize this in all situations to help the families and mothers in the best way possible. Most importantly, If moms do not take care of themselves, they cannot take care of their babies. Self-care is so important, and I urge mothers every day to reach out to their support systems and SLEEP!
If you had one bit of advice to give to a new parent, what would it be?
Educate yourself and go with the flow! When I was pregnant with my first, I had already been a nurse for almost 9 years. I had worked with hundreds, if not thousands of newborns at this point and It was still so nerve wracking to take this tiny baby home that I was solely responsible for. I also still took a pre-natal class that I signed up for to help my husband, but It helped me so much too! I now urge all of my friends that are having babies to do it! It is also so good to have other moms to bounce ideas off of. Find your support and your village of other moms to reach out to for help and advice. Every baby is so different, so its nice to hear everyone's unique experience and what helped them get through it.
Self-care is a big challenge for parents. How do you maintain your own energy and outlook?
With my first son, I struggled a lot with finding a balance of self care. I had un-diagnosed post partum anxiety. It was hard for me to ever leave him because I was always worried how others were caring for him, to where it really inhibited my being able to relax and enjoy myself when I was away. Now with my 2nd, I have a whole new outlook and it feels so good and so natural! My husband and I also pick times that are best for our families schedule to leave the kids. If you like to be home at bedtime, then have a day date! We also let each other have our own nights out with friends without question. Sometimes you just need to go have a glass of wine with your girlfriends, and that's OK! This time when your babes are little goes SO FAST, so when I find myself losing touch I just slow down, ta
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