Mi chiquito (my little one) : mothers of Mexican heritage in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)



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The admission of an infant to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has the potential to produce significant stress for the mothers of these infants. Researchers suggest that this may contribute to difficulties with coping following discharge. Past research on this topic has been primarily focused on Caucasian women. Approximately 9% of the U.S. population is of Mexican heritage; therefore, this population is significantly underrepresented in the existing literature. For this reason, the purpose of this grounded theory study was to identify the basic social processes used by English-speaking mothers of Mexican heritage who have experienced the admission of an infant to the NICU.
Maximum variation sampling was utilized to recruit 15 English-speaking mothers of Mexican heritage who were at least 18 years of age and had experienced the admission of an infant to the NICU. The women were recruited from various locations in San Antonio, Texas. Data collection was conducted through audio-taped, semi-structured individual interviews and transcribed field notes. Data analysis consisted of constant comparison, open coding of data, and theoretical coding. This investigation resulted in the substantive theory making sure my baby is cared for by being there for my baby. The process began with the unexpected event of having an infant in the NICU and played out in the context of opposing forces: trying to be the mother or making meaningful connections. The mothers developed strategies for managing this situation by balancing responsibilities, leaving part of me with my baby, and watching over. The process concluded with one of two consequences: bringing my baby home or losing my baby. The theory that emerged from this study offers insight for researchers, nurse educators, and neonatal nurses who provide care for English-speaking, Mexican-heritage mothers and their infants as well as for the care of all NICU mothers and their infants.