Being a parent can be just plain scary. I always say that I never truly knew fear until my first daughter was born. It’s easy enough for your mind to swirl with what could happen to them at any given time, especially when your postpartum hormones are flowing and your child is tiny and new. Unfortunately, though, some parents live in the reality that their children need medical attention immediately following birth. Even worse is the fact that many of them aren’t able to be with their tiny ones around the clock.
Stories like this are what solidify my faith in humanity. An angel in an 82-year-old man’s body, David Deutchman volunteers his free time at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta‘s ICUs, coming in to snuggle babies whose parents are away from them.
Yes, he is a professional baby cuddler. The position might seem strange to some of you, just like it does Deutchman’s friends. “I tell them, ‘I hold babies. Sometimes I get puked on, I get peed on. It’s great,'” he shares in a video by Children’s Healthcare. He adds, “they just don’t get it, the kind of reward you can get from holding a baby like this.” The video also shows Deutchman rocking a baby and singing You Are My Sushine. Cue the tears.
Mary Beth Brulotte knows just how life saving the ICU Grandpa’s job is. When her son Logan was born over three months early, weighing just under two pounds, he needed a lot of extra care. Unfortunately, and like many NICU families, Mary Beth couldn’t be with baby Logan around the clock, with the hospital being over two hours away from her home and having an older child to take care of.
“Every mom pictures their baby all alone in their crib crying.” Brulotte tells TODAY. Little did she know that her anxieties would be soothed in late September, when she came to visit her son and found Deutchman cradling him, Logan fast asleep in his arms. “He introduced himself as the ‘ICU grandpa’ and I thought, ‘Oh my God, this can’t be real. This man is like an angel.’ He said he heard Logan crying and asked the nurse if he could hold him and sing him to sleep.”
There are numerous studies demonstrating that, even when babies have food and water, if they are not provided with human interaction and touch, they are much less likely to thrive. It’s a mother’s instinct to hold their little ones close, and biologically it affects both she and the baby to not be near one another. Hats off to CHOA for realizing this deep need, and to Deutchman for being a caring, warm presence for these little ones.
Deutchman, who retired from a long career in International Business Marketing, sought to find a worthwhile way to fill his time post-retirement. When he found the position with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, he knew it was something he needed to do. He currently spends his Tuesdays with older babies in the PICU and his Thursdays in the NICU with newborns. He told reporters that one of his main goals is to take care of the babies’ parents, too, asking them if they’ve eaten yet that day and attempting to get out of them how they are doing. Bless him.
It’s important to not be in this parenting thing alone. Finding a village is imperative. Sometimes we are given the things we didn’t expect or know we needed, and sometimes they come in the form of a kind-hearted older man who just wants to make an impact on the world, one family at a time.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.