Bess Jensen started volunteering at a Nebraska hospital after retiring from the local gas company. At first, it was a way to give back and stay active. But now she’s playing a crucial role in many young lives.
Jensen and four other women go to Lincoln’s Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals to do one simple thing — cuddle infants.
They’re known as the “baby rockers.”
Many of the infants they care for are otherwise completely alone. For various reasons, their parents aren’t around. Some are “shaken babies.” All of them need love.
“Whenever we had a baby that was a ward of the state or the parents weren’t there or needed help, I would come in and rock the baby,” Jensen told CNN.
“A lot of times these babies can’t get that human touch and tenderness that they need early in life. So, we come in and provide that,” Sandy Ludwig, another volunteer said.
Five volunteers take shifts to make sure there’s always someone around to give the infants comfort and love.
“They know each one of us. When I pick them up, they know my voice and they know my feel. They just snuggle in and we rock,” Jensen said.
“I usually put them to sleep — if the nurses need a baby put to sleep they bring them to me.”
‘I’ve cried a lot’
The hospital staff are glad to have the help. “(The nurses) welcome those volunteers. They need those volunteers,” Hospital Volunteer Coordinator Marla Buresh said.
“The nurses would love to do this, but unfortunately they cannot because they need to be doing their job,” she added.
For the volunteers, the hardest part is controlling the inevitable connections they make with each baby.
“You cry if something is wrong with them, if something is not right. I’ve cried a lot,” Jensen remarked.
Volunteer Carole Johnson said letting go is simply heartbreaking. She recalled one particular boy she cared for: “I dreaded the day he would leave. I fell in love with him. How could you not?”
But she also said the emotional rewards for providing essential love is priceless.
“When you walk in the morning and those little faces light up, you know you’ve done some good.”