There’s been a lot of breast milk lately in the staff refrigerator of the neonatal intensive care unit at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola.
That’s because eight nurses and one physician assistant who were pregnant together have now given birth, and many of the women who have returned from maternity leave are pumping during their shifts.
“We’re trying to be discreet with our coolers, but I think everyone knows what’s in there,” jokes Katelyn O’Connor, 32, a physician assistant from Stamford, Connecticut, whose son, Owen, is about to turn 5 months old.
In April, Newsday featured the nine pregnant staff members in the unit for premature or sick babies, also known as the NICU -- all but one of whom were expecting their first child and all who were due between then and October. In addition, six staff members were pregnant in the adjacent labor and delivery unit.
After the Newsday story appeared, the pregnant women became media darlings. They appeared with Jenna Bush on the "Today" show when Bush was pregnant as well. “I was panicking the whole time. I was scared I was going to go into labor,” Julie Jurgielewicz, 29, of North Bellmore, says of that appearance, during which she says she felt contractions.
Several of the women also were featured in the audience of "The View," and Monica Lecrichia, 28, of Seaford, who is half Colombian, was interviewed on Univision, the Spanish language network. Lecrichia’s daughter, Layla, is now a month old.
Heather Herger, 29, of Floral Park, was the first NICU nurse to give birth. O’Connor was on duty and in the delivery room when Herger gave birth to Amelia, now 6 months old. O’Connor was also there when Amy Florio, 39, of Franklin Square, gave birth to her daughter Sienna, now 5 months old.
“When I got back to the [neonatal intensive care] unit, they were all trying to get info out of me," O'Connor says. "‘What’s her name? What did she weigh?’’
The women didn’t tell each other what they were planning to name their children -- some of them didn’t know what they were having prior to the birth -- but they are so in sync, they say, that they realized afterward that all of the women of daughters gave them names that end with an "a," and the women who had sons all gave them names that end in an "n."
Now, the women use a group chat they had created to support each other through pregnancy — a chat they dubbed NYU Winthrop Preggos -- to talk about how much the babies are eating, how they address teething, and more. O’Connor jokes that the nurses can singlehandedly cause a product to become a best-seller — once one of them finds something that helped their baby sleep through the night, for instance, everyone else buys one, too.
The women say they are looking forward to getting all the babies together for an enormous playdate. And they don’t rule out another wave of joint pregnancies in the future. “I’m sure it will happen,” says Jurgielewicz, whose daughter, Shea, is 5 months old. “I think we’ll all be ready for number two at the same time.”