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Mother, Baby and Me: Nikki Brockel

Meet Nikki Brockel, a perinatal social worker who recently transitioned into her new role at The Mother Baby Center, for this week’s edition of Mother, Baby and Me.

How long have you worked at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and The Mother Baby Center? I have worked for Children’s as a full-time employee for almost two years. If you count my master’s degree internship though and the maternity leave I covered for another social worker, I have really been with Children’s for almost three years!! I transitioned into the Mother Baby social work role in January of this year joining Kara Marriott and Sara Moeller as perinatal social workers in the Mother Baby service line.

What does a perinatal social worker do? The Mother Baby perinatal social work team includes Kara Marriott, Sara Moeller and myself.  As perinatal social workers, we provide pregnant patients and families a single point of contact and support across the continuum of care from pregnancy, to delivery and through the discharge of their baby from the hospital.

The role of the Mother Baby perinatal social worker is to provide a consistent contact person to pregnant patients and their families and a link between the multiple health care providers from different organizations who are following the family due to the high-risk fetal diagnosis.

We follow specific high-risk pregnancies by referral from the Minnesota Perinatal Physicians clinic. We follow all pregnant patients and families who have a prenatally diagnosed fetal congenital anomaly and high order multiples.

Our goal is to develop and maintain relationships with pregnant patients and their families along with their medical providers to facilitate supports and resources related to the specific fetal diagnosis.

Each of us carries a caseload of pregnant patients and their families and work to address the psychosocial, developmental, behavioral, financial, educational and medical needs of pregnant patients and their families striving to attain the very best outcomes for high risk pregnancies.

Why drew you to social work? I knew early on that I wanted to help people. When I was in middle school, I thought that meant I wanted to be a lawyer. I was on the debate team through much of my middle and high school years and really enjoyed the challenge of competitive debating.

That being said I realized fairly quickly that the kind of help I wanted to offer others was not in the form of a defense attorney!! My mom had her degree in counseling and addictions and with her help and encouragement, I found social work. Imagine my delight as I found my passion for advocacy, empowerment and social justice was not only satiated by social work but lifted to new heights, this was definitely the profession for me!

I believe strongly that with timely clinical assessment and purposeful clinical intervention we can work side by side with individuals, families and communities in need to increase their overall functioning, well being and quality of life. This is why I went into social work!!

What do you love about your job? Working as a Mother Baby perinatal social worker lends itself to loving my job! We see families not only through those moments when they hear the unthinkable but ongoing as they navigate through a pregnancy and likely hospital stay due to a high-risk fetal diagnosis.

Being told your unborn baby has a congenital anomaly or another fetal diagnosis is earth shattering. As a Mother Baby perinatal social worker I have the honor and privilege of being at a family’s side on what is an exhausting journey physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

I am inspired each day by the calm strength, steadfast resolve, unbridled hope, thoughtful consideration, lighthearted humor, spirited determination, intense honesty, quiet vulnerability and unparalleled buoyancy exhibited by the families I work with. In a nutshell, I love everything about my job!!

I turned to my colleagues Kara and Sara for a quick quote on what they love about the work we do. Here is what they had to say:

Kara said, “Helping families build resiliency and become strong advocates for their baby.  Knowing that families feel supported throughout their pregnancy journey, birth of their baby, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) stay and transition to home. Seeing their sense of relief when they see a familiar face after their baby is born and they are worried about their baby.”

Sara said, “I love watching a mom interact with her new baby, being the consistent support person to parents through what can sometimes be a very long, painful as well as joyous journey. I also love being a strong advocate for families and encouraging them to advocate for themselves. “

What do you think is needed for new families to have a great beginning? I remember the first week home with my first born. What a crazy, fantastic, scary, lovely, worrisome time!! I kept looking at him with his smooth, soft pink skin, dark hair in patches on his arms and the small of his back, perfect wrinkly toes and fingers, pouty full lips and deep blue eyes and the wonder of him, of this new beginning was intense and confusing.

I joked out loud with my husband during those first days at home after discharge, “Hmmm, when are his parents going to come and pick him up and give me a fat check for babysitting?” But they did not come, which is a good thing because it was astonishing how quickly I came to see him as mine. What a joyful and conversely difficult time. Luckily I had my family there at our side each step of the way.

The things that I think new families need to have a Great Beginning are tons of support, encouragement, information, education, patience and forgiveness. Families need support, someone to call on even at 3 a.m. for input and advice. Families need encouragement, to be told they can do this and will succeed. Families need information, about resources and what to expect. Families need education, knowledge about when to ask for help or seek out another opinion. Families need patience, to take each thing or day in stride and be flexible. Families need forgiveness, for the times when they don’t do it perfectly (and there will be many of these times) and are being hard on themselves. I know Great Beginnings just like families come in all shapes and sizes one thing I know for sure, much of what families need to have a great beginning cannot be bought in a store!

I turned to my colleagues Kara and Sara for a quick quote on what they think families need to have a great beginning. Here is what they had to say:

Kara said, “SUPPORT and assistance in understanding the process, processing complex medical information, navigating through the crazy medical system(s), understanding and knowing resources are available to them ahead of time to help relieve anxiety and worry about basic needs, advocacy.”

Sara said, “Consistent encouragement to families that they can do this! They have come so far in their journey and bringing their baby home is scary, exciting and definitely a new beginning!”

Do you know of a staff member at The Mother Baby Center who should be featured in Mother, Baby and Me? Send your suggestions to Brady at [email protected]