A Letter to Me
by Joel Brens Papas of Preemies, Founder
I realize at this point you haven't quite had the chance to process this life changing moment. My guess is you'll be relying on your adrenaline from racing to the hospital to see your wife and brand new baby boy. It's okay to cry. Those tears might have some sadness to them but are full of happiness and relief. Both mom and baby are stable. At the end of the day, that's all you ever really asked for.
This wasn't what you drew up or hoped for as a first time parent. Your early days as a dad will be stark in contrast to dads who experienced a "normal" or full term pregnancy. Please do not let that harbor bitterness within. The moment has arrived, and all you can do is make the best of your circumstances.
Within a few hours reality will slap you square in the face. The constant beeping noises and alarms in the NICU will take some getting used to, but in time you will get adapt to the environment. In some strange ways it will become a comfort. It's okay to feel uncertain, or scared, or even a bit angry. Nobody ever wants to be thrust into the NICU, unfortunately nobody ever has a choice.
This may seem like asking too much, but in order to better prepare yourself for when you take your child home, you have to learn to let go of fear. That's a tall order considering the complete lack of control you feel right now. You'll learn soon that asking questions to the NICU staff, understanding what plan for continuity of care they are giving, becoming an advocate for your son, and getting involved will tremendously help you get a little of the control back.
These are a few tips and things to consider moving forward:
-Most importantly, you are NOT alone. There are a great deal of other dads out there who are struggling just like you are. Seek these people out in the future as relating to others will prove to be most therapeutic.
-Be kind and gracious to the NICU staff. They work so very hard on helping to get your child healthy enough to come home. I cannot stress enough how much having a good relationship with those responsible for caring for your son can make.
-With that in mind, you have to learn to trust these people. At some point you have to go home and leave your son in the NICU. It's incredibly difficult to do, but its necessary. You can always call in and check up on your child if you want to.
-Need a break? Take one. Stress is not a good thing to bring into the NICU. Clear your head every now and again.
-When you finally bring your son home, take it one day at a time. I can't, and won't for that matter, tell you to not stress out about development. It's something that most parents, (and every parent of a preemie) worry about. But don't let that cloud the ability to enjoy little things.
-Take a million pictures. On days you are having a tuff go of it, or your patience is waning, take a look at all of the pictures to remind yourself of how far you've come. Your son is truly a miracle!
You are going to be an amazing father! Keep up your faith, your hope, and take a moment every day to hug your child and let him know he's your everything.
Sincerely, A friend