|Jon and his son, Jack|
The first and foremost reaction when I unexpectedly found myself looking at my 23-week micro-preemie son, Jack, was absolute fear. I had never experienced such a serious medical emergency that had life-and-death consequences to the people closest to me. My wife’s life had been in danger due to preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome, necessitating the early delivery. Following the C-section, and after a few days of recovery, she was thankfully out of the woods.
Jack’s life, however, was still very much in danger, and the statistics were not in his favor. My first glances at Jack’s appearance initially discouraged me from having much faith. This was uncharted territory and it shook me to my very core. A dark and uncertain cloud now hung over the bright and shiny dreams we had for our young budding family. Thoughts of having to plan a funeral for the baby I never really knew haunted my mind in those early days.
Even if Jack miraculously survived the early birth, the range of opinions we got about Jack’s future health were grim. Due to grade four bilateral brain bleeds, we were told he could be deaf, blind, and unable to speak or walk. If things went well, we still could expect multiple surgeries, infections, and a four-month minimum NICU stay.
Fear is unquestionably the dominant negative feeling within the NICU. It is not the single emotion felt by parents who have children within, but I have never met a mother or father who didn’t struggle with the paralyzing fear that comes with having a fragile preemie unexpectedly. There is no easy cure, and unfortunately some of those fears may become realities for some parents.
Perhaps most fearful for me as a new father – there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.
I wasn’t used to being in total lack of control. I was told each preemie was unique, which meant Jack could not really be compared to any other kid in the NICU. I had no way to know if one minute he could appear to be doing well, only to find out he might slip away the next. As an inborn problem solver, it was killing me to know that the best I could do was hope and pray for the best.
In time, I learned to turn this fear over God – surrendering my anxieties and distress to Him. Trusting in Him became a release in some of the darkest times. It wasn’t easy. It didn’t always rid me of fear completely. But it did allow me to have moments where I could shift my feelings to something more positive as I thought up new dreams involving the new son I had that was clearly fighting hard to make it out of the NICU.
Next post about common feelings in the NICU: anger.