By Joel Brens
Typically when you ask people about fathers and what words or phrases come to mind you hear things along the lines of: Provider, disciplinarian, tough love, rock of the family, etc...
While these can all be very true I think society has somewhat trivialized what is expected from a father. It's as if we are an afterthought in the family picture. We are always the last to be asked how we are doing. Always with "How's the baby?" and "How's the mama?" In case you were wondering I'm doing wonderful. Thanks for squeezing me into 15 seconds of conversation... Am I a very active and involved father? Yes. I do know that's not the case for every father but I sure do know quite a few dedicated fathers. We'd like some recognition too. (For the record my wife is always appreciative of my active involvement in the family.)
When my wife and I had our son seven weeks early, I struggled greatly with my emotions. I wanted to be comforting and strong for her. Truth be told I was a white hot mess. Terrified. Is he going to be okay? How long will it take to know he's progressing? How long will he be hospitalized? Some nurses were saying three to four weeks some were saying closer to two months. Within hours of his birth he was placed on CPAP. What a wonderful and horrifying instrument. First he was at 32% oxygen. Then they lowered it to 25%, only to bump it back up to 32 again. It was a punch in the gut. The feeling of helplessness had set it. Only time and good care would fix it.
I will say that after we got through the first few days it started to get easier. There were bumps in the road, (apnea, Brady's episodes, minute brain hemorrhaging.) but after 25 days we found out we were going to take him home. I remember so vividly the night before he was to be released. I was working a closing shift and got up to the hospital around midnight. He had a couple of criteria to meet those last couple of days, most notably weight gain. Ugh. Weight gain. Every day with the weight gain. Thinking about it stresses me out now! Anyway, I walked over to the area they had my son. The nurse looked up and said "Looks like your son is going home tomorrow" I was so happy I cried. And I cried some more. And I held my little treasure in my arms and spoke softly of great adventures we'd go on. I was finally going to be a full time dad. I share this story with you in hopes it may reach some other dad out there and perhaps strike a cord. It's okay to be afraid. It's okay to be scared. Every families story is different, but you are not alone.