Friday, May 25, 2012

What Makes Us Strong

Rob and his daughter, Hazel
By Rob Berry

I once read that a parent with a child in the NICU stands a high chance of suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at a level comparable to a soldier who has served in active combat.

I am not qualified to make that comparison as I've never served my country but I do know that being the father of a micro preemie is likely the most intense experience I will ever endure while I am on this Earth.

Our daughter Hazel came suddenly at 24 weeks gestation. She weighed in at a whopping 1 lb 11 oz and was 12.5 inches long. Her arrival was the most exciting event in my life and yet it was also the most terrifying.

Everything about our pregnancy was perfect up until Hazel's early arrival. I remember naively thinking that once my wife approached the end of the second trimester that we were home free. Looking back now it is quite obvious that I didn't know a thing.

Nothing prepares a person for life as the parent of a micro preemie. One of the most difficult mental hurdles I had to cross was knowing that nothing we did caused our daughter to come early, nothing.

Sepsis, PDA ligation, ROP, multiple severe respiratory episodes, seemingly endless ventilation, fear, uncertainty, and a few close calls all greeted us as first time parents.

What amazes me now is how we managed to work our way through our daughter's NICU stay. We took things day by day, hour by hour and sometimes minute by minute. It is incredible how much a parent can endure with a bit of luck, faith and timely support. Such is life in and after the NICU.

Here are a few people/things that helped me cope with our time in the NICU:
First, my faith in something bigger than ourselves. My wife and I are not overly religious people but we believe God was watching over our little one as she struggled to grow and develop. I have had many conversations with Him over the last year and I definitely have a deeper connection.
Second, the staff at the Royal Alexandra Hospital NICU in Edmonton. Whether it was their exceptional level of expertise, their willingness to teach my wife and I anything and everything we wanted to know about prematurity or their ability to answer the same question from me ten million times, they were world class. These people are angels and we owe our daughter's life to their hard work.
Third, my wife's parents. They are two of the most amazing people you would ever care to meet. They were so strong and so supportive of us during our NICU stay. They remained solid for us while facing their own fears and concerns for their first and only grandchild. Never once did they complain or show fear and anxiety around us. They gave us both so much and asked nothing in return. They are the best grandparents a kid could ever ask for.
Most importantly, there is my wife. Where do I start? Let's just say she is my everything. We have leaned on each other hard during the last year. The two of us have faced many things that most newly wed couples could only imagine and yet here we are, still going strong. Hazel and I are the two luckiest people on the planet because we have her.
Time in the NICU is intense in so many ways. I look forward to diving deeper into my experience as an NICU dad in the weeks to come. I would also love to hear what helped other people survive their time in the NICU.

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