Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Homeward Bound- A Preemie Comes Home

By Joel Brens

NICU Graduation Day!!
Two years ago today was one of the best days of my life. After having our son Jayden a little over 7 weeks early, our 25 day journey in the NICU had come to a close. We had experienced more joy, fear, pride, and uncertainty in a three week period then I expected to deal with over a lifetime. The night before he was to be sent home, I raced to the hospital after work in the middle of the night, eager to hear the news first hand. As I walked into the nursery the nurse stood by him, with a smile on her face, and said "Looks like your going to be taking him home tomorrow." I shed tears. Relief, excitement, and a substantial amount of fear set in. Whether I was ready or not, full-time dad was a new responsibility. While having a child in NICU gives you the chance to learn diaper changes and bottle feedings, the idea that a still fragile being is your full responsibility is a daunting proposal.

I probably slept a total of 5-6 hours over the first two nights Jayden was home. It wasn't quality sleep, either. It was more like resting my eyes. After 4 days home with my wife and son, I had to go back to work. I had a tough time adjusting to a work/family schedule but my amazing wife Gena took a bulk of the baby responsibilities the first week so I could adjust. Looking back on the experience I would like to lend this advice:

For moms:
Who looks more exhausted?
  • When the baby sleeps, you sleep. Just do it. Mornings, afternoons, evenings. Infants are very dependent on you and sometimes they don't sleep when you hope/expect them to. Sometimes you just need to say "forget the to-do list" and let your body re-coup. I'm begging you, for your health and sanity. Take a nap.
  • At wits end? Put the baby gently in the crib/bassinet and walk away. Give yourself 5 minutes to decompress. A crying baby will be okay. When I was on my own with Jayden, it saved me from losing it a few times.
  • Don't pack away your feelings. Try to communicate with your husband/significant other about how your are doing mentally, physically and emotionally. Ignoring fear, anger, and stress leads to much bigger issues down the road.
For dads:
  • Be a team player. Take turns with overnight duties. Regularly clean bottle parts. Offer to take the child for a walk when you think she is staring to go crazy. Anything to ease the workload for mama. As a father, you played a large part in the creation of life. Own the responsibility.
  • Emotion does not equal weakness. I spent the better part of a decade packing away sadness, guilt, and anger about a million different things. When I "grew up" I realized how much better I felt sometimes after a good cry. These days I talk a lot about my emotions. From joy to depression and everything in between. It's helped my relationship with my wife significantly. Try it out for size. It may  just help you out too.
  • Be active in your child's development. Go to doctor visits. Ask questions. Shower your child with love and attention. Read, sing, talk. As much as possible. I wholeheartedly believe Jayden is such a happy child because we put the time in to remind him he is the world to us.   
Where did my preemie go?
Some days last FOR-EV-VER. Then three weeks fly by and you're caught thinking "How did I get here?" Looking back I'm glad I took time to appreciate the little things. It moves by so fast. Too fast. As the parent of a preemie I was consumed about his development. So much so there are times I miss just watching him lay there, taking the world in one astonished gaze at a time. I don't sleep like I used to, but I think that's likely the case with most new parents. Having a routine benefited Jayden as well as Gena and I.  In no time he was six months. One year. 18 months. Just this May he turned two. What a trip.

Today I will celebrate so many things. Being a dad. Being a husband. Embracing vulnerability and letting it help me grow as a person. Jayden's smile, his laugh, his earth shattering blue eyes, his mom's stubbornness, his dad's clumsiness, his uncanny ability to be adorable after pushing our limits to the brink. But most important of all, I will celebrate it for all the dads who are waiting for their turn to bring their treasure home. For that life changing moment is one I will never forget, and one I pray all NICU dads will see.

Daddy loves you Jayden

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written, thanks for sharing. And thanks for suggesting helping at night. My husband was a God send at night, even though he went to work and I was home with baby he took half the night, it kept my sanity intact.