It is the beginning of August and I am half way through my summer vacation. Time to count my blessings.
So far my family and I have had a very successful road trip to
visit Hazel's grandpa, we've successfully finished the landscaping of
our back yard, my wife and I have had many opportunities to do 'normal'
family things with our ex-24 weeker Hazel and I've had the great
pleasure of being a stay at home dad for the last four weeks. Life
really couldn't get much better right now.
One of the things I like most about this time of year is that life
really slows down. The most consistent event on my calendar this time of
year is afternoon nap time with our little girl.
This afternoon I was having difficulty falling asleep and my mind
started to wander as it often does. I started to think about how
dramatically my life has changed in the last year since we brought Hazel
home last July. It has been a really busy year and at times it has been
super intense but I wouldn't trade a second of it because being a dad
is simply amazing.
My thoughts then shifted to Hazel's time spent in the NICU where
she had so many amazing professionals working tirelessly to make sure
she got strong. I can't help but feel fortunate for everything these
people did for us. They gave us our daughter plain and simple. I don't
know of any way we could even begin to appropriately thank these people
for what they did.
I will admit, having your little one in a level three nursery for
months is not fun. No parent should have to experience fear and
uncertainty around their child's birth and yet sadly, so many people do.
One of the many things that got us through our time in the NICU
were the relationships formed with so many of the staff members. What
amazes me now is how so many of them took the time to talk with my wife
and I even when we knew they were super busy.
These conversations were often specific to our daughter and her
medical needs, sometimes they were merely conversations to help ease the
stress of situations we were facing and other times we would simply
talk about everyday things. Whatever the reason, these conversations
brought a sense of normalcy to a very abnormal situation.
I have read about many horror stories people have experienced with
NICU staff and I can't help but feel grateful for our experience.
One of my biggest tips for parents in the NICU is to remind them
that staff is there because they love those little boys and girls in the
isolettes. I know it is easy to sometimes lose sight of that when it's
your little one that is the patient but I can't help but believe that
it's true. I can't imagine anyone lasting in that profession without a
true desire to help these little miracles grow.
Another tip for the NICU is to foster and develop relationships
with doctors, nurses, rt's and other support staff. My wife and I
learned so much about prematurity and how best to help our daughter
thrive and be successful by simply talking with staff and by being as
friendly as possible. These lessons were invaluable when we finally
brought Hazel home. We were prepared as best as we could be and that
brought so much comfort.
Were there times we had concerns about our daughter's care?
Certainly. Most of the time my level of concern came from not fully
understanding the situation at hand. A few good conversations and
generally my level of anxiety went way down.
The few times conversations didn't relieve my anxiety and there
were some real concerns, staff knew us as calm and rational people and
situations were dealt with swiftly and compassionately.
Leaving the NICU last July was one of the happiest days I've ever
experienced ranking up there with the day I married my wife and the day
she told me we had a little one on the way.
It was also a sad day in some ways as we were leaving some amazing
people behind. Funny how an extended stay in the NICU bonds people from
all different walks of life. Many of the people on that ward felt like
members of our extended family when we left.
My wife and I took Hazel in to visit the NICU staff a few months
ago right around the time of her first birthday. It was such a great
moment and was so reassuring to us as parents. The Charge Nurse that so
carefully watched over Hazel's progress for months was there. She knew
our daughter like nobody else and had a real affinity for her. The
Charge Nurse was so happy to see our daughter was doing so well. It was
amazing that she remembered so much about our daughter after so much
time had passed. It was a true testament to her level of
The nurse that first had Hazel when she came up from Labor and
Delivery then appeared. She recalled so much about her first few hours
and days of life It was incredible. It reminded this dad that that
little girl really had come such a long way.
One of our favorite nurses then appeared and took Hazel on a trip
all around the ward to visit staff members who were working that day. Of
course Hazel was in that stranger danger phase and started to scream
like a banshee. Everyone took it in stride and marveled at how strong
her lungs had really become.
This was a great moment for us as parents but I believe it was
equally amazing for the staff. It became clear in an instant that our
children have a huge impact on the lives of these amazing people. They
are there with us through the good times and the bad and no doubt go
through a range of emotions due to the nature of their work. I feel so
happy that with our little visit we could somehow give a something back.
I am looking forward to the final few weeks of vacation. As I enjoy
these days I will continue to count my blessings and remember these
amazing people who gave us our beautiful little girl.
Thank you to all of the professionals who make a living helping our
children grow and reach their full potential. I am sure at times your
job is thankless but please remember, you really do make a difference in
the lives of so many people.