Monday, November 19, 2012

A letter to me

He'll Have You At Hello

Dear Joel- I realize at this point you haven't quite had the chance to process this life changing moment. My guess is you'll be relying on  your adrenaline from racing to the hospital to see your wife and brand new baby boy. It's okay to cry. Those tears might have some sadness to them but are full of happiness and relief. Both mom and baby are stable. At the end of the day, that's all you ever really asked for.

This wasn't what you drew up or hoped for as a first time parent. Your early days as a dad will be stark in contrast to dads who experienced a "normal" or full term pregnancy. Please do not let that harbor bitterness within. The moment has arrived, and all you can do is make the best of your circumstances.

Within a few hours reality will slap you square in the face. The constant beeping noises and alarms in the NICU will take some getting used to, but in time you will get adapt to the environment. In some strange ways it will become a comfort. It's okay to feel uncertain, or scared, or even a bit angry. Nobody ever wants to be thrust into the NICU, unfortunately nobody ever has a choice.

This may seem like asking too much, but in order to better prepare yourself for when you take your child home, you have to learn to let go of fear. That's a tall order considering the complete lack of control you feel right now. You'll learn soon that asking questions to the NICU staff, understanding what  plan for continuity of care they are giving, becoming an advocate for your son, and getting involved will tremendously help you get a little of the control back.

These are a few tips and things to consider moving forward:

-Most importantly, you are NOT alone. There are a great deal of other dads out there who are struggling just like you are. Seek these people out in the future as relating to others will prove to be most therapeutic.

-Be kind and gracious to the NICU staff. They work so very hard on helping to get your child healthy enough to come home. I cannot stress enough how much having a good relationship with those responsible for caring for your son  can make.

-With that in mind, you have to learn to trust these people. At some point you have to go home and leave your son in the NICU. It's incredibly difficult to do, but its necessary. You can always call in and check up on your child if you want to.

-Need a break? Take one. Stress is not a good thing to bring into the NICU. Clear your head every now and again.

-When you finally bring your son home, take it one day at a time. I can't, and won't for that matter, tell you to not stress out about development. It's something that most parents, (and every parent of a preemie) worry about. But don't let that cloud the ability to enjoy little things.

-Take a million pictures. On days you are having a tuff go of it, or your patience is waning, take a  look at all of the pictures to remind yourself of how far you've come. Your son is truly a miracle!

You are going to be an amazing father! Keep up your faith, your hope, and take a moment every day to hug your son and let him he's your everything.

A friend


  1. That's beautiful, Joel. So many parents are caught up in the angst and fear and chaos. Who wouldn't be? I certainly was. Your calm voice lays it out for others, and still acknowledges what an individual trauma it is. Yet it is upbeat and positive. Great tool to help others, especially Dads who - I feel - get a little forgotten in the process. Well done!

  2. This is a beautiful letter, and I shared it. I will also share it on my preemie page. Thank you for writing this!

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  4. This is a great letter Joel, thank you. Our son was born 10 weeks early, and we were scared to death. He was only 3lbs 8oz. Skin and bones is all he was. Our daughter was only 6 days early, and came home 3 days later, but with our son, it was a totally different story. He was born in July, Friday the 13th at 11:59pm. stayed in the NICU for about 50 days. The saddest part was going to see him everyday and see him hooked up to all the hoses and wires like a science project. And snapping our eyes towards the monitor everytime it beeped. He was able to come home September 1st. We thought him being born early was scary, but bringing home a preemie, OMG the fear. The NICU staff was amazing, we got to meet a lot of very wonderful people. He is doing great now, 14lb chunky munk. He has a lot of reflux and gas issues, but he is definitely our little miracle. I only wish I could have read this letter before he got here. But thank you again.

    1. Thanks Matthew! If you would ever like to share your story with us we are always looking for more dads to be on our team! Let me know!

  5. Such a beautiful letter!
    My partner and I had our identical twin boys delivered at 28+1 in July this year. We spent exactly 100 days in NICU before taking our babies home. The unit we were om was amazing but we did feel there was little thought given for how daddy was doing. I was regularly being asked how I was coping etc but my partner and I were there together every step of the way. Your blog and Facebook page has given us so much support in knowing there are many other parents that have similar experiences. Thank you for having such an interesting and informative blog :-)

    1. Nicola thank you so very much for your kind words! It really struck a chord with me what you said. It's a simple gesture that reminds me of why I do this. My very best to you and yours!

  6. What a beautiful letter. I just linked to it on my Father's Day post here:
    Thanks for all that you do for Papas of Preemies!