Friday, December 21, 2012

It was meant to be

By Joel Brens

Have you ever had that moment where you have to pinch yourself? To remind yourself that this is all real? It happens to me almost every day. As I watch my son run around, play, listen, focus, and most importantly, laugh and love, I try to count my blessings.  Bringing my son comfort when he is upset and hearing his belly laugh when he is happy - there just aren't more gratifying feelings for me as a father.

I didn't ask to be a NICU dad, but I was. What I've learned and how I've grown as a dad, and a husband for that matter, has changed me forever.  The NICU, and the life that follows as you go home can leave you with physical/mental/emotional scars, some noticeable, some harder to see. But when you turn the corner, and stop to appreciate life's little things, it gets so much easier. To think that I likely would not have met such an amazing group of people, in the NICU/preemie community is mind boggling to me. I can't imagine my life without these people now.

All things considered, it was meant to be. I wrote this poem with that thought in mind:

It was meant to be
By Joel Brens

An urgent call chock full of fear
You birth was coming, the time was near
And while I couldn't clearly see
My preemie son was meant to be

I raced to the hospital, face full of tears
An unplanned moment, planned for years
I asked myself how could this be?
But now I know it was meant to be

An empty room, I'm so confused
Looking for answers, and some good news
"Mom and baby are healthy"  the nurse said with a smile
Just wait right here, he'll be out in a little while

So much relief, yet so much fear
All things considered, I'm glad you're here
When I first saw you, I could clearly see
A preemie dad I was meant to be

The days passed by, one by one
Your stay in the NICU, will soon be done
And as I thanked God for everything
I know that this was meant to be

You have grown so much since then
Looking at pictures, remembering when
Your wrist was smaller than my ring
And since that day, you're my everything

So many great people, that I now know
Helping families, they love them so
I know that we can all agree
Making a difference was meant to be

I love you Jayden


Friday, December 14, 2012

The only reality I know

I saw a meme on Facebook the other day that really stuck with me:

"Telling me I can't be sad because someone has it worse is like saying I can't be happy because someone has it better."

While the point I'm trying to make isn't specifically related to happiness or sadness, it falls in those lines quite a bit. Every NICU/preemie story is different. There are always stories with a great deal of similarities, but none are the same.

With that in mind, I am so grateful for my fellow contributing dads. To say something along the lines of "I understand" or "I can relate" in regards to the journeys they have been on wouldn't be fair. I truly don't know what it's like. However, speaking with these fellow dads and hearing their stories, as well as others across the social media universe, do help me better comprehend what their journey is like.

When I launched Papas Of Preemies I was worried that a relatively quiet and uneventful 25 day stay in the NICU would prevent me from carrying "weight", for lack of a better term, in the preemie community. But I realized early on that every journey is different, and more importantly everyone processes their journey different. What may seem like a colossal obstacle for one parent to overcome may be considered a blip on the screen for other parents.

There have been moments I have wrestled with voicing my concerns about Jayden's development, as I know that these concerns pale in comparison to what other families are dealing with. But then it struck me: This is the only reality I know.

My concerns, fear, hope, happiness, and joy are all my own to dictate. I cannot begin to understand what the journey is like for the parent of a micro-preemie. I cannot feel guilty for not understanding fully what it's like to have a child born with a serious disease. But what I will ALWAYS do is lend an ear, provide support the very best I can, and try to connect people with other families who have been through similar circumstances.

Your perspective, insights, questions, concerns, and celebrations are always welcome at Papas Of Preemies, no matter how big or small you think they may be.

Friday, December 7, 2012

I just want the best for my son

I spent a large chuck of my youth in a special education classroom setting. I was diagnosed with A.D.D. at a very young age. By the time I was in second grade I was placed in a class with other students who had a variety of disabilities, some more serious than others. What I wrestled with more than anything was taking ideas or thoughts and putting them on paper. The room was about eight students and two teachers. I desperately needed the added attention and I thrived because of it. Some of the most influential people I have met were the teachers who helped me believe in myself at a very crucial stage in my life.

All the same, being in a separate class and riding a different bus than the other kids was an isolating feeling. I've heard enough "short bus" jokes to last three lifetimes. To this day the overuse of the R-word bothers me. The part that bugged me more than anything was everyone, including the students with the largest disabilities, knew they were being teased.

Something I have thought about for years leading up to becoming a parent is what my child's life will be like. On that fateful morning in May of 2010, I became a father to the most beautiful little boy. He was so frail and tiny. Despite my anxiety about his well being, he was stable and in the hands of some amazing doctors and nurses. At that time my mindset was to make it through the day. Pray for progress and make it though the day.

Jayden has come so far since those days. But I have and continue to spend a lot of nights contemplating what his future will be like. We were told early on that delays were a possibility. We have had Jayden enrolled in Early Intervention since he turned two. He is making strides, undoubtedly. But it's become evident that when it comes time to enroll Jayden in preschool and beyond, he will likely need a small classroom setting, at least to begin. I know in my heart and mind that such a setting will benefit him immensely, but I hope he won't struggle with the same feelings of isolation as I did.

I just want the best for my son