Wednesday, August 7, 2013

In Hindsight: The NICU has molded, not defined, the dad I am today

By Joel Brens-

To whom it may concern:

I am the proud father of a child born prematurely. My wife was forced to deliver at 32 Weeks and 6 days after the artery blood flow in the umbilical cord became diastolic, meaning the flow was starting and stopping. On top of the direness of the situation, I was stuck at work for almost an hour until I could leave for the hospital. I arrived just minutes after my son was born.  It was the scariest day of my life. But what might surprise you is that it was also the most wonderful day of my life. I remember the moment I saw him being wheeled out of surgery in an incubator. Tiny and fragile, he was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I wept tears of joy. Even full of anxiety and uncertainty, becoming a father has been the single greatest moment of my life.

It's been a little over three years since that fateful day. How I have grown as a dad, as a husband, and as a person is flabbergasting. But not in the way you might think. You see, the experiences I have had in and after the NICU have molded me, but in no way do they define me. Believe it or not there is a distinct difference between to two. First of all, my son, my wife and I are not victims. We do not seek pity from others, nor do most NICU parents. The NICU is not a reason to set the bar incredibly low. While speech and developmental delays are a very tangible obstacle we are dealing with, we meet it head on every day. When people ask how my son is doing, I beam with pride, and why shouldn't I? He has already overcome so much!  

When my son is old enough to truly understand the gravity of his early birth, it will not be used as an excuse for shortcomings. His grasp of his story can and will be used as a tool to remind him he can overcome any adversity he stumbles upon. Moreover, every day he will know he has the ability to make conscious decisions on attitude, drive, and accountability. He will understand the importance of hope, gratitude, and most importantly, love. Because we as his parents make a choice every day to mold him that way.

Being the parent of a preemie hasn't defined the person you see today. But I am blessed to know it has molded the father/husband/man I am and strive to be in the future.


  1. This is a great post and reminder! We are only 6 months out of our NICU journey that was 4 months long and it's hard to remember that this will not forever be in the forefronts of our minds. Sure it's better than it was the first day we came home but it's nice to hear from you and other NICU parents who have been in the "real world" even longer than us that it continues to get better and better. Great post!

  2. I've been in a similar place and have been pondering a similar post...preemie parent is not my definition. great post, Joel. Thank you for sharing.